170 years of Museum Life celebrated in 170 days…

#DorsetMuseum170This year, 2015 welcomes the 170th anniversary of the founding of Dorset County Museum.

It is 170 years ago when the concept of building a museum to house all of the treasures of Dorset’s rich history was conceived by a group of forward-thinking individuals. On the 15th October, 1845 it was a group, including the Dorset poet, William Barnes; the vicar of Fordington, Rev. Henry Moule and Rev. C. W. Bingham, which decided that in light of the development of the railways, and the subsequent discovery of specimens and artefacts within the disturbance, that it was ‘advisable to take immediate steps for the establishment of an Institution in this Town, containing a Museum and Library for the County of Dorset.’ It was at this moment, Dorset County Museum was born.

First Dorset County Museum Second Dorset County Museum Present Dorset County MuseumDorset-County-Museum_003
Judge Jeffreys Lodgings
1st home of the Museum,
1846 – 1851
No. 3 Trinity Street
2nd home of the Museum,
1851 – 1883
Dorset County Museum
1833 – Present

Originally, two rooms in what is now Judge Jeffreys restaurant were dedicated to the museum project. Quickly, this space became too small and the museum was subsequently moved to No. 3 Trinity Street. It was here that Thomas Hardy famously described the museum in his novel the Mayor of Casterbridge as:

‘It is an old house in a back street- I forget where- but you’ll find out- and there are crowds of interesting things- skeletons, teeth, old pots and pans, ancient boots and shoes, birds’ eggs- all charmingly instructive. You’ll be sure to stay till you get quite hungry.’

The museum remained in this ‘house in a back street’ until 1883 when the present building in High West Street was designed by architect Mr G. R. Crickmay. It wasn’t until several years later that the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club was founded in 1875 and co-operated closely with the museum. The two organisations officially amalgamated in 1928 under the name Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, becoming the new owners, and current owners to this day, of Dorset County Museum.

To celebrate this momentous anniversary, Dorset County Museum will be teasing its Twitter followers with 170 days’ worth of birthday related tweets. So make sure you follow @DorsetMuseum for the start of our special 170th birthday celebrations. There will be a celebratory #DorsetMuseum170 twitter campaign kicking off, 29th April, where Dorset County Museum’s twitter will be conducting an exclusive 170 days countdown to the Museum’s official birthday on 15th October.

For further information about the Museum, telephone 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Gabriella Crouch

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Dorset County Museum Thanksgiving Party is Great Success

Dorchester Thanksgiving Party Cake

The beautiful Dorchester Thanksgiving Party Cake created and kindly donated by Angel Cake Company

Friday 14th November saw an enthusiastic crowd at Dorset County Museum celebrating Thanksgiving with new friends in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The fundraising event brought together people from both sides of the Atlantic in a joint venture to raise money for Dorset County Museum’s new Collections Discovery Centre. A total of just over £1400 was raised on the night which will go directly towards funding the project

Staff and trustees of Dorset County Museum would like to express their thanks to the following people who made the event such a success: Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford; Peter Mann, Mayor of Dorchester; David Taylor, Museum Fundraising Team Leader; Jan Cosgrove, David Cuckson, Jane Squirrell, Volunteers of the Museum’s Fundraising team; Mark North, Andy Worth, Ian Condon, Jenny Devitt, Film and Media Technicians;  John Fiori from the Horse with the Red Umbrella and Nicci Campbell of the Angel Cake Company for the food and the cake, plus Dorchester Town Crier Alistair Chisholm and members of the New Hardy Players.

Dorchester Thanksgiving Party

Crowds gather in the museum for the Dorchester Thanksgiving Party

During the evening, the two Dorchesters were directly connected by a live video link. Julian Fellowes talked with the Rt Reverend Richard Kellaway and the Rev Arthur Lovoie from the First Parish Church in Dorchester Massachusetts, assisted by  who had been helping to coordinate the event on the American side. A major element in the joint heritage of the two towns is the rectory of the Reverend John White. A listed building, it was here that events took place that played a key role in the founding of the United States of America. Regeneration of this site, in the centre of Dorchester’s urban conservation area, will help promote understanding of Dorset’s international story and provide a definite link for the many tens of thousands of people around the world who can trace their family heritage back to Dorset.

Lord Julian Fellowes

Lord Julian Fellowes of West Stafford

The Museum’s Collections Discovery Centre project has been developed to provide new galleries, learning resources, collections storage facilities and a renewed public face for the Museum. The new centre will enable the museum to showcase its collections, spanning over 185 million years. It will build a safe conservation environment and sustainable future for the heritage the collections represent. This will enable more people to learn about history and prehistory using the Museum’s collections, and create additional collecting capacity for

 Julian Fellowes speaks to First Parish Dorchester - Rev. Arthur R. Lavoie, Phil Lindsay and Rev. Richard Kellaway — with Julian Fellowes at Dorset County Museum.

Lord Julian Fellowes speaks to First Parish Dorchester – Rev. Arthur R. Lavoie, Phil Lindsay and Rev. Richard Kellaway

Dorset’s strategically important collections such as the archaeology of the South Dorset Ridgeway and the geology of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

In addition, new galleries will encourage more people to visit and experience the collections including groups which do not currently use the Museum and visitors will be able to see, for the first time, objects in reserve collections which are not normally on display. The scheme will also help to improve the cultural tourism offer for Dorset, and support the regional economy. The Museum is in the heart of a rural county, in the centre of the county town, and in an area that attracts visitors from across the UK. In this location, with the right investment, the new centre will provide wonderful access to the region’s heritage and become an essential part of the experience of visiting Dorset.

Further fundraising events are currently being planned to support the project – for more information visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone the Museum on 01305 262735.

