Wildflowers and Birdsong

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A copy of Mr Oliver Holt’s talk, ‘On first coming to Sherborne’ given to the Sherborne Historical Society in 1983 and later reproduced in print, has just arrived by post. Outside, in this corner of South Wales the ground is covered with frozen rutted snow and the sky is overcast and threatening, but I have been back in memory to a wood near Sherborne, where Mr Littleton Powys, accompanied by a vague boy figure called Oliver Holt, had taken some of us on a nature ramble. There we heard the high-pitched call of the wood wren and I was able to show Mr Powys Herb Paris and a birds-nest orchid in flower. ‘Well done’ he said. That was a moment of triumph I have never forgotten. As I read Mr Holt’s paper I could smell the wood violets he mentions. How many have I not gathered in my childhood along the south side of Leweston Road white, blue and pink which I tied carefully with wool adding long strands of a fern like moss to be put with them in a shallow bowl. Along that same road I had a secret source of bee orchids, the finest I have ever seen – not like the ones growing on chalk hillsides but nine or ten inches tall and with four or five open bees on them. Conservation was not so urgent then, and I happily gathered a dozen or more to take home.

These are the words of Nora Dibble, born Symes, in Sherborne just before the start of WW1 and they constitute the opening paragraph in Nora’s wonderful 7,000 word memoir of her time growing up and going to school in Sherborne where she was inspired by her teachers to later become a teacher herself. Nora’s words conjure up a Sherborne with its surrounding lanes and villages full of wild flowers and birdsong. She also introduced me to Oliver Holt who shared the nature rambles directed by Mr Littleton Powys. Being relatively new to Sherborne I wondered who Mr Powys could have been as, by reading on in Nora’s account, I was amazed to find that a shrike had nested in his garden and he summoned her and other members of the Lord Digby’s School hockey team to see and marvel at the nest. The fact that shrikes are now so incredibly rare and that they had once nested somewhere in Sherborne was an absolute revelation to me. Where did Mr Powys live and where was the old hockey field? I had supposed it to be somewhere off Acreman Street as there is a road named Powys Green running off this street but then Rachel Hassall suggested I looked in Katherine Barker’s A Sherborne Camera. In this book we are reminded that Littleton Powys lived in Quarry House which is in The Avenue and of course over his garden hedge would have been the hockey pitch, where the Lord Digby’s School teams played, with access from Tinney’s Lane. So this would be where the shrike had chosen to build its nest – inconceivable today but it speaks volumes about how town and countryside must have met and merged in days gone by.

Nora went on to tell about the collecting of First Finds. How much too do I owe to Mr Littleton Powys, chairman of the governors for most of my school life and a great lover of English literature and of natural history? To encourage interest in the latter he offered prizes for various competitions that he himself had set. For the First Finds competition we had to see how early we could find specimens of wild flowers and bring them live to school, where they were recorded, with name, date and name of the finder, in a special notebook. Just imagine a batch of eager young first-finders arriving at the door of the science lab on a Monday each clutching a paper bag containing the first primrose, daisy, celandine, chickweed or whatever, all to be checked in the famous notebook. Many started off but fell by the wayside. One year I succeeded in collecting over 600 specimens. I owe my grandfather (Edmund King, one time licensee of the Woolmington Hotel) a great debt in that he taught to me the names of many wild flowers, as I learned to speak, so that the task was less arduous than it might have been. I won Mr Powys’s prize in this section for about four years running.

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Celandines in East Mill Lane

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A patch of white violets growing in Purlieu Meadow

Wanting to know more about these long ago nature rambles and First Finds forages, I managed to borrow a copy of the account by Oliver Holt that had been sent to Nora and it is contained in Three Sherborne Memoirs. Oliver and his elder brother were brought by their father by train to Sherborne in January 1918; their mother had not accompanied them as it would have been too painful an experience for her to leave her young sons in the care of the headmaster of Sherborne Preparatory School, Mr Littleton Powys and his wife Mabel. Two senior boys were summoned to take care of the two new arrivals. Oliver remarks that the two boys are kindly fellows the latter especially. He is Alec King, the second son of the Rev. H R King’. The following day Mr Powys called all the new arrivals together with ‘Come on you new boys! it’s a fine day for a walk’ and so Oliver took the first of what would be many walks ‘down to the station, up the narrow tree-hung canyon, across the Terraces, up the yet steeper lane between the woods, along the plateau at the top, then down through the ruts and mud of West Hill. As we went along Mr Powys beguiled the walk in a hundred different ways by pointing with his stick to this or that simple form of the nature that he loved: the rosy buds of the wych elms; the scarlet moss-cups – quite a rarity – in a hedge bank and the greenish flowers on a clump of spurge laurel set against its dark polished leaves. Twenty years or so later Oliver would buy some scented white violets from a flower seller in the middle of London and tucking them into his buttonhole the scent would waft him back to a lane a mile or so south of Sherborne where the same violets, remembered from his childhood, would be blooming.

