‘The Greenwood Tree’ – August 2016

Aug 16 GT cover lowThe August issue of The Greenwood Tree will be delivered soon and serves as a reminder to book your place at the Society’s Open Day, which also includes the AGM, if you haven’t done so already.

Details of the event on 24 September, hosted by the Blackmore Vale group, can be found on page 93.

During the Open Day, Sue Thornton-Grimes will talk on Assisted emigration from Dorset to Australia 1830-1860 and Trevor Bailey of Trilith, will provide a series of restored films, some of them more than a century old, which reveal the lives of Somerset & Dorset folk of yesterday. Full details, and a booking form, can  also be found on our website.

Nat Clark

Nat Clark (1831-1899)

Eileen Holloway’s account of her great-grandfather, Nat Clark, was originally presented to the West Dorset group. He was recruited into the Royal Marines and took part in the Crimean War. He kept a journal of his experiences which Eileen has transcribed. In 1857 he bought himself out and returned home to Cerne Abbas.

He later joined the Somerset Rifle Volunteers and rose to Colour Sergeant. He was a crack shot and won a prize for his regiment at Bisley. Eileen still has the pistol presented to Nat Clark, who later became a clockmaker in Cerne Abbas.

Nat Clark's pistol

The pistol presented to Nat Clark in 1866

Arnaud Aurejac-Davis, a Society member in France, tells the remarkable story of his 11x great-grandfather, Thomas Dirdoe, of Gillingham, Dorset. Thomas and his son, also Thomas, were captured by Barbary pirates in 1636. The account of their eventual release makes fascinating reading. See also Arnaud’s post on this blog.

Melcombe-Regis-ship01 Melcombe-Regis-ship02

Contemporary drawings of ships in the Weymouth and Melcombe Regis parish registers. Copyright: Dorset History Centre

Diane Brook has found some interesting original documents of relevance to family historians by searching on eBay. She has bought a number of nineteenth century leases for properties in and near Yeovil, Somerset. The documents are a rich source of names and addresses of the owners and tenants, including the family relationships of some of the parties.


1809 lease between John Goodford and Edward Pester


The marriage of Beryle Day and Anthony Sharp in Shipton at St. Martin’s Church in 1956.

There are several accounts of early memories, often triggered by previous articles in The Greenwood Tree. Beryle Sharp (née Day) remembers Shipton Gorge, near Bridport in Dorset. Beryle stayed there with her family during the War and has vivid memories of many of the villagers. Beryle married Anthony Sharp in Shipton in 1956.

Shipton WI

A group of Shipton WI ladies, c.1940s. Beryle Day is 5th from the left, back row

There are more stories of schooldays in Bridport Secondary/Grammar School by former pupils, in response to Peter Meech’s article on the first ‘Boss’ of the Grammar School, Walter Ferris Hill.


William Parsons and family, pioneer settlers on the North Shore of the Maroochy River, 1888: BRN 6898; ref M794454. Image by courtesy of Picture Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast Libraries

Eileen Holloway, author of the Nat Clark article, had also shown me an account of William Parsons, who took his young family to a new life in Queensland, Australia, in 1888. William came from a farming background; his father Charles farmed near Wincanton in Somerset. The typed account had been written about 30 years ago, and a small part of the story has been published in The Greenwood Tree before (v30.1, p28, 2005). The story has circulated among several of William’s descendants, but it took some detective work to find the original author, William’s granddaughter, Nais Pearl Childs (née Hooper). Thanks to Nais’s daughter, Gail Ellison, for permission to use the story. Part 1 this time, part 2 in November.

We stay ‘down under’ with Ann-Marie Wilkinson’s Computer Corner, which deals with searching for New Zealand records. All the usual regular features are here: we conclude Andrew Plaster’s Somerset Spotlight on West Harptree, and have a Dorset Spotlight on Bere Regis. What the Papers Said covers local newspaper reports of the Battle of Jutland, which took place 100 years ago, on 31 May 1916. Plenty of news, book reviews and readers’ family history queries should, I hope, make for an interesting read.

