The Frescoes of Allemans du Dropt Almost #WordlessWednesday

Deep in the countryside of south-west France is the village of Allemans on the bank of the River Dropt.  The inhabitants were invaded by a Germanic tribe in the sixth century, giving Allemans its name.  It is an attractive spot with half-timbered houses, narrow streets and a very unusual church.

The Church of St. Eutrope has been beautiful restored to reveal much of the late 15th century frescoes on its walls.  The Romanesque building dates from the 10th century commemorating St Eutrope, the Bishop of Saintes and 3rd century 

The frescoes, which were discovered in 1935, show in shocking detail, the Passion of Christ, the Last Judgement and Hell, but there is a feeling of calm in this whitewashed nave which includes bright 17th and 20th century stained glass windows.

Creation of a new town by the seaside at the beginning of the 20th century

Did your family move to another part of the country during the late 19th or early 20th century?  As the middle class increased in numbers and wealth, there were many professionals or tradesmen who could afford to give up their business in the cities and retire to a quieter place. Frequently they chose an expanding town by the seaside.

West Pier, Brighton 1905
Originally made popular in the mid-18th century when sea-bathing and drinking of its water were recommended as a cure-all, in Victorian times it was believed that the bracing sea air was ideal for those suffering from respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis as a result of living in smoke-filled cities.  In consequence, in Bournemouth an “Invalids’ Walk” was laid out, connecting the town centre to the pier, which still remains today.

My grandparents, who were both the youngest of their family, accompanied their parents to Bournemouth during their teens, on the retirement of their fathers.  Bournemouth had been a sparsely populated area until the 1840s when Augustus Granville included the new town in the next volume of his popular book on the Spas of England.  Once the railway was connected to the town in 1870, high quality villas and elegant hotels were built and the population rose from 1,707 in 1861 to 37,000 in 1891 and 60,000 by 1900.

The postcards of Bournemouth in my Grandmother’s collection, record that initially her mother rented a house in the town for several weeks before deciding that she and her youngest daughter should retire there after the sudden death of her husband in the busy wharfs of Rotherhithe where he had been a barge builder. My great grandmother continued to live with her youngest daughter for the rest of her life, even after her daughter’s marriage.

My grandmother continued to exchange postcards with her friends in Rotherhithe, showing the beautiful surroundings of Bournemouth but also missing her theatre visits in London.  However she enjoyed the musical house parties and church functions, where she met my grandfather who, while training as an architect at Bournemouth Municipal School of Art, was living with his father, retired Chief Constable of Kings Lynn.  Two years after they settled in Bournemouth my grandfather’s mother and sister died but a few years later his father married a widow whom he had met in the drawing rooms of Bournemouth.

There were in fact many opportunities for entertainment in the expanding town.  In 1885 a bandstand was opened on the pier, designed by Eugenius Birch, which had been completed five years earlier.  In the summer, military bands would perform concerts three times a day in the bandstand and as there were covered shelters they also performed twice a day in winter.  The Bournemouth Symphony orchestra was established in 1893 and was conducted on occasions by Elgar, Sibelius and Holst.

In Boscombe, which attracted the wealthiest residents and holidaymakers, during the early 1890s, terraces of shops, the Salisbury Hotel, the Royal Arcade, and the Grand Theatre were built.  The famous actor, Henry Irving brought his company to the Grand Theatre for three nights, performing four different plays which filled the auditorium.  The Grand Theatre was renamed the Boscombe Hippodrome after refitting with furnishings from His Majesty’s Theatre in London.  At this point its range of shows widened to include Music Hall entertainment.  An alternative venue was the Winter Gardens’ Theatre built in 1876.  Between the theatres it was possible to see Gilbert and Sullivan light operas, West End musical comedies and Drury Lane society dramas.

In 1865, John Sydenham, one of the proprietors of The Poole Herald, who had established the Royal Marine Library moved it to Pier Approach, Bournemouth. There were reading rooms containing newspapers and magazines and it was possible to borrow books for a small subscription. Refreshments, stationary and sheet music were also available.

On a more practical note, in February 1877 the Royal Boscombe Hospital opened in Shelley Road, initially with beds for 12 patients.  It was later renamed the Royal Victoria Hospital.  There was a Sanatorium for those with chest diseases and the first cemetery was established in Wimborne Road in 1877.  St Peter’s church was the first to be consecrated in 1845, but there were also religious services held in the Assembly Rooms.  Public meetings, political gatherings and parties were also held in the Assembly Rooms and in the adjoining Belle Vue Hotel, billiard tables could be found.

On the warm sunny days, Bournemouth provided plenty of open space and beautiful surroundings.  Fields had been leased to the Bournemouth Commissioners in the 1870s which were set out as Pleasure Gardens.  Wide promenades gave excellent views of the sandy beach and the avenues were lined with trees.  Before her death in June 1899, Lady Shelley, widow of Percy Shelley the son of the poet, had gifted four acres of land which were laid out to form Boscombe Cliff Gardens and by the turn of the century Boscombe Chine gardens had been planted.  At Dean Park a new cricket ground was established.
The pier was extended twice so that by 1909 it was 1000 ft. (over 300 m) long.  There was a landing stage for pleasure boats at the head of the pier while smaller craft landed on one side.  The "Bournemouth Queen," a paddle steamer, commenced excursions to Swanage in 1909.  On the other side of the pier there were many bathing machines, made popular by their use at Osborne house, Isle of Wight for the Royal family.  Kept at the water’s edge, they gave essential privacy to the bathers.  Bournemouth wished to be considered a respectable resort with no high jinks or unsuitable behaviour.

