All our Stories
The Heritage Lottery fund gave £9000 to the Westham Community Group to participate in a project called All Our Stories which was designed to help us produce a digital record of some of the stories associated with people living in Westham, or who used to live in Westham. We had two main foci; stories from old or new residents and looking at the impact the Australians who had been billeted here in WW1 had on Westham . Many of the stories have been published in the Westham Link which we distributed to 5000 households for three years, to share them with all residents. Later in the process we held a fete in 2012 to celebrate 130 years of Westham's existence and had many of these stories and a lot of details about the ANZAC presence on display. Images of this event can be found in a different section of the website. This section is split in two parts, with details of the stories in part 1 and information about the Australian presence in part 2. Three information boards summarising this ANZAC presence have been placed in the Commonwealth War Graves section of the Melcombe Cemetery and visits to this site are being organised by our schools as part of the commemorations for WW1 from 2014-2019. We hope you enjoy learning a little about Westham from residents and our commonwealth cousins.
Old Schools News – The Cromwell Road Provided School 1906 - 1921
The new council schools at Westham were opened on 13th January 1906 although if you look closely at the front of the school a projection reads “Cromwell Road Schools 1904.” They were a little bit optimistic about the time needed to build the school but did not want to change the stone! Quite a large gathering watched the schools being opened by the mayoress, Miss Templeman. London builders, Wallis and Sons Ltd had completed the buildings on behalf of the newly formed Weymouth Education Committee at a cost of £14000. The land cost £1317 and the boys school was completed at a cost of £4746, 10s. The Girls' school and the Infants cost £8540! Apparatus for the schools cost £673 and the provision of electricity meant £118 had been spent for such a modern invention.
There was a growing need for the schools to be built in Westham as before then 590 local children had to cross the bridge to Melcombe for their education or venture up to Wyke Regis; the schools were built to accommodate 1000 children!
The headmaster in 1911 was Henry Sims Hitchcock, with Miss Edith Sharp the Senior Mistress for the Girls' School and Miss Kate Kilby the infants' mistress! There was no school uniform in those days so most girls wore white pinafores which had another use when a girl was naughty. She would be made to sit in a corner and lift her pinafore to cover her face-- not a punishment for today! In 1907 there were six girls' classes with 66, 40, 62, 57, 49, 54, children in each class, which is why chairs and desks were so small! An unusual change to the curriculum was made in 1915 when 144 pairs of mittens were made for soldiers fighting in the war.
Pictures show 3 Kitchener Road and the ruin of the Adelaide hotel, rebuilt now as flats
Some of you may remember that the Royal Adelaide Hotel was bombed in the war when the Mayor of Weymouth during the war, John Thomas Goddard (known as Joe) was there and he had to be rescued. We helped our dad to dig him out as we kept shovels in our garden. Even when recuperating he was taken to the Guildhall and sworn in as mayor for a further spell. That story is described in more detail in the book “Westham – over the bridge in time – by Debby Rose”.
- Gerald also remembers the gas fueled buses which used to travel up Kitchener Road with massive gas bags on their roof. (I am not sure health and safety would allow that today !)
- As the war progressed bombs got bigger and two houses got demolished by one bomb opposite the Admiral Hardy, but fortunately the new mum and her baby were dug out safely with the shovels from Kitchener Road.
- Another serious near miss occurred to brother Roy, who was an apprentice at Tods and also a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service based in Abbotsbury Road with Peter Price (see people of Westham later in this page), before joining the Navy and serving in HMS Diadem. He was working with some wood in the factory when the Germans attacked Whiteheads and a stray bullet splintered the piece of wood he was holding, entering between two fingers!
- Roy, and a mate called Micky Miles, loved inventing and making things and they created their own searchlight in an old tar barrel which they connected to the electricity meter. Unfortunately it was the wrong side of the meter and so although it produced a very gpood beam of light it soon used up all the coins in mum's meter!
- They also created some of the first hydroplanes which they managed to skim across the bay.
On August 18 1962 Andy began gainful employment (in Andy's own words) reporting for duty at the A.U.W.E. Faculty based on Portland starting as yard boy being paid £2 15s (£35.37 in today's money with inflation). Six years later Andy was promoted to Store's Officer operating from various M.O.D. sites within the Portland area.
