This article came from the Chronicle published April 1988. Pages 34 and 54-55
WHO REMEMBERS FORMER LIBRARY?
YALHS Visit New Library
Author: Brian Gittos
Monday, 7th September 1987, saw the opening of our new and spacious Public Library. I wonder how many of our members remember a former library in the Victoria Hall, South Street (now the Day Centre) opened by Miss K.M.Chaffey, in 1920. The hall was then very different to its present bright and cheerful appearance. It was a dark and gloomy place, or so it seemed to me as a child. Worn, plain wooden stairs led up to a bare room, bare except for the magic of books. Most probably, there were only a 100 or so volumes, but on this first visit to a library, to see shelves of books all waiting for me to choose from which were all free for me to borrow again and again, was just wonderful. Here was endless delight waiting for me to enjoy. My love affair with libraries has continued over the past 60 years.
Strangely, it is said the Carnegie Trustees offered £2,500 in 1903, to establish a free town library but so many arguments, criticism and objections were raised that the offer was withdrawn in 1914. The Victoria Hall housed the library until 1922, when it was moved to the Flax Room above the South Street Fire Station. In 1928 it moved to the newly built premises in King George Street which have just been vacated.
YALHS Visit New Library
13th November YEOVIL LIBRARY: Following the opening of Yeovil’s new Library on 7th September 1988 a special invitation was made by Mr.Eric Dove for the Society to visit the new building. This addition to the programme was duly arranged at short notice but nevertheless a large group of members attended this after hours event. After coffee and biscuits on the third floor, Mr.Dove welcomed the visitors and briefly explained the long saga of Yeovil’s attempts to obtain a new library. However, it had materialised at last and Yeovilians could be justly proud of the finest Library in Somerset. Members were invited to explore the Library with staff on hand to explain the function of the different sections.
YEOVIL – SEPTEMBER 1939
YEOVIL FOOTBALL WEEK
In the last week of August 1939, and the last week of peace for six years, Yeovil and Petters United Football Club held a ‘Yeovil Football Week’ to help pay the £400 loss incurred during the 1938/39 season. The events included a ‘Get Together Smoking Concert’ and a ‘Flannel Dance’ in the Assembly Rooms, Princes Street. However, the highlight of the ‘Week’, was the Friday evening ‘All Stars Variety Concert’ in the Princes Theatre, featuring Crewkerne-born radio and film star, Ralph Reader, and members of his popular Gang Show, including Eric Christmas, George Cameron, Mac at the Piano and the Twizzle Sisters. Also performing were the BBC singer soprano Doris Waller, The Pocock Brothers on piano and cornet, Paddy Ryan with his ukulele and The Boy Step Dancer, Tony Mogg.
THE BLACK OUT
On the 3 September 1939, the day war broke out, regulations were brought in requiring all householders to curtain their windows to prevent any light showing after dark and which could be seen by enemy aircraft flying overhead. The Yeovil Review of September wrote:
‘Just a week ago, Yeovil with its excellent shops, was ablaze with light. Cinemas were well patronised, village fetes and shows were being organised, football clubs were getting into stride, and summer sport and holidays were in full swing, Now all has changed.
‘Yeovil is and must continue blacked out. Quite a number, in fact there are but few now, who will hear the command of the Special Constable on his nightly beat cry “Put those lights out!” But there are still those few. Just a reminder, to those who think this fuss and nonsense is going a bit too far. The safety of the Town with all its thousands of women and children may be jeopardised by a stray light blazing in the sky, forgotten. Here is a phrase taken from the official notice concerning the “Black Out” – “Any person who permits any glimmer of light to escape from his premises so that it can be seen from the outside constitutes a public danger, matches must not be struck in the open air. Any torches used in the open or in those portions of the premises not effectively screened should be properly screened with paper in the lens or a dark blue bulb.” Note – The penalty for offending in any way against the lighting restrictions is a fine of £50 [average weekly wage £5] or three months imprisonment.
‘Special Constables have already reported insufficient and inadequate screening of household lights. It is not sufficient to draw the blind and switch on the electric light. Some streets are well and truly blacked out, at least they appear so from the front, but at the back the tell tale glow through the drawn blinds betrays the presence of living accommodation. One must face the facts. It may be you who are placing the town in danger from enemy aircraft.
