On 4 August 1914, the last day of peace for four long years, the Yeovil Conservative and Unionist annual Fete the ‘Fete of the West’ was held at Yew Tree Close Park, and the winning tableau was ‘King, Peace, Empire’.
During the following weeks, enthusiastic and patriotic crowds lined the streets as local Territorials and volunteers marched off to the war and which most people expected to be ‘over by Christmas’.
The Belgian Refugees
The German invasion of neutral Belgium in August 1914, saw more than a million of its citizens fleeing the advancing armies, and the majority of the refugees crossed the borders into Holland, which remained neutral, and France. The British Government offered hospitality and Belgian refugees were welcomed to our shores. A Yeovil Belgian Refugee Committee was set up and ‘Greystones’ on Hendford Hill was opened as a reception centre and temporary home supervised by a Roman Catholic Sister from Langport and a Sister from St Gilda’s Convent in the Avenue.
The first party of refugee families comprising 50 men, women and children, arrived at the Town Station on Saturday 3 October 1914, the first of several hundred Belgians who would find hospitality in Yeovil and the neighbouring villages.
The Athletes’ Volunteer Force
At the outbreak of war there was a large number of men debarred by age, occupation or medical conditions, from serving in the armed forces but who were keen to carryout some active duty at home.
Movements for home defence sprang up across the country bearing such names as Home Guards, Home Defence Leagues, Citizens’ Corps and such like, and who with the help of old soldiers and other trained men, quickly grew into companies and battalions. In Yeovil the Athletes’ Volunteer Force of some 100 men and youths was set up in September 1914 and began training. By the end of the war, these volunteer units had developed into well trained battalions and the Yeovil men were formed into D Company, 2nd Battalion, Somerset Volunteer Regiment. In 1919 all the Volunteer Regiments were disbanded.
From early February 1915 until the following April, over a 1000 Home Service Territorial soldiers from the Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire Regiments plus the Army Service Corps were billeted in the town. When they left, there was general praise for the way in which the men had conducted themselves.
Air Raid Precautions
In February 1916 the Town Council adopted precautions against possible German air raids. German Zeppelin airships had been attacking London and the Home Counties since the summer of 1915 and there were fears that these raiders would extend their night time operations to other parts of the UK. Thankfully neither the Zeppelins, nor the German bomber aircraft which began operating late in 1917, raided this far west. The Western Gazette reported that – ‘As precautionary measures against hostile aircraft, the Town Council has made the following arrangements, and notices signed by the Mayor will be published in the town.. It has been decided to extinguish the street and public lamps at eleven p.m., and inhabitants are requested to shade the windows of all premises showing lights visible from the outside after such time and until further notice. Upon notification of the approach of hostile aircraft being received the hooter of the gas works and other hooters will sound a series of long blasts, with intermediate short blasts, and all lights must be immediately extinguished, and remain so for the night. Street and public lights will be immediately extinguished. People in the streets and in public buildings are requested to return home and remain there until the danger has passed. In conclusion it is added that the arrangements are purely precautionary in nature, there being no reason to anticipate an attack in the district by hostile aircraft.’
A Patriotic Fete
The Yeovil Patriotic Fete Committee met in the Municipal Offices on Wednesday evening, 5 July 1916 to discuss holding the event at Newton Park during the coming August in aid of the Yeovil Hospital and the Yeovil Red Cross Hospital. A provisional programme was agreed to include athletic sports for old and young, swimming races and diving in the River Yeo, pony jumping and donkey racing, platform entertainments, side shows and ‘varieties of various descriptions.’ The Committee decided that both fields would be used on each side of the river.