Bob Barber

Editor, The Greenwood Tree

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The Sherborne Pageant Project on our website

Header for blogIn the August edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine respected writer, Alan Crosby, gave the SDFHS a real boost by featuring one of our current projects – The Sherborne Pageant of 1905. How did Alan know we are undertaking this project? He read about it in the Projects’ section of our website which he went on to recommend that his readers should explore as an example of ‘a superb website’. This is the direct link to the Sherborne Pageant Participants Project. Just think before the days of the website, that so many of us take for granted, someone like Alan would have no idea of what we are up to. I love technology and what it can do for me. I am tapping out this piece on my iPad sitting on my sofa with my feet up confident that it will eventually appear as a ‘blog’ on the SDFHS website. How it all works I have no idea, but thanks to so many others who have thought things through and set things up it all falls into place. I am not a pioneer at all in this but I am one of those who reap the benefits of all the work done by others in the past. The current Manager of the Society’s website is Patricia Spencer who redesigned it in 2014 and she is making a brilliant job of keeping it relevant and up to date. Her predecessor was Chris Lawrence, but it was Alan Brown who started it all way back in October 1995 when a seminar to explore the possibilities of the WorldWideWeb, as it was becoming known, took place in Wells. Within three months Alan had an email address and started to receive emails from some of our members abroad, where things were further forward, and the idea for a website first took hold. Alan wrote about the website in the 40th anniversary edition of the Greenwood Tree which you can read here:Alan Brown articleYou will be very pleased to know that the society made Alan Brown a lifetime member for his hugely valuable contribution.

So what did Alan Crosby say about the Pageant Project? He picked up on our suggestion that cast lists, such as the list of local people taking part in the Pageant, school records, sports team lists, registers for social clubs and more could be compiled by societies, such as ours, and made available. These lists could play an important part in our ability, as Alan says, ‘to put leaves on our trees and help create a more rounded picture of our kin’.

How did the Pageant list come about? Rachel Hassall is the Archivist at Sherborne School where a very extensive collection of Pageant-related material is held and she began by extracting a cast list because of the many boys and masters at the school who took part. Further biographical information has been added to each individual with more information continuing to be added as it comes to light via the project which the SDFHS is now continuing. This list is now available for download on the Pageant page of our website and is a fascinating compilation of names from all walks of life mainly from in and around Sherborne. I remember telling a friend that her grandfather and great-uncle appear on the list and she then remembered some old costumes in the family dressing up box that she would parade around in as a child only to realise now, in light of this new knowledge, that they must have been original Pageant costumes.

This brings me to how the cast list solved not one but two puzzles about the unknown faces found on a couple of old photographs purchased via eBay. The first photo is of a young man with the initials C O B and it was taken in 1905 by Sherborne photographer, W M Chaffin. It was emailed to me by a friend, who collects the work of local photographers, on the off-chance that I could find out who was depicted. My first thought was that this would be impossible but my second thought was to remember the Pageant cast list and so I went straight to it and found the Rev Charles Oliver Bevan, a school master at Sherborne School, who played a monk. I sent the photo to Rachel Hassall who confirmed the identity by returning to me a copy of the same photo held in the school archive with his name in full written on it.

1905 Bevan - reduced1905 Bevan from Rachel reduced

How thrilling to find the identification, and surely a bit of a fluke that would never happen again? But then it did happen again and this time Rachel found a photo for sale on eBay of an angelic looking young boy with the initials E H F D who was soon identified through the Pageant cast list as Eric Henry Falk Dammers, a pupil at Sherborne school at the time of the Pageant. Rachel has a later photo of young Eric to prove that she has found the right person.

1905, EHF Dammers from Rachel reduced1909c, EHF Dammers from RAchel reduced

I am sure when the Pageant list was first created there would not have been any idea that it might prove one day to be a way of identifying people in old photographs but then that is how these things, once begun, come to take on a life of their own. I am just very grateful to all those who have made things possible by starting a website, a project or anything at all for the greater benefit of many people like me, so much further down the line.

Barbara Elsmore

18 July 2016

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Washing Day

For centuries ‘Washing Day’ was always women’s work and in cottages and houses up and down the country it was usually done on a Monday. You may see the name ‘Laundry Cottage’ on your travels which reveals that this would have been an early and vital cottage industry.

This photograph of the laundry in the Dorset village of Nether Compton (by kind permission of Michael Goodden) was taken around 1904 and it shows in the foreground the long cottage where all the work was done and where the successive laundresses lived. If you look very closely you can see the washing lines strung out in the back garden.