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Oliver Holt’s highly skilled illustration of ‘Townhall Clock’

Oliver gave a talk to the Powys Society on Littleton Powys which was also reproduced in Three Sherborne Memories and I became very keen to find my own copy of The Joy of It, the memoir written by Littleton Powys in 1937. The only copy I could get hold of was in Australia and was described, by Serendipity Books of West Leederville, as having ‘damage by insects and with scattered foxing throughout’ but what really leapt off the computer screen at me was the inscription that it bore ‘To Alec King’ – could this be the same Alec King who took Oliver Holt under his wing when he first arrived at the prep school? I just had to send for this copy. While I waited I was very pleased to discover that I had my own family connection to Littleton Powys. In July 1869 my great grandfather George Collings married Fanny Payne in St Nicholas Church, Nether Compton. The Rev Goodden must have been unavailable on the day as the curate from Bradford Abbas came across from the neighbouring village to officiate and that curate was the Rev Charles Powys, unmarried at the time, who would go on to marry and found the famous Powys dynasty which I would learn more about, I was sure, when my book arrived from Australia. While I waited for my book I made up for my complete lack of knowledge of Littleton Powys by searching for information on the internet where I found the best possible introduction to him given by his publisher http://www.sundialpress.co.uk/Littleton%20Powys.html

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My book has arrived from Australia and the inscription ‘Alec King with love from E.C.K’ is confirmed by Rachel Hassall to have been sent by Emily Constance King to her son Alexander who had been a pupil and later a teacher at Sherborne School. Alec was one of the sons of Henry Robinson King who was a teacher of Classics at Sherborne School for 42 years from 1883. Rachel has shared a photograph of the family now held in the School archive. As I began to read about the life and times of Mr Powys I was very aware of what it might have been like for Alec King to begin reading this book with all the memories it would evoke in him, when it arrived in the post where he was by then settled with his wife in a new life in Perth, Australia.

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Alec King standing right courtesy of Andrew King and by kind permission of Sherborne School

The Joy of It is so well named and I enjoyed every word of it. Littleton Powys grew up in the deepest of countryside, completely unfettered, where he seems to have soaked up all he could about the world around him like blotting paper. He was born in the vicarage in the village of Shirley in Derbyshire and from there the family moved to Dorchester and finally to Montecute. He was one of eleven siblings. Littleton went first to Sherborne Preparatory School then to Sherborne School, on to Cambridge before beginning his teaching career in Bruton. Then came a move to Aberdovy in Wales before he finally returned to his old preparatory school in Sherborne as headmaster where he would spend the rest of his life. One of his brothers was an architect and on two acres of land in The Avenue Mr and Mrs Powys had a house built which they named Quarry House. It had been intended to quarry the stone from on site to build the house but the excavated stone was rather inferior and so building stone was brought in from elsewhere. The garden walls, however, were constructed from the stone from the site and calling the house Quarry House must have been very appropriate as it was built on the site of its very own quarry.

I scoured the pages of The Joy of It searching for mention of Nora or Oliver and I was not disappointed so I will finish with a most revealing extract which will give a window into this extraordinary man and the luck of some who were fortunate to have been in the same vicinity as him at an important point in their lives.

On two occasions my young friend Oliver Holt and I conducted a party of girls into the woods near Sherborne; he was to help with the birds, and I with the flowers and butterflies. Naturally enough with youth as a guide the birds were the chief interest. These excursions were most enjoyable. And it gave me much pleasure to see young Oliver standing in the middle of the wood surrounded by girls pointing rapidly first in one direction, then in another, then in another in some spot where a black cap or nightingale, a chiff-chaff, a willow wren or a woodwren was singing. Perhaps our greatest success was this: we were making our way through the wood when Oliver suddenly said ‘There’s a golden-crest; but its song is not very strong. Listen! I could hear nothing, but quite a number of the girls heard it. Then it showed itself and very soon afterwards I saw another, and said ‘Now we ought to find the nest.’ We watched the little birds flitting from twig to twig until they finally reached a spruce fir; then we saw one of them go to what we felt sure was the nest; and when we came nearer there indeed was the wonderfully built nest. I doubt if any one of our companions has forgotten that experience.

It gave me great pleasure too to be allowed to judge their collections and competitions; every now and then there would appear upon the scenes some unusually observant girl. One particularly comes to my mind who was far ahead of the others in her knowledge of the flowers of the neighbourhood. On one occasion I came across in her collection of dried flowers a specimen of elecampane (Inula Helenium). I knew one place where this somewhat rare plant grew, and suggested to her that she had found it there. ‘Oh no,’ she said, ‘I did not pick it there, though I know it grows there; but it grows in two or three other places. If you go along the Thornford Road, and turn up towards Honeycombe just opposite Almshouse Copse , and go over a gate, then across another field and over another gate (and you will have to be careful getting over that one, for it is very rickety), you will see it growing in abundance, and it looks simply lovely.’ There must have been scarcely a hedge, or a field, or a wood, or a lane that this girl had not explored with her eyes wide open looking for the flowers  which gave her such pleasure. What memories she will have through life! Some years afterwards I suddenly met her in a Sherborne street no longer a schoolgirl. I greeted her and asked how she was faring. She said ‘I am at the university now, and specialising in biology which is what I am going to teach; and, Mr Powys, I do thank you for the interest you took in my flowers, and the encouragement you gave me’. Few words spoken to me have ever given me greater pleasure than these.