A rough ride on a Bath-chair
Having recovered from his injuries in the Red Cross Military Hospital in the Newnam Memorial Hall (now Pegasus Court), South Street, on a pleasant July afternoon in 1917, Private Hawes pushed his pal Private Parks in a Bath invalid chair up Hendford Hill, but rather than pushing him back down, Private Hawes decided it would be a good idea to sit on the front of the vehicle and ride it down using his feet as brakes. This Private Hawes did, but the Bath-chair gathered speed and he could not slow it. Down the Hill they went and at the bottom the chair turned over throwing both men out. Thankfully Private Parks was only shaken, but Private Hawes’ upper arm received a compound fracture in the same place where he had suffered a similar injury in France and from which he had just recovered in Yeovil. Private Hawes, had been due to be discharge to a convalescent camp a couple of days later. This would now be delayed but provided there were no complications the longer stay in the hospital would no doubt be welcomed as it would postpone his return to France. The record is silent on the future of the two men – it is hoped they survived the war and that neither got into too much trouble over the escapade.
Too Much War?
A soldier, who had probably seen too much war, was found in a railway truck and was brought before the Magistrates charged with being an absentee from the Wiltshire Regiment’s camp at Littlemore, Upway, Weymouth. The soldier, who came from Leicester, admitted to having no pass and being an absentee, and was remanded to await an escort back to his unit. The Western Gazette’s court reporter, noted that the soldier wore a wound stripe and had been in the Army since 1914; the veteran’s fate remains unknown.
Arising from the effective German U-Boat campaign in the Western Approaches to Great Britain during the winter of 1917/18, and the continued sinking of large numbers of ships bringing supplies of food from the United Sates and Canada, the Government introduced rationing in February 1918. Ration books were issued to every family and retailers were strictly controlled. By May, rationing covered a wide range of basic foods from bacon to sweets. Local committees were established by councils to deal with the food controls, and the Yeovil Borough Food Committee on 7 May discussed the co-ordination of road transport to give priority to the movement of food, the supply of potatoes to local bakers for bread making, the proposed new national scheme for food control, the reduction of sugar from ten pounds weight to six pounds per person for jam making, and the problems of butchers selling sausages with ration coupons. The Committee declined the request by a Pen Mill baker, accompanied by a petition, for support in his application for deferment from military service, and likewise a request from an inspector of national kitchens to establish a national kitchen in Yeovil was declined as the Committee felt there was no pressing need at present.
In 1918 at their November meeting the Yeovil Education Committee were informed that in October, the boys of Reckleford School had picked 652 lbs of blackberries and the girls 441 lbs.
At 11 o’clock on the morning of the 11th November 1918 a great silence fell across the battlefields of France and Belgium as the guns stopped firing; the war was over. During the 1,561 days which had passed, from the day Great Britain declared war on Germany and her Allies on 4 August 1914, several thousand Yeovilians had served their country in all the theatres of war on land, sea and in the air, over 236 had been killed or died from wounds or disease, and hundreds more wounded.
The Western Gazette’s report on how the news of the end hostilities was received in Yeovil after four years of the most terrible conflict the world had known, was somewhat restrained, remembering the countless tragedies suffered in the town and across the nation:- ‘On the posting of the telegrams at the newspaper offices announcing the signing of the armistice the news spread like wildfire on Monday morning, and those in the outlying parts of the town and others who had not heard of the telegrams got their first intimation from a visiting aeroplane decorated with streamers in the national colours, and which performed some extraordinary evolutions over the town. The flags on the Town Hall were quickly hoisted by Mr. H Jesty, and under his direction, and with the ready assistance afforded to him, the centre of the town was soon wreathed in bunting. Following this lead flags and streamers of every kind -some of them showing the effects of four years storage – made their appearance in all directions, and it is long since the town looked so festive. By mid-day work had been practically abandoned and the streets gradually filled, flags and national colours being carried by nearly everyone. The bells in the Parish Church tower added their note to the rejoicing, which was everywhere of a restrained character. The losses of Yeovil men have been too great and the appearance of the motor ambulances of the Men’s Voluntary Aid Detachment. filled with wounded men being taken to the Red Cross Hospital, while provoking a sympathetic cheer, helped to remind the thankful crowds of the sterner side of the war.’