‘Now, a word to the cyclist who before many weeks will find his ride home from work means travelling in the dark. You are not exempt from these lighting regulations. Front lights must be diffused by the use of paper if an electric light is used, and they are reminded that red rear lamps properly screened are now compulsory.
‘Motorists, too have been warned. Temporary expedients for headlight screening must be dispensed with, side lamps, rear lamps, reversing and “Stop” lamps must be reduced to their proper dimensions and lights diffused by the use of paper behind the lens. Travel by night will become increasingly more difficult. It will be better to keep the car in the garage at night than hazard a journey in the dark.’
The first Yeovil ‘black out’ fatality was Mr Thomas Turner a 51 year-old painter employed at the new Houndstone army camp. He had been walking along Thorne lane back to the camp when he was knocked down and fatally injured by a lorry being driven with screened headlamps. In recording a verdict of ‘Death by misadventure’ the Coroner suggested that pedestrians should wear something white to make themselves more visible during the present emergency.
The National Registration Bill being pushed through Parliament immediately following the outbreak of war, had three main purposes:
1. To support and facilitate any National Service arrangements;
2. To provide up-to-date man power and other population statistics to take the place of the 1931 census;
3. Other incidental services such as the preservation of contact between members of families dispersed by evacuation, to facilitate proof of identity.
Everyone would be given an identity card after filling in a questionnaire which would be issued and collected in 65,000 districts and severe penalties would be introduced for breaking the provisions of the Bill when it became law.
PIECES FROM THE SEPTEMBER NEWS
Boy Scouts. All Boy Scouts in Yeovil were asked to wear their uniforms during the day ’To facilitate their identification when their services are required for messenger work etc.’
School boy humour. ‘A number of school boys anxious to do their bit were busy filling sandbags with earth from the garden at the rear of the South Street Baptist Church. Passers by were greatly amused to read the notice they had chalked on a piece of cardboard which they had fastened to the wall. It read “DOWNING STREET, One Way Traffic Only.”
Graveyard humour. ‘In Princes Street could be seen a printed announcement advertising insurance against War Risk. Premiums:- Death only 20/- etc., some humorist scribbled his quota to this, so that it read “Death only, Isn’t that enough.”’
ARP Badges. The Mayor of Yeovil, Alderman Frank Beel, presented Air Raid Precaution (ARP) badges to 33 Town Council workers who had passed a full anti-gas course. The men would form rescue and demolition teams and public services’ rescue squads.
Ban on Sounding Hooters. ‘An Order has been issued under Defence Regulations forbidding anyone to sound within public hearing, a siren, hooter, whistle, rattle, bell, horn or gong except in accordance with directions for air raid warning purposes. The Order does not apply to church bells or normal use of bicycle bells or motor horns.’
A Black Out casualty. Herbert Allot who was employed by the Navy Army and Royal Air Force Institute (NAAFI) at the new Houndstone army camp, was knocked down by a car in the black out on the Sunday evening that war was declared. He was taken to Yeovil hospital with a suspected fractured skull.
The last peace time coach trips. On Sunday 3 September, local coach operators, Barlow, Phillips & Co, had a full day excursion to Bournemouth, half day to Weymouth, an afternoon mystery trip and evening trips to West Bay. I’m sure there was much to talk about on these excursions!
IN THE CHURCHES
Immediately the outbreak of war was declared on Sunday morning 3 September, the evening services were brought forward to 6 o’clock, so that the congregations could get home well before dark when it was feared the bombing would start. The fear of poison gas attack was also very great, and the Western Gazette reported that many of the congregation in St John’s Church were carrying their gas masks to services.
A WEDDING CELEBRATION (Brought forward)
The Western Gazette reported that on Tuesday 5 September, Miss Sophia Wyndham Bates Harbin, the only child of Mrs Bates Harbin and the late Prebendary Bates Harbin, of Newton Surmaville and barrister, Mr Cosmo Windham Cooper Rawlins of Alverstoke, Hampshire, were married in St John’s Church. Owing to the outbreak of war ‘The wedding took place very quietly, a fortnight before the arranged date.’ A small reception was held at Newton Surmaville House for relations and friends.