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Dorchester Thanksgiving Party 14th November 2014

Dorchester Thanksgiving PartyDorset County Museum is working hard to raise funds for a major redevelopment project to improve its facilities in Dorchester. An important part of the process is a series of fundraising events linked with increasing the profile of the Museum at home and abroad.

Dorset, and Dorchester in particular, has a strong historical connection with early settlers in the United States, in particular with those who sailed on the ship Mary and John. This was the ship that brought the first European settlers to Dorchester Massachusetts in 1630 under the guidance of the Reverence John White. Part of the Museum’s current project is the renovation and development of John White’s Rectory located behind the Museum in Colliton Street, Dorchester.

Model of the Mary and John

Model of the Mary and John in the Dorset County Museum © DCM

Fundraising Team Leader, David Taylor said, “We are talking to people in America who are researching into how their ancestors originally came to the Massachusetts area. We hope to build on this relationship as our project moves forwards – and help them find out more about who these early settlers were, and why they left England for the New World.”

There will be a small exhibition about the Mary and John on display including original passenger lists. The event will also include a live link with contacts from Dorchester and Boston Massachusetts.

In addition, Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford will introduce a brand new film about Dorset’s heritage. Entertainment will include the performance of a Mummers Play by the New Hardy Players and traditional folk music by Jerry Bird.

Tickets cost £15.00 and include canapés and a glass of wine.

They are available now from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827 or by email on shop@dorsetcountymuseum.org Tickets can also be obtained from the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre, telephone 01305 267992.

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Museum holds fundraising event to celebrate links with Dorchester, Massachusetts

Dorset County Museum is currently working on a major refurbishment and development project to improve its galleries and collections storage facilities and to increase access to the public. Part of the project involves fundraising and increasing the profile of the Museum at home and abroad.

David Taylor points to the coat of arms of the Lawrence Family at St Michael & All Angels, Steeple.

David Taylor points to the coat of arms of the Lawrence Family at St Michael & All Angels, Steeple.

An important part of Dorset’s heritage is its connection with early settlers in the United States. The Museum is keen to establish links with American organisations interested in the history of those who travelled under the guidance of the Revd. John White of Dorchester. The Museum owns John White’s Rectory in Colliton Street which will be restored as part of the project. The Museum has several American members who are keen to promote the project and become involved in establishing stronger links with places like Dorchester in Massachusetts, one of the original landing points of English settlers.

Fundraising Team Leader, David Taylor said, “We have found links from Dorset families to the great-grandfather of George Washington who became the first President of the United States. There are also coats of arms from the Lawrence and Washington families going back to 1390 which show stars and stripes very similar to those used on the American flag.”

Dorchester Thanksgiving PartyThe fundraising event on Friday 14th November will celebrate the Museum’s re-established contact with the United States and will include a live link with dignitaries from Dorchester and Boston Massachusetts. The thanksgiving party will start at 5.30pm with a presentation of a new film about Dorset’s heritage which will be introduced by Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford. Entertainment will include the performance of a Mummers Play by the New Hardy Players and traditional folk music by Jerry Bird.

Tickets cost £15 and include canapés and a glass of wine. They are available now from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827 or by email on shop@dorsetcountymuseum.org. Tickets can also be obtained from the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre, telephone 01305 267992.

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The History of the Dorchester Gallows

Dorchester GallowsFrom the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 32, 1911, an article written by the Rev. S. E. v. Filleul, M.A.  entitled ‘The History of the Dorchester Gallows’

In Speed’s plan of the town of Dorchester, published in 1610, the gallows is clearly located at the angle of what is now called Icen Way, and South Walks. It is depicted, not in the gibbet form, such as one might have frequently seen at cross-roads in the country, with the wasted frames of highwaymen hanging in irons, rattling out their unwholesome sermons to passers-by as long as they held together; but in the usual pattern of two uprights with a crossbeam connecting them. The drawing is suggestive enough of a certain width between the two uprights, giving space enough for the two-wheel cart to pass through that bore the victim and his coffin. Standing between the posts, while the rope was being adjusted, it formed the platform which relatives and friends mounted to bid their last farewells, and upon which the black-gowned priest stood to the end exhorting to confession and repentance.

Dorchester Gallows highlighted on John Speed's Plan of the town

Dorchester Gallows highlighted on John Speed’s Plan of the town

The street now called Icen Way was not so named in years /gone by. It started as ” Gaol-lane,” from the gaol at the corner of High East-street; then a section was known as Bell-street,” taking this name from the Bell Inn, which stood just above the present gasworks. Here the condemned were allowed to halt and take their last earthly refreshment. The final section up to the fatal mound was ” Gallows Hill.” Upon this spot thousands must have suffered the cruel lingering death by strangling that our murderous laws condemned man, woman, and child to suffer for even a theft to the worth of 5s. Here, periodically, following the Assizes, the State provided its public spectacles of torture, thinking to terrorise evil-doers and improve the morals of the people. Up the narrow lane from gaol to gallows the dismal processions with the jolting cart constantly climbed. Sometimes, as a heretic or a traitor, the condemned would be dragged by the heels along the rough road, or upon a hurdle or sledge, with frightened horses kicking and plunging. At the end of his journey still keener suffering awaited him, to be hung, and even before death, disembowelled, and then quartered. The crowd was always ready for the pastime, of which it never grew weary. It was mostly a bloodthirsty crowd that drank and cursed and jeered around the gallows, but many there must have been that pitied and prayed when some ragged, trembling lad was led up to close a life that had hardly begun, or as they saw husband and wife or parents and children ruthlessly parted when the last terrible moment arrived.  Dorchester gallows have a long, grim tale to tell, for they were the County gallows, fed by the County gaol.