On the Monday evening, there was a packed town meeting to give thanks for the signing of the Armistice and the next day St. John’s Church was filled to capacity for the Service of Thanksgiving.
It began with a row over walnuts and ended with a man being found dead in a water closet.
Kingsdon butcher, John Williams was drinking with friends in the Market Inn, at South Street, Yeovil, during the late afternoon of Friday 2 October 1868, when he got into an argument with John Slade, over the number of walnuts he had sold at Yeovil Market. Williams claimed to have sold one million, but Slade called him a liar as he could not know how many a million was, and the whole of Kingsdon could not produce this number. In response the butcher boasted that he could pay a pound to Slade’s shilling, one word led to another, insults were thrown culminated in Slade punching Williams in the face, knocking his head back against a wall, and rendering him senseless for a few minutes.
Some time later John Williams left the inn and was not seen again by his friends until his corpse was found some 12 hours later lying in the water closet of Mr Brown’s stables about two hundred yards away in South Street.
At the Inquest, several witnesses told of the row and seeing Slade deliver the punch, but all confirmed that John Williams had appeared well when he left the Market Inn. Surgeon Tompkins stated that at the post mortem he had found a large blood clot on the brain, and an inch and a half fracture of the skull, which was also exceptionally thin. He discounted the cause of death as apoplexy and a fall in the closet, and considered the primary cause was the fracture and the resulting blood clot, following the deceased’s head striking the wall.
The Inquest jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against John Slade who was sent for trial and appeared at the Somerset Assizes in Taunton on 23 March 1869. Despite Slade’s counsel contending that because the deceased had been wearing a hat with a stiff brim, his head could not have struck the wall, and death was caused by a blow to the head in a fall in the water closet following a fit of apoplexy.
However, this did not convince the jury who found John Slade guilty of manslaughter but with a recommendation for mercy and he was sentenced to three months hard labour.
Here are three pieces, completely unrelated but, I hope, will be of interest.
Firstly, on Sunday afternoon, 7 February 1926, Yeovilians flocked to Westland’s aerodrome to watch Captain A F Muir, of Surrey Flying Service, carryout a parachute drop from 600 feet above the crowd. The excitement of the occasion, and its tension, was heightened by the fact that this was the brave captain’s first jump!
Flying over at 600 feet , the Avro bi-plane piloted by Flying Officer E F Smith, steadied and out jumped Captain Muir coming down in free-fall for the first 200 feet before opening his ‘Guardian Angle ‘ parachute, and waiving to the cheering spectators, landed safely on the aerodrome. The parachuting event was followed by a demonstration of ‘trick flying’ by another of the Surrey Flying Service machines with a Mr A A Anderson and his colleague, Mr B Powell walking to the wing tips of the aircraft as it circled overhead. The afternoon was rounded off with pleasure flights in several aircraft brought for the occasion.
In my second piece, Mr Denys Thompson, the headmaster of the old Yeovil School, appears to have fallen out with the editor of the Yeovil Review who wrote in the November 1946 edition:
‘Bitter critic of the penny daily press is MR. DENYS THOMPSON, young headmaster of Yeovil School. He finds his pupils get their ideas from the sensationalist newspapers and the cinema instead of from the school! And naturally he resents it. He ably puts his case in two books, “The Voice of Civilisation” and “Between the Lines” (both published by Frederick Muller). Some of his criticisms seem unfounded – for example, his pet theory is that newspapers “play down” news of a catastrophic nature because it affects advertising revenue. In out experience the average newspaper reader complains of precisely the opposite – that too much prominence is given to the gloomy news. Look through any week’s front pages and see for yourself. Whatever sinister influences big advertisers may exert on editorial policies – if any – it is offset by the splendid service to the reader that the newspaper is enabled to provide from advertising revenue. However much Mr. Thompson may favour newspapers without advertising, it is worth noting that the one outstanding example of an advertisement-free daily paper, “P.M.” of New York, is switching over to traditional style soon. Its losses have been too heavy to continue without income from advertising. A final word to Mr. Thompson: Mud-slinging at the press and journalists is a favourite pastime these days. But, on the whole, British newspapers do their job impartially under great difficulties. The many are made the scapegoat of the few by critics who usually have as big an axe to grind as the half-dozen or so papers who may fail in their duty to the public.’
