Westham Community Group

Westham powering Weymouth

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.

 
My name is Harry Walton and I am a professional journalist who has lived in the Westham area for more than 30 years.
Most of that time has been spent in East Wyld Road in a house we bought where the garden was, to say the least, not much more than a 4ft high sea of grass with a few tumbled down sheds in it. It was great fun cutting it all back, designing a new garden and then re-building it over the next few years. This included a new vegetable garden which had to be totally created from scratch, even down to stripping off rough turf to actually get at the ground to turn it over.
My job meant I was pretty busy and the only time I had to devote to the garden was an hour or so each night when I came home from work, so I tried to get into the habit of making sure I never did less than a cubic foot of earth per day, digging it up and then hand sorting it all to remove weeds and roots and all manner of objects. These ranged from boring stuff such as small stones, nails, glass and bits of pottery to far more interesting things.
By the time I had dug and cleared 500 sq ft of land I had found a threepenny bit, two old pennies, two halfpennies and a farthing as well as numerous items such as marbles, the remains of small toys and several gearing mechanisms for objects I could not even guess at. I even uncovered a bit of metal which showed a trace of fretwork but, as I was tired, I just put it to one side while I carried on digging. Called in for our evening meal, I packed up my tools and on a whim picked up the bit of metal and took it into the house where I used washing my hands to give the metal a bit of a wash as well. I soon lost interest in washing my hands as more and more fretwork emerged and I slowly began to realise that perhaps this was not junk metal but something of interest.
So I went and got an old toothbrush and really gave the mystery piece a good scrubbing only to stand there in astonishment as the muddy metal slowly revealed the scrolled letters "RFC". It was the largely intact remains of a Royal Flying Corps cap badge!  Our house was only built in 1936, so I'm guessing that some distance back in Westham's past there must have lived someone who owned this badge which perhaps was on an old uniform which got thrown out into the garden or put on a bonfire, the metal badge slowly sinking into the earth.It was hardly archaeology, but it was like Christmas to me when I found it, an unearthed part of a bygone age dating back to the First World War and the early aircraft and fighters.  I am now the editor of View from Weymouth and as the picture shows I was fortunate enough to cover the Olympic Sailing events in Weymouth in 2012 and was even lent an Olympic torch to hold at one time as you can see in the picture above. I am always interested in stories for the View that might appeal to our readers.
All Our Stories – life at Westham Girls' School, Cromwell Road.
Brenda Dimond's (nee  Foll)  shares her story of her school days in Cromwell Road, when it was Westham School.
Betty went to the Girls' school from 1946-1951 ending up as the head girl, when Miss Mcpherson was the head mistress. (No mixed school's then and we had headmasters and headmistresses, not head teachers!).
 A wall and a washing line with a white line under it, separated them from the boys. Betty did not think she spent much time in traditional subjects as she loved her athletics, becoming a member of the St Paul's Harriers and representing the county in the High Jump at the All English Schools' Championships on two occasions. (A little of the Harriers history is told later on as it has had a major impact on many Westham residents). The athletics pitch was where the Ridgeway Centre is now (in Links Road, adjacent to the golf club), and  Betty later took this sport up. Some of her craft lessons were held at the Old Town Hall and in the annexe at Pottery Lane, which later became part of the Weymouth College site.
 The children at the school spent quite a bit of time in transit!  Other memories of school life include giving flowers to Lady Hinchinbrook who was presenting awards at Sports Day and also being in attendance at two mayor making ceremonies. School uniform was navy blue and white and the school always put on a pantomime for the younger pupils and parents. Music was also strong at the school with the choir performing well (a forerunner of WOW?).  To add to Brenda's story we have the following information on the school before she attended the Girls' part of it.

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.