Although Mr Powys does not mention Nora by name I feel absolutely sure this is her. She concludes: I should like to end with a quotation from Wordsworth’s ‘Lines above Tintern Abbey’ quoted in Mr Powys’s autobiography The Joy of It, and which he wrote in a book he gave me: ‘Fair Nature never doth betray the heart that loves her’.

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Picking primroses, Nether Compton, Easter 1953

My father was born in 1915 in Nether Compton and he spent his childhood and grew up in this lovely hidden village. When my brother and I visited he would love to show us secluded and secret places and we would then return to find them ourselves as we had the same freedom to roam that Mr Powys, Oliver and Nora had experienced. Here is a photograph of my brother and me returning from a walk dressed in our Sunday best on Easter day 1953. On close inspection mud can be seen on our shoes. I have a bunch of carefully picked primroses in my hand. The flowers had to be surrounded by a ruff of their fresh green, crinkly leaves and the posy would be placed in Granny’s special little pewter vase, just the right shape to support these little beauties, and then placed high on the mantelpiece. What memories come back to me at the sight each year of the first primrose.

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Britain’s smallest bird variously described in the past as the wood wren, the golden crested wren or the golden crest is now known as the goldcrest. Luckily, unlike Mr Powys in his later years, I can still pick out its high pitched call and I often hear and sometimes see it in the cypress trees as I walk along Foster’s to Hound Street. My knowledge of birdsong is limited and what little knowledge I have gained has been with the aid of a cd. How I would have loved to have been on one of the long ago nature rambles with Mr Littleton Powys, Nora Symes and Oliver Holt.

Barbara Elsmore April 2017

 

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Under our feet

reducedWalking down Long Street recently I was rather dismayed to see the old paving being taken up, dumped into the back of a truck and carted away. Now I know that the replacement surface is nice and smooth and we are less likely to trip over but aesthetically we have lost something that will never come back again. Who can blame the local authority as it doesn’t take long before someone remarks ‘you ought to sue the council’ when they hear you have tripped and broken something.

Damage to the paving usually begins with heavy vehicles mounting the pavement or with poor reinstatement following work by the utility companies. I decided to walk around the town centre to see for myself how the degradation takes place and who the offenders are who put our beautiful town under such pressures. Two of the most patched areas are outside Costa Coffee and William Hill in Cheap Street and I believe this is most likely to be caused by large vehicles mounting the pavement to get round parked cars or delivery vans.

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This view from Google Streetview shows patches of tarmac on the left hand pavement and a van parked with its wheels on the right hand pavement

reduced-diggerThe kerb appears to subside under the weight then the paving stones break and are replaced by patches of tarmac. The bollards protect certain areas but in between them the damage can clearly be seen. On the opposite side of the street it is very common to see delivery vans parked with two wheels on the pavement so this side is suffering as well. Rule 145 of the Highway Code forbids driving on or over the pavement other than in an emergency. Perhaps the wording ‘other than in an emergency’ allows vehicles to mount the pavement otherwise the road will be blocked which could then be argued was creating a possible emergency, as others could not go about their daily business. It is a fact of modern high street life that the shops cannot function without constant visits from delivery vans.

There are utilities running under the surface of our pavements with access at various points. I decided, following a brief inspection, that the water companies seem to take the most care. One recent Sunday morning I spotted a reinstatement outside Reeves which was the work of Wessex Water and a newly concreted area to resemble the surrounding paving stones had been created rather than filling in with tarmac. As it happened two men were working outside Abbey Bookshop and I stopped and talked to one of them about the recent reinstatement and he told me he had a special way of making up the concrete with extra sand to help it blend in as closely as possible with the paving. I saw that he was saving the cut stones and was able to return later to discover that it was impossible to tell that a large trench had recently been dug in the paving. When I congratulated him and said I hoped that by his careful work he would be helping to ensure that the paving stones of Cheap Street did not go the same way as those recently replaced in Long Street by tarmac, he replied with feeling in a broad Scottish accent ‘it should nae happen!’

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Last year a long trench the length of the paved area leading past the museum to the gateway to the Abbey was dug. This resulted in John Firmin triumphantly carrying a sample of Victorian pipework into the museum. The reinstatement is nothing short of miraculous here with no thought given to simply filling in with tarmac.reduced-2

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A quick look at Wikipedia to discover how our pavements and road surfaces came about and I found that there were a series of Paving Acts in the 18th century, especially the 1766 Paving and Lighting Act, which authorised the City of London Corporation to create footways along the streets, pave them with Purbeck stone (the thoroughfare in the middle was generally cobblestone) and raise them above street level with kerbs forming the separation. Previously, small wooden bollards had been put up to demarcate the area of the street reserved for pedestrian use. With the introduction of macadam road surfaces in the early 19th-century, kerbs became ubiquitous in the streets of London. Presumably Sherborne would have followed suit soon after.