GAS MASKS FOR THE UNDER 5’s
By the day war broke, nearly everyone over the age of five years had been issued with a gas mask, but they would not be available for the under 5’s (your contributor included). The reasoning was explained in the Western Gazette on 8 September: ‘Respirators for children under the age of five will not be issued in the No. 6 Area of Somerset at present. This is because of the children’s relative freedom from danger in the unlikely event of the use of poison gas. Respirators are issued to adults for their use when it is essential for them to pass from place to place, at a time when they have been warned that the presence of poison gas in their neighbourhood is suspected. Young children will naturally be kept in the most suitable refuge room, where plans are carried out to make this room gas proof. In the unlikely event of this room becoming damaged, such children can be safely carried in a damp blanket, coat etc., to an alternative place of refuge.’
However, following a great public outcry, by the following week the Gazette reported that: ‘Anti-gas helmets for babies are being produced as fast as the factories can make them and many thousands have already been issued to the most vulnerable areas. Supplies of respirators for small children are being treated on the same lines as babies’ helmets.’
SCHOOLS AND CINEMAS CLOSE
Immediately war was declared on 3 September, all Yeovil’s schools were closed and the youngsters enjoyed a longer summer holiday. However, as the feared (and expected) Nazi bomber onslaught did not materialise, most everyday living resumed and the schools went back on Monday morning 18 September.
Likewise, the town’s three cinemas shut immediately, but opened again within the week.
‘YEOVIL REDUCED TO RUINS’
A flavour of impending conflict (and what would become all too real some 14 months later) was given when an exercise was carried out in the town centre late in July 1939. It was reported that; ‘Yeovil was “reduced to ruins” in the recent Air Raid, when hundreds of members of the A.R.P. and other services came into action in the test of the town’s defences that has yet to take place. As ambulances dashed down Middle Street with clanging bells, fire engines sped on their way to “blazing” buildings, rescue parties and decontamination squads got busy, townspeople were given a glimpse of what might happen in a real raid. And amid all this havoc there was one bright spot of comedy to relieve the tension. One ‘casualty’ who thought he had been left lying in the wreckage of one of the main streets forgotten by the rescue squads, after waiting an hour, made a miraculous recovery and disappeared. When the rescue party for that locality did arrive they found a note instead of a casualty. On it was written: “Bled to Death – Gone Home.”
EVERYTHING IN READINESS
From the Western Gazette of 8 September 1939: ‘With a few exceptions, Yeovil’s defences are manned by voluntary service personnel. In the event of a “raid” Yeovil’s defence services would be quickly in action.
‘Hundreds of workers are giving up many hours of their spare time in order to do their National Service tasks, special constables, air raid wardens auxiliary firemen &c., taking their allocated hours of duty as a matter of course. This does not mean that Yeovil has all the volunteers required. The auxiliary fire service still requires men and in the east and north wards there is a serious shortage of wardens. At present there are 210 wardens in the borough, whereas the full compliment is 240. Twenty-one warden posts have been manned day and night since the emergency arose, volunteers doing shifts of four hours in every twenty-four.
‘There are about 30 full-time firemen in the borough, consisting of A.F.S. volunteers and regular members of the brigade. Yeovil V.A.D. Somerset/19 is now about 50 strong and first aid posts are being equipped at Preston Close, Hendford School (South Street), Poor Law Institute, Manor Hotel and Hendford Manor. Yeovil Chamber of Trade has decided that until further notice members of the Chamber should close their business premises at 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 1 p.m. on Thursday and 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.’ [There was no Sunday opening in 1939]
THE RIOT OF 1831
During the early decades of the last century there was social and political unrest across Europe. In his book From Portreeve to Mayor – The growth of Yeovil the late L.C. Hayward BA., B.Sc., FCA., wrote – ‘Fears of popular agitation following the revolutions in Europe in 1830 and the radical movement in England showed itself in the swearing in of 250 Yeovilians as special constables in December and the forming of the Mudford troop of Yeomanry for the protection of property…… Their services were needed during the October riot in Yeovil in 1831.’