Life in Westham during the war – stories from the Coleman brothers.
We were delighted to meet up with two of the Coleman brothers who still live in Weymouth, with Gerald taking the lead having been born in Westham and lived here all his life. In 1923 the family moved into a brand new house, 3 Kitchener Road, where all of the brothers were born. They were due to emigrate to emigrate to New Zealand at the start of the war but received a telegram just before they were to depart advising them against it because of the risk of torpedoes, so they stayed in Westham and are now sharing their stories.

Pictures show 3 Kitchener Road and the ruin of the Adelaide hotel, rebuilt now as flats

Firebombs

The first memory is of all the troops returning from Dunkirk and lying up in Abbotsbury Road before moving on to more sheltered accommodation. Stukas flew in over the Fleet attacking with bullets and after that Westham was attacked with firebombs. They had built a temporary air raid shelter under the hedge at the bottom of their garden, which like many gardens in Westham was quite large and used for growing food. One bomb set fire to their mum’s beloved gooseberry bushes (golden drops) and she left the shelter to try and put the fire out.
 Throwing water on phosphorous bombs is not wise, it is like throwing water onto a chip pan fire, and so mum got badly burnt and did not save the gooseberries. One firebomb landed across the road on the roof of 4 Adelaide Crescent where the occupant had just suffered a stroke so the family was called on to make a quick rescue. Of course not all firebombs went off, and these incendiary devices could often be found lying on the ground. Gerald and Graham often went through the cemetery next door where incendiary bombs could be collected. Unaware of their danger they used to collect these up and hand them into the Air Raid warden (remember Dad’s Army) who went ballistic when presented with these devices which could go off at any minute.  One of things Gerald remembers is the smoke generating machine that was based at the bottom of Shirecroft Road which often blew across their garden rather than into the sky.

Abbotsbury Road

Mum and dad had met in the Waverley Arms and the local fish and chip shop so it was often revisited, or sometimes we would be sent there to get dad’s favourite brew. There was a phone box next to the pub and the Americans used to use it to try and phone home. The Americans were not used to Push Button A and Push Button B and so often there was money to be “rescued” from the box. We tried to get our own beer for ourselves but the bar man was aware of how much dad asked for and so knew it was for us. We also added to our funds collecting the empty pale ale bottles and returning them – an early form of recycling.
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”.
One additional memory was of the parrot they also rescued but this screeched so much that they had to give it to the navy to look after. Only they could cope with the language it used! 

Childhood in the war
This time The Coleman Brothers are sharing what it was like at school during the war and also how some of the day to day routines were affected.
“In 1942 I used to go to St Paul's School where Miss Uphill was the headteacher, but at one stage the bombing was so bad that  a teacher was sent to us in Kitchener Road. It was just like having a governess! She used to arrive on her bicycle, which did not have all the gears modern bikes have so it was quite an undertaking for the young woman, but it only lasted for a short time.
 We also liked it when the Americans came to the Chickerell Camp as they had something called “gum” which we all enjoyed and of course we also got hold of some “fags”. On one occasion they gave us a large tin of something that was a sickly yellow and Michael and I overate the contents. Never again! It put me off peanut butter for life! We were also amazed to see the Americans cleaning the grease off their vehicles with petrol, which was rationed for the rest of us. Another good point in having the Americans around was their provision of mess tins. These we took to the “Rookery Nook” at the British Legion in King Street, where we could get our lunches for 6d (2.5p). My wife lived in Franklin Road at the time and she remembers a roof being blown off a house in Cromwell Road landing in their garden.
Strange happenings
  • 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. 
Shops in the war
Abbotsbury Road had even more shops in it and of course most food was rationed. As you walked towards town there was a fish shop, a barbers, a butchers, Cash Shop which was a grocery store, Dry cleaners, an Undertaker, the Coop. The undertakers did well from this little group as the owner of the dry cleaners was overcome with fumes and the manager of the Coop hung himself! Opposite these shops were the police houses at the bottom of Perth Street and the Abbotsbury Road itself. These latter had Sargent Bull in charge and youngsters in Westham did not want to get known by him for bad behaviour. All in all it was a frightening but exciting time to grow up and the people of Westham really supported each other.
Profile of a son of Westham
Andy Hutchings
Andy was born on 26/5/47 in the old nursing home on the seafront. This was prior to the NHS and therefore his grandfather had to pay 14 guineas for the support.This is equivalent to £381.47 in today's metric money!
The family lived above what was Neale's garage in Westham. When aged 4 or 5 Andy can recall Billy Smart's Circus leaving The Marsh, refuelling their transport at the garage and emptying the storage tanks. This caused uproar in Weymouth as petrol was still rationed after the war.
Andy attended Cromwell Road infants and Westhaven Junior School (now the site of the Community Safety Centre of the new fire station).  The class photo was taken in 1958 and Andy believes the teacher is Miss Searle.

