Family Christmas Favourites

Do you remember, in the days before the supermarkets took over and provided all our Christmas requirements, that there were recipes within the family passed down from generation to generation? When I was a child, with a younger brother and three young boy cousins, we would all enjoy a glass of ginger wine in a small sherry schooner at Christmas time. My cousins were so young they could not get their tongues round what to them was a very new word ‘wine’ and they would pronounce it ginger ‘wiyerne’ as they lined up eagerly to try it. The process would start with a rather dog-eared piece of paper, with the recipe written on it, being taken to Boots the chemist and a small bottle of dark brown, thick, syrupy and pungent liquid would be brought home. This was added to boiling water and sugar and finished off with a small glass of dark rum usually from a miniature purchased for the purpose.frair-tuck-ginger-wine

Eventually the chemists discontinued making up these concoctions but luckily they decided to stock Friar Tuck’s Ginger Flavour essence instead, which made a good substitute, and so the tradition continued in the family. When my husband appeared on the scene in the mid 1960s he really redeemed himself, with the family he would eventually marry into, by winning a bottle of Captain Morgan’s dark rum in a pub raffle, which went on to enhance many a batch of ginger wine.

I do not have a copy of the original recipe, which saddens me, but I do have a copy of the other Christmas family favourite which was the fudge that my dad used to make and I cherish a handwritten copy of his original recipe.


While the fudge was boiling on the stove I would be allowed to clean out the condensed milk tin with a teaspoon and I can still remember the lovely smell that would pass through the house and the agony of waiting for the fudge to cool and set before we were allowed to try a piece. When he wrote out the recipe in 1993 he had progressed to using a thermometer and I love the fact he wrote, hopefully, ‘store in an airtight tin for up to 2-3 weeks”!

I hope these memories will prompt you to stop for a moment, amid the hustle and bustle of your preparations, to cast your mind back to your own family Christmas favourites, and share them with us.

A very happy Christmas to all

Barbara Elsmore

24 December 2016

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The Greenwood Tree – November 2016

The November issue of The Greenwood Tree is now in the post to members. The Editor, Bob Barber, presents a few items to whet your appetite.

gt-nov-16-v41-4-coverThe cover includes a number of photographs collected recently by the the Society’s Photographs Project. They also act as a Who Do You Think This Is? feature.

Go to page 113 and see if you know any more about the people portrayed.

With thanks to Allan Collier for permission to use his photos, and also Sylvia Creed-Castle, Tony Chew and the Sunshine Coast Library, Queensland, Australia for other illustrations on the cover.

Teresa Williams is one of the longest-serving regular contributors to The Greenwood Tree. Her first piece extracting items of interest from newspapers was published in the November 1994 issue (v20.4, p137). Teresa has written an interesting article about her experiences researching newspapers the old way (before the advent of searchable, on-line resources). See page 119.


The Reading Room at the former Newspaper Library at Colindale.

When were you born? You almost certainly know your own birth-date, but what day of the week was it? On page 109 Richard Scott explains how to calculate it, or indeed how to calculate the day for any event from the Battle of Hastings onwards.

Barbara Elsmore has described a remarkable piece of detective work which arose from an enquiry at the Society’s Family History Centre in Sherborne. Tony Chew had brought in a medallion from The Tailwaggers’ Club for a dog named Sergeant. Barbara tracked down Sargeant’s owner, Margaret Winifred Symes, known as Freda. Freda trained as a nurse, and eventually served as health visitor in Sherborne for 17 years. Read the full story, and how Barbara researched it, on page 103

medal1 medal2

Ann-Marie Wilkinson’s Computer Corner has moved on to Australian records, but there is a follow-up piece to Ann-Marie’s last article in August 2015 by Anne Brady on New Zealand records.

Both Somerset and Dorset have a number of distinctive fingerposts that pre-date the standard-issue road-signs we see everywhere. But they are in danger of falling into disrepair and disappearing. It was pleasing to see that the Red Post just north of Sherborne (one of four red signposts in Dorset) has recently been restored and re-erected. Read on page 117 how you can help to save these interesting items of local heritage.


As the Society approaches the end of its 41st year we can look back at a very successful Open Day and AGM, hosted by the Blackmore Vale group at the Exchange, Sturminster Newton. Jacqui Wragg and her team are to be congratulated for a fantastic effort. I was very impressed with the number of stalls and organisations in attendance, and with the quality of the two speakers. A fuller report by Society Secretary, Ted Udall, can be seen on page 125.