The cause of the October riot arose from the defeat of William Ponsonby, the Whig Reform candidate, by Lord Ashley in a Dorset Parliamentary election at Blandford. There were allegations that Lord Ashley’s agents had behaved corruptly in the election, and the protests led to rioting in Blandford and Sherborne.
Early in the evening of Friday 21 October, some youths and boys assembled in the Borough in Yeovil, shouting ‘Ponsonby and Reform for ever!’ and by nine o’clock, the crowd had increased until several hundred men, women and youths, many liberally refreshed with cider and beer, were milling about. Suddenly they moved off and for a moment it was thought that the demonstration was over. However this was wishful thinking because during the rest of the night and into the early morning a mob rampaged up and down Princes Street, Kingston and Hendford attacking, and in two cases looting, houses of Lord Ashley’s supporters.
The initial assault on solicitor, Mr. Edwin Newman’s, house (now the offices of solicitors Clarke, Willmott and Clarke) smashed all his window panes and then the mob broke through the front door. Despite Mr. Newman threatening the invaders with a loaded pistol, they rampaged through the house smashing furniture, stealing valuables and ransacking all the rooms. The solicitor’s wife was pregnant with their third child but with her two other children she was saved from injury by the prompt action of friends who also managed to save many valuable papers from Mr. Newman’s office.
All the front windows of Mr. Mayo’s Old Sarum House in Princes Street , were smashed and a few minutes later the mob stormed Mr. Francis Robins’ house in Ram Park (now Park Road). After smashing his windows the mob broke into the house and began to destroy furniture, book cases, ornaments and everything they could lay their hands on, including the servants’ clothes. Articles of furniture and clothing were piled on the lawn and a bonfire lit.
Other houses attacked were those of Mr. White, Rev. James Hooper’s Hendford Manor, Mr. John Greenham’s Hendford House (now the Manor Hotel), Mr. Edwin Tomkins, Mr. Penny and Mr. Slade, but in these cases the damage was confined to broken windows.
The fury and size of the mob were too much for the town’s inadequate forces of law and order, who could only stand by and watch the tide of destruction which swept up and down Princes Street and Hendford until four o’clock in the morning.
At about a quarter past eleven, local magistrate, John Goodford, whose son, returning from dining at Montacute House had witnessed the tumult , bravely rode alone into Yeovil and the riot. During that fearful night, John Goodford rode about the town, accompanied in due course by several local businessmen, and his calls for the mob to go home were partly successful, but whether this was due to Mr Goodford’s exhortations or fatigue, we shall never know.
During Saturday there was a feeling of general unrest in the town and the Western Flying Post reported that – ‘A meeting of inhabitants was held at the Mermaid Inn, when it was resolved that all legal means should be used to prevent a repetition of such disgraceful outrages.’ Several magistrates, including Mr. John Goodford, were also present at the meeting in the Mermaid. By late afternoon the crowds were once again assembling in the Borough and the fear of further rioting was heightened by reports that people were coming in from the surrounding villages. The magistrates therefore send word summoning the Mudford Troop of Yeomanry cavalry to re-enforce the special constables and public officers who had proved incapable of protecting property during Friday’s riot. At about a quarter to seven, news came to the Mermaid that plans were being made to attack Mr Hooper’s property in Hendford and Mr. Thomas Hoskins, one of the magistrates, read the Riot Act requiring the crowd to disperse within one hour, failing which action would be taken against them. Although this had the effect of quietening the mob they refused to disperse.
The Mudford Troop of Yeomanry, commanded by Captain George Harbin, trotted into town and formed up outside the Mermaid but the presence of the part time cavalrymen did little to intimidate the mob. Only a few days before the Troop had been mustered – ‘ for exercise in a field on Camel Hill, where they went through their evolutions with admirable precision’ – and afterwards the Troop enjoyed a ‘sumptuous dinner’ at the Sparkford Inn. Faced with an angry mob of several hundred, the Troop realised that ‘their evolutions’ would be of little use in the narrow High Street, and retired. It was reported by the Western Flying Post that the Mudford Troop – ‘left the town under the idea that their presence might be the means of bringing together a crowd.’