 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.  

 H.M.S. Osprey's closure in 1996 gave Andy the opportunity to explore other employment avenues before he semi-retired in 2000.
Andy entered local political life in 1979. Westham North first elected him as a councillor in 1983 and he remained representing them until 2007. In July of that year he became an Honorary Alderman of the Borough, an honour he greatly values. Although sometimes rebellious in his thoughts Andy has remained a stalwart friend of the Labour Party.
Today
Andy is probably working as hard as ever today in many different voluntary capacities. He is chair of the Weymouth Area Senior Forum and a local club for disabled residents. He is on the governing body of Beechcroft School and also on the management board of the CAB.
 He is an elected Patient Governor of Dorchester NHS Foundation Hospital so if you have any comments on any of these institutions please get in touch with him. Andy's love of railways has always been a major part of his life and he is a working volunteer for the Heart of Wessex Railway partnership which promotes the Weymouth to Bristol line.
His interests span a broad spectrum covering people like John Wayne, General Douglas MacArthur, Alfred Wainwright and John Betjeman, the poet. He is an avid collector of postcards.
 His love of railways is still paramount in his hobbies. His library bears witness to his serious interest in all these topics. He often gives talks to local societies on these subjects. He is co-author of two local books on Weymouth through his postcards. An abiding love of Weymouth sees Andy taking all his holidays in Weymouth at his beach chalet near Greenhill.
Andy has a brother who holds a professorship and is Pro-Vice Chancellor of Cardiff University, another success of the Westham community, but Westham is all the richer for Andy's presence in our community.