Chickens in the war years
The houses around the station in Ilchester Road and Melbury Road were built on land belonging to the Ilchester Estates (the estate that owns most of Abbotsbury) to house workers for the Whiteheads torpedo factory at Ferrybridge. Not only did the workers travel to work on the train, but the timetable was such that there was just enough time for them to return home for lunch which they ate whilst the train went across the lake to Weymouth Station, turned around and started back on its return journey. The station had to be long enough to let all the men out quickly enough for them to get home and back in time!
Now the journey could still be done on cycles but it might crowd out the dog walkers if 1000 men were cycling home for their lunch! The picture shows a goods train approaching Westham Halt from the bottom of the Marsh. Whilst on the topic of transport, Brian can also remember seeing all the charabancs and coaches bringing holiday makers to Weymouth. Initially these went to Melcombe but the coach park was then established on the Westham Bank of the river, with them coming over the Westham Bridge and then parking along the area where Weymouth Way now runs. Many of them were the old 6d Sunday School trips from all over Southern England and the record for a day was set in the early 1960s when 364 coaches were parked in the Westham Coach Park. Imagine the chaos if this picture was repeated today, although it shows how popular Weymouth was for a day out.Now the journey to Ferrybridge could still be done on cycles but it might crowd out the dog walkers if 1000 men were cycling home for their lunch!
Footnotes about St Paul's Church
The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 4th may 1894 by Countess Hoyos, but the building of the church was held up by a legal wrangle with the builder, resulting in a Mr Ford taking over the building in 1895. Towards the end of that year the church was built, enough that is for worship to commence and so dedication took place on 25th Jan 1896. The church is built of Portland stone with Bath stone dressing.
Westham became a parish in its own right on Dec 10th 1901, under the mother church of Wyke Regis, with the Rev Sydney Lambert as its first vicar. Further fund raising was still needed as various additions were required, both internally and externally and it was finally completed in 1913.
The incumbents of the church resided in a house next to the church to the west, in what is now known as the Westwey Hotel at 62 Abbotsbury Road. The desired plot for a vicarage on the eastern side of the church was not readily available, it being occupied by a market garden and a greenhouse, with a small wooden bungalow belonging to James Stagg, one of the first residents of Westham. Persuading the tenant to leave and the interruption of the Second World War meant that the vicarage was not built until 1955.
Queen's Diamond Jubilee
Many of us took part in events to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee on June 5th when we had an extra bank holiday to celebrate her 60 years on the throne. However one Lanehouse resident had a special reason for celebrating her succession to the throne sixty years ago on February 6th 1952. He is Dave Gilbert who, in the rain on that day, rode on a horse at the front of the coronation parade as a member of the Royal Horseguards' regiment. He also had the honour of looking after the horse of the Queen's uncle, Lord Mountbatten, who was also in the parade. Having joined the regiment in 1949 Dave had worked hard to get himself in position to be chosen for this honour.
A cavalryman in those days had to train in the disciplines of being an ordinary soldier before learning how to put on, wear and look after the regimental uniform. They had to parade with each new piece of equipment, especially the helmet which is very intricate and clearly has to be fastened securely for horseback riding. If this was not adjusted properly then the chin strap and inner leather cage could cause a lot of discomfort. The plume also required careful fitting as it was screwed onto the top of the head gear. All cavalry drill had to be practised on foot before they could mount the horses, first in pairs, then in fours and finally as a full team. Also, of course everything had to be kept spic and span, using tins of Kiwi shoe polish for the footwear to special ways of burnishing anything metallic, and stainless steel was not used in those days! Much of the ceremonial uniform had been stored, when not in use, since the first world war. Whilst learning how to look good in the uniform was necessary, the training with the horses was even more important, with at least three full training sessions in khaki uniform before each ceremony. Those of you who have seen Warhorse will recognise the importance most riders gave to their horses. Many of our horses were imported from Ireland, renowned for its good breeds of horses, and they were then put through their paces before their own selection process by the re-mount trainers. Once handed over to a member of the regiment they became the full responsibility of their rider and their comfort would always come first. Reveille was at 0610 and the horse was being attended to at 0620!