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The Nether Compton laundry was run by a succession of women, as recorded in the censuses. Elizabeth Leader with her daughters Louisa and Arabella appear in 1851 and Eliza Thorne with her daughters Elizabeth, Mary and Louisa in 1861 and 1871. Emma Beaumont was aided by the sisters Jane and Carmine Carne in 1881 and by 1901 Annie Allistone with her daughter Nellie and her married daughter Annie Palmer were running the laundry. It was easy to pinpoint the location of this laundry in the village as it was right next to the school. In the final available census, for 1911, Elizabeth Marshall gives her occupation as ‘Laundress for private house’. This has led me to believe that a lot of the work of the village laundry would have been carried out for successive generations of the Goodden family who lived in Compton House.

mangle reducedThis magnificent mangle, still in the Goodden family and discovered some 30 years ago hidden behind one of the buildings in Over Compton, looks to be in very good condition. It has the name ‘Harden Trevett & Son’ on it.

Mangle Harden Trevett

advert reducedThe business became a limited company in 1926, trading as Harden, Trevett & Son Ltd, Ironmongers, Hardware and General Merchants and operating from South Street, Sherborne. It was common practice for ironmongers to have their names cast on items they sold. The mangle must predate 1926 but by how many years we do not know at the moment and further research is ongoing.

There would have been plenty of washing to be done for the residents of Compton House as there was a large family in residence at times, over the years, plus visitors and household staff. There would be weekend house-parties and ‘shoots’ and they would have resulted in a great deal of work for the village laundresses. Would the laundry cater to anyone else – perhaps the vicar and his family? I think this is most likely. Did those  living in the cottages send some of their washing to the village laundry? This I do not know. In my family’s cottage there was a ‘copper’ built into the corner of the kitchen and another one outside. A fire could be lit underneath the heavy iron cauldron and the water heated.

Cauldron reduced

A friend now has a couple of the cauldrons, which were in use originally in Nether Compton, in her garden. For more on this essential domestic item see here.

To aid the washing, blocks of soap would be used and these could be grated to make soap flakes. Washing soda and later Borax would help to get the washing clean. I remember the ‘blue bag’ used in the last rinsing water to whiten the clothes and was surprised to find that Reckitt’s Crown Blue is still on sale today.  Starch would stiffen the clothes and just think of what it would have taken to clean and stiffen the white shirt collars of the day? Originally the large oblong sinks in the laundry would have been made of wood and I can remember some of these in use in one of the barns, many years later, for the hens to lay their eggs in.

flat iron reduced flatiron reduced

And then there was the ironing. When we cleared my granny’s house in 1974 there were half a dozen flat irons still in the kitchen and I kept the smallest (a Number 3 made by E Pugh and Co of Wednesbury) which I had assumed was for the most delicate work, and the mind boggles at how the laundresses would have managed.

Clothing reducedlaundry mark reduced

I also kept some lovely little clothes long abandoned in an old trunk in the loft. They had rusty pins attaching little paper labels with ‘6d’ written on them. The name ‘Goodden’ is hand written onto a couple of them and I believe they were donated to a long-ago jumble sale and perhaps the handwritten name was to identify the clothes when they were sent to the laundry. I do not know how many years after 1911 the laundry continued with the work but at some point, still to be determined, it closed and became a private house and is known today as Vine House.

When I was very young my mother did not have a washing machine and each week she would pack some of our dirty washing into a big strong, oblong cardboard box which was collected and later returned with our laundry washed, starched, pressed and ready for use. She would still do quite a lot of washing by hand and there was a special large heavy pan to boil up certain items on top of the stove. At the earliest opportunity, and certainly well before we had a refrigerator, the very first family washing machine was purchased. This was in the early 1950s and may have been just in time for washing my brother’s nappies. I went to school in the ‘50s and early ‘60s and one of my school friends was surprised to find that in her domestic science book she had carefully copied out a description and a little drawing on ‘How to wash and pin a lace collar’.   So were we really being prepared for domestic service with the swinging ‘60s just around the corner? Hard to believe now!

When my Mum went out to work my Dad, if he happened to be around during the day, would do the family weekly wash in the Hoover  ‘twin-tub’ but he would wait until I got home from school for me to hang it on the washing line. I now realise that the reason behind this probably lies somewhere back in the mists of time when this was most definitely seen as women’s work and it was a step too far for my Dad to be seen by the neighbours to have crossed over this line!

With many thanks to Graham Bendell for sharing his expertise in all things mechanical, metallurgical and more.