Incidentally Sherborne has an historic connection to tarmac as Mrs Frances McAdam, who was ‘mistress of the wardrobe’ and played Osburga in the Sherborne Pageant of 1905, and who later went on to be the Commandant of the VAD hospital in Greenhill during WW1, was married to the great-grandson of John Loudon McAdam,  known as ‘King of the Roads’, as he was the inventor of macadam road surfaces – for more information on this remarkable man see here:

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Mrs Frances McAdam and her grandson in the Sherborne Pageant of 1905 – photo by kind permission of Sherborne School

Interestingly in the official guide to Sherborne written in 1903 there is mention of the then current method for roadbuilding. ‘Constant attention is paid to Sherborne’s roads and footways, in which it is helped as far as main roads go by the county council. The process of ‘stoning’ the road is no longer the process of “pecking” up, a covering of rough cubes and allowing the passing of carriage and cart to roll them in roughly; but a steam-roller passes over the new made road and it is at once fit for a bicycle’. Just imagine what a crowd might have formed to see this new fangled method.

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Photograph from the 1903 Illustrated Guide to Sherborne

We are very fortunate to have many fine examples of some very old paving around our town and it doesn’t take long to spot it on a walk around the Abbey, Sherborne School, Greenhill and along Hospital Lane and I soon took many photographs to share with you. Some of the older houses still have front paths made of Blue Lias, the soft grey stone that could be cut into large slabs and which always looks just ‘right’ when teamed with the golden stone of the buildings. There is even a recently laid example in Newlands.

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So next time you are walking around the town glance down and see what you are walking over. Will our paved areas continue to add variety and interest to our town or will they gradually disappear to be replaced by a layer of easy to lay and maintain tarmac? I wonder what the inventor of the process would have thought of his road surface also covering the pedestrian walkways as well.

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Signs of the Time

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Are we not lucky here in Sherborne to have so many fine examples of the sign-writers art? Take a wander down Cheap Street and admire all those lovely wooden signs over the shop windows. Walk along Half Moon Street and around Trendle Street and you will see lots more, and not just over the shops and pubs but on many a wall you will find messages, reminders and proclamations. These signs add character and individuality to our town and they are just another example of something we pass everyday that enriches our daily lives probably without many of us realising it. Our town council continues to encourage wooden and hand-painted signs when shops change hands. But things are on the change. Although many of the boards hung above shop windows continue to be made of wood the names of the shops are often printed on a washable finish and then attached. Many look so good you cannot tell that they have not been painted by the hand of a traditional sign-writer. Several shop fronts were being repainted as I was preparing for this article and three times I asked if the painter at work was going to hand-paint the name back across the front and each time he said ‘no’. Two explained that they could still undertake this skilled work but that there was not a call for it anymore as it would take too long, plus the new replacement sign would be washable and would last much longer. I found an old directory for the town printed in 1963 and within its pages was a list of three local sign-writers offering their services.

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I took a walk down to South West Signs at the Old Yarn Mills in Westbury and a helpful man kindly gave me a few minutes of his time to explain how the industry has changed and he showed me examples of the backing boards on which almost anything could be printed to look any way anyone wanted using a clever computer programme. He regretted the passing of the hand-painting sign-writers and the skills that went with them but at the same time he was excited by clever surfaces that were being created and told me how signs for hospitals can now be printed onto surfaces using materials that will never harbour bacteria come what may. He also explained that a way has now been found to prevent road traffic signs turning ‘green’. So the signs over our shops and in our town are on the cusp. Will some still seek out a traditional sign-writer even though the signs may need repainting every ten years or so, or will technology be able to create something that fools everyone’s eye and retains the appeal that so suits our town?

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As postscript to this article one of the shop fronts being repainted at this time was the Abbey Bookshop and yesterday morning when I walked past the new sign had been put in place and it looks very smart indeed and so I went into the shop to congratulate Kevin. He explained that the artwork was created by an 18 year old straight out of sixth form college working for a sign-making company in Sturminster Newton where the sister shop has the same signage outside. So perhaps as one door begins to close on a traditional occupation another one opens offering opportunities for new skills to be developed in line with the changing times.

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Barbara Elsmore

8 October 2016

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Classic and Supercars at the Castle

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This fabulous event was held in lovely summer weather on 17th July, which really must have helped to bring the crowds out with what looked to be a record breaking attendance this year. The show was started a dozen or so years ago by a classic car enthusiast and it has gone from strength to strength each year. The beautiful setting for the show, in the grounds of Sherborne Castle, must be a major contributing factor to the success of the event.  Over the last couple of years the organisation of the whole thing has  been handed over from the original instigator to the Rotary Clubs of Yeo Vale and Sherborne Castles who have formed a not-for-profit company to co-ordinate the event. Working with the staff at Sherborne Castle the clubs organise everything  so well and so smoothly that a good day out is guaranteed for all with, of course, all profits going to charity and a massive £20,000 was raised last year for Cancer Research UK and local charities.

One visitor left Norfolk early in the morning to drive over to Sherborne and another drove across from Brighton but these were but two amongst the many who had travelled long distances to enjoy this event. There were many visiting car clubs who had driven here for the day to meet up and exhibit their cars.  It was also a great day out for local families with children under 16 entering free when accompanied by a paying adult.