Although the horses were given a great deal of attention they did not always respond in kind and often tried to play tricks on their riders. In particular they used to bloat their stomachs when the saddle was being strapped on, so that the straps would be looser when being ridden, leaving the rider in danger of the saddle becoming loose and the rider becoming dismounted. The riders were also in competition with each other, because the better riders, and best turned out, would gradually be given better horses and better places to ride. Those who took less care would find themselves behind the scenes at events like the Trooping of the Colours. Many riders would often use their NAAFI break to buy a treat for their horses and so when this break came the horses would be eagerly anticipating some reward. The horses also had a two week holiday each year away from their London duties; in the 1950s they were ridden to Purbright where they relaxed in fields; later they were often taken to the North Devon beaches, a treat which still happens today! Lanehouse stables, before their demolition and Vines Close built, was run by a senior remount instructor who had been in the royal Veterinary Corps for a number of years. Thank goodness David was a good rider and so had this story to tell.
Reminiscences from Vic Moore
Another person in this series of "All our Stories" is Vic Moore, currently resident in Bedford Road and known to many of you because of his interest in gardening. Vic was born in London in 1940 and his father served as a specialist searchlight operator on Portland Breakwater. After a family tragedy Vic's mother and the four children were evacuated to Wyke Regis to join her husband.
Even at this early stage in his life Vic remembers the increased freedom he had in Weymouth compared to London, and the air raid shelter in his home in Wyke always had an emergency supply of food, no mean feat in the war, but it was also never locked and neither was the house as thieves were not part of the community.
An early memory was of a frighteningly loud engine noise as an enemy bomber suddenly appeared low over Wyke, with Spitfires chasing it and firing their cannon. All the children erupted in jubilation, cheers and wild dancing when lots of dense smoke was emitted from the bomber! However the children were then scolded by their mothers for not going into the air raid shelter! Vic remembers how large the shelter seemed when empty but how crowded it was when they were all packed in. (The aircraft came down near Bridport.)
At the age of 5 Vic suffered his first brush with fatality. Whilst throwing rocks into the harbour he overbalanced and went in with a large piece of masonry. His older brother, aged 6½ ran for help. The first two people he met did not believe the lad so he ran to the local police station (they were local then). When he was finally fished out by the police he was declared dead! His mother meanwhile had arrived on the scene and she would not accept this. Quickly she turned him over and over, squeezing and pumping him. He finally vomitted sea water and oil and then choked himself back into life. It was a very cold winter and he probably survived because of two reasons: He was wearing a massive great coat far too big for his tiny frame and this had filled with air pockets which stopped him from sinking; he also probably went into a condition not unlike hibernation induced by extremely cold temperatures, the body going into a very reduced heartbeat and all functions slow to virtual shut down. If heated up slowly the body fully recovers.
After leaving school at 15 Vic worked on various farms, joined the TA went into the RASC and consequently became a lorry driver. However when he was 27, and without a care in the world Vic went on a “walkabout”, becoming a gentleman of the road. During this time he met both Romany gypsies and fellow travellers who taught him many survival tactics, including finding abandoned fishing gear and using it to fish himself. As he travelled he carried out farm or gardening work, sometimes living in lodgings and sometimes roughing it. He fondly remembers some of the places he stayed in, but others were not so enjoyable!
Eventually he set up his own gardening business and worked for a variety of celebrities, including the Guinness family, Patience Strong, John Compton, the playwright Wolf Mankovitch and the very kind Harry Corbett. Vic has been married three times and equipped his home with various aids to support his third wife and greatest love when she became ill.
As we can see Vic's life always returns him to gardening and he currently looks after two open space gardens for the community of Westham. There is more about his work with the Youth of Westham and the two gardens elsewhere in the Link. This is just a reflection on a small part of Vic's life but we hope you have found it interesting. An area as diverse and as large as Westham will have a lot more characters who have stories to tell and pass on to the rest of us. Please get in touch
Aspects of Westham's History in Newstead Road
Those of you who have moved into the relatively new estate off Pottery Lane may be unaware of the history beneath you. This used to be the site of the Weymouth Brick, Tile and Pottery Co, and the Shale works. The latter was known to have existed between 1848 and 1854 somewhere in this vicinity, producing such things as varnish, grease and paraffin wax, distilled in retorts on the site. Shale House Cottage appears on the census for 1861 and 1881, but is listed as the pottery in 1871 and Padgetts in 1891!