During the commotion which followed the departure of the Yeomanry, several of the mob were arrested for throwing stones at the Mermaid and taken inside the Inn. Determined efforts to release them were resisted despite the mob trying to break through the doors and pelting the front of the Inn with missiles.
The Mudford Troop had remained just outside the town, where they were re-enforced by the Martock Troop which had also been called out, commanded by Captain Tatchell. Both Troops now entered the town and began to ride up and down the streets which only increased the fury of the mob. The Yeomanry came under a hail of stones and assorted missiles and one of the troopers was knocked from his horse. The position was becoming critical when at least six shots were fired, four over the heads of the crowd and two into them. One of the Yeomanry, a Mr. Cottle accidentally shot himself in the thigh and one of the mob was heard to cryout in pain. There were claims that Captain Tatchell had given the order to fire but this was subsequently denied and stated that the shots had been fired without authority.
The presence of the Yeomanry probably prevented more destruction and damage to property but the crowds continued to pose a threat and it was not until a troop of regular cavalry from the 3rd Dragoon Guards trotted into Yeovil on the Sunday morning that the mob finally dispersed.
The 3rd Dragoon Guards remained in town for a fortnight and special constables patrolled the streets from six to twelve o’clock every night for several months.
Grateful townspeople presented each member of the Yeomanry with an ornate jug in recognition of ‘their manly and forbearing character.’ Three of the Riot jugs are in the possession of South Somerset Cultural and Heritage Access Centre – they were presented to James Masters, G. Edwards and R. Raymond.
Twenty local men and women appeared at the Somerset Spring Assizes in Taunton in April 1832, charged with riotous assembly , and received sentences from 6 days to 18 months – several were acquitted.
THE SOUTH PETHERTON PIG NUISANCE
The Yeovil Rural District Council at its meeting in June 1908, received a letter from Admiral Baker complaining of the nuisance from the stench of pigs kept by some of his neighbours. The Admiral wrote that although Mr Fish, the Inspector of Nuisances, had agreed on several occasions that his complaint was not exaggerated, the official appeared unwilling or unable to get the nuisance abated. This lack of action had caused the Admiral to write to the Council and with the onset of the hot weather, he was concerned at the possibility of an epidemic illness. He went on to write that the Council appeared to have done nothing to deal with the problem and if the Inspector was unable to cope with the nuisance then the matter should be referred to the Council’s Medical Officer of Health.
Replying to a question from Colonel H.E. Harbin, the Chairman of the Council, Mr Fish confirmed that there was an occasional smell when the wind was in a certain direction, but it was a matter of opinion whether this amounted to a nuisance.
Colonel Blake opined that this might be a nuisance at one time and not at another. However he thought the Medical Officer of Health should visit the area and see whether it was a permanent danger to the health of the residents.
The Reverend Armstrong suggested that the Inspector of Nuisances was showing a greater laxity to the nearness of pig styes to dwelling houses than his predecessor had.
Mr J.G. Vaux observed that there had been no complaints before Admiral Baker came to live here and this opened up a wide question as the pig styes had been there for generations and they were from 100 to 200 yards away from the Admiral’s house.
The Council referred the complaint to the Medical Officer of Health and the Works Committee were instructed to visit South Petherton and report back.
It seems that the problem was cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction because a few months later the Admiral wrote thanking the Council for the action they had taken to abate the nuisance.
This article came from the Chronicle published November 1988. Page 79
MILITARY EFFIGY FROM SOUTH PETHERTON
Brian and Moira Gittos
This 13th C military effigy now lies in South Petherton church. It was discovered in 1929, in Pitway, when a hole was being dug for a petrol tank. It was described in S&D, N&Q, Vol XIX part CLXI, p217 and in the Somerset Proceedings, Vol LXII p 46. The heraldry appears to identify the figure as Sir Philip D’Aubini (died 1294) but it may, alternatively, represent his brother, Sir William (died 1285). It shows several unusual features, the flaps of mail which protected the face and the coif laid back on the shoulders. The figure is sword handling and straight legged, with the feet resting on a beast of which only the paws remain. It is carved from oolitic limestone (probably Doulting). Where are four holes drilled from underneath and several notches in the edge of the slab, which could have taken ropes for raising it, when found. It would probably have been brought via the Rivers Axe and Parret. We visited the church on the 8th October 1988, accompanied by Jerry Sampson, the Archivist of the West Front of Wells Cathedral. He examined the figure and found minute traces of the original colour still remaining. In order to record this important evidence, this illustration has been prepared with the colours indicated. Unfortunately, no colour was found on the charges, on the shield and so the doubts about the heraldry were not resolved.