And then there were the cars, which after all is what everyone has come to see.  Now I am no petrol-head but I enjoyed it enormously just wandering about looking at this and that. But then there was the announcement that there was to be the arrival of the McLaren convoy from a specialist car group in Bristol and with some mighty roars from various engines that reverberated around the old building  they proceeded down the road in front of the Castle and parked up in formation. This was a fine example of the ‘Supercar’ element of the show.  I could not believe how exciting and exhilarating this is and I do so like to see people who are passionate about what they enjoy and this feeling was palpable all over the show grounds. Some would convene for a convivial picnic in the sunshine sitting at the back of their ‘pride and joy’ in all its glory but others would sit down to a silver service lunch in a marquee and there were refreshments of all kinds to be had. We enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and a locally produced sausage roll while listening to the foot-tapping sounds of the jazz band.

There were many great vehicles both new and old to see

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Replica of John Lennon’s 1965 Rolls Royce

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Lotus Europa JPS

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One of the cars on display, a Lotus Europa JPS Special, really took me back as I remember that this car once epitomised all that was desirable, but totally unobtainable, for my younger brother who attended the London Motor Show each year from a very young age and assiduously collected leaflets and copies of Autocar.  Surprisingly, up in my loft, I have a box containing some of his remaining memorabilia and from amongst it I found a contemporary leaflet from 1973 for the Lotus complete with decorative ‘dolly-bird’. I also found an advertisement for John Player Specials on the back of a copy of Autocar, luckily containing a rather modest government health warning, as just look what a glamorous lifestyle you could be part of for such a modest outlay – 30p for 20!

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Lotus EUropa with Dolly-bird

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I came across a Sprite Caravan from the 1960s and it has to be said this was my very favourite item in the whole show. Stepping inside it was like going back in time to when a holiday in our family meant renting a caravan somewhere on the coast and spending a week or even two living in this congenial, small but well designed space. The little Sprite had its original footpump to pump the water up into the sink. And when I asked where the fourth bed would be, apparently a sling bed, a bit like a stretcher, could be produced with two poles and some rubber feet which meant it could be slung over the top of the other single bed to make bunk beds – how very  ingenious caravan designers have to be.

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The photos above show a happily remembered caravan holiday (Bowleaze Cove in 1951) with its own garden to picnic in!

The show will be on again next year and for the first time it will be spread over two days so make a note in your diaries for 15th and 16th July 2017.

Barbara Elsmore

July 2016

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The Yeatman Hospital

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An incalculable amount of time and effort has been given to the setting up and running of the Yeatman hospital by local people, since the original concept for having a hospital here in Sherborne was raised over 150 years ago. This continues unabated today and Friday 8 July 2016 saw the doors thrown open for a celebratory garden party in honour of the 150 years this wonderful local institution has been serving the good people of Sherborne and the surrounding district. We all have had cause to be very grateful when an incident has meant we have found ourselves to be the beneficiaries of all the effort that has been made on our part. For me it was on a very recent Saturday lunchtime when my husband came back from town with a couple of bags of shopping and having inadvertently left his reading glasses on he managed to misjudge the kerb, stopping his fall with his face, which a friend of mine was encouragingly moved to observe is the way you do these things as you get older, and so we found ourselves waiting for the duty nurse at the Yeatman to patch him up. We had walked there but I noticed on the wall a dispensing machine and for the princely sum of £1 you could buy your way out of the hospital car park. What a wonderful system!

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As an example of some of the many fundraising efforts that have happened along the way let me take you back to June 1927 and it is carnival week and all the proceeds will go towards the building of a maternity ward and smaller private wards and offices at the hospital with over £3,000 of the £6,000 needed already raised. All the shops are taking part in a competition to create the best window display. There is a souvenir booklet and programme published by the Sherborne Chamber of Trade on sale, printed by ‘Dorset’s Largest Printers’ J C and A T Sawtell of Sherborne and I have a copy in front of me now. There is a number just inside the cover, my number is 2011, and by scouring the windows of shops in the town it may just be that this number is displayed on an item that will become mine to take home at the end of the week. There are many hundreds of such items donated as prizes and just think of the excitement that will be engendered.

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Awarded joint first place in the window display competition was R F Rickard, painters and decorators, and Harden, Trevett and Son Ltd, ironmongers. Second was C Kitzerow and third was R Reeves for The Picture Palace which had working models of windmills at the front. There were lots of highly commendeds and special mentions so the whole thing seems to have been a great success all round. On a serious note there are a few ‘Don’ts for Shoppers’ at the back of the book such as ‘Don’t be mislead into thinking you cannot purchase goods in your own town equally as good as those from elsewhere’. ‘Don’t forget that the tradesmen of Sherborne pay rates and taxes towards the upkeep of the town and therefore need and deserve your support’ and don’t forget that ‘LOCAL FIRMS EMPLOY LOCAL LABOUR – a point worthy of remembrance’.

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Harden Trevett

kitzerowBefore any vehicle could enter the town it would be held up by ‘highwaymen’ who demanded an entry fee and once paid, a ticket displayed in the windscreen of each vehicle would allow free access on any return visits during the week.

My booklet contains the programme of daily events with something exciting to see or take part in happening every day.

