With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, why not head down to Dorset County Museum and discover Dorset’s own answer to Romeo and Juliet.

Cupid drawn by William BarnesIf you were asked to name great romance stories, you would not be alone in recalling tales of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. However, on our own Dorset doorstep, one of the most epic love stories took place which not so many people may be aware of. This is the real-life love story between William and Julia Barnes.

The story began one morning in March 1818 where a chance encounter led William Barnes to first set eyes on a young Julia Miles as she stepped down from her stagecoach outside the King’s Arms Hotel in Dorchester. At which point he was described as being smitten immediately and even ‘involuntarily muttering to himself “that shall be my wife” (Chedzoy, 2010: 27). Their courtship was one worthy of any Shakespeare play or Hollywood movie script. Their love was forbidden by Julia’s disapproving father so the couple were forced to express their feelings in a series of intense love letters.

Shown below are two authentic examples of the handwritten letters from William to Julia.

William Banes Love letter

This letter c. 1820, points out the difficulty for the couple to have a conversation face-to-face. However, this obstacle does not stop the love-struck William from attempting to entice Julia into ‘granting him the happiness’ of attending a concert with him.

William Banes Love letter

This letter divulges William’s attempts to arrange an ‘accidental’ meeting with Julia. This highlight the need to keep their courtship a secret because it was strictly forbidden. It is this forbidden love and the couple’s determination to follow what their hearts desired which is so reminiscent of Shakespeare’s famous ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story. William and Julia both use phrases such as, ‘Yours devotedly’ and ‘Yours faithfully’ to end nearly all of their communications, showing the deepness of the star-crossed lovers’ feelings for one another.

This exchange of letters and series of ‘accidental’ meetings continued over an incredible nine years. (A time span not many modern men would have the patience to withstand nowadays!) Until, they finally married in 1827. So whatever romantic plans you have for your Valentine this February, be sure to remember true love can last much longer than one lifetime.

These love letters make up a small part of the extensive collection held by Dorset County Museum on the life of William Barnes. The Barnes’ gallery is due to undergo an extensive redevelopment where Barnes’ love life, poetry and achievements are to take a more prominent place. The refurbished gallery is expected to be opened in August 2015. For more on the lives and love story of William and Julia Barnes please visit Dorset County Museum.

To find out more information about Dorset County Museum’s Barnes collection or to plan your next trip to the museum, please visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Gabriella Crouch

Further reading:

  • Chedzoy, A. (2011), The People’s Poet: William Barnes of Dorset. The History Press: Gloucestershire.
  • Lindgreen, C. H. (ed.) (1986), The Love Poems and Letters of William Barnes and Julia Miles. Dorset Record Society: Dorset.

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Museum fundraising event great success

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes Collection presenting a cheque for £3000 to Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum.

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes Collection presenting a cheque for £3000 to Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum.

Staff and volunteers at Dorset County Museum are thrilled with the success of a fundraising fair held in Dorchester on 30th August.

A total of £600 was raised by the event through many home and produce stalls, children’s activities and refreshments plus a raffle and tombola. The funds were supplemented at the end of the day by a surprise donation of £3000 made anonymously. This generous donation will enable the Museum to secure an important portrait for the William Barnes Gallery – a painting of Giles Dugdale. Dugdale was a founding member of the Museum and played a crucial role in bringing the literary genius of William Barnes, Dorset’s greatest dialect poet, to light. The Museum had already received £500 from the William Barnes Society towards the purchase of the portrait. The balance of the money raised will be put towards the refurbishment of the William Barnes gallery in the Museum.

William Barnes Collection Manager, Marion Tait with Dorchester Town Crier, Alistair Chisholm who opened the fair

William Barnes Collection Manager, Marion Tait with Dorchester Town Crier, Alistair Chisholm who opened the fair

Town Crier Alistair Chisholm opened the proceedings at St Peter’s Church hall and read a poem especially written for the day. Dorset folk musician and storyteller Tim Laycock performed a range of Dorset songs to a highly appreciative audience.

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes collection at the Museum organised the event together with Museum Trustee, Liz Arkell. Thanks also go to other members of the Museum, the William Barnes Society, St Peter’s church choir and the many friends and local businesses whose time and support made the event such a great success.

 

 

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Museum runs literary fundraising event

Rev. William Barnes © DCM

Rev. William Barnes © DCM

Dorset County Museum will be running a fundraising event on 30th August 2014. The event will take place between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm at St Peter’s Church hall, High West Street, Dorchester. Stalls will include home-made produce and preserves, books and bric-a-brac, a raffle and tombola and children’s clothes and toys. Refreshments will be available and there will be plenty of activities for children.

Between 11.00 am and 12.00 pm Tim Laycock, well-known folk musician, actor and storyteller will be performing Dorset music and songs.

The event will help the Museum update the William Barnes Gallery which is dedicated to Dorset’s greatest dialect poet. Some of the money will also be put towards the purchase of a portrait of Giles Dugdale – an author and previous member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society which runs the Museum. The portrait, together with a collection of manuscripts, books and cuttings relating to William Barnes, are part of a private family collection and are being sold for £3,000.

Giles Dugdale

Giles Dugdale, Oil on canvas, 1923. Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn RA (1870-1951)

“Giles Dugdale played a key role in bringing the literary genius of William Barnes, Dorset’s greatest dialect poet, to light,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “He was also co-founder of the Museum and therefore his portrait is an important part of our Dorset heritage.”

The William Barnes Society has already donated £500 towards the purchase of the portrait. It is hoped that the fundraising event on 30th August will raise the rest of the funds needed to keep the portrait in its rightful place in Dorset County Museum.
For more information about the project, or to make a donation,please contact Jenny Cripps at the Museum on jenny@dorsetcountymuseum.org

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

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Dorset County Museum Runs Literary Fundraising Event

Giles Dugdale

Giles Dugdale, Oil on canvas, 1923. Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn RA (1870-1951)

Trustees and volunteers at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester are running a literary fundraising event on Saturday 30th August 2014.

The event is in aid of much needed refurbishment in the William Barnes Gallery – part of the Writers’ Dorset section of the Museum. A proportion of the money raised will also go towards the purchase of a portrait of Giles Dugdale – an author and previous member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society which runs the Museum. The portrait was painted in 1923 by Wilfred De Glehn, a distinguished British impressionist artist. This portrait, and accompanying collection of manuscripts, books and cuttings relating to William Barnes, are being offered to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society from a private family collection for £3,000.

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

“Giles Dugdale played a key role in bringing the literary genius of William Barnes, Dorset’s greatest dialect poet, to light,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “He was also co-founder of the Museum and therefore his portrait is an important part of our Dorset heritage.”

The William Barnes Society has already donated £500 towards the purchase of the portrait. It is hoped that the fundraising event on 30th August will raise the rest of the funds needed to keep the portrait in its rightful place in Dorset County Museum. The event will take place between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm at St Peter’s Church hall, High West Street, Dorchester on Saturday 30th August. Stalls will include home-made produce and preserves, books and bric-a-brac, and refreshments will be available. There will also be a number of activities for children. All are welcome.

For more information about the project, or to make a donation, please contact Jenny Cripps at the Museum on jenny@dorsetcountymuseum.org

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