And finally, the gentle haunting lyrics of the well-loved ballad ‘Danny Boy’, set to the old Irish tune ‘A Londonderry Air’, was written in 1910 by a Somerset man, Frederick Edward Weatherly. Born in Portishead, in 1848, Frederick Weatherly, was a lawyer and King’s Counsel and wrote over 3000 songs, including the popular song of the First World War – ‘Roses of Picardy’.
From The Western Gazette of Friday 20 August 1880:
A MYSTERIOUS WHISTLER
For several succeeding Sundays, the congregation of Holy Trinity Church, Yeovil, have been much disturbed by a noise as someone whistling, which generally commenced with the sermon, and kept up the accompaniment until the end of the service. Sunday night was no exception, for immediately the Rev. Abel Phillips had ascended the pulpit and given out his text, the whistling was again heard. Thereupon the rev gentleman (who, it appears, had received several complaints upon the matter) directed the sexton to discover the delinquent and put a stop to the performance, which had begun in a steady business like way. The sexton and Mr. Churchwarden Curtis left the church for the purpose and soon returned when the noise was again repeated, much to the annoyance of the Vicar, who was evidently disturbed by the incident, as he asked the congregation to be lenient under the circumstances, as he feared his remarks must be rather incoherent to them. Eventually a member of the congregation, who lives in the immediate vicinity of the church, left his seat for a while, and the whistling soon afterwards ceased. It subsequently transpired that a parrot was the innocence cause of the annoyance complained of.
THE SOLDIER AND THE LANDLADY
The conduct of the landlady of an hotel not a hundred miles from this place and a recruiting sergeant has created considerable scandal recently. It appears that some time ago, a gay young Guardsman was sent into the neighbourhood on a recruiting expedition. He took up his quarters at the hotel kept by the husband of the landlady referred to, and shortly afterwards incidents occurred which led to the landlord and others to believe that the landlady and the sergeant were on more intimate terms than were compatible with their positions. Representations were thereupon made to headquarters, which resulted in the soldier being removed from the district. Shortly afterwards the landlady, who it should be stated is between 40 and 50 years of age, was suddenly found to be missing, and almost immediately afterwards it transpired that the recruiting sergeant had been bought out. The landlady subsequently returned, and of course told a very plausible tale as to the cause of her absence. The young soldier also re-appeared upon the scene, and, being out of a “sit”, was engaged as a pot boy at the hotel. The Landlord’s jealousy was again aroused, and he ordered the man to leave the house. The landlady, however, insisted on his being allowed to remain, and quarrels became common. The neighbours, indignant at the conduct of the wife and the soldier, assembled near the house in crowds several nights in succession, and threatened to give the pot boy a “ducking”. Finding that the place was getting too warm for him, and possibly thinking that “discretion was the better part of valour”, the man suddenly “made tracks”, and has not since been heard of.
The Yeovil Review of August 1942 recalled the Home Guard Camp:
They worked hard, they played hard, they ate well, they slept well, they all enjoyed themselves and came home fitter and better soldiers. This summarises the opinion of all who attended the Yeovil Borough Coy’s Home Guard Camp.
After a rather tedious train journey the Company had a four mile march to the camp situated in one of the most beautiful spots of Somerset. Thanks to an energetic advance party they found the tents pitched, all arrangements made, and a hot meal ready for them. Maybe, some of the less experienced soldiers found the first night rather disturbing under the fresh sleeping conditions, but it took very little time for all to shake down to the new conditions of life and to find what hard work and good company made a really enjoyable holiday. Although, quite rightly most of the daylight hours were spent in hard training, sport and recreation played a very important part in the week’s activities. Several cricket matches were played against local teams with varying results, but the Yeovil Borough Company mustered a very creditable side. Skittles found great favour amongst many of the older Yeovil Skittle League players, but few could find their form with the rubber balls customary to that part of Somerset. Darts of course, there is always darts. Shooting matches and rifle firing practice naturally formed a favourite and instructive pastime.