The Dorset Martyrs, Bronze maquette, 2/8. Dame Elisabeth Frink RA, 1986. One of eight maquettes made in the creation of the statue group erected at Gallows Hill, South Walks, Dorchester. A memorial to those Dorset men and women who died for their faiths during the religious troubles of the 16th and 17th centuries, and in particular to those who were executed at Gallows Hill, South Walks.

The Dorset Martyrs, Bronze maquette, 2/8. Dame Elisabeth Frink RA, 1986.
One of eight maquettes made in the creation of the statue group erected at Gallows Hill, South Walks, Dorchester. A memorial to those Dorset men and women who died for their faiths during the religious troubles of the 16th and 17th centuries, and in particular to those who were executed at Gallows Hill, South Walks. © DCM

A hundred years after these early plans of the town were drawn by Speed, the gallows was removed to another place. It is shown, still of the same design, standing on the west side of the Amphitheatre, between it and the Weymouth-road, in the engraving of that place to be found in ” Grose’s Antiquities.” The date of the picture is 1755. And Stukeley, in his ” Itinerary,” written in 1723, tells us that ” the amphitheatre was in greater perfection before the gallows was removed hither by an unlucky humour of the Sheriff; since when the parapet at top is on that side much beaten down by the trampling of men and horses at executions.” He seems to speak of the gallows as having been recently removed, further on, when he says, “the parapet is now 3 or 4 foot high, but much ruined on that side next the gallows, since last year at an execution.” However, there is some reason for supposing that the removal was a little earlier than this. The celebrated burning of Mary Channing took place in 1703, and upon the floor of the amphitheatre. Female criminals were frequently burnt alive at that time, and for some years afterwards; perhaps it was the punishment of the worst, in the place of the drawing, hanging, and quartering which would have been the fate of a man. Had the gallows still been in its old position, she would probably have been burnt on Gallows Hill, and not at the amphitheatre. Therefore it seems most likely that the gallows was removed about the year 1700, from that place to the Weymouth-road site. I am making rather a point of this date, because it seems pretty evident that the Monmouth rebels suffered on the old site of Gallows Hill, and not .on the new site.

Maumbury Gallows Engraved by J. Newton, 1786, for Grose's "Antiquities"

Maumbury Gallows Engraved by J. Newton, 1786, for Grose’s “Antiquities” © DCM

The gallows by the amphitheatre seems to have been in regular use up to the time that the new prison was built, facing North-square, about the year 1795. At that time, or soon after, the humane method of despatching prisoners more rapidly, by giving them a longer drop, was allowed. This seems to have been provided for in executions at the prison. An Execution Bill of 1807 describes the hanging of three men on “the new drop upon the lodge of the Castle at Dorchester.” I have a broadsheet giving the sentences of prisoners at the Lent Assizes at Dorchester in 1801. There were 48 cases tried, almost all for thefts. Several were sentenced to transportation for very small offences, ten were condemned to death, one being a woman, Lydia Hiskins, for stealing a banknote. Plainly up to that date harsh measures had not succeeded in curing the poor people of their belief in the right to live by hook or by crook.

But by this time the efforts of men like Fielding and Romilly to obtain more wise and humane treatment of criminals were beginning to tell, and though death sentences were passed according to law, they were not always carried out. In the large scrap-book volume belonging to this Museum library there are several specimens of the broadsheets printed and sold in the streets after executions at the beginning of the last century. These are usually headed with a coarse woodcut of the typical gibbet, and the felon hanging, and generally give an account of his offences and of his last moments These specimens date from 1819 to 1833. They record deaths for burglaries and arson. The so-called “new drop,” which was in use for some fifty years seems to have been arranged over the stout low archway which formed the entrance into the prison from North-square, the predecessor of one lately removed. Some still living remember the body of the last criminal executed there, hanging on the skyline, a woman, Martha Brown, who had murdered her husband.

Then the scene was shifted to a spot within the walls of the prison, overlooking and within sight of the meadows by the river. Many can still tell of the thousands that used to gather below the gaol at the “Hang Fairs.” By daybreak the best places were taken, and the waiting .time was spent in drinking, fiddling, and dancing. The time, it is said, of the executions in early days determined by the arrival of the coach from London, which might possibly bear a reprieve at the last moment. The “Royal Mail”. coach was timed to arrive at the King’s Arms at 9.30 a.m., after 13½ hours run from London, via Salisbury. In Cutler’s ” Original Notes of Dorchester ” the story is told of a poor fellow who declined to halt at the Bell Inn for a parting glass with the constables; listening to his earnest request, they hastened their business, and turned him off just as the postmaster came shouting up the hill bearing a delayed reprieve. They cut the rope in a moment and fetched a surgeon. He could only shake his head and announce “Too late.” ” Sarved him right,” cried the indignant beer swillers standing around, “he should have stopped for his drink.” “Quite the contrary,” retorted the surgeon, with ill-timed levity, “I will stake my reputation on the fact—the poor fellow has taken a drop too much.”

The Mercy Weight. One of two weights made of lead, from Dorchester Prison, dating from the 19th century. These were attached to those executed by hanging, to give weight.

The Mercy Weight. One of two weights made of lead, from Dorchester Prison, dating from the 19th century. These were attached to those executed by hanging, to give weight.