Doug and Judy Hodges run the registration desk as the crowds gather.


Ted Udall (Secretary), Sir Mervyn Medlycott (President) & Rose Figgins (Treasurer) at the AGM.

As we move into 2017 there will be a slight change to the publication dates of The Greenwood Tree. Instead of February, May, August and November your copies will appear one month later, at the beginning of March, June, September and December.

Finally, a reminder that now is the time to renew your subscription to the Somerset & Dorset Family History Society. Fuller details can be found in Membership Secretary Patricia Spencer’s article on page 127.

Wishing you all the very best for 2017

Bob Barber

Editor, The Greenwood Tree

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Robert Goadby – founder of the ‘Western Flying Post’

When Patricia Goadby and her brother Michael arrived at the SDFHS Family History Centre one day to enquire about their illustrious ancestor, Robert Goadby, the founder of the Western Flying Post (now better known as the Western Gazette) we were about to shut up shop. However, the timing turned out to be advantageous as we were able to get together with our fellow volunteers in Sherborne Museum, to do some background research, before inviting Patricia and Michael back to hear about what we had been able to discover between us.

Robert Goadby, printer, publisher and bookseller, was born in 1721 and died 57 years later in 1778. In 1740 he established a book selling business in Bath but by 1744 he had moved to Yeovil where he published, on 30 July of that year, the first issue of a provincial newspaper known as the Western Flying Post or Yeovil Mercury. This newspaper was in competition with the Sherborne Mercury which had already been in production for ten years. After the founder of the Sherborne Mercury died, Robert Goadby purchased the newspaper and combined the two papers publishing the first edition of the Western Flying Post; or Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury on 30 January 1749. At this time he left Yeovil and set up the printing house at his home, Bute House in Long Street, Sherborne. Over the door would appear the legend: 

‘The Sherborne Printing House. The Liberty of the Press and the People Fall Together May Heaven Long Avert It’.


Bute House in Long St, Sherborne

Contributing greatly to the success of the newspaper was the position of Sherborne on the post roads from London to the West Country, and from Bristol and Bath to Weymouth, together with the distribution network that was set up enabling a regular readership to extend from Dorset through Devon and Somerset to Cornwall, Bristol and London. George Tatham was able to tell Patricia and Michael more about the distribution and the advertising that the paper relied upon, when they made their return visit to our Family History Centre. 

Robert Goadby opened up a lending library in Cheap Street, Sherborne, with 1,900 volumes. He was also involved with book printing and his major production was the Illustration of the Holy Scriptures, in three large volumes. It was two volumes, dated 1754 and held by Sherborne Museum, that John Peters showed to Patricia and Michael. John explained that the old books had fallen into some disrepair and he undertook the task of carefully removing the accumulated dust and gently straightening some of the folded corners of the pages. Almost all of the 95 copperplate engravings had become detached and were randomly distributed throughout the volumes. The engravings did not have page numbers and it was only after many hours of diligent research that John was able to return the illustrations to their rightful positions.


John Peters completes six-months’ work.

examining-bibleGeorge explained that it would not have been possible, under copyright laws, to reproduce a straight copy of the bible unless there were additions made to it. This is how Robert Goadby came to write his own ‘notes and explanations’ for each verse which he placed in following brackets. This must have been an immensely taxing and time-consuming piece of work and as John picked a verse at random and read it out, together with the explanation that followed, we were all rather stunned into silence by the enormity of this undertaking.


Patricia and Michael were interested in visiting the site of their ancestor’s grave and it is to be found near Old St Cuthbert’s Chancel in Oborne. Robert had a great love of botany and nature and it was said in his obituary that he walked everyday from his home in Long Street to the place he was to be buried and back again before breakfast.

old-st-cuthberts-chancelWe do not know the route that he would have taken but had there been a pathway or track along the Oborne road and present A30, in his day, then this would have been a return trip of about 2.3 miles. He left an endowment for a sermon to be given on the first Sunday in May each year on ‘the Wisdom and Goodness of God in Creation’. It is not hard to imagine the wonderful sights and sounds he would have experienced on these walks which most likely contributed greatly to his knowledge and love of the natural world. When he died he was buried in the unconsecrated ground next to the Chancel and a pine tree was planted on his grave which was replaced later by an elm tree. Sadly in 1969 the tree was clumsily removed as it suffered from Dutch elm disease and the grave, headstone and surrounding railings were completely destroyed.