Monday evening saw the carnival King and Queen parade around the town with the band playing and with much fun along the way. On Tuesday a grand concert took place in the Digby Assembly Rooms in the Digby Hotel with one of those taking part being Mr Stanley Holloway. I think this is very likely to be the same Stanley Holloway who would go on later to play Eliza Doolittle’s father in the stage and screen version of My Fair Lady.  Wednesday afternoon saw the children’s carnival procession. Nearly 200 children in fancy dress with lots of prizes and a free tea for all competitors to finish. This was followed by one of the highlights of a very full week – the Battle of Flowers and procession of flower decorated cars. The procession passed through the town and out to the Castle for the grand finale and prize giving. There were group floats, with local schools and organisations taking part, plus individually owned cars, vans and motorbikes. The  boys of Sherborne School were described as making a magnificent contribution to an outstanding day and the event was viewed by thousands of people.  Rachel Hassall, archivist at the school, has kindly shared some of the photos of the floats here and one of the participants was a young John Le Mesurier.

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Four photos by kind permission of Sherborne School.  6th from left sitting is John Le Mesurier – who went on later to portray Sergeant Wilson in BBC’s Dad’s Army

School House floatWestcott HouseHarper HouseThursday was Alexandra Rose Day, organised by the hospital matron Miss Kearvall with the slogan ‘Buy a Rose’ and with the contributions passed to the Yeatman fund. As an aside I should mention that the hospital has recently installed a display cabinet in the entrance and you can see artefacts, photos and more connected to Miss Kearvall’s time as matron.

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Back to 1927 and on the Thursday evening there was community singing in Pageant Gardens with the British Legion band. Friday saw a display of junior organisations and a carnival dance from 8.00 until 2.00 organised by the R.A.O.B. On Saturday there was a motor cycle gymkhana and football match followed by a comic football match and finally a grand tug-of-war with the week’s events drawing to a close with open air dancing in Pageant Gardens to the British Legion band.

In 1927 the National Health Service was over twenty years in the future and treatment at the hospital would have to be paid for in most cases, however the Yeatman Hospital League was there to help. Contained in the booklet are full details of how a family of parents with any number of children under 16 could receive treatment for a weekly fee of 4d. There were 55 branches of the league where such payments could be made. There was no charge for accidents or dressings etc and because of the income to the hospital created by this scheme – over £2,000 a year in 1927 – it was possible to treat the ‘necessitous poor’ as well.

By far the most intriguing object on display, during the recent celebrations, was a 3/4″ thorn from a long ago blackthorn bush that had embedded itself in the ankle, and stayed there for a month, of  Harry Farr Yeatman. Upon its removal the surgeon remarked that young Harry must have good blood for surely he would otherwise have lost his leg. Did this significant event compel Harry Farr Yeatman, in later life, to work towards the establishment of the hospital that has been named in his honour?

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The magnificent cake ready to be cut to celebrate 150 years of the Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne

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A pair of Lorgnettes with a story to tell


 I am a very firm believer in the power of an inanimate object’s ability to bring with it a story from the past. Now take this wonderful pair of lorgnettes – I wish you could hold the faded green leather case in your hands – take out the lorgnettes – unwind the grosgrain ribbon – unfold the lenses from within the handle and then I defy you not to hold them against the end of your nose and try them for yourself. Next you may wonder who would have peered through these lorgnettes in the past and on closer examination of the case you will see the name of the previous owner – Miss Rawson, Brecon House, Sherborne, Dorset. Who was Miss Rawson and how did I come to hold the lorgnettes amongst my family treasures? The answer to the second question is yet again to be found in my grandparents’ house in Nether Compton near Sherborne as they were in the back of a drawer when we cleared the house in 1974 when granny died. The lorgnettes were then forgotten again for nearly forty years until they returned to Sherborne when my husband and I moved here in 2011. I photographed the house in Long Street, an imposing Ham stone house and, while volunteering at the museum, I discovered the existence of Rawson’s Hall in Westbury, Sherborne.

 

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Brecon House, Long Street, Sherborne

The first family connection I found to Miss Rawson was in my grandfather’s obituary reported in the Western Gazette when he died at the end of September in 1953, and Miss Rawson was amongst the list of attendees. I now know that Miss Rawson died just three months later and was buried on 29 December, aged 60. Barbara Helen Rawson was the only daughter of Philip Heathcote and Lilias Campbell Rawson (née Clarke-Preston) and she was born in 1893 at Brand Hall, Norton in Hales, Shropshire. A four years younger brother Philip Colin made up the family of four. At the time of the 1901 census the family was living at Brand Hall with six servants including a nurse, possibly for eight year old Barbara and four year old Philip. Their father was ‘living on own means’. Brand Hall is a Georgian country house currently situated in some 200 acres of parkland where regular International Horse Trials are held. The decision to move to Sherborne must have been made and the move took place between the census of 1901 and 1905 when Barbara is found to be taking part in the Sherborne Pageant and with thanks to Rachel Hassall, the archivist at Sherborne School, a photograph of the ‘pedestal display’ shows Barbara representing ‘Sherborne England’, while ‘Sherborne in America’ is represented by a group dressed as Native Americans.