The Weymouth Brick, Tile and Pottery works was established on the bank of the backwater, which was tidal here, and had no Weymouth Way in its way. It would appear to have been here in 1841 where it is recorded as “Mr Bower's Pottery” and enumerated as “Pottery House” lived in by a Samuel West. A map of 1864 shows a quay jutting out into the backwater, which was used to transport the shale and clay.
From the early 1860s the pottery was run by Francis William Padgett. Although born in durham he married a local girl called Helen Hancock Reynolds in 1868 and they had a daughter Martha, born in 1874. Although they are on the register for 1871 and 1891, in 1881 they appear to have lived in Cranborne. The “Return of Owners of Land in Dorset” in 1873 records that the Padgetts owned 2 acres of land valued at £21! Helen and Francis died within three years of each other at the turn of the century and it appears that the pottery died with them. In 1939 the South Dorset Technical college was built on the site, later becoming part of Weymouth College, adjacent to the grammar school that was at the inside end of Alma Road, but all these buildings have now been demolished for the new housing, but this explains the road names in this area.
reminiscences of three senior members of the club which is still going strong
St Paul's Church had a very enthusiastic Canon, Martin Fisher, who founded a boys' club (sorry, ladies, in those days society was quite different from today). This club included football, gymnastics, boxing and athletics and Westham St Pauls' Harriers was formed as part of this in 1904. By 1912 there were four local athletics clubs; Dorchester YMCA Harriers, Weymouth YMCA Harriers, Westham St Paul's Harriers and Weymouth Town Harriers. In 1929 the latter two clubs merged to become the Weymouth St Paul's Harriers.
A picture of the winning team in the Hambro Cup staged in 1914
One very strong influence on the success of the club was T.G.Copp. He was a leading runner for the Harriers in both road and cross-country races. He won the Hurdle Challenge Cup in 1929, 1930, and 1932. This hat trick of wins, which in the Club rules of those days, allowed him to retain the Cup as his own property. T.G.Copp helped the Harriers win the Hambro Cup, which was one of the most sought after trophies in South Dorset, in 1929, 1931 and 1933. He was first on two occasions and second three times. He won the Weatheral Cup two years running, almost completing the hat-trick again, but was beaten by 10 yards by team mate Handal. (Handal, I believe came from Dorchester). It appears that Copp’s role in team running was to do the pace-making, which he did in this latter race, leading all the way until he reached the sea-front, when Handal swept by him right at the end before the Pavilion.
In 1948 the Harriers were officially reformed after the Second World War, although in practice it had never ceased to function, but because of the dispersal of athletes, there was a need to sort out a committee and programme. It was during the next decade that the Harriers started to rebuild a strong club. Ross Keel took on the job of Club Captain, and in the team was a youthful, Brian Dunn, his younger brother, Charles and Ben Grubb.The 1970’s
These were halcyon years for the Harriers, with excellent team performances and individual placings for road running, cross-country and track. Also, the race-walking section was formed by the late Harry Callow. Harry Callow, had then recently moved to the area after setting up Trowbridge Harriers. Harry was a strong supporter of the Harriers through thick and thin. His interests in race-walking are legendary, both as a coach and as a race-walking referee, but he started out as an athlete on the track and cross-country with many successes. Most people knew Harry as the, long serving, Club President, but he knew a lot about all aspects of athletics, especially the politics of the sport. He served on county, area and national committees, and was very forthright to state a point, especially in defense of race-walking and St Paul’s Harriers . Harry Callow did so much for the Harriers behind the scenes and he should go down in the annals of athletics history as a great club- man, who had a fervent support of race-walking. Harry died in 1989, when over 90 years old!