This article came from the Chronicle published November 1988. Pages 76-78
SCHOOLDAYS IN YEOVIL IN THE 1890’s.
The following extracts are from recollections of A.J.B.Milborne, written in 1950, when he was living in Canada. He was born at 12 Princes Street, Yeovil, on 23rd August 1888, his father ‘at the time a prosperous tailor’, and his mother ‘ a Londoner who had formerly been a nurse at the Salisbury Infirmary’.
The Milbornes’ ancestors had traditionally always been tailors and drapers, the most noteworthy having been Sir John Milborne, a draper in the reign of Henry the Eighth, and Lord Mayor of London in 1522, A.J.B’s grandfather, a tailor and draper in Princes Street, was born in Yeovil about 1815. He died as the result of a railway accident at Bath, when the Widcombe Bridge collapsed as the result of extra heavy traffic during the celebrations of the centenary of the Bath and West of England Society, in June 1877.
A.J.B.Milborne’s education may be said to have started when he had a governess, named Manley, from Evershot, who was engaged ‘to drum into the head of my sister and into mine, the rudiments of education’. His recollections continue: ‘The earliest memory of my schooldays was taking lessons in reading from Mrs.Monk, the wife of Henry Monk. At that time the Yeovil Grammar School, of which Henry Monk was Headmaster, was in a fairly prosperous condition. There were certainly no less than fifty or sixty boys in attendance.
‘The rival school -Aldrich’s (Aldridge’s), ‘where my father was educated, was then on the downgrade, to be resurrected with the coming of a new Master named Budd (the name was actually Rudd) with more modern ideas. Like so many schools under the English system of private education, these schools last but the lifetime of the proprietor, and by the time I left school, the old school had dropped to but a dozen pupils, the old building on Hendford had been closed and the school was housed in an old building behind St.John’s Church, which from its construction, I believe had formed part of the original ecclesiastical foundation of that parish’. (This was The Chantry, formerly in St.John’s churchyard, adjacent to the tower, and which had once been the chantry chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary without the Church -LEJB). ‘We used to sit on the high wall to eat currant rolls (2d) purchased at Banfield’s in the Borough.
‘I do not recall how old I was when I first went to Monk’s School, but I remember the gravelled yard, because it was hard on the knees if one should fall in playing the usual games, rounders, ‘iacky’ etc. Then there was the open space under the school building where we played when the weather was wet, at the end of which was the “Bog”, an awful six-holer, which stank to high heaven. The School was held in one large room, heated by a wood stove on which pans of water were evaporating. Old Monk nearly always had a drop on the end of his nose, and I imagine we all did, too, though we boys probably used unpolite methods of removing them.
‘Mr.Monk’s daughter, and his son-in-law were the staff, and I think we all got a fair education there, though the curriculum did not contain so many subjects as are taught in primary school today. I still have my old Euclid – the pons asinorum is still a deep mystery to me. We took French and Latin, and I can still recall snatches of Caesar and Remus and Romulus. Mr.Monk was a grand character, beloved by all his pupils (at least in later life) and I have always felt a pang of regret that I once hit him in the face with an overripe tomato that was intended for one of my fellow pupils. In those days the cane was an important part of the equipment of a schoolmaster, and old Monk used it with vigour. I got it once or twice, and I think it is a pity that is use has disappeared. It instilled respect into the boys for their elders and betters which is non-existent today.
‘I had not been long at school when my father got into the first of his business difficulties, and we had to leave Princes Street and move to No.32 Kingston … My sister had by this time been enrolled as a pupil at Mrs. Nosworthy’s establishment for the education of young ladies, known as Girtin School, and as I was taking lessons from old Nosworthy, a cantankerous fellow, I also was compelled, much against my will, to go to this Girls’ School twice a week to practise under the tutorship of a soured and vinegary spinster named Whittle, who made frequent use of a long pencil upon my knuckles. They had curious ways of teaching music in those days, and I nursed a consuming hatred for these two teachers of music.
