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History & CommunityDiary Matters

Diary Matters

Happy New Year to all. The Christmas festivities may be over, but there should be a pantomime somewhere nearby to soften the blows of the bills, etc.
January is the first month of the New Year when by tradition we all make good resolutions, turn over a new leaf and start a new page—that is start our new diary. That is if you have bought the diary, or had it given to you. I already have mine and inscribed my name on the first page, but I did not buy it. It arrived from the institution I have belonged to for many years, together with the latest journal. The front cover carries the year “2019” in silver on the front cover and also “Fellow”, which leaves no doubt of my gender! My usual entries are prosaic including meetings I expect to attend and other appointments, such as dentist, doctor, hairdresser, etc. As it is a pocket size, there is little room for more information unlike the diarists of days gone by, such as Samuel Pepys and George Fox.
George Fox, a Quaker came to Bridport in 1657 to speak to those of his movement and perhaps enrol others. In his diary he told of religious persecution writing “a shopkeeper, not of our religion stirred up the priest and magistrates and laid a snare”. But they caught by mistake a local man Thomas Curtiss and “they boasted they had catched George Fox and were in a great rage when they found it was not me”. Fox managed to get away from the neighbourhood safely.
Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on 15th February 1665 that “With Creed to Gresham College—where I had been by Mr Povy the last week proposed to be admitted a member; and was this day admitted, by signing a book and being taken by the hand by the President, my Lord Brunkard and some words of admittance said to me. But it is a most acceptable thing to hear their discourses and see their experiments; which was this day upon the nature of fire, and how it goes out in a place where the ayre is not free, and sooner out where the ayre is exhausted; which they showed by an engine on purpose… Above all, Mr Boyle today was at the meeting, and above him Mr Hooke”. Hooke became famous for his microscope and his work with springs and forces. Robert Boyle who lived for some time at Stalbridge Manor, in north Dorset, produced the air pump to create a vacuum and enunciated “Boyle’s Law”.
Pepys also wrote about Stonehenge and Avebury as well as the return of King Charles II, but he does not seem to have mentioned our local rope industry, although he must have been aware of it, from his position as Clerk to the Navy Board. He also wrote about the threat from the Dutch, the Plague and the Great Fire of London.
In 1754 a Richard Pococke wrote of a visit to Abbotsbury where he saw “the Abby and a very large barn. On a hill to the south is a beautiful chapel of St Catherine and then a large bay into the land call’d the West Fleet. This swannery belongs to Mrs Horner, the lady of the manor. In severe weather a sort of swan comes, call’d a Hooper. “Tis supposed they come from the north”. Do they still?
Then in 1774, John Hutchins tells how in “June 1757 a mermaid was thrown up by the sea, between Burton and Swyre, thirteen feet long. The upper part of it had some resemblance to human form, the lower was like that of a fish: the head was partly like that of a man, and partly like that of a hog. Its fins resembled hands: it had forty-eight large teeth in each jaw, not unlike those in the jaw-bone of a man”.
A Dorset diarist, Mary Frampton, who was the sister of Squire Frampton of Moreton, wrote in 1830 that “The months of January and February were very severe—much suffering attended the state of the poor from the previous summer, having been too wet to enable them to get in their turf for fuel; the villages in these districts, where turf constitutes the common fuel, were particularly ill off”.
Later that year there was unrest which made many people think of the French Revolution. Squire Frampton took the lead in suppressing any English Riots and Mary Frampton wrote in November 1830 “Incendiaries rapidly spread from Kent and there were riotous mobs, breaking and destroying machinery used in husbandry and also surrounding gentlemen’s houses, extorting money and demanding an increase of wages… My brother Frampton harangued the people at Bere Regis… This spirited conduct caused to be very unpopular, and threats were issued against him and his house”
Frampton joined a large number of farmers, all special constables upwards of 150 against a mob urged on by women behind hedges and the Riot Act was read. It was reported that threats were made against Mr Frampton, but no fire took place on his estate. Moreton House was not attacked. But Mary Frampton wrote that “Most of the threshing machines in this (Dorchester) neighbourhood were either laid aside or destroyed by the farmers themselves and no rising occurred very near Dorchester”.
Another Dorset Diarist of the time, Fanny Burney, was a correspondent of Mary Frampton and commiserated with her over her worries about the rioters. Soon after, in 1834 the attention of Squire Frampton was drawn to the “Tolpuddle Friendly Society”, an embryo trade union whose members had sworn an oath at initiation which contravened an Act of 1797. Six members were tried at Dorchester and found guilty and sentenced to transportation for seven years. I am sure the readers will know this story which is retold every year in Tolpuddle. Fanny Burney was also acquainted with Mrs Fitzherbert, a Catholic and a widow of Edward Weld of Lulworth, who later secretly married George, Prince of Wales contrary to the Royal Marriage Act. He left her, to marry Princess Caroline of Brunswick, but was believed to still love Mrs Fitzherbert and fathered several children by her.
Fanny Burney also chronicled her memories of the holidays of King George III in Weymouth in the 1790s, writing that every street, shop, bathing machine window and hat was labelled “God save the King”, also around the waists of the royal dippers. “Flannel dresses, tucked up, no shoes or stockings, with bandeaux and singular appearance”. All the men were expected to kneel before the King, but Fanny revealed that the Mayor could not, as he had a wooden leg!
In August 1867 William Allington met Alfred, Lord Tennyson, on the Isle of Wight to travel to Dorchester, where they talked to William Barnes about Maiden Castle. They travelled first by steamer and then railway (second class) via Maiden Newton to Bridport. He wrote that from Bridport they walked “along the dusty road to Martin’s Lake and on to Charmouth, where we had beer and cheese in a little inn…Down into Lyme Regis, narrow streets and modest little Marine Parade”. On the Cobb, they read “Persuasion” by Jane Austen.
You may think little has changed in Lyme Regis, but you cannot get a train from Dorchester to Bridport now, even via Maiden Newton.
It is fascinating to learn details of social history from personal diaries. Perhaps now you could emulate these diarists and start your stories today for the interest of future readers. Once more Happy New Year to you all.
Bridport History Society sees in the New Year on Tuesday 8th January 2019 at 2.30 pm in Bridport United Church Main Hall, East Street. The programme will include WWI army uniform and music. All welcome, Visitors entrance fee £3.
Cecil Amor, Hon President, Bridport History Society.

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