Barbara Elsmore

24 May 2016

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The Greenwood Tree – May 2016

The May edition of The Greenwood Tree will be mailed to members this week. The Editor, Bob Barber, gives a preview of the contents.

GT May 16 coverThe rather startling front cover of the May issue of The Greenwood Tree highlights an important new venture by the Society: The Somerset and Dorset Photographs Project.

Photographs are an important part of family history, triggering and cementing memories of the past, as Barbara Elsmore described in a previous post. A major new initiative for the Society has been the establishment of a database of photographs, supplied by our members, of people and places with a strong connection to Somerset and Dorset. On pages 50 and 51 Barry Brock describes the origin and launch of the project and you can see some of the first batch of photographs that were brought into the Photographic Open Day held in March. More Open Days are planned with the next one on Saturday 8 October and it is hoped that the regional groups will also get involved locally.

Mike Whitaker, our Dorset Spotlight contributor, turns author with an article on church bands. Before the introduction of organs and standard hymnals in the 19th century many churches had bands and quires (choirs), often accommodated in a gallery at the west end of the church. Thomas Hardy’s novel Under the Greenwood Tree focuses on a vicar’s intention to replace the band with an organ. Winterborne Abbas church has a memorial to William Dunford, who was a long-serving member of its choir and band, and the clarinet played by his father, John Dunford, is displayed in the church.


Newspaper cutting

‘Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser’ 26 March 1873

We conclude Wendy Morgan’s account of the life of Rev. James Hunt, who was hounded out of his parish at Northmoor Green, Somerset for being too ‘high church’. He was seldom out of the news, including an occasion when he was assaulted by his wife. He was later sent to prison for illegally colluding with his wife to obtain a divorce. Nonetheless, he still seemed able to gain employment, and eventually returned to Northmoor Green after an absence of 30 years.

Another Somerset man, Robert Eyton of Cannington, was the subject of a remarkable obituary in the Taunton Courier in 1828. Although ordained, and styling himself Rev. Eyton, he never held a living, and despite considerable wealth, lived the life of a miserly misanthrope. Nancy Wilson tells the story.

There are three short pieces on surnames, and articles with connections to some unusual names. John Templeton describes the life and business of a Poole merchant, Robert OKE, and Richard Scott write about his research into Anthony THOROLD, a gentleman of Lyme Regis. Thorold is a surname more associated with Lincolnshire, and we go out of area again with Patricia Spencer’s account of a Dorchester woman, Sarah Jane HOSKIN, who married a Cornish miner and moved with him to Millom in Cumberland (Patricia’s home town). Sarah’s husband was killed in a mining accident, and for a while she may have run a school in Millom. Sarah’s background is complicated, and Patricia outlines her attempts to make sense of the confusing evidence.


A old view of Millom showing how the town was dominated by the Ironworks and slag heap (now reduced and landscaped). Courtesy of Millom Discovery Centre. http://millomdiscoverycentre.co.uk/

The conditions for those working in heavy industries like mining were grim, as they were for people reduced to seeking assistance in the workhouse. Arnaud Aurejac-Davis gives us an insight into conditions from the viewpoint of his ancestor, William CAVE, who was relieving officer in the Cerne Abbas workhouse in Dorset in the years immediately after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.


Cerne Abbas workhouse (built 1836) c. 1930

There are plenty more articles of interest to Somerset and Dorset family historians and all the regular features are here. Ann-Marie Wilkinson’s Computer Corner deals with the future of the genealogy program ‘Family Tree Maker’, following Ancestry’s decision to end supporting it. We continue with extracts from the members’ on-line Forum and have a longer than usual People, Places and Problems section. The Somerset Spotlight is the first part of a description of the north Somerset parish of West Harptree; the Dorset Spotlight falls on Broadmayne. There is group news and information about their meetings as well as a list of events at the Family History Centre in Sherborne. What the Papers Said, Looking Back, book reviews as well as other news items makes for plenty of reading. I hope you enjoy this latest issue of The Greenwood Tree.

Bob Barber

Editor, The Greenwood Tree

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Collecting and Sharing Family Photos

On Saturday (19 March) we will be holding our first Photographic Project Open Day at our Family History Centre in Sherborne (for details see below). Barbara Elsmore describes her own rewarding search for family photographs which she will be adding to the SDFHS database.

from bookImagine my surprise last week when I was leafing through  A Dorset Camera 1855-1914 in the library at the SDFHS Family History Centre, and a photograph of my great grandfather, George Collings, leapt off the page at me. He was standing outside the Forge in Nether Compton surrounded by carts and it was a thrilling moment for me. I knew the photo as a copy had been found in an elderly relative’s collection some years ago.