‘It was Nosworthy who insisted on the entering into the pages of a little book the hours of practice I spent at the piano, which led me into certain infringements of the moral code… I remember nothing that these two taught me, though I can play pieces of music taught to me by Mr. Bastick in my early teens. This Miss Whittle was not a relative of a Mr.Whittle who, on Saturday nights, used to dispense delightful and mouth-watering confections of his own manufacture in the market-place under the glare of naptha flares, and to whom I paid willing tribute from my penny or tuppenny weekly pocket money… In 1897 we moved to less expensive quarters at No.4 Peter Street. Here my father was close to the Church! (Holy Trinity where he played the organ). He also obtained pupils for the piano and organ…
‘In 1900 my father was again in financial difficulties… and we moved to an old-fashioned house on Market Street. … The change in the family’s fortunes when we moved to Market Street affected me, because mother found she could no longer pay my school fees. I was then a little over 13 years of age. So I left Monk’s School and obtained a job as a proof-reader on the Western Gazette. Mr.Monk was sorry to see me leave school at such an early age, and very kindly undertook to continue my instruction in the evenings, and this arrangement continued for about a year. Then I enrolled as a pupil of the Evening Continuation School at Reckleford, which was under the direction of a man named Perry, and the only thing I can recall about this was that he had smelly feet.
‘Tiring of the piano, I was provided with a violin, and took lessons from a Mr. Ricketts … Being “musically” inclined, however, I, of my own volition, bought a banjo, receiving lessons from an old man named Harrison who lived in Huish, one of our poorer neighbourhoods. The old boy gave me a good grounding and eventually I became a fairly accomplished player to the extent that I was capable of performing in public. I also picked up a few shillings myself in instructing others in the art…
‘My entry into the newspaper world necessitated a knowledge of shorthand and I took lessons from a Mr.V.O.Dover, who was sound instructor in Pitman’s. My knowledge of shorthand was not acquired easily, but my fundamental instruction was sound, and in time I became something of an expert, and was an Evercirculator group member, with membership all over the world, and ready to meet in the public prints any attack upon Pitman’s by the devotees of the other so-called shorthand systems’.
This ends Mr. Milborne’s recollections of his education in Yeovil, though there are other interesting details which may form the subject of notes in subsequent issues. These extracts are from family records loaned by Mr. and Mrs.P.Sampson, of Minehead, who have kindly granted permission for their use in ‘Chronicle’. Mrs.Sampson, who is 85, is a surviving member of the Milborne family of Frome.
MISS BETTY BALFOUR COMES TO TOWN
London born, Betty Balfour was a big star of the British silent cinema screens during the 1920s, and was acclaimed as the only British star on the international scene. In 1927, the Daily Mirror named Betty as the country’s most popular star, renowned for her mixture of good humour, cheerful character and sentiment – she was called the ‘Queen of Happiness’
Betty Balfour’s career began in 1920 when at the age of 17 she appeared in the silent film Nothing Matters, but it was in the role of Squibbs, a Cockney flower girl and her adventures, that her career took off and established Betty as a national star. Betty Balfour never attempted to break into the Hollywood scene, but as with many popular stars of the silent cinema, the advent of sound in the late 1920s saw her fade from the screen. The once ‘Queen of Happiness’ died in November 1977, sadly forgotten it seems by all but silent cinema enthusiasts.
On Tuesday evening, 11 August 1926, Betty Balfour appeared both on the screen in Sqibbs wins the Calcutta Cup and in person on the stage of the Yeovil Palace Theatre. The entrance to the theatre off the Triangle, was packed with fans anxious to catch a glimpse of the diminutive star as she was welcomed by the Mayor, Alderman Jabez Matthews, wearing his chain of office, and accompanied by fellow aldermen and councillors whilst the Town Band played ‘Rule Britannia’.