The last public execution was in 1863, when two men named Preedy and Fooks suffered on the same day. The case of Preedy aroused much interest. The Rev. Henry Moule, Vicar of Fordington, visited him in the prison constantly to the last, and afterwards published a book of 94 pages, entitled Hope against Hope,’ giving an account of his life and repentance. Many thousand people assembled on this occasion. Two enterprising brothers erected a temporary grandstand in the meadows, with seats at 2s. 6d., which was so well patronised that it collapsed beneath the weight of sightseers, and they subsided into the mud below. In Mr. Thomas Hardy’s tale of The Withered Arm,’ a day of this kind provides a terrible page of reading. The saddler’s shop in High-East-street which from long custom supplied the new rope required for the gallows has only been closed this summer. This was of the best quality, always of hemp, probably supplied from Bridport; and the old Hangman’s Cottage at the bottom of Glyde-path-hill still stands, where the busy official, the last bearing the name of Davies, once lived. And a curious memorial is preserved in the Dorset County Museum, the two lead weights, engraved with the word ‘MERCY,’ provided by a humane governor of the gaol, to hasten the end of Silvester Wilkins, a very light subject, executed in 1833 for arson at Bridport. The last death sentence carried out at Dorchester was in May, 1887. I was in the neighbourhood at the time, and heard that the hangman sold the rope at so much a foot in one of the public houses afterwards ; but this I can hardly believe.

Hangmans Cottage. Colliton Park, The Walks, Dorchester.

Hangmans Cottage. Colliton Park, The Walks, Dorchester. © DCM

Out of the gloom that gathers round the history of the Dorchester gallows in past centuries, two or three figures, or groups of figures, stand out distinctly, and whilst on the subject it seems a fitting opportunity to recall them. One and the latest has been already named, the unfortunate Mary Channing, but 18 years old, burnt in the Amphitheatre in the year 1703. It was a peculiar case of murder that brought her to this end, but the punishment was not unusual. One female at least suffered in this way 18 years before, after the Monmouth Rebellion ; and the worthy Lady Lisle was condemned to this death on the same account at Winchester, though her sentence was altered to hanging after petition to the King. But the burning of Mary Channing was made a kind of county fete; 10,000 spectators gathered to view it. No doubt the nature of the spot chosen and the good view of the stake provided in this well-arranged theatre, accounted largely for the crowd that gathered, and that made the event so memorable.

The earliest recorded executions of note were those of Roman Catholics in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, on the charge of high treason. Hutchins gives the names of six that died on the gallows. Four of these suffered on the same day, July 4th, 1594; one, John Cornelius, the principal rebel, was hung, drawn, and quartered. His head was nailed to the gallows, but the Sheriff removed it at the prayer of the townsmen, who suffered ill-luck, it was thought, in consequence of it. Cornelius was born at Bodmin, but was captured while resident at the house of Lady Arundel, near Chideock. In Alfred Mark’s ‘Tyburn Tree’ a curious account is given in Strype’s words of the finding of his skull together with three others, in Blackfriars, when clearing away rubbish after the Fire of London. It had evidently been carried away from Dorchester by some sympathising coreligionists. Strype narrates the discovery of four pewter cases containing a head each. He says, “one of these pots I saw, with the head in it, in October, 1703, being in the custody of Mr. Presbury, then sope maker in Smithfield, which pot had inscribed in the inside of the cover, in a scrawling character (which might be used in the time of Henry VIII.), I. Cornelius. This head was without any neck, having short red hair upon it, thick, and that would not be pulled off ; and yellow hair upon the temples ; a little bald on the top (perhaps a tonsure), the fore-part of the nose sunk, the mouth gaping, ten sound teeth, others had been plucked out; the skin like tanned leather, the features of the face visible. The other three heads had some of the necks joined to them and had a broader and plainer razure, which showed them priests. These three heads are now dispersed. It is probable they were at last privately procured and conveyed abroad, and now become holy relics. Who these were, there is no record, as I know of ; nor had any of them names inscribed but one.” The identity of this I. Cornelius with the Dorchester victim was not discovered till some years later. I have the engraved portrait of I. Cornelius from one of the old Books of Martyrs, with the Latin inscription beneath : “Pio Cornelius Anglus Soc. Jesu (Jesuit) Novitius Dorcesta pro Catholica fide suspensus et sectus, an. 1594.” From another Book I have the portrait of John Slade, a Dorset man, who was ” drawn, hanged, bowelled, and quartered ” for maintaining the Roman power ; but the sentence was carried out at Winchester.

Lastly, we come to the batch of prisoners, 13 in number, who were condemned by Judge Jeffreys, and suffered on the old Gallows Hilll. In the Western Martyrology ” the dying speeches of three of this number are given us – Matthew Bragg, Thomas Smith, and Joseph Speed, with special details of their deaths. The 13 were hung in succession, one after the other. Smith being the first by particular order of the Judge. The bodies were treated in the manner usual for traitor, an exception being made of the body of Matthew Bragg, which was given by the Judge to his friends for burial. He was probably an innocent man, and felt, to have been so by his persecutor after the sentence was passed. but foolishly he had pleaded “not guilty ” and so lost all chance of justice. The speeches were made from the ladder, up which the prisoner climbed to reach the noose let down from the crossbeam by the hangman. ‘The cart no longer figures at this particular point in the proceedings. When the speech was finished the ladder was turned over, and so, in the common language of those days, the prisoner was “turned off ” and launched into eternity. They were probably drawn on hurdles in most places to the gallows; “sledges ” is the name given to the rude vehicles used in Dorchester and Lyme. At Lyme Regis two sets of horses refused to draw the sledge; they ended by kicking it to pieces, and the prisoners therefore went on foot through the streets. The quarters of 12 men were distributed in Dorchester and the neighbourhood, the head of one being fixed on a spike that till lately was an interesting ornament of the porch of St. Peter’s Church. This spike is now preserved in the museum. There is no entry in the Borough Records of any expense connected with the executions ; it was outside their department. But a horrible set of entries is to be found in the Weymouth records ; they are published in Moule’s Catalogue of Charters, &c., of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis,” The Mayor of this borough was ordered through the Sheriff to prepare a gallows for the execution of 12 persons, It was erected on or near Greenhill, in the confines of the borough. Thirty-two quarters and six heads were distributed in the villages round, while 16 quarters and six heads were reserved for Weymouth itself. Then the bill of costs is given— “Disbursements for the gallows, burning and boiling the rebels executed per order at this town—£l5 14s. 3d.”