Pageant group

Photograph by kind permission of Sherborne School

She must be amongst the four young girls on the left of the photo as she is aged 12, two of them are aged eight and the fourth is ‘age unknown’. So which one is she? Of course I do not know but I feel drawn to the young lady at the front with her foot up on the step. Just look at the fabulous dresses and the way their hair is styled. Where would they have been dressed? It must have been a very exciting event to take part in as according to a newspaper report 900 people had contributed to the successful performances.  The youngest Native American at the front is one Robert McCreery and his grandmother, Mrs Frances McAdam would later found the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospital in Sherborne at the outbreak of WW1 and I have a very strong feeling that Barbara would be one of those who would have stepped up to help. Where did Barbara go to school? Her father went to Eton and then to Oxford and it would be likely that younger brother Philip would follow his father but what of Barbara’s education? I know now that her parents came to settle in Sherborne because it was in the Blackmore Vale and they could continue with the hunting tradition that they would have known so well in Shropshire. Co-incidentally to the move to Sherborne, or perhaps it was an influencing factor, Sherborne Girls’ School had opened its doors in 1899 and so young Barbara was enrolled in 1904 and left in 1909. So it was here in Sherborne that she was educated.

These days it is possible to view old newspapers on line and by ‘searching’ through back copies of the Western Gazette (in the date category 1900-1949) for ‘Miss Rawson’ nearly 500 reports containing the name Rawson appear and, surprisingly, practically all of them are relevant to the family. This is a fascinating, if time consuming, way of tracking a person through their life. By taking a ‘screen shot’ with the iPad these collected reports can be retained in the photographs app until I was ready to check through to see what I had found and then it is possible to begin to build up a picture. As I tap out this ‘story’ on my iPad I can refer back to the newspaper reports stored in the photo app and I can also refer to the family tree I have created in the Ancestry app and I do not need to have any traditional pieces of paper at all to shuffle through. I had to visit Yeovil library to check the microfiched copies of the Western Gazette to try to find Miss Rawson’s obituary as she died in 1953 and the cut-off point for the old newspapers online is 1949 but sadly one did not appear and so despite a life lived full of public service, which I will come to later, she seems suddenly and quietly to have slipped away. Perhaps her obituary appeared in a national newspaper and I will try to check this out.

So let us go back to 1905 and see what could be found out about the family. It would appear that they were settling into life here in Sherborne with Barbara’s father taking an active part in the Blackmore Vale Hunt and all that goes with membership. By joining the hunt it would seem that the family passed immediately into the higher echelons of  Dorset society. The annual hunt ball was held in Sherborne with dancing from ten at night to five the next morning. The newspaper reports run to several columns with all those who attended listed by name. Mr Rawson went on to become a magistrate, chairman of the Urban District Council and a master of the Almshouse. His chief delight was in furthering the work of the Church Lads’ Brigade Cadet Corps and he purchased a hall where they could undertake their activities. This hall, known as Rawson’s Hall, though sadly dilapidated is still standing today.

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rawsons hall

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An internal photo of the hall found in a leaflet in Sherborne museum

With the outbreak of war there were many changes to both family and local life. Barbara’s brother Philip joined the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, at around the time of his nineteenth birthday, in June 1915. He was reported missing in France just over three months later. He is remembered on one of the panels at the Loos War Memorial. This devastating news for the family would later also prove to unite Miss Rawson in tragedy with my grandfather’s family as his first cousin Bertie Brooks went missing around the same time and is also remembered on the Loos Memorial. He was twenty. Barely two years later in April 1917 Barbara’s father also died, aged only 53, and according to his obituary he had ‘sustained a severe blow with the death of his only son who had been reported missing for many months and was only declared dead earlier this year’. Barbara was 24 and her mother was in her very early 50s. Life had to go on and it would appear that she would continue with the local public service that her father had given his life in Sherborne to. Although I have no evidence at the moment I strongly believe she worked at the VAD hospital here. Like her father she became a magistrate (many of the newspaper reports concern the cases that would have come before her) and a governor of Foster’s and Lord Digby’s Schools. Newspaper reports show that she was on the Parochial Church Council, she helped with the organisation of the Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Red Cross, renovations of the Lady Chapel in the Abbey (where she made the communicants kneeling mats), the Conservative Association, opening bazaars, judging baby competitions, presenting prizes and crowning May queens.

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Are these the communicants’ kneeling mats made by Miss Rawson for the Lady Chapel?

She continued her associations with the Blackmore Vale Hunt and she kept her horses in Long Street. Her mother died when Miss Rawson was only 34 and she never married and of course it is tempting to speculate that she might have been one of the many young women, at the time, who did not marry because so many of the young men had been killed. I believe it was my granny who knew Miss Rawson originally as she was a nurse in WW1 and although I know she nursed in Belgium she most likely ended the war volunteering here in Sherborne.

Granny

My granny, Harriet Rose Winch, with her fellow nurses in WW1 – I do not know where this photo was taken.

Harriet Rose Winch met my widowed grandfather and married him when she was nearly 50 and although it looks from this distance like a marriage of convenience – she needed the stability of a home and a husband and he certainly needed a wife – I know otherwise as they would go on to enjoy 25 years of happily married life together. Barbara Rawson, I believe, became a friend to both of them. How Miss Rawson’s lorgnettes came to end up in the back of a drawer in their house is still a mystery I will probably never solve but I feel privileged to ‘own’ them and to have been able to find out a little more of the story they carry with them.