George Collings outside the forgeThere is nothing quite like having a photograph of a relative to bring them back to life. I remember a time when I had no knowledge at all about my family beyond the grandparents that I knew as a child. The realisation that they had parents and grandparents, just like me, came as something of a revelation. Like many I began my research with my own family name and I knew and remembered my paternal grandfather and there were lots of family snaps of him as an older man but I had nothing of him as a boy and I thought I never would – but how wrong I was. I was very lucky as there was a photograph of his father and mother hanging still in the family home in Nether Compton.

Top hat newspaperThe first thing that struck me was my great grandfather George was standing in the doorway of the post office, that the family used to run, with a top hat on, three generations on and my brother would have to duck his head to get through the same doorway.

So here was the first photograph of my very own great grandparents, would I ever find any more? My cousin who was a much better family detective than me in the early days visited, as all good family historians should, ageing members of our family collecting up copies of family photos as she went as, in our experience, relatives usually love to produce old photos and are pleased with the excited responses they elicit. It was not as easy to take copies of photos in the early days but now with the availability of digital cameras  collecting photos for family history purposes has become much easier. This is how the photograph of George standing outside the forge first came to light as a copy was held by one of our elderly cousins. Over the years we have collected up many old family photographs from several different sources and they provide a very tangible link back to the past and I would very much like to share some of them via the planned new database that is being set up and which Patricia will tell you more about. At the end of this piece you will see a selection of the photos that have come to me and by checking known information, dates, etc. against my family tree I have been able to put a name to all of the people on them.

Barbara Elsmore

Photo database teamThe Somerset and Dorset Family History Society is setting up a searchable database of photographs of named people from Somerset and Dorset and we hope that this will grow into a valuable resource which will give people a chance to find images of their relatives. However, to make this project a success we need your help. We would like to to scan your familyphotographs and then collect as much information as possible about each one, before adding the image and details to the database.

Photographic Open Day A4 posterAlthough you would be welcome to bring your photographs in to the Family History Centre at any time (just give us a phone call, to let us know you are coming), we will be holding a series of Photograph Open Days, and the first one is this Saturday. For more details about the project click here.

Patricia Spencer

The following photographs are just a few examples of those that Barbara has found of her own family, to inspire you to get involved in the Society’s exciting new project.

Eveline's weddingBess and familiGrandadVaux



Happy FamilyGertie crop

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The Charge of the Dorset Yeomanry at Agagia on 26 February 1916 – a personal view

Exactly one hundred years ago today the charge of the Dorset Yeomanry at Agagia, in Egypt’s western desert, played a major role in the WWI campaign in North Africa. Barbara Elsmore shares her own family’s memories of this important military event.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, while visiting my grandparents’ house in Nether Compton, we would have all our meals in a room dominated by what seemed to me like a huge picture of men on horses brandishing swords charging towards a lot of other men in white robes who faced them with machine guns and rifles. It was stated on the bottom of the picture The Dorset Yeomen at Agagia. On wet days, when my brother and I had to resort to exploring in the house, we would often go to a particular drawer where there was an old book with some pullout maps, a scrapbook full of old photos of tiny crashed aeroplanes with lots of men in uniform, some medals, buttons and a set of heavy metal ‘chainmail’ epaulets that we would try to keep on our puny shoulders. There was also an old German water bottle in the garage. What did it all mean?

The Charge in B and W reducedcollage 2 reduced 2

Now that I live in Sherborne, I have tracked down a copy of the book with the maps in it (Records of the Dorset Yeomanry 1914-1918) in Sherborne Museum and it once belonged to a Mr W L Warr of Half Moon Street and in the back of the book are his personal discharge papers from the Dorset Yeomanry. When I mentioned this to a friend he remarked ‘I remember Lennie Warr – he used to cut my hair!’ I also visited the Keep Museum in Dorchester and began to understand why all these items might have been important to my grandfather and to many men like him at the time. I also came to realise that there must also be lots of people like me, with photos and other items of memorabilia that may have led us to want to know more.