From the “Western Martyrology” we gather that the ghastly preparations for the final disposal of the bodies went on in the sight of the victims. Roger Satchel, at Weymouth. is described, when delivering his dying speech from the Ladder, as ” pointing to the wood that was to burn his bowels.” The barbarous proceedings conducted at Weymouth were no doubt repeated at Dorchester and at other towns. I notice also in the same book the statement that “some scores died every week of small pox “ in the gaol. This, I think, must be an exaggeration, as there is no indication of a corresponding number of burials in our Burial Register. Eighteen only are there entered as ” prisoners ” at that time. Yet possibly friends who could afford it removed the dead to their own churchyards, all over the country, and a much larger number could thus be accounted for.

I am thankful to have reached the end of this short history of Dorchester gallows. The saddest of recollections are awakened, and even after so long a time, resentment kindles at the thought of so much injustice suffered often by helpless and defenceless prisoners. One can enter into the spirit of Dryden when he wrote of the gallows of Tyburn Tree:-

“Oh Tyburn I couldst thou reason and dispute,
Couldst thou but judge as well as execute;
How often woulst thou change the felon’s doom
And truss some stern Chief Justice in his room”.

In a short article written by R. A. H. Farrar, M.A. from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 88, 1966 entitled ‘The Dorchester Gallows’

The, Dorchester Prison mosaic, 4th Century. A tinted photographic lithograph. John Pouncy, 2nd December 1858. Using one of his new experimental photographic processes. This mosaic was presented to the Dorset County Museum by the Governor of Dorchester Prison in 1885, after its removal from the Prison chapel where it had been relaid in 1858. It was set on the north wall of the museum staircase masked by the overhanging portrait of James John Farquharson, 1857.

The Dorchester Prison Mosaic, 4th Century. A tinted photographic lithograph. John Pouncy, 2nd December 1858. Using one of his new experimental photographic processes. This mosaic was presented to the Dorset County Museum by the Governor of Dorchester Prison in 1885, after its removal from the Prison chapel where it had been relaid in 1858. It was set on the north wall of the museum staircase masked by the overhanging portrait of James John Farquharson, 1857. © DCM

The late Lady Pinney’s essay, published in 1966 in the Hardy Monographs series, on Thomas Hardy and the Birdsmoorgate Murder 1856, recalls to the writer his own interest some years ago in some of the circumstances of the execution of Martha Brown. This was due primarily to the fact that it was in digging her grave, in the burial yard of Dorchester Prison, that the mosaic was found that is now fixed to the staircase wall of the County Museum, although it was not until the burial of James Seal, executed on the 10th August 1858, that rediscovery led to its excavation by Governor J. V. D. Lawrance and subsequent relaying in the former prison chapel.

The writer was of course led at that time to the valuable history of the Dorchester gallows published in our Proceedings, Vol. 32 (1911), by the Rev. S. E. V. Filleul. Since it does not appear that his account, now over 50 years old, has been enlarged on, it may be worth pointing out two errors, one of which, relating to the removal of the gallows from Maumbury Rings, had been stated correctly elsewhere, and the other bearing on the execution of the unfortunate Martha Brown.

Dorchester Prison Mosaic

Dorchester Prison Mosaic now hangs on the staircase wall of the Dorset County Museum masked by the overhanging portrait of James John Farquharson, 1857. © DCM

Filleul’s first error (excluding a mis-dating of 1703 for the 1706 execution of Mary Channing at Maumbury by burning following strangulation) was in supposing that the gallows outside the Rings remained in use until the new prison was completed on the present site in 1795. An entry in the pocket book of William Cummg, M.D., for 2nd December 1766, quoted by Boswell Stone in Proceedings, Vol. 24 (1903), p. 36, tells us that “This Day the Gallows removed fm Maumbury and a new One erected on Fordington Down at expense of ye County Cost of £4.” Newton’s view showing the gibbet at Maumbury, published anachronistically in Grosse’s Antiquities in 1786, was engraved in 1755, as Filleul was aware.

The second error concerns the position of the gallows at the County Gaol. Filleul comments on the hanging of Martha Brown over the lodge formerly existing at the North Square entrance to the prison, supposing that this was the ‘new drop’  which had been in use, as he said, for some 50 years, the site then being ‘shifted to a spot within the walls of the prison, overlooking and within sight of the meadows by the river.’ Martha Brown was indeed executed. on 9th August 1856 over the North Square lodge  in full view of the young Thomas Hardy and a great concourse of sight-seers, but this was an innovation. as the contemporary files of the Dorset County Chronicle, listed by Lady Pinney. make clear. It was not repeated, owing to the resultant dislocation of traffic in the centre of the town, and two years later, when James Seal met his end, it was once again upon the traditional ‘new drop’, over the monumental main entrance lodge that still grimly but elegantly overlooks the meadows.

According to Filleul the last execution in Dorchester was in May 1887, and the last public execution that of Preedy and Fooks in 1863, so Jim Lane of Blackdown, whose memories were taken down by Lady Pinney in 1926. was at fault in according this unenviable distinction to poor Martha.