The “Retreat” played by the Coy”s Bugle Band, and the ceremonial changing of the guard recalled many memories of soldering in happier days.
The Coy’s Sports Day held on the last Saturday afternoon started off with a great swing, but no sooner had the heats of the various events been run off when down came the rain, and the finals had to be postponed until the following morning. However, the rain did not entirely spoil the afternoon as invitations had been sent to the many new formed friends in the district, and especially the younger men were able to entertain pleasant company to tea.
It was most unfortunate that the Sergeant Major lost his voice in the middle of the week, but somehow it did not deter his great persuasive powers.
The great success of the week was largely due to the splendid arrangements made, thanks to the energy and organising ability of the Commanding Officer, Major H. C. C. Batten, D.S.O. to whom all members of the Company are grateful for his untiring efforts.
|Homing Waltz||Vera Lynn|
|Wish you were here||Eddie Fisher|
|Somewhere along the way||Nat ‘King’ Cole|
|High Noon||Frankie Lane|
|Sugar Bush||Doris Day and Frankie Lane|
|You belong to me||Jo Stafford|
A century ago the Yeovil Town Council became embroiled in a dispute over the purchase and type of pipe to be used for the Council’s first large sewerage scheme. The battle between the various factions on the Council rumbled on over a period of years and resulted in some incredible scenes in the Council Chamber. The following example gives a flavour of the antics of the municipal fathers during those long forgotten Council meetings.
This row broke out at the July 1900 meeting when the Sewage Committee recommended that the pipes should be bought by the Council, and then supplied at a profit to the contractors carrying out the scheme. Alderman Raymond, the Committee Chairman, pointed out that the ratepayers would benefit by the Council’s purchase of the pipes, but this was strongly opposed by Council Levi Beer who considered the whole scheme should be put out to contract. Councillor Beer was a man of strong convictions and could be guaranteed to stand by them through thick and thin; he enlivened many meetings with his strong opposition to what he believed to be the Council ‘establishment,’ Levi Beer was in business as a cheese factor, and lived in West Hendford House. He had owned the land on which Beer Street was laid out hence the name of the street.
The Borough Surveyor who was in charge of the sewerage scheme, pointed out that Council were always well treated by pipe manufactures, but this brought an immediate objection from Councillor Beer who commented that there were too many commissions being made to various parties. He was not allowed to finish as he was cut short by Aldermen Pittard and Raymond who sought an explanation of these allegations. Councillor Beer said that he could explain what he meant, ‘I am in a position to say that it is known in the trade that on nearly everything that is purchased today, there is a commission paid and that someone receives that commission.’ In trying to smooth things down, the Deputy Mayor, Alderman Cox, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of the Mayor, said that on a previous occasion, the Town Council had bought pipes and sold them to the contractor in a very profitable deal.
Councillor Beer was not going to be deflected from his cause, and he said that he did not care whether a profit was made or not, a commission was given. Alderman Pittard retorted that this was an indirect imputation on the members of the Town Council and its officers, and repudiated the idea that there was any commission. Alderman Raymond protested that unless Councillor Beer withdrew his allegations he would leave the room, because the councillor had insinuated that the Council had given the Borough Surveyor commissions. Councillor Beer objected, and shouted that he had not mentioned anyone, but Alderman Raymond angrily repeated that unless these allegations were withdrawn he would leave the room.