People of Westham
This is another feature on one of the people of Westham, whether famous or not, but who have helped shaped Westham by being part of our community. This focuses on the popular entertainer Peter Price, who was born near Brewers Quay in November 1924 and who, at the age of 16, during the Battle of Britain, joined the National Fire Service Volunteers based in Jean's Garage, Abbotsbury Road. Peter, at that time, lived in No 130 which is now the Co-op funeral parlour.
 Although he had explored most of Weymouth during his youth, this was when he first became actively involved in Westham.  Peter, being keen on flying, also joined the Air Training Corps No 249 where he learnt all sorts of skills and visited the RAF Airfield at Warmwell for his first flights. In March 1943 at the age of 18, he  received his call up papers to join the RAF serving with 38 Group Transport Command,  first travelling around this country, then onto Normandy and through to Berlin.
After his discharge Peter married an ex-wren from Huddersfield (the taxi fare from Westham to Huddersfield was £12).  Peter and his bride Jean  lived with his parents at No 1 Abbotsbury Road as there were few houses available in the town. Having already experienced work as a post office worker, telegram boy, fire service volunteer, RAF, taxi driver and hairdresser, Peter now embarked with his wife into the world of entertainment in which he excelled. Peter became a trumpet playing band leader with his own band, playing regularly sessions at the Moonfleet Hotel and other large functions locally.  He set up his own hairdressing shop in Maiden Street in 1951, later running four salons in S. Dorset, to provide a more regular wage now that he had two daughters to provide for.
In 1962 Peter stood for the town council and was elected with a huge majority and served the residents and the council for 14 years. He made several proposals which were ahead of his time and turned down by fellow councillors! Also in 1962 he became Entertainments manager at the  Littlesea Holiday Park, a job he loved and which honed up his many skills in the entertainment business. Seeking a complete change Peter resigned from the council in 1976 to concentrate on the  entertainment business with Jean and the happy couple entertained in Spain and then leading a very frenetic life on cruise ships .  More recently Peter led the way producing the Old Time Music Hall Variety Show at the pavilion for the Royal British Legion during veterans week and he still appears with the Lions Club in their Christmas Show.
Despite the multitude of work and entertainment and a very full and happy family life Peter never lost his Westham Links moving to  Benville Road and more recently to St Helens Road where he lived with his daughter and son-in law. His health is now better and he has returned to Benville Road. Thank you, Peter for all the pleasure you have given to the people of Weymouth, as well as fleecing them with your hairdressing scissors!
Peter has written his own autobiography which can be purchased at cost price (£5) direct from Peter who can be contacted on  07899036549.
Reminiscences of a Goldcroft Road resident.
I was born in Goldcroft Road in 1936 and you will see from the pictures that are shown how we seemed to be at the end of the world as the road was a cul-de-sac in those days, stopping just past Goldcroft  Farm. Wasn’t it quiet without all the traffic!  I remember walking down to where Chafey’s roundabout is now when there was a little beach which encouraged some of the lads to go swimming, but we could also catch tadpoles in the fresh water in the stream coming down from Chickerell. There were also cockles to be found! To get to the beach we went past allotments one of which we had for growing our vegetables to feed ourselves and our chickens.

 Chickens in the war years   

Getting about
We could not easily cross into what is now Southill so used the footpath that went from Goldcroft Farm to Field Barn Farm, going up the lane  now adjacent to 77 Goldcroft Road and then cutting through the area where the Ridgeway Centre has been built. Here there were the school playing fields and a small playground of swings etc.. It then joined the footpath that is still there through the golf course and across Chafey’s Lake above the tide mark and cutting through next to 51 Chafey’s Ave before going up Reed View Close and Farm Close to the side of Field Barn Farm which was more or less where 44 Field Barn Drive now is.
We could walk into town along the footpath where Weymouth Way now goes and this route took us past the Chipperfields Fairground which stretched from the Pumping station to the subway, neither of which existed then. Because the Lake did not exist when the tide was out we could also cut straight across what is now the Bird reserve. However despite it being a cul-de-sac there was a better bus service to Thornhill Road than there is today!
The road stopped near number 58 and would take us to Abbotsbury Road for our shopping where there were more shops of various types, including the Coop, Coz the butchers and a dress shop. The Rock Hotel was there but we were too young to pop in there! We obviously often got home muddy before the road was extended in 1960/62 which enabled Southill to be expanded and the final houses added to our road. Most of the houses at the Southill end of the Road were built by the council in an early attempt to persuade council house tenants to move into their own homes, but there were not many takers and so they were sold on the open market.
Springs.
There have been a lot of problems in Goldcroft  Ave because of the water breaking up the road surface. When 32 Goldcroft Road was being built there was a fast flowing stream running adjacent to the foundations. This must still come out somewhere as it was not sealed in a culvert so Goldcroft  Ave gardens seem an obvious place. We had an Anderson Shelter to protect us from the bombs but were not able to use it very oftern as it filled with water.

War memories.
I remember following the footpath after a bombing raid and finding 16 craters in a row across the edge of the school playing fields which was good for hide and seek. I also remember finding a hand grenade which I was allowed by my father to take out the pin and throw!
During the war I was attending St Paul’s School which was opposite the present church although for much of the period it was only half time. Once when going to school I had to pass a house with its wall missing so we could see right into the bedroom! I also remember some old black Nissan huts opposite Thornhill Road and Wilde Engineering before it moved to Waverley road.
My father was in the Home Guard and worked at the Whitehead’s torpedo company so had to get to Ferrybridge each day.
What is different?
I think that we had a lot more freedom as children and although we were expected to work a lot more about the house and gardens we did not have the pressures children have put on them today, nor the fears of going out on our own. My childhood memories are good ones.