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The Painter of Victorian Dorset, Henry Joseph Moule by Gwen Yarker, BEM

View from the North side of Poundbury by Henry Joseph Moule, 10th July 1880

View from the North side of Poundbury by Henry Joseph Moule, 10th July 1880 © DCM

On Thursday 30th January 2014, local art historian and curator Gwen Yarker is giving a lecture at Dorset County Museum on the watercolour paintings of Henry Joseph Moule.

Henry Joseph Moule produced several thousand paintings of the Dorset countryside, particularly around Dorchester. An antiquarian and author, he was first curator of the newly built Dorset County Museum.  Thomas Hardy and Moule were close associates and through Moule’s paintings this lecture will illustrate the Dorset they both knew and loved.

Gwen Yarker has been a curator of art in national and regional museums. She has produced a large number of exhibitions featuring local artists, including two exploring the Dorset watercolours of Henry Moule. Most recently she curated the highly successful Georgian Faces exhibition at Dorset County Museum. Through an important curatorial grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, Gwen is now researching a major exhibition on twentieth-century painters working in Dorset

The talk is FREE of charge but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.  Doors open at 7.00pm and the talk will commence at 7.30pm.  For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

The Founding of Dorchester, Massachusetts and the Rev. John White

John White's House, Colliton Street, Dorchester

Behind the Museum – Rev. John White’s Rectory, Colliton Street, Dorchester, Dorset © DCM

Here is an article written by Captain J. E. Acland taken from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Volume 42,  1922 concerning ‘The Founding of Dorchester, Massachusetts and the Rev. John White

The founding of Dorchester, Mass., dates from the year 1630, i.e., ten years later than the better known expedition of the Mayflower to Province-town and Plymouth. The movement that induced “The Pilgrims,” to leave their homes, and face the risks and hardships of the “Great Enterprise,” was in its origin of a definitely religious character, thus quaintly recorded by a chronicler of the period.

He writes – “When many most godly and religious people that dissented from the way of worship then established by law in the realm of England were being denied the free exercise of religion after the manner they professed according to the light of God’s Word, and their own consciences, they did remove themselves and their families into the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, that they might Worship God without any burthensome impositions, which was the very motive and cause of their coming.”

Rev. John White House Plaque

The Plaque on the Rev. John White’s Rectory, Colliton Street, Dorchester, Dorset © DCM

In connection with this Puritan (or Separatist) movement, definite and combined action may be traced as early as 1607, when William Brewster, a gentleman of good social position, organized a Church of Puritans at the little village of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, where “on the Lord’s Day he entertained the members with great love” in the Manor House. William Bradford of the near-by village, Austerfield, who became afterwards Governor of Plymouth (Mass.), was closely allied with Brewster in this movement. In the following year, 1608, being threatened with imprisonment (for the Act of 1593 made Puritanism an offence against the Statute law), they and their friends left England for Amsterdam, under the leadership of Rev. John Robinson, removing to Ley den in Holland in 1609.

Not wishing to lose their English nationality, which must have been the case had they remained in Holland, they once more started on their travels, sailing to Southampton in the Speedwell, August, 1620. Here they found other Puritan Pilgrims waiting for them in the Mayflower with the object of crossing the Atlantic, and founding new Colonies in a new land, with freedom of laws and religion which they could not hope for at home.

The Mayflower and Speedwell started down channel in company, but after delays at Dartmouth and Plymouth, Speedwell was finally abandoned, some of her passengers being taken on board Mayflower, which little vessel of 180 tons, with 102 passengers, left Plymouth on 6th September, and after a dangerous voyage reached Provincetown, Cape Cod Harbour, on 21st November, and New Plymouth, 21st December, (N.S.) 1620.

Although, up to this time, Dorset had made no important contribution to the flow of settlers into the New Country, there can be no doubt that the movement was coming more and more under the influence of the Rev. John White, Rector of S. Peter’s and Holy Trinity, 1606 – 1648, ” Patriarch of Dorchester,” known later as “Father of the Massachusetts Colony.” Born at Stanton St. John in Oxfordshire in 1575, he was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxon, being elected Fellow of the College, 1595. A man of conspicuous piety, learning, and power, a moderate but earnest Puritan, he was in touch with the struggle for religious freedom from its earliest days. Living in Dorchester at the time, he would have been specially interested in the emigrations of the “Pilgrims” from the Southern ports, Southampton, Weymouth and Plymouth, and gave both sympathy and assistance to the original emigration in the Mayflower. In 1623 he personally organized the formation of a trading post,” or station for fishing vessels, at Cape Ann, under Roger Conant. Near the spot where the first settlers landed there is now a fine bronze tablet set in a rock at State Fort Park, with the words

‘On this site in 1623 a Company of Fishermen and Farmers from Dorchester, England, under the direction of the Rev. John White, founded this Massachusets Bay Colony.’

About 20 years later, this Cape Ann settlement was given the name “Gloucester,” as at that time a large number of emigrants from the English town of that name had arrived there.

White next devoted all his energies to the acquisition of a Massachusetts Bay Charter, a most important event in the history of New England; it being mainly due to his skill and perseverance that the Company was ultimately formed. He journeyed frequently to London to create and cement the great alliance between the wealthy London merchants, and the seamen of the West of England. Before the final consummation of this work, other enterprises closely connected with Dorchester and Dorset were undertaken by Parson White, which prepared the way for future developments.