During the interval in the show, Betty Balfour a spoke to the audience, expressing her delight at being with them and sharing the excitement of the film. Following the entertainment, the mayor and town councillors, were her guests at a ‘social evening’ in the Mermaid Hotel.
The Western Gazette reported that Betty Balfour was working on location for a film called Somebody’s Darling at Martock, Compton Pauncefoot and Minehead, which the producers stated provided rural settings which were ‘something the Americans could not get’.
April 2017 – Jack Sweet
SOUTH SOMERSET SNIPPETS
An interesting comment on the use of the rifle in combat in the 1860s, when the main infantry weapon was the muzzle-loading rifle, from the Western Flying Post of 13 November 1860:
‘We extract the following amusing anecdote from the speech of John Nicholetts Esq., delivered at the meeting of the Martock Agricultural Society, which is fully reported in another place:- He would relate an anecdote in connexion with rifle shooting told by his brother who is at Palermo. On one occasion he met Colonel Peard – Garibaldi’s Englishman – who said to him, “Mind, if ever you go rifle shooting use your rifle in a scientific manner. Recollect always not to kill your man, but to wound him, then it takes two men to carry him off, and those two men never by any chance come back the same day. With a double-barrelled rifle, therefore you may get rid of six men at each discharge.” We think this worth consideration.’
Meanwhile over at Castle Cary, the Pulman’s Weekly News of 11 March 1863 issued a warning to its readers:
‘About a week since, an individual appeared here who has since succeeded in duping more than one of the inhabitants. He represents himself as having just arrived from Australia, and it is singular that he can give correct accounts to their relations of many persons who are now in Australia, but sometimes inaccuracies are apparent in his statements. He represented himself as the grandson of one poor old man. Of course the old man was delighted to see him come back safe from the distant continent. He therefore housed him for a day or two, and on his stating that he was short of cash, he even supplied him with some until he could get his Australian bills cashed. Having obtained what he could of the old man, he has since decamped, and it has transpired that he was no relative whatever. It is rumoured that he has been successful in several instances, by similar representations, of duping many in this locality. He is about five and a half feet high, of a dark complexion, and appears about 25 years old.’
In the autumn of 1874 there was a variation to the quotation of ‘A bull in a china shop’ at Crewkerne, as reported in the Western Gazette of 2 October:
‘On Thursday afternoon, some bulls were driven through this town by a drover employed by Mr. Pattinson, cattle dealer. On arriving in Sheep Market Street, and seeing the gate leading to the yard of Mr. Tout, ironmonger, open, three of the animals walked quietly into the yard and one of them unceremoniously entered and took possession of the back kitchen, and it was not until he had broken four panes of glass, and then with some difficulty, he was driven out. The animals then proceeded on their way through Sheep Market Street, but on reaching the dwelling house of Mr. Fone, tailor, whose front door they found open, two of them entered the passage. Mrs. Fone was sitting in a room at the left hand side of the passage with tea laid awaiting the return of her children, and on seeing the head of her unexpected caller thrust into the room she was much alarmed. She, however, managed to leave the room through another entrance and the drover of the bulls crawled underneath its legs into the room, and succeeded in driving it out.’
Pulman’s Weekly News reported relief in West Coker in April 1899, when;
‘A large number of parishioners met at The Laurels on Monday evening to welcome home Mr. Arthur Herbert Gould, eldest son of Mr. Job Gould, twine manufacturer. Mr. Gould had recently undergone a very successful operation at the College Hospital, London, where his leg was amputated at the hip. The operation caused the gravest anxiety to the parishioners at large, and the ringing cheers with which he was greeted on his arrival testified to the sincerity of the welcome he received. Mr. Gould has been for some years an active member in the firm of Messrs. Gould & Sons, and it is hoped that he will be long spared to push forward the industry of the village, whose interest he has so much at heart.’
However, on 17 October 1899, Pulman’s Weekly News reported relief of a somewhat different and slightly mysterious kind at East Chinnock:
‘Miss Kate Rendell, who mysteriously disappeared from home on Thursday week, returned home on Wednesday evening, to the intense relief of her relatives. She was in too weak a condition to give any explanation of her absence.’
I wonder where she’d been and her explanation! The record is silent.
May 2017 – Jack Sweet