Uproar now ensued with councillors protesting, and the Deputy Mayor telling Councillor Beer that he had said quite enough and had disturbed the peace and harmony of the meeting. Councillor Beer hotly replied that it was a very good thing that he had said too much. Alderman Raymond shouted that Councillor Beer had stated that commissions were being taken by the Council, but which allegation Councillor Beer strongly denied ‘That is a lie!’ he returned. Alderman Raymond then exclaimed, ‘I rise to a point of order!’ to which the redoubtable Councillor Beer responded, ‘Oh yes, you always do that!’
The Deputy Mayor was now getting fed up with whole shouting match and called ‘Order, order, Mr Beer. Unless you come to order I will leave the chair.’ A councillor shouted, ‘I don’t see how any of us can stay here to hear members called liars!’ However, Councillor Beer refused to retract, whereupon Alderman Raymond left the chamber followed by at least half the councillors, and the Deputy Mayor announced that the meeting was adjourned.
Councillor Beer was heard to exclaim during the disorder that, ‘I do not withdraw it. I stick to it as an Englishman. Something will come out of this; something that will not bear investigation. I will go further!’ To which a remark an unknown voice called out ‘Yes, you will.’ Then the meeting broke up and peace returned to the empty Council Chamber. No action seems to have been taken on Councillor Beer’s allegations.
The battle of the pipes rumbled on through the next few years, and in 1901, the Western Gazette, commented with some exasperation that the business at one meeting could have been easily put into a teacup but the councillors had spent one and a half hours doing absolutely nothing except shouting at one another across the benches.
The Town Councillors could also get wound up over an invitation to Church. In July 1908 the Council received an invitation to the Harvest Festival Thanksgiving Service at the Congregational Church in Princes Street on 20 September. Councillor Levi Beer proposed that the invitation should be accepted as it was the custom of the Council to attend a place of worship with the Mayor each year. This was seconded by Councillor Gould who remarked that he had not been to church for a long time.
Councillor Matthews, whilst he was in favour of the Mayor going to his own place of worship with the Town Council on the first Sunday in November each year as a matter of tradition, felt that if the councillors went to the Congregational Church they would have all the other churches in the town asking them to attend every little meeting. He would be candid and was of the opinion that the invitation was to get ‘official recognition and to get their exchequers filled.’
Councillor Gaylard expressed his surprise at Councillor Matthews’ comments because he thought he was the last person to make such an outrageous suggestion. Councillor McMillan stated that if the Town Council held the same views as Councillor Matthews, he would on behalf of the Deacons of the Congregational Church, withdraw the invitation. Whilst the visit of the Mayor and Town Council would certainly increase the congregation, Councillor McMillan strongly denied that the invitation was to increase Church income.
Councillor Matthews then enquired what was the idea of the invitation, to which Councillor Beer remarked that this comment was an insult and he was very much surprised at him.
At this point, the Mayor interjected to the effect that unless the invitation could be accepted unanimously, it had better not be accepted at all.
No doubt with some relief, the Council accepted the Mayor’s suggestion and declined the invitation.
In 1860, the County Petty Sessions were held in Yeovil but dealt with offences committed outside the town boundaries. On Wednesday 1 February 1860, Giles Gaylard appeared before the Bench summoned for being drunk in Martock on the previous 7 January. PC Marshman stated that he was on duty at about 1 o’clock in the morning and came up to the defendant who was with a number of friends and who was very drunk. As he passed the group, Giles Gaylard became abusive but when the constable told him to go home quietly, he had used abusive and offensive expressions.
Mr Jolliffe, the solicitor acting for Giles Gaylard, went on the attack, and demanded to know how the constable knew his client to be drunk, and did he judge this to be from his own experience? PC Marshman replied that did not know what the solicitor meant. Mr Jolliffe, continued with this line of questioning and enquired whether in the constable’s opinion his client was in the same state as he, the witness, had been in at a recent sale? The constable protested that he had not been under the influence of drink on that occasion and went on to say that the defendant had been shouting – ‘There’s no chance for the bobby tonight.’ Mr Jolliffe then asked the policeman whether Giles Gaylard had told him that – ‘You had better try and find out serious offences and protect the property of parishioners than go about eaves-dropping and creating unpleasantness between neighbours.’ PC Marshman confirmed this, and stated that the defendant went on to taunt him by shouting – ‘Who robbed the parson’s house and who stole the sheep?’ This related to recent unsolved crimes in the village, but the taunts had not bothered him.