The founding of Charlestown, in which the Spragues of Upwey took a leading part, is recorded in a pamphlet written by Mr. Henry Sprague, published in Boston, U.S.A., in 1910. He proves by evidence from early records that the first permanent settlement in Massachusetts Bay was due to three brothers, Ralph, Richard, and William Sprague, sailing from Weymouth in the Abigail in June, 1628, reaching Naumkeag (now Salem) on 6th September. He quotes from an independent historical account of the settlement, (John Greene, appointed to transcribe the records of Charlestown, at a meeting of the Select men, 18lh April, 1664) that ” the inhabitants that first settled in this place, and brought it into the denomination of an English town, was in Anno 1628, as follows, viz.:—Ralph, Richard and William Sprague, John Meech, Simon Hoyte, Abraham Palmer, Walter Pamer, Nicholas Stowers, John Stickline, with Mr. Bright, Minister to the Company.” The father of the three brothers was Mr. Edward Sprague, a fuller, and owner of the old mill at Upwey.

There seems little doubt that the Spragues went out in the Abigail with John Endecott, himself a native of Dorchester, selected as supervisor of a Company organized by J. White (more or less in the Puritan interest) for the purchase of land between the Merrimac and Charles Rivers. They would have been of great assistance in promoting this undertaking, being described as men of “character, substance and enterprise, excellent citizens, and generous public benefactors.” In the following year, 1629, his Company was re-inforced by emigrants filling three ships, one of them called the Lyon’s Whelp, consisting entirely of passengers from Weymouth and Dorchester.

Endecott had full power to take charge of the plantation, and to begin the ” Wildernesse work.” As a ruler he was zealous and courageous, behaving to the Indians with marked justice. It is recorded of him that, together with his Puritan Council, he objected to the growing of tobacco, as they ” believed such a production, except for medicinal purposes, was injurious both to health and morals.” They also insisted on the abolition of the use of the Book of Common Prayer, Endecott earning the title of ” Puritan of Puritans.” He exercised the chief authority as Deputy Governor, until the arrival of John Winthrop, the lirst Governor elected under the Charter of the home authorities. The original Mass. Plantation thus became a self-governing community, by: Royal Charter, sealed 4th March, 1629, to the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, in New England.

The embarkation of Winthrop and his company from Yarmouth in the Arbella, in March 1630, was the occasion of the issue of a remarkable letter entitled “The humble request of his Majesties Loyall subjects, the Governor and the Company late gone for New England, to the rest of their brethren in and of the Church of England for the obtaining of their prayers and the removal of suspitions, and misconstruction of their intentions.” It was printed in London, in all probability drawn up by John White himself, although not one of the emigrants, being in fact a formal leavetaking, and exhibits very clearly the spirit in which the enterprise was undertaken. It has been re-printed, facsimile, by the New England Society of New York, a copy being presented to our Museum Library by the John Carter-Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island, from which a few extracts are now taken, of special interest with reference to the reputed author.

It begins

” Reverend Fathers and Brethren, the general rumour of this solemn Enterprise, wherein ourselves with others are ingaged, as it may spare us the labour of imparting our occasion unto you, so it gives us the more incouragement to strengthen ourselves by the procurement of the prayers and blessings of the Lord’s faithfull servants…… We beseech you therefore lo consider us as your Brethren, standing in very great need of your helpe, and earnestly imploring it.”

“And  howsoever your charity  may  have  met  with  some  occasion of discouragement through the misreport of our  intentions,  or through the  disaffection,  or  indiscretion,  of  some of us, or rather amongst us, yet ws desire you would be pleased to take notice of the principals and body of our company as those who esteemc it our honour to call the Church of England from whence we rise our deare Mother, and cannot part from our native Countrie where she specially resideth without much sadness of heart and many teares in our eyes……..     Bepleased therefore Reverend Fathers and Brethren to helpe forward this worke now in hand, which if it prosper you shall bee the more glorious.”

“It is an usual and laudable exercise of your charity to commend to the prayers of your congregations the necessities and straights of your private neighbours ; Doe the like for a Church springing out of your own bowels……… What goodness you shall exiend to us in this or any other Christian kindness, wee shall labour to repay in what dutie wee are or shall be able to performe, promising, so farre as God shall enable us, to give him no rest on your behalfes, wishing our heads and hearts may be as fountaines of teares for your everlasting welfare, when wee shall be in our poore Cottages in the wildernesse, overshadowed with the spirit of supplication through the manifold necessities and tribulations which may not altogether unexpectedly, nor, we hope, unprofitably befall us.

Your assured Friends and Brethren

From Yarmouth        Jo. Winthrope, Gov.          Rich. Saltonstall
aboard the Arbella    Charles Fines                    Isaac Johnson
April 7, 1630            George Philips                   Tho. Dudley
                                &c.                                      William Coddington

Model of the Mary and John

Model of the ‘Mary and John’ in the Dorchester Gallery, Dorset County Museum, Dorchester, Dorset © DCM

About a month in advance of the Arbella, a company met at Plymouth, where the Mary and John, a vessel of 400 tons, had been chartered for the voyage, the first ship of the fleet of 1630 to arrive in Massachusetts Bay. These are the Pilgrims that are termed the ” Founders of Dorchester.” Among them were, Roger Clap, Henry Wolcott, Thomas Ford, George Dyer, William Gaylord, William Phelps, William Rockwell, Israel Stoughton, George Minot, George Hall, Richard Collicott, Nathaniel Duncan, and Captains Mason and Southcote.

The 17th June, 1630, (N.S.) may be safely named as the official birthday of our namesake in Massachusetts. It is fixed by two reliable authorities. In the First Parish Church, Dorchester, is a tablet bearing the following inscription :—

“Dorchester, named from the town of Dorchester in Dorset, England. The first settlers sailed from Plymouth, England in the Mary and John, one of the Winthrop fleet, March 20, 1630, arrived at Nantasket, now Hull, May 30, and landed in Dorchester June 6, 1630.(These dates are Old Style.) “

Also, at the great gathering in Dorchester to celebrate the 250th aniversary of the planting of the Church, and foundation of the Town, the 17th June (N.S.), was the date observed.

Thus as the Mayflower stands in history for the founding of the New England States at Provincetown and Plymouth, so does the Mary and John mark the commencement of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, composed for the most part of emigrants from Dorset and the Western Counties. When she was ready to leave Plymouth, John White was on the spot to speed the Pilgrims on their way. Although the commercial aspect of the emigration was not forgotten, the religious character of the movement was always kept in view. A proof of this is the fact that before leaving these shores the Pilgrims on the Mary and John selected their pastors, and organized themselves as a Christian Church. One of the passengers has left on record that ” a solemn day of fasting and prayer was held, and that Mr. John White of Dorchester was present and did preach unto us the Word of God; the people did solemnly make choice of and call those godly ministers to be their officers, so also the Rev. Mr. Warham and Mr. Maverick did accept thereof, and expressed the same.”

Two hundred and fifty years after this scene was enacted, two great religious gatherings took place in The First Church and Parish, Dorchester, Mass., on 31st March, and 17th June, 1880, to commemorate the gathering of the Church at Plymouth (just mentioned), and the arrival of the Dorset Colonists in America. The celebration was an important event, the Governor of the State being present, with his staff, and also the pastors of the Dorchester and Boston Churches and many descendants of the early settlers. An address was delivered by Rev. Dr. Hale, an authority on the early history of New England, who pronounced with no uncertain voice the debt they owed to John White. He said:-

“If we build statues to our heroes and founders, it would be to John White of Dorchester, the founder of Massachusetts, that we should build the first. Let him be clad in his ministerial robes and bands, as when he spoke his farewell to the colonists. Let him bear in his hand the Sacred Book he was so fond of illustrating. So let us show who conceived the idea of this free State, and who was the very hero who called this free State into existence. Do not think simply of Dorchester. Let us remember that it is the birth of Massachusetts that we are celebrating. It is the birth of the Colony of the Bay that we are celebrating. The hero of the Colony, the founder of the Colony, is John White of Dorchester, England.” It was he who made the great alliance between the London Merchants and the sea-men of the West of England. It was he who taught Old England what it was which was waiting for them in the pre-emption of New England. It was John White who blew that Gospel trumpet. (Gather yourselves together, your wives and little ones, the people of Christ oppressed and denied, and be shipped for His Service in the Western world, the united colonies of New England). Yes – John White is the hero of this day,”

Grand words surely for us to remember, a testimony to his character and life work that had stood the test of two centuries and a half, uttered by one who had personal and impartial experience of the fruitfulness of his labours.

St. Peters Church Dorchester

St. Peters Church Dorchester, Dorset , © DCM

Another glimpse into his personality is given by Thomas Fuller, a contemporary (1608—1661) and indeed Rector of the Dorset parish of Broadwindsor, who gives a characteristic sketch of White in the Worthies of England.

“A grave man, yet without moroseness, as he would willingly contribute his shot of facetiousness on any just occasion. A constant preacher, so that in the course of his ministry he expounded the Scripture all over, and half over again, having an excellent faculty in the clear solid interpreting thereof. A good governor, by whose wisdom the town of Dorchester was much enriched; knowledge causing piety, piety breeding industry, industry procuring plenty unto it. He absolutely commanded his own passions and the purses of his parishioners, whom he could wind up to what height he pleased on all important occasions.”

Rev. John White Memorial Brass

Memorial brass erected in the Porch of St. Peter’s Church, Dorchester, Dorset, to the Rev. John White, the inscription written and designed by the late Mr. Henry Moule © DCM

Verily he had “a strong sway in the town” as is recorded of him in the porch of St. Peter’s Church.

There is not much more to be said of Master White and his connection with the Puritan emigration. Our Dorchester declared for the Parliament party at the commencement of the Civil War, with which the Puritan Patriarch would have agreed most heartily. In 1642 a troop of Prince Rupert’s Horse attacked the town, broke into Parson White’s house, carrying off or destroying his books. Taking refuge in London he was given  duty as Minister of the Savoy, and Rector of Lambeth, being appointed also one of the Westminster “Assembly of Divines.” He was able, however,, to return to his old home and Rectory, where he died 21st July, 1648, and was buried in the Porch of the Church of St. Peter.

Another Memorial to the “Patriarch of Dorchester ” may be seen in Holy Trinity Church, Dorchester.

An oak panel at the West end of the Church gives a list of Rectors dating from the year 1302 A.D. (The two parishes of Holy Trinity and S. Peter having been united down to 1824 A.D.). It is recorded that this panel, erected in 1902, is ” In Memory of the Rev. John White, 45 years Rector of Holy Trinity and St. Peter’s, Dorchester, by Members of Holy Trinity Church and those who revere his memory in Dorchester, Massachusetts.”

Names of Ships trading from England to America, 1620, onwards.

Speedwell
James – from Bristol
Mayflower
Elizabeth
Mary and John
Hercules
Abigail
John and Dorothy
Arbella
The Rose
Lyon’s Whelp
Defence
Sparrowhawk – wrecked
James

Books consulted in preparing this paper.

  • Founding of Charlestown, by H. H. Sprague, Boston, U.S.A., 1910.
  • Proceedings at  the  250th  Aniversary of First Church  and  Parish, Dorchester, Mass., Boston, U.S.A., 1880.
  • Towns of New England and Old England, State Street Trust Company, Boston, 1920.
  • History of Dorchester, Antiquarian and Historical Soc., Boston, 1859.
  • Narrative History of Good Old Dorchester, Orcutt.

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