Dor Yeomen reviewing horse reducedLet me take you back to Sherborne in 1914. It was described by an eyewitness as being ‘like a garrison town’ as it was the headquarters of the Dorset Yeomanry with recruiting taking place for ‘B’ Squadron. There would have been men and horses seemingly everywhere. Farmers’ sons made ideal recruits as they were usually work hardened and tough and sometimes came ready equipped with their own horses. One of my grandfather’s photographs appears to be straight out of ‘War Horse’. The commanding officer was Major John Goodden, of Compton House, assisted by the veterinary Captain Charles Golledge from Long Street and the Medical Officer was Captain Gerald Rickett also of Long Street. The Quartermaster was Captain Weston P Parsons of Manor Farm, Charlton Horethorne. This scene would have been replicated all over Dorset as ‘A’ Squadron was in Dorchester, ‘C’ Squadron in Blandford’ and ‘D’ Squadron in Gillingham. There were also detachments recruiting in twelve other towns across Dorset and also into Somerset.

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My Grandfather, Arthur Collings, and William Patch of Bradford Abbas outside what is now the entrance to the SDFHS Family History Centre in Sherborne

My grandfather, Arthur Collings, had volunteered ten years prior to the start of WW1 and from his photographs I worked out that he was involved with the training of the early recruits. Reginald Foot, a resident in the town, recalled in the Foster’s school journal – ‘Who could forget the marvelous transformation wrought on many a well known farmer, when the Sherborne troop of Yeomanry, in all the glory of their wonderful uniform, would ride through the town with Major Goodden or Major Digby at their head? He continued:Perhaps we were sometimes inclined to smile at their playing at soldiers, but we would not know how they would cover themselves with glory in that charge at Agagia, not many years after.’

recruits reducedIn August 1914 the 1/1 st Dorset Yeomanry was formed. The 1/1 st was made up of the men who would become the fighting force and would be sent overseas. In September the 2/1st Dorset Yeomanry was formed and these were the men who, for various reasons, could not join the fighting force and would be deployed at home. The 2/1st were twice converted to Cyclist units and ended the war as such in Ireland. In 1915 the 3/1st Dorset Yeomanry was formed and I now know for sure that my grandfather would have joined them. The 3/1st were affiliated to a reserve cavalry regiment in Tidworth. They later went to Ireland and were absorbed by 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiment.

The first overseas action that the 1/1st saw was at Gallipoli where a long drawn out campaign with heavy losses took its toll on the men of the Dorset Yeomanry with over 40 men lost at the Battle of Scimitar Hill in August 1915 alone. Dr Rickett accompanied the men but was soon transferred to Alexandria where he would spend the rest of the war running the military hospital before eventually returning to Sherborne and resuming general practice.

In January 1916 the Yeomanry left Gallipoli and went to Egypt where they joined the Western Front Force whose role it was to keep the Suez Canal open because a large Ottoman force was intent upon capturing the canal to disrupt Britain’s vital supply route to India.

In February 1916 a large force of Senussi tribesmen, backed by Turkish and German Officers and with machine gun and artillery support, was located at Agagia near Sidi Barrani, about 75 km east of the Egyptian/Libyan border. The Western Front Force staged an attack and during this battle, the retreating Senussi were charged by the Dorset Yeomanry with drawn swords across open ground and despite machine gun and rifle fire the 196 Dorset Yeomen drove the Senussi into headlong flight. According to the Keep Museum even the brigade cooks joined in the chase with their meat cleavers. It was later reported that ‘this achievement, one of very few successful cavalry charges during the first world war, is all the more remarkable for having been carried out by a territorial unit of part-time soldiers from the towns and villages of Dorset’. Of course it took a heavy toll and 32 men died with 26 wounded and 85 of the horses killed or wounded. The men are remembered on the Roll of Honour just inside the south door of Sherborne Abbey and on the village and town war memorials all over Dorset and parts of Somerset.

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Lady Butler, The Dorset Yeoman at Agagia, 26th February 1916 (1917, Oil on Canvas)

In 1916 Major Goodden’s father, Colonel John R P Goodden, commissioned a painting from Lady Elizabeth Butler to commemorate the event and he hoped to find 100 people to donate £10 per head towards the cost. I believe there are many who would have managed to raise this not inconsiderable sum in memory of a lost loved one and perhaps my grandfather was one of them as he would have seen so many young men off to fight as they passed through their initial training. One of the long term residents of Nether Compton remembers asking the by then Colonel Goodden, at sometime in the 1950s, if he could have one of the copies and he visited the Colonel at Compton House where a copy was handed to him from a rather dusty and spider ridden roll. Perhaps Col Goodden had copies made to hand to the subscribers? So now I know why this painting was hanging on the wall in my grandparents’ house. When my grandfather died he donated it to the village hall in Nether Compton and it hangs there to this day.