It was in the 70's that the ladies finally started to make a strong appearance. Evelyn Morris and Irene Abery started the growth in female competitors and at the end of the decade, notable athletes included Rachel Coton and Gina Morris, both excellent long-jumpers who represented County and Area and on numerous occasions. Both later went on to gain Junior International vests.
Denise Abery (now Apsden) started as an enthusiastic athlete on the track and at cross-country running. Eventually, she took up race-walking under the guidance of Harry Callow, and became the Club’s leading lady, race-walker. Other regulars of that period were Diane Critchlow, Lisa Bucke, Justine Morris, Anne Cody, Sue Cody, Anne Linden, Debbie and Jackie Treloar and Jane Aston.
Athletics has always been strong in Westham and the Marsh has provided a large open space for recreation
Olympics coming to Westham
Westham resident Ryan Hope is seen here with the Olympic torch which he carried onto the beach in Weymouth. Although the Harriers are maintaining the traditional athletic expertise locally Weymouth and Portland are more renowned for Sailing today and hence Ryan crossed the bay from Portland with his torch.
Ryan has his own story to tell. As the chairman of the Westham Youth forum he helped to get the young people's needs in Westham recognised and listened to, being instumental in getting the area a new play park . Ryan was later elected the Borough's youngest councillor allowing him to ensure the voices of all of the Westham residents are heard strongly.
"I was educated at the local school, Budmouth College, and have recently qualified from my apprenticeship with . I have just resumed my role as chair of the Westham community Group and will be fully engaged with the Carnival Committee this year as I strongly believe in a community working hard for itself."
It is said by many historians that the shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on the 28th June 1914 was heard around the world. Indeed this did prove to be the catalyst that set nation against nation. The call for men to join the fight went out. Britain also called upon its empire to assist. This call was answered, no more so than in Australia. Australia with New Zealand formed the ANZACS. The Australian troops where nicknamed Diggers and they first saw action in Gallipoli and Egypt before moving onto the Western Front.
Casualties in these campaigns where horrific and sickness rife. Hospitals in Egypt became swamped and there was soon a need for more hospitals and camps in England for troops to regain there strength before a return to action or discharge.
The command depot camp was set up at Monte Video, Chickerell on 31st May 1915 and the next camp was built on what is now the Westham Estate followed by Littlemore, Bovington and Worgret. The exact position of the Westham Camp can be seen on the map on Information Board 1 (see below) and many of the streets of Westham have an Australian connection as a result of being built on this site. The local paper reported "They are set down in a very pleasant place at Monte Video which is to be the base for the whole of the Australian, New Zealand and Cyprus contingents in this country, and the men who had been used to 1000s of miles to "stroll in" (as they say) appreciate the great expanse of Dorset countryside and the sweeping seascape and landscapes their camp commands." The New Zealand contingent moved out to their own quarters at Hornchurch, Essex in April 1916.
The camp at Westham was known as AIF Command Depot Number 2. In all over 120000 Australian troops passed through Weymouth, alas some did not make it home, their final resting place in Weymouth and Melcombe Regis Cemetery.
The camp at Westham had workshops a firing range and an officers mess as well as huts that the “Diggers” lived in. Entertainment was provided by a YMCA hut, this was behind the Adelaide pub and on Abbotsbury Road where Romar Carpets and Danny’s Fish and Chip shop was the cinema. There were also dances laid on by locals.
The Diggers where renowned for their bravery in battle, at one point there were 8 V C holders at the Westham Camp. (See Information Board 2) They where also well known for having a more relaxed view of Kings Regulations than the British Army, this did bring them into conflict with the authorities, it was not unusual for a man to have had both a gallantry award and disciplinary mark on his service record.
Now the last veteran of the Great War has passed away. We can no longer listen to what they did and felt, first hand, we must rely on what has been recorded.
As a nation we also remember them each year on the 11th November, as a community we can think of them as we walk on Queensland Road, Sydney Street or as we take a short cut through the cemetery.
LEST WE FORGET
If readers have any more stories they would like included on our website, or any pictures they think might be of interest to other readers please let the WCG know and we will happily post them for others to see.