Police Sergeant Clarke testified that he had seen Giles Gaylard and his party at 1 o’clock shortly before shortly before their meeting with PC Marshman. The defendant had appeared very much the worse for drink and was using threatening language. The sergeant stated that Giles Gaylard was shouting – ‘ I should like to go and fight him for a £1000’ and similar threats which the officer believed referred to him even though the defendant could not have seen him at the time. However, Sergeant Clarke went on to say that Giles Gaylard was a quiet man when sober.
Mr Jolliffee, told the Bench that he would prove that the language complained of had not been used, and claimed that there was animosity between his client and PC Marshman. He believed that the policemen had – ‘stretched their belief for the purpose of getting him convicted of the charge. With regard to the language, it was a mere matter of supposition on the part of the police, just as much as when the sergeant thought his client’s remarks were intended for him even though the officer was out of sight at the time.’ The solicitor went on to say that his client had been at a wedding party at his brother’s house, and he then called several witnesses to show that he was not intoxicated and did not use abusive language.
The first witness was Mrs Job Gaylard (Giles’ sister-in-law), who stated that the defendant had left her house between midnight and 1 o’clock, he was not the worse for liquor and had only been drinking very moderately.
Next came Mrs Gould, who testified that she had been one of the party with Giles Gaylard. He had been very merry, as they all were, but he was not drunk.
Several other members of the wedding party came forward and confirmed that Giles Gaylard was not drunk but merry, and sang a song about ‘the bobbies’.
The case had now been presented and the Magistrates concluded that Giles Gaylard – ‘was not in a state to be termed drunk’ and dismissed the charge.
However the Bench had not finished with the Gaylards for the next case involved Job Gaylard, Giles’ brother, described as ‘a beer house keeper’, summoned for refusing to admit the police on 17 January. The Western Flying Post reported that – ‘Sergt. Clarke said he was on duty on the morning of the 17th near the defendant’s house. It was about one o’clock. He saw lights and observed the defendant through the window. Heard several persons talking. He remained five or ten minutes, and knocked for admission. The lights were put out, and the defendant’s wife went upstairs, looked out at the window and said, “We are gone to bed.” Witness replied that if he was not admitted he would report the house. There was no answer made. He heard parties moving about, and afterwards he went to the back part of the premises, and found the door open. The defendant now denied the charge in toto; but said that he was not himself in the house. Sergt. Clarke: I saw you in the cellar, drawing cider apparently. P.C. Solomon was also examined; and the defendant was fined 10s. including costs.’
Until 1949, Council Elections were held in November, and Yeovil elected the Mayor at the annual Town Council meeting on 9 November (except when the day was a Sunday and then it would be on the 10th.) The election of the Mayor was always something of an event and I have looked at a few of those Mayor makings over a century ago.
On 9 November 1893, Councillor Sidney Watts was elected Mayor and at the close of the meeting, the new first citizen invited his fellow councillors, officials and the press representatives to join him in refreshments at which toasts were drunk and speeches delivered. At the close of the proceedings, and led by the Military Band, the councillors and officials conducted the new Mayor to his home in Princes Street. During the afternoon and evening ‘merry peals were rung from the bells of St John’s church, and the band paraded the town playing lively selections’.
Councillor Watts was re-elected Mayor for a third term on 9 November 1895, and on this occasion, the Military Band played outside the Town Hall whilst the church bells rang out. Preceded by the Mace Bearer, the new Mayor, councillors and officials accompanied by the Military Band, walked through the streets lined by a large crowd to his home.