At some point an oak has been planted and under this recent arrival is a pile of stones which is all that is left of the famous man’s gravesite. 


You can read more about the history of the Western Gazette on Bob Osborn’s The A-Z of Yeovil’s History. 


The plaque at 23 Princes Street, Yeovil. By kind permission of Bob Osborn

18 October 2016

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Another box!

As a postscript to The Whittle Box I find that I now cannot walk past any old wooden chests without checking to see if there is a name on the lid, and shortly after dispatching the Whittle box to Australia I came across a fabulous example of a ‘Marshall Improved Air and Watertight Chest’ with the name F. Buckney on the lid. This time, however, I was saved from further action by the firm addition of a ‘SOLD’ sign!


Barbara Elsmore

2 September 2016

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The Whittle Box

IMG_3270The questions that kept popping into my head all began when I saw a green box with a name painted on it in an antique shop in Sherborne. Who had owned the box? Who had painted the name? What was the script used and what did it say? The script turns out to be ‘Blackletter’, identified for me by a friend who enjoys calligraphy, and the name – C T R Whittle. Some rudimentary research led to one Charlie Thomas Whittle (b.1877 in Yetminster) who went off to board at Kingston school in Yeovil around 1890. Could this green wooden trunk have transported all that he needed to take to school with him? We will probably never know. Further research would also be necessary to show if C T R Whittle was related to the local brewer, Abel Whittle, whose family chest tomb stands outside the south door of Sherborne Abbey.

Whittle tomb cropped

The Whittle family tomb on the south side of Sherborne Abbey. Photograph: Barry Brock


With Barbara Adcock (left) in Sherborne.

The names of Abel Whittle, his wife Ann and five of their sons can be found carved on the chest tomb, which first brought me together with Barbara Adcock. She was visiting Sherborne from Australia, as she had seen the tomb on a previous visit, and wondered if there was a connection to her great grandmother, Emily Whittle, who was born in 1853 in Sherborne. Emily’s father, George, worked with his uncle, Abel Whittle, in the brewery in Trendle Street. She married James Pearce and they had four children, all born in Sherborne, before they left in the 1880s for South Australia where six more children were born. Barbara made contact with the SDFHS Family History Centre in Sherborne where we met, and with the help of Barry Brock, who has a soft spot for Abel Whittle having researched him extensively while looking into Sherborne’s brewing past, we found that Abel Whittle was Emily’s great uncle. The brewery connection surprised Barbara greatly as the Australian branch of the family was originally strictly teetotal. Barbara had a wonderful couple of days in Sherborne soaking up the atmosphere and following in the footsteps of her great grandmother who would have left the little town nearly a century and a half ago. It is quite amazing how peering into the old buildings in Trendle Street Barbara was able to be transported back to the time when her great grandmother was growing up there. Around Sherborne by Nicola Darling-Finan and Katherine Barker’s Sherborne Camera were purchased in Chapter House Books to be taken back to Australia to evoke Emily’s time in some memorable old photos.

On a previous trip to England, Barbara had visited North Cornwall where the family of her father, Jack Ede, had originated and she purchased an old Methodist church clock made by a member of the Ede family in about 1875. She was so delighted to have this tangible link back to her father’s past and it was with this knowledge in my mind, that, when I saw the Whittle box for sale, I was prompted to email Barbara with a photo of the box. The reply came quickly back as, urged on by her children, she was eager to purchase the box and have it transported to Australia in order to have this link back to her mother’s side of the family. I went to the shop and brought it home with me and I think I suspected that this was the easy part and that actually getting it to Australia might be a lot more difficult!


The box packaged for its long journey to Australia.

However, we will gloss over all of that, plus the fact that the box cost a fair amount at the other end as it had to go into quarantine in Australia and be ‘fumigated’. Barbara and her children think that everything has been so worthwhile as they have this very solid link back to the name Whittle that had turned up in an antique shop in the town of their ancestor’s birth, now sitting in their home in Australia.

Box in Aus cropped

C T R Whittle’s box in its new home.

Barbara Elsmore

29 August 2016

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‘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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