My grandfather was based with the 3/1st at the Curragh Camp, near Newbridge in Ireland, when the unit was absorbed by the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiment. In early 1917 he volunteered for duty in Egypt. He left with many others, including his good friend and fellow sergeant (Robert) Leslie Burnell of Gillingham on board HMT Willochra bound for Alexandria on 13 February. When he arrived he volunteered for the 1/1st but within three months, due to him being a carpenter, he was recruited into the burgeoning Royal Flying Corps. The RFC were clearly on the look-out for men with the skills they needed. His pal Leslie had joined the fighting force and so they were separated. Contained amongst my grandfathers memorabilia are a couple of letters and a telegram sent to him by Leslie. In one of the letters dated Christmas 1917 he tells how he has been recommended for the DCM and how he would like to meet up with his old pal and he finishes ‘Now tell me Arthur when will this D— war end that is what I want to know’. Arthur received Leslie’s last letter dated 19 May 1918. On 9 June Leslie was killed when Lt Mason led a charge consisting of four men and Leslie was killed along with Private F Darter and Trumpeter T Routledge; the latter, incidentally, is shown in Lady Butler’s painting of Agagia. When I visited the Keep museum I found Leslie’s medals on display. Leslie Burnell medals

Newbridge Ireland reduced sizeI have not been able to find a definite photograph of Leslie but I think he may be shown here (left) with my grandfather just before they left the Curragh Camp. One of Leslie’s nieces very kindly let me have a copy of a photograph of his twin boys, Robert Leslie and Thomas Leslie Burnell, born in June 1916. As their father was based at the Curragh camp during 1916 and then travelled to Egypt in February 1917 one can only wonder at what very little time he would have had with his boys.Burnell sons reduced

I would like to thank Jean Lawson and John Pitman, volunteers at the Keep Museum in Dorchester for all the help they have given me in this research and I would very much like to hear from anyone who would be willing to share any family memories of the Dorset Yeomanry. I will be very pleased to share any names or information that I hold. Please contact me marking any email for my attention, or post comments below.

Lady Butler’s painting is on display at Dorchester Museum until 3 June as part of a current exhibition. Mrs Pam Puley has written of her family connections to the Yeomanry in The Greenwood Tree Vol 39 No 3 August 2014.

Barbara Elsmore

26 February 2016


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The Dirdoe family of Gillingham, Dorset, and their capture by pirates

Thomas Dirdoe who was born in 1588 in Gillingham, Dorset, was the 11th Great Grandfather of SDFHS member, Arnaud Aurejac-Davis, who tells the fascinating story of the capture of Thomas and his son by Barbary pirates.

The first Thomas Dirdoe (1588-aft.1643) was baptized on 22 March 1588, at Gillingham, Dorset, the fourth son and child of Charles (described as a ‘gent.’) and Joane. Thomas must have been a boisterous young man since in July 1613, at the age of only 25, he was granted a pardon for piracy! He seems then to have acquired some measure of respectability as on 21 April 1627 he was put in charge of conducting 232 men for the King’s service from Dorset to Portsmouth, and on the 27 May 1628, John Foyle (1564-1648) of Shaftesbury, writing to Sir Edward Nicholas (1593-1669) Secretary of State to Charles I, recommended Captain Thomas Dirdo for employment in one of the King’s ships, and prays that his (Foyle’s) son, Richard, may be purser in the same ship.