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Miss Rawson is inset on the left of this photo of the Church Lads’ Brigade Cadet Corps in 1932. This is the only adult photograph I have managed to find for her.

The work of the VAD nurses in WW1 is slowly unfolding as more information appears on line. Do you know of anyone who may have taken part in the Sherborne Pageant of 1905? If so, do check here for a list of known participants on the website of the Somerset & Dorset Family History Society.  If you can add any information about participants, the Society would love to hear from you.

In researching Miss Rawson I have used my subscription to Ancestry   and my subscription to British Newspaper Archive.  I have also found the library at the Somerset & Dorset Family History Centre in Sherborne invaluable. Access to Ancestry and old newspapers and much more is available at the centre to members and to visitors on payment of a small fee. There are also helpful volunteers to help you get started should you wish to undertake research on someone from your past  – do give it a try as you will have no idea, just like me, of what you might find as you set out.

Barbara Elsmore

12 June 2016

Posted in Local History, Sherborne life, Uncategorized, Using a tablet | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fine Art Printing

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I first met Jayson Hutchins when he worked for Sherborne Photographic where he helped me with digital colour printing of some large posters and I knew that he also undertook individual one-on-one training in all aspects of photography and I, along with many others, was very disappointed when Sherborne Photographic closed its doors for the last time in August 2015. I remembered reading that Jayson had joined the Old Barn Framing Gallery in Westbury, Sherborne to work on fine art printing and I knew that he had continued at the same time to work for himself as Jayson Hutchins Imaging and it was in his second capacity that I approached him first when I was setting up this blog as I wanted a really nice wide photograph of Sherborne to act as the ‘header’.  You can imagine how thrilled I was when he produced the lovely photo of the Abbey and surrounding buildings as a wide panorama and I visited him at Old Barn Framing to have it reproduced and framed and it now hangs on my wall. Jayson suggested writing ‘Sherborne Town’ under the photo to give it more depth. I can use this image for my own purposes, and I have had some little business cards made, but Jayson holds the copyright and apparently there is now another copy of this photo hanging in the Crown Inn which I must go and see.

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Wanting to know more about Jayson and the work he does at Old Barn Framing I visited him there and he explained that he is entirely self taught and began with graphic design when he worked for Sherborne Photographic. He is clearly someone who is a born communicator and I have always found that he helps and shares his knowledge freely in whatever you are doing together and so some great things have come out of the many working relationships that he has built up over the years. A chance posting on Facebook of the last day at Sherborne Photographic prompted Calvin Smith, of Old Barn Framing, to contact Jayson and so began the new fine art printing service, run by him, in the upstairs studio. Nikki Morey, also from Sherborne Photographic, works alongside him.

In the studio I saw some remarkable photos that a local amateur photographer had sent in to have ‘finished’ by Jayson and then printed onto some high class paper using the huge digital printer that sits working away in the studio. He really had added a little touch of magic to these pictures just as he did with ‘my’ picture. The first thing he does is to get the image he is to work on onto his computer. Whatever the original material happens to be – perhaps an artist’s latest painting, an old painting, an old photograph, a new digital photograph, an old negative or slide – and by means of scanning or skillfully photographing the material it arrives at the computer and becomes a very high resolution digital image. This is when Jayson gets to work on the image in its new format which means he can do almost anything with it. I saw an example of an artist’s original painting that was being turned into wine labels and on a previous visit some artwork that was going to be reproduced on china mugs so the uses seem almost limitless. If the image is to be printed it is ‘sent’ across to the printer. This much larger version of a home inkjet printer is similar in that it is the ink cartridges that are required to enable it do its job that are the expensive component in the production of high quality images. There are 10 different coloured inks in the set including two different blacks and a dedicated orange and green which is why this process is particularly appropriate to reproducing high quality art works thus enabling artists to sell limited numbers of signed copies of their work. The top quality paper comes in any size up to 3m in length and up to 60cm wide. “The key word here is Giclée” Jayson explained “Giclée Printing is the posh name for inkjet printing using archival inks and papers – the Ferrari of printing!”. It does also mean that any print that is made should last 100 years and therefore a process well worth undertaking and my head was buzzing with possibilities for my own photographic collection of old family photographs.

Jayson is working three days a week at the studio, at the moment, and is continuing with his own work during the remainder of the week. He really enjoys what he does and finds himself working all hours on his own account and sometimes up to midnight when he has a deadline! This is one very talented and busy man and I am very pleased to have met him.

Back downstairs and Rod Whitemore posed in the framing gallery with my very special framed photograph of Sherborne Town.

Rod Whitemore reduced

You can find more information on the Old Barn Framing Gallery together with the work Jayson does in their Fine Art Printing Service here.

As a postscript to this posting another fine photograph of Sherborne has come into my hands when I was lucky enough to make the winning bid at the auction held at the recent Sherborne Castle Country Fair. The photograph was taken, by a now unknown photographer, in Long Street around 1900 and what I love about it is the very elegant and nonchalant way in which the two ladies appear to be cycling away from the camera. Many more old photographs of Sherborne and other towns and villages in Dorset are available from Barrie Pictures of Shaftesbury.

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Barbara Elsmore

3 June 2016

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