Memories from Rob White.
Rob used to live in Cobham Drive and remembers clearly the use of the barrage balloons that hung in the sky over the old Chickerell Aerodrome on which Cobham Drive, Winchester Close and Cumberland Close are now built. These balloons were used for parachute training and many of you remember this, but it would be good to have any pictures of the old aerodrome, and particularly these balloons. The development of the estate in the 1960s soon put an end to this. Rob likes to explore with his metal detector and so if anyone living on the old aerodrome site or that of the ANZAC camp would be happy for him to explore their gardens, please get in touch with the Community Group who will arrange the contact. Rob has also an amazing collection of articles on the Australians in Weymouth and some of his work is detailed at the end of this section.

Reflections from Brian Jackson
Railways have been Brian’s love for most of his life and he has written three volumes about the railways of Weymouth and Portland which are sought after by the many railway enthusiasts. He also took considerable interest in buses as well and is saddened to see the decline of both of these forms of public transport. The first railway to Westham came over a wooden bridge close to the position of the new road bridge across the lake. This survived from 1859 until 1921 when it was replaced by the bridge seen in the picture below. To start with trains just passed through Westham on their way to Portland and it was not until 1909 that Westham Halt opened and it was then extended during the World War.
The next pictures show a train on the level crossing that was at the end of Abbotsbury Road. Imagine the chaos there would be today if this road had to be shut to traffic throughout the day!

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! 
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.

Memories from Eric and Maddy
Eric and Maddy have many memories of St Pauls church and the part that it has played in our community.  They also remember the many different shops that were present in Abbotsbury road at the time of the last war, and we would like any other recollections of the shops so that we might be able to make a little model of what it was once like, as we hope to add to this web site even though the HLF project has finished.

St Pauls
They first remember Father Frederick Collier and the non conformist Sunday School held at the Ebenezer Hall.  Superintendent Bainger is also in their memories. On Sundays they used to get fried breakfasts at the church followed by Matins (10.30)and Eucharist (11.00) with Sunday school at 2.30 pm. The Sunday school teacher was a Margery Wray who ran the wool shop in Cromwell Road. Sundays were also the one day of the week for relaxing and so often involved walks onto the promenade, a knickerbocker glory at Rossinis (not frequently), Sunday lunches and military bands playing in the sea front band stands.

As a youngster Eric was promoted at church, as services were continued during the war, to duties such as carrying the cross when more senior members of the church were called up to fight. He had to dress up for the part which made him look older than he was. Eric’s dad became the chief warden under Rev Maud in the 1950s and was also involved in a beach mission soon after the end of the war. The church was also involved in education with Doris Uphill as the head of St Paul’s school, and the start up of the St Paul’s Harriers which is still going strong despite the lack of resources. (St Pauls is still very much involved with education with its links to Beechcroft School). Choir practices were a men’s preserve, although boys joined them at times, but women and girls did not then have a role. The youth club at the church also provided some entertainment. St Paul’s drama group was flourishing and was supported by a brother and sister Gladys and Harry Sanders, who were in the timber trade and second hand furniture and who built all the sets and props.
Abbotsbury Road
Shops remembered in Abbotsbury Road include the chemist’s, a shoe shop, a wine shop, various green grocers and a drapery store. One that is still with us is that excellent hardware store of Gimletts which was started by George before the war. The family had an allotment in Pottery Lane (as Longcroft Road was then called where it runs past the cemetery and the allotments) and there were many more allotments than there are now. Eric was an apprentice hairdresser and well remembers how when the owner was in the pub how another apprentice made a tremendous mess of someone’s hair. It was quite busy in the evenings when matelots from Portland were off ship but always needing short hair. They also wanted to have a drink popular in Weymouth at the time called a Snake Bite which was rough cider and ginger ale.
Other memories
Eric joined the RAF in 1949 and this took him away from Westham for 25 years but enabled his interest in bands and military music to flourish. He remembers exploring the railway line (which had frequent trains in those days), and his brother fell out of a tree impaling himself on some railings. Eric also remembers cycling to Portland where they were building concrete boats (the mulberry harbour units).They took homemade lemonade and chatted to the Americans based there to get some candy. On one of these journeys they saw the practice for the bouncing bomb on the Fleet with Barnes Wallace in preparation for the dam busters.