Lieutenant Martin’s Letters, an Anzac in the Great War
One hundred years ago, on 4th August 1914 my uncle Fred Martin - my mother’s only brother – left Queensland in an Australian regiment en route for German New Guinea. Germany at that time was a considerable threat to the young Australian nation with its powerful Pacific naval fleet, and a wireless transmitter with its direct, strong link to Berlin operating from this German controlled territory.
A year later in September 1915, Fred Martin, after being wounded and contracting typhoid in the Gallipoli campaign, was en route via Malta for England. Discharged from Birmingham hospital, unfit to rejoin his battalion, he was sent to convalesce in Weymouth. From January 1916 till August 1916 Fred lived mainly at Westham Camp just up the road from St Paul’s!
Having been unable to read for decades the over fifty letters and cards of my uncle’s given to me my aunt - it was just too painful for me to read them - I was naturally astonished when I first read “Westham Camp, Weymouth” at the top of one of these letters. Suddenly, I found I was living in direct sight of the hill at the northern end of what had been Westham camp! This was a few years after we had moved to Weymouth. Once I read this address, I knew I must and could write Lieutenant Martin’s Letters.
Writing this book has been a painful and at times distressing work, but a sense of love and duty has inspired me. However it seems to me that some people with no direct close connection with WWI forget the suffering of real people, still alive, when they are organising these centenary commemoration events.
My mother and Fred grew up in a strong Christian family and this is reflected in my uncle’s letters home. I am almost certain he would have attended services at St Paul’s. This was the closest Anglican church to the camp. Situated as it is on the Abbotsbury Road, St Paul’s would have been passed every day by Australian soldiers coming and going from Westham Railway Halt and theTown centre. I am always very aware of this when I pass the Cross of Remembrance outside the church.
After Fred Martin left Weymouth he fought on the Somme, won the M.M., was promoted Lieutenant. He was killed at Polygon Wood, Passchendaele in September1917, aged 21. He has no known grave. When Fred went to the Front he left his personal belongings in Weymouth and it was from here that my grandparents in far away Queensland eventually received some of them. Fred Martin like most men from the South Pacific never went home on leave after he first left for overseas. Only these few of his belongings returned.
Lieutenant Martin’s Letters is based on my uncle’s letters. I have also tried in the book to give some idea of the life and times of Weymouth that my uncle knew. The Australian at Weymouth was a newspaper produced and published by the troops themselves between June 1918 and the ending of the camps in June 1919. It has been a great help and for this I am grateful to Fred Larcombe of Weymouth. He and his wife Peggy (they were married in St Paul’s in 1956) were for many years co-partners of Sherrens the firm that originally printed the paper. They had the vision to keep one complete copy of every issue of the publication. This may be the only one now in existence. It was Dr Richard Buckley who ferreted out this fact - until then this complete set was not generally known about. In these papers there are fascinating articles by amongst others the Australian ‘Padre C.A.J.’, whose sketches include one of St Ann’s, Radipole. I will always remember the late John Easton (himself a WWII veteran of the Arctic Conveys) from Melbourne St. Westham , who first walked with me around the exact area of the Westham camp. He was so anxious that the facts about the Australian camps in Weymouth be well known.
There is much discussion during this centenary year about the point of the Great War and the sacrifice of so many. My father was also a WWI veteran, my great aunt a nursing sister on the Western Front; both, as was my uncle, members of the First Australian Imperial Force. I and my family before me have well known about and felt War’s devastation. However even after the rather harrowing, at times, work I have done on Lieutenant Martin’s Letters I still believe as I wrote in my poem* in 2003:
All those young men dying
Did they find
Light beside them.
A Presence radiating
In gathered to itself
Within and yet apart
From all the slaughter.
Did friend and foe
Share in despair
Holiness of Being
Greet the Son
With blooded cloak
Is this the purpose?
Can hope come from dead men
Who caring to be human
Gave Love in spite of Satan
Clawing at creation.
© Anne McCosker, 2003
*Extract from Dedication Service, Australian War Memorial, London. November 11, 2003.
My book is available locally from Books Afloat, Park St, Weymouth, and the Nothe Fort Bookshop, as well as Amazon. Price £14.99
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