By April 1633, we know that Thomas was living at Shaftesbury but the major drama occurred in April 1636 when Thomas and his son, also named Thomas (1619-1676), were taken prisoner by pirates, as described by the unfortunate and desperate father:

Feb 1636/7 … Petition of Capt. Thomas Dirdo, late prisoner in Sallee, to the Council. Petitioner, about April, last, going for Ireland in a little bark, called the Red Lion, was, with his only son and others, taken by two Turkish men-of-war and carried prisoners into Sallee, and there prisoner and his son were sold for slaves. But petitioner, being sick in those parts, upon the entreaty of some merchants, was admitted to come for England for a ransom for his son and the rest. His son, not being above 18 years of age, has been tortured, and is like to undergo other tortures. Having been bred a seaman and formerly employed in his Majesty’s service, he has remained about London in expectation to have been employed [in the expedition to Sallee], but the officers being appointed his expectation is frustrated. Prays that some speedy course may be taken for the release of his son.” (Public Record Office, Calendar of State Papers, Domestic series, Charles I)

Since the 16th century and the exploits of the Barbarossa brothers, the Moors were widely buccaneering on the Mediterranean Sea, later extending their activities, which included ship-wrecking and kidnapping, up to the English coast from Cornwall to Dorset and later to Ireland during the 17th century. They caused a huge amount of damage and disruption to European sea-trade, looting and stealing an impressive number of ships every year. The worst were the pirates of Salé, now a peaceful area in Rabat, Morocco, but it is only fair to add that ranks of these Moorish pirates were often reinforced by European renegades, mainly English and Dutch.

Melcombe-Regis-ship02 Melcombe-Regis-ship01

Contemporary drawings of ships in the Weymouth and Melcombe Regis parish registers

The younger Thomas Dirdoe (baptized 14 June 1619 at Gillingham), was only 17 when he was captured. He was sold as a slave and more than a year elapsed until the Lords of Admiralty decided in March 1637 to form a successful venture with English merchants and sent six ships with the intention of ending the havoc caused by the pirates. The battle of Salé lasted until 27 July, though it did not finally resolve the problem.

Against this, [William] Rainborow had delivered a catastrophic blow to the Salé rovers, destroying more than a dozen ships and killing hundreds of men. By making alliances with both the Saint and the sultan (who remained implacable enemies to each other), he had completely destabilised the pirate republic. And if he hadn’t managed to extract much in the way of compensation from New Sale, he had liberated its Christian captives. The final count was an impressive 348, comprising 302 English, Scottish and Irish, including 11 women; 27 Frenchmen, 8 Dutchmen and 11 Spaniards. The expedition was a tremendous success by any standards. And there was more to come.

By 8 August 1637 all the freed slaves had been handed over. Rainborow sent off the Antelope, the Hercules and the two pinnaces, telling them to ‘rove and range the coast of Spain, and to look for Turks’ men-of-war’. They were all back in England six weeks later, having cheerfully disregarded their instructions.” (Adrian Tinniswood, Pirates Of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th-Century, p.159)

The younger Thomas Dirdoe seems to have been among the 348 Christians freed from their appalling captivity and returned to their native countries, as he reappears in 1642 during the Civil War, as a lieutenant in Colonel [Joseph] Bamfield’s regiment, fighting on the parliamentary side.

The next mention we find of his father, the elder Thomas Dirdoe, who recovered his only son – which was not so common in those harsh days of piracy – is on the 6 November 1643, in a petition to the Lord Chancellor of Scotland signed by 18 eminent people, mainly English and Scottish squires and gentlemen who had settled in Ireland since the beginning of the 17th century during the first protestant colonization, and probably sent from Londonderry to Norwich. In Shaftesbury St. James parish registers (difficult to decipher), in 1645/6 it reads: “Cicile daughter of Thomas Derdoe gent. was baptized the xx (20) January”. On 16 February 1665/6, Frances Dirdoe, younger daughter of Thomas Sr and younger sister of Thomas Jr, made her will and bequeathed £20 to her ‘cozen’ (ie. her niece, as often used in several wills of that time) ‘Cecil Dirdoe’ the aforesaid ‘Cicile’, my ancestor.

Captain Thomas Dirdoe Sr., after the turmoil of his long life  and  the  troubled  period  of  the Commonwealth,  wrote his  last  will  in Gillingham on  the  30  January  1675/6, in which he bequeathed his three Irish estates of Edenreagh (in the parish of Termonamongan, Omagh West, co. Tyrone), Siranhie (Shannaghy, in the parish of Termonamongan, Omagh West, co. Tyrone) and An Srath Bán (Ardstraw Br., between Castlederg & Newton Stewart, Strabane, co. Tyrone) to his grandson Philip, still a child, the son of Thomas Jr.   After  the many  turbulent  events of his life Thomas Sr.  died  peacefully at the grand age of 87 and  was  buried  on  15  February  at  Gillingham.

Arnaud C. Aurejac-Davis

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