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.

 

More local history -- how roads grew up
Moving a bit further into Westham we now focus on Holly Road – see picture. A Mr Mace owned the land on the first part of the eastern side, being a large corner plot. A Mr Crocker owned the next largest plot and on this was built Holyrood Terrace, the first of which was built by 1882, but the rest followed over successive years, with five noted in the 1891 census as HollyRow Terrace. The first three houses in what is now Holly Road were completed opposite Hollyrood Terrace by 1882. The next plot was owned by a Mr W Smith and remained empty but on the right of the picture was Mr Rowe's plot, and he built Overdale House and Overdale Cottages sometime between 1895 and 1901. The next plot was used for the building of a terrace of ten houses of Holly Row and were known in the 1901 census as Holly Row Cottages. The houses in the left hand side of the picture are quite new – not built until c. 1905.At the rear of the houses on the western side by 1889 was Whittle Bros Nursery who had retail outlets in town. By 1911 Bird and Cox builders had been established at Holly Road and they went on to build many of the houses in Goldcroft Road.A shopkeeper, Percy Truby was at No. 35. In 1915 Edward William Puffett ran the Westham Motor Garage, seen in the picture. In 1922 the SDT Mineral Water Company moved to Nos 31-35 Holly road and in 1930s St Pauls Garage moved here. The idea of mixing employment and housing which is behind Prince Charles' scheme at Poundbury was alive and well in Westham in the 1920s!

Westham Harriers

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."

Part 2        The Australians in Westham.
The bulk of this collection was put together with support from Rob White from Ludlow Road, who has spent much time researching their time here and gathered together various archive materials. As you will see from the information boards Sherrins published a newsletter for the ANZACs and another company still present in Weymouth,    Acutts , advertised in these newsletters. They provided the Australians with uniforms in 1915 and us with the high vis jackets in 2014 you may see around with the Westham Community Group logo on. Extracts from these newsletters appear on Information Board 3 (See below)  which give a good picture of what life was like in Westham Camp in 1917/1918.
 

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

A very useful website related to our Australian story is http://weymouthanzacs.moonfruit.com/ and viewers interested in getting a lot more detail of those buried here in Weymouth, their history,  and the stories of some of the families involved  may wish to go to this site.
These boards were unveiled by the mayor of Weymouth, Kate Wheller,  on Saturday 8th November with Elizabeth Carter, the leader of the Durnovaria Silver Band playing the Last Post and Reveille as we remembered the Australians who gave their lives for us almost 100 years ago. Father Richard Harper, of St Paul’s Church, led the service , and guests included  Sergeant Kaczmarczyk and his family, who were representing the Australian High commission. All our guests were given a warm welcome and apart from the weather it was a very moving ceremony. We then returned to the church for light refreshments provided by members of the congregation. Copies of the content of the boards have been put on laminated A3 sheets by the Community Group and these are being given to the local primary schools to help them with their WW1 studies. One of the boards shows the position of the camp relative to the present streets of Westham some of which have an Australian connection in their names.  

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

There,

In war

Light beside them.

A Presence radiating

Energetic calm

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

Anne McCosker

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