By 1910 the boundaries of Bournemouth had expanded to include six miles of sea frontage.  Originally recommended by Augustus Granville as, “a winter residence for the delicate constitutions requiring a warm and sheltered locality in winter,” it had become a large established resort for holidays, retirement and even a lifetime home for many people.  

My travelling Posts from 2017

This year I have wandered away from pure history to writing about places I have visited.  These are the ones I most enjoyed researching.

In August we spent a few days in Essex following up a branch of my family tree.
First we visited two small parish churches in the villages of Moreton and Matching and then the fascinating church in Great Dunmow.

Earlier in the year I remembered my regular childhood holidays in Scotland and our trips "Doon the Watter."

Old Craigendoran Pier

Of course in the 1950s this meant an overnight train journey

Helensburgh station

I have been visiting and sometimes working in London throughout my life so am always interested in how it has changed.

I looked for old pictures of the city in contrast to my photographs. Past met present

In July, while staying with friends in south west France we visited a night market.

And because I spent so much time in the Algarve this year, here are two posts about the town of Olhao and the Rio Formosa.

Rio Formosa
 Happy New Year.

Overseers of the Poor #ParishChest

St James the Less, Pangbourne, Berkshire

Recently I’ve been reading the Berkshire Parish Overseers’ Records. They give a comprehensive view of how the poor and needy were provided for at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th.  The Overseers were respectable men from the middle class selected annually to administer funds available for the poor in their parish.

When there was doubt if an individual came from your parish, Removal or Settlement Orders were made, so that each pauper was helped in their own parish, not a place they had moved to.  In 1816 when her husband was away in the army, Mary Warner was removed from the town of Reading to her home village of Pangbourne, since she would receive no money to support their family from his army pay until he returned home.

Earlier in 1798, one soldier whose wife had been allowed to accompany him, wrote home from the island of Jersey begging for assistance.

The Overseers needed to provide employment for orphans and needy children in their parish and the best solution was a 7 year apprenticeship.  Boys might be sent to a Master to learn skills such as carpentry, shoe-making or barge-building, but it might be husbandry (caring for animals and tilling the soil).  In most cases, girls were apprenticed to learn housewifery.

An apprenticeship established Settlement in a parish, which might explain why the Berkshire Overseers were eager to send their paupers to parishes on the outskirts of London, from where they were unlikely to return.

The other problem they had to deal with was bastardy.  Unmarried pregnant women should preferably be provided for by the man who was responsible.

What did they do with the Workhouse boys? #Navy #WorldWar

Training Ship Exmouth in 1905  
As the 19th century turned into the 20th Boards of Guardians all over England struggled to deal with the increasing number of young people in their charge.  They tried to move children out of the Workhouses into Cottage or Scattered Homes and from there, most of the girls went into service, but they were anxious to find employment for the boys which would keep them out of trouble.  One solution was a Sail Training Ship, a specialised kind of industrial school.  I have been researching the boys from Guildford who went to TS Exmouth at Grays in Essex.  They were only accepted if they were physically fit and the boys had to show willingness to undertake the training.  As this was a few years before the First World War, many of these young men were in the navy or merchant navy during that time.  This is the story of a few of them.

Percy Dewberry

Percy Dewberry was born in November 1900 at Stoke Hill Farm Cottage, Guildford, as his father was a cowman.  Later the family moved to West Molesey but Percy’s mother, Matilda died in 1907.  Unable to cope with his four youngest children, George put Percy into the care of the Guildford Board of Guardians and in 1912 they sent him to TS Exmouth.  He remained there until 1915 when he became a signal boy on a transport ship.  Later he worked as a deck hand on an oil tanker but in 1921 he moved in with his older brother William, due to unemployment. Sadly, a few months later, depressed by his lack of work, he tried to commit suicide using a razor and when that was taken from him, he hanged himself from a beam.

George Larner

Originally baptised Lewis Leonard George Larner at St John’s Church, Merrow in 1892, George was one of 9 surviving children of Thomas Larner, soldier and his wife Mary Jane.  Mary Jane struggled to cope while her husband was away in the army and in 1904, the four youngest were adopted by the Guildford Board of Guardians.  Rose and Violet were sent to Dr Barnardo’s Girls Village in Barkingside and thence to Canada under the British Home Children’s scheme.  George was sent to TS Exmouth while his brother went to the Gordon Boys’ school for necessitous boys.  In 1907, after a year’s naval training, George was sent to the Royal Marine School of Music in Eastney.  During the first world war, he was an army sergeant and in 1917 he died of wounds in Flanders.

Henry Algernon Leslie Longhurst

Harry Longhurst, born in the village of Shere in 1899, was taken into the care of the Guardians with his two younger brothers after the death of his father.  Edward and Charles Longhurst were put into the Scattered Home, Elsinore while Harry was sent to Newark Scattered Home in Recreation Road, Guildford.  He was sent to TS Exmouth in 1912, where he stayed until 1915.  On discharge he joined SS Needwood.  He survived World War One but in 1940, he was killed on board SS Ashcrest where he worked as a steward.   His name is listed on a memorial on Tower Hill in London.

Leonard John Norsworthy and Cecil E V Norsworthy

The members of one family were “scattered” in several homes by 1911.  They were the sons and daughters of Samuel Norsworthy.  Samuel had been a contractor’s carman living in Quarry Street, Guildford with his wife Annie and 7 children, until Annie died in childbirth in 1910.  We find Samuel residing in Guildford Union Workhouse in the 1911 census along with his 10 month old daughter Constance, while two of his children, 11 year old Annie and 4 year old Ernest William are next door in the Children’s Receiving Home.  Meanwhile 13 year old Leonard and 6 year old Henry Charles Norsworthy are down in the town at Elsinore Scattered Home in Springfield Road.  Nine year old Cecil Norsworthy was in another scattered home, Newