New Exhibition: ‘Under the Surface’ Paintings and Carvings by David West

Big Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

Big Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

For the very first time, Under the Surface brings together 70 of David West’s most important works from both private and public collections.  Spanning 60 years, it reflects the different strands of his development as a painter, sculptor and craftsman, deftly illustrating the progression and interaction between his use of paint and wood, in what is a landmark exhibition for this Dorset artist. 

Born in 1939, David West went to Sutton and Cheam School of Art (1956 – 1958) and Camberwell School of Art (1958 – 1960) where he studied painting and printmaking.  However, West found the emphasis on accuracy which was a feature of his student days too restrictive, and on leaving Camberwell he began to explore his love of decoration and strong pattern.

In the 1960s his work took an unexpected direction as he began to explore flexible ways to construct paintings within a three dimensional framework, which led naturally on to painting on wood.  Initially, wood was a substitute for canvas, but he soon became interested in its possibilities, and gradually there was more constructing and carving and less painting.

Gig and Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

Gig and Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

His carved wooden models are full of acute observation and humour, and reflect the strong interest West has in architecture, and the self-contained world within buildings.  His dolls houses were inspired by watching his daughter’s imaginative play, and the idea that within the basic structure of a house is a place where imagination can be released.

Some pieces portray actual houses, such as Parnham House and Forde Abbey, others are pure inventions.  Later models include a shop and theatre, and Dorset County Museum is lucky enough to have The Spode Set, a miniature theatre carved in wood based on the ‘Spode Italian’ ceramic design.  West’s woodcut prints became a natural extension of his carving.

West’s move from London to Lyme Regis in 1981 inspired in him a love of the Dorset landscape and coast, and a fascination with the ebb and flow of tides and water.  This influence can be clearly seen in his work as he began to carve sculptures based on walks along the beach at Lyme Regis.  He has taken an active part in life in Lyme Regis, and in the 1990s had a significant role in the restoration of the Town Mill, where there is a room named after him.

In fact, it was the commission to carve and gild a set of organ pipe shades for St Michael’s Church in Lyme Regis which led to using gold leaf to develop the 200 drawings inspired by his trip to Japan in 2008.  Variations of footpaths, waterfalls, fishponds and mountain streams are among the many gilded carvings and woodcut prints in the exhibition.  These were followed by works related to the Dorset landscape and coast, a series of gilded carvings, ‘Night Waves’ and ‘Moon’, combining influences from both Japan and Dorset.

Dorset County Museum is pleased to be welcoming David West back following a successful exhibition at the Museum almost 30 years ago.

This exhibition is supported by the Mansel-Playdell & Cecil Trust and PGP

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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19th Century Barrel Organ

19th Century Barrel OrganOur newly restored 19th Century Barrel Organ is now back at the museum. Come to hear the barrel organ play any number of traditional melodies on one or more of its three barrels.

Gordon Bartlet, who kindly financed the restoration of the organ will demonstrate it for you. He will be in the museum every Tuesday in March (1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th) and April (5th, 12th, 19th and 26th) 3.00 — 4.00pm.

A Selection of Melodies:

  • Handels Water Music
  • The Dorsetshire March
  • The Bollita
  • Lady Digby’s Minuet
  • Evening Hymn
  • Lording Mornington
Gordon Bartlet with the Barrel Organ

Gordon Bartlet with the Barrel Organ

Gordon says “Vintage machinery and many varieties of music have always been a passion of mine, so mechanical music ticks both boxes and has lead to a collection of antique musical boxes and similar items. With this background it was sad to see a 19th century barrel organ lying silent in the Dorset County Museum, so I resolved to investigate its history and to see if it could be made to work again.

Apart from once being in Puddletown church and then Bere Regis church much of the organ’s background was unknown. Delving into more detail uncovered a fascinating history from when it was built by John Gray of London in 1839 to when it was bought and subsequently donated to the museum in 1935 by Miss Agnes Debenham of the Debenham Stores family.

On the technical side the organ was very complete and original, but with damage to the operating mechanism and to many of the pipes. Making it play again required the combined efforts of myself and Mr John Budgen, a retired professional organ builder.”

Demonstrations at the museum every Tuesday in March (1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th) and April (5th, 12th, 19th and 26th) from 3.00pm – 4.00pm. Normal admissions apply.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Jurassic World – Come and see the World’s Biggest Bite!

Jurassic-WorldJurassic World has been released this weekend – and if you’ve enjoyed the film, now come and see the enormous 150million year old skull of the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur at Dorset County Museum!

The fossil bones of this pliosaur skull were recovered by amateur fossil collector Kevan Sheehan between 2003 and 2008, as they were washed out of a landslide on the coast in Weymouth Bay. The largest piece weighed over 80 kg, and the skull itself is a massive 2.4 metres long. Featured recently as one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Biggest Beasts, the pliosaur was the ‘T Rex of the ocean’, an 18metre long ferocious predator of the seas. Known as ‘The World’s Biggest Bite’, the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur would have been capable of biting the biggest great white shark alive today clean in half.

The Dorset specimen is one of the most complete and best preserved skulls ever found, and as a result it has provided new insights into our understanding of how these enormous animals evolved.

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Since its discovery, hundreds of hours have been spent carrying out a detailed analysis and cleaning away the rock to expose the detail of the fossil underneath. Alongside this conservation work an intensive programme involved the Jurassic Coast team and Dorset County Museum working together to produce an exciting, interactive display showcasing the fossil with the theme ‘The World’s Biggest Bite’. Mounted dramatically on a specially constructed plinth that shows the jaws in an awe-inspiring open-mouthed position, the story of the fossil is interpreted through a series of film presentations accompanied by a life-size model of the pliosaur’s head.

Dr. Jon Murden, Director said “It’s amazing to see this skull up close in the Museum – standing next to it you can really appreciate its enormous size, and get a feel for the terrifying predator it once was.”

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800 years and Dorset’s role in the Magna Carta

King John signs Magna Carta

King John signs Magna Carta

On the 15th June 2015, it will be 800 years since the Magna Carta was agreed by King John and the barons of England. In the 21st Century, four copies of the charter have survived and are held by the British Library and the cathedrals of Lincoln and Salisbury. To mark the 800th anniversary of an agreement which has been described as ‘a symbol of liberty and law’, the British Library and the Lincoln and Salisbury cathedrals will be uniting the four copies for an exclusive display running from 13th March to 1st September.

If you’re one of the lucky 1,215 people who won a ballot to see this unique reunion, then be sure to look out for a familiar name which relates directly to your local Dorset history and heritage. That name is, William Marshall. Marshall was a man born into humble origins in 1147 but in May 1213 became the King’s chief advisor and in 1215 was described as ‘steering the reluctant monarch towards accepting the terms of Magna Carta, on which his mark appears first among those after the King.’

Coat of Arms of William Marshal

Coat of Arms of William Marshal

However, if you won’t be heading to London this summer then why not head to Sturminster Marshall. If you haven’t already guessed, Sturminster Marshall is directly linked to William Marshal himself. The name “Sturminster” derived from the River Stour and the church to which “Marshall” was added after he married the daughter of the Earl of Pembroke and in turn, acquired the land. It is here in Sturminster Marshall that a very special reminder of William Marshal and the Magna Carta still resides in the church of St Mary.

On one of the pillars in the church is mounted a seal of the “Royal Peculiar”. This seal signalled that the parish had become a “Royal Peculiar” which meant that from 1457 onwards it was not subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop and therefore, the local vicar could resolve small legal disputes, prove wills and grant marriage licenses etc. Although in our modern society these privileges are no longer granted, the seal of the “Royal Peculiar” can still be seen in the pillar in the church today. So instead of heading to London to see the Magna Carta, why not head to your local church at Sturminster Marshall and experience first-hand Dorset’s role in saving the English monarchy and bringing peace and order between bishops, barons and government.