Councillor Sidney Watts’ fourth re-election was the occasion of a much grander procession. All the shops and houses in Princes Street were ‘gaily decorated’ and this year the crowd lining the streets was even bigger. The Mayor, accompanied by Councillors C W Pittard and W Cox, his proposer and seconder, rode in an open carriage ‘drawn by a pair of greys, with postilions’ through the cheering crowd.
On 9 November 1898, Councillor John Vincent was elected Mayor and served for three terms. The traditional banquet given by the Mayor on his re -election in November 1900 was quite a splendid affair. The Western Gazette reported that the upper portion of the Town Hall was – ‘skilfully converted by means of curtains and tapestry, into a sumptuous dining room. The walls were also most artistically draped, and the table decorations of the most tasteful kind, reflecting greatly on the caterer, Mr W T Maynard, who personally superintended the arrangements……
The menu was as follows:-
Thick Turtle Princess Royale
Turbot Sauce Mousseline
Devilled Whitebait Soles a la Colbert
Fillets of Beef a la Chateaubriand
Kidneys Saute Au Vin
Saddle of Mutton Rolled Turkey and Ox Tongue
Roast Chicken and Sausages
Pheasant Grouse Black-Cock
St Vincent and Bachelor’s Pudding
Pine Apple Jelly Charlotte Russe
Devilled Sardines OlivesFarci
Pines Grapes Bananas &c
CAFÉ NOIRE LIQUEURS’
After surviving this feast came the toasts – all fifteen of them – The Queen, The Prince and Princess of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family, The Bishops, Clergy and Ministers of all Denominations, The Imperial Forces, The Mayor, The Deputy Mayor, The Aldermen, The Borough Magistrates, The Town Clerk, The Councillors, The School Board, The Vice-Chairmen’ The Town and Trade of Yeovil, The Press, and finally The Ladies. Between the toasts songs were sung by Messrs G R Allen and W B Milborne, duets from Messrs W Cole and F Clements, and Mr Walter Raymond, the Somerset author, and Mr Shoreland Aplin ‘added to the pleasures of the evening by giving a couple of recitations. The singing of the National Anthem brought a most enjoyable evening to a close’.
Councillor W W Johnson was elected Mayor on 9 November 1902 and the surroundings for his banquet in the Town Hall were quite splendid. Once again the Western Gazette reported that – ‘A tent of muslin drapery with Indian tapestry had been temporarily erected. In this snug enclosure, with the canopy of white and yellow art muslin, its alcoves with huge palms on either side, the glittering candelabras and silver stands on which stood a cornucopia of luscious grapes and fruit, the many-coloured fairy lamps casting a soft subdued light over the whole – the place bore a resemblance to those enchanted apartments, imaginary or real, of antiquity.
‘Four tables had been arranged, the head table running in a parallel direction along the east end of the hall. On this table stood three silver stands on silver mirror centre pieces, while to the other less pretentious tables were allotted one stand each. The windows were hung with white muslin curtains underlined with red, and at various positions in the room stood large mirrors festooned with plants. The carpet had a border of red felt. Those who saw this banqueting hall declare that they never saw it look prettier. The whole work was carried out by Mr Connock, under the supervision of Mr W T Maynard, caterer’.
And what of the menu:
Real Turtle Ox Tail
Turbot-Lobster Sauce Soles-Sause Tartare
Creme of Chicken and Mushrooms Lamb Cutlets and Peas
Grouse Pheasant Golden Plover
Johnson Pudding Macedoine Jelly
Strawberry Creme Charlotte Russe
Devilled Prawns Canape of Olives
Café Noire Liqueurs’
The Toast list was impressive with sixteen toasts, one up on Councillor Vincent – Our London Friends was added. There were songs between toasts, a cello solo and Mr A’Court Simmonds’ band played selections.
They certainly knew how to have a good evening back in those far off days, but before we get too excited about the cost to the ratepayers, I should explain that the entire cost would be met by the new Mayor from his own pocket – You had to have a ‘few shillings’ to be Mayor in those days!