Gabriella Crouch

To find out more about Dorset’s rich history head to Dorset County Museum or visit the website www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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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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Dorset’s Church Treasure: Telling the Story of Christianity through the Centuries

17th Century Chalice from SwanageAn exhibition of Ecclesiastical Silver at Dorset County Museum, Dorchester from 13th October 2014 to 18th April 2015.

In Christian churches, the act of communion has always been the most important religious ceremony. Traditionally congregations wished to have the very best communion vessels that they (or their richest members) could afford. As a result Dorset churches have a wealth of beautiful and rare collections of silver, some of it so valuable that it has to be stored in bank vaults. A new exhibition at Dorset County Museum provides a rare opportunity to see some of the finest pieces in both Dorset and the UK.

The new temporary exhibition in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery tells the story of Christianity for over 2000 years – from Pre-Reformation times to the present day. Crafted by world-famous silversmiths, the pieces include the Coombe Keynes Chalice from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London – an object of huge national importance.

Dorset appears to have had a strong Christian community as far back as Roman times. An example of this tradition is a Roman spoon from Dorchester with the “fish” Christian cipher.

By the early 16th century England was a devoutly Christian country and only the Priest was normally allowed to take full communion. He drank wine from a wide mouth vessel called a chalice and took bread, in the form of an unleavened wafer, from a small plate called a paten. Pieces of church silver from this period in England are rare and in Dorset only three pieces survive. All of these can be seen in the exhibition including the Coombe Keynes Chalice which has been said by the Victoria and Albert Museum to be one of the finest in the country.

Many consider the 18th century as the greatest period for church and domestic silver and Paul de Lamerie is generally accepted as the greatest silversmith of the time; some say of all time. On display is one of the three silver-gilt communion sets made by de Lamerie for Dorset churches. There is also a letter, dated June 1737, which records instructions on how to clean the silver as directed by Paul de Lamerie, himself.

In the mid-1800s a new Anglo Catholic movement wanted to bring more powerful emotional symbolism and energy to the Church. More elaborate church interiors were introduced and the design of communion ware moved to a more mediaeval style. The chalice on show from St Peter’s church Parkstone is a fine example of the richness and ebullience of this style. The chalice is inlaid with semi-precious stones and has a diamond cross on the front, reputed to be from necklace owned by the donor.

“This exhibition contains some of the finest pieces of church silverware in the country,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “We are grateful to all the Dorset parishes which have loaned items for us to display. We hope many people will be able to see these hidden treasures before they go back into safe storage.”

In addition to silver chalices, patens and flagons, there are other fascinating items including a very rare bread knife for cutting communion bread. Accompanying the exhibition is a booklet describing Dorset’s ecclesiastical silver and the development of Christianity in Dorset since the 4th century.

The exhibition will be formally opened by the Bishop of Sherborne, Dr. Graham Kings, and will run at Dorset County Museum from 13th October 2014 to 18th April 2015.

The award-winning Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.00am to 5.00pm until the end of October when it closes daily at 4.00pm.

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

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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Jurassic Coast Champion at Dorset County Museum

Professor Denys Brunsden at the Pliosaur unveiling 8th July 2011

Professor Denys Brunsden at the Pliosaur unveiling 8th July 2011 © DCM

Professor Denys Brunsden OBE is a well-known geomorphologist specialising in landslides and coastal erosion.

As the first Chairman of the Dorset Coast Forum he proposed the Jurassic Coast for World Heritage Site status and worked tirelessly with other experts to achieve a successful outcome. In 2010 he was awarded a prize by the Geological Society for his work on the project. Professor Brunsden also wrote the very popular “Official Guide to the Jurassic Coast: A Walk Through Time”.

As part of the Museum’s Geology lecture series, Denys Brunsden, who is also Emeritus Professor of King’s College, London, will give the first talk of 2014 entitled Tales of the Deep. He will discuss the use of modern imaging techniques to map and visualise the sea floor in order to understand deep sea processes and hazards.

This lavishly illustrated lecture takes place at Dorset County Museum at 7.00pm on Wednesday 8th January 2014. Entry is FREE and the doors are open from 6.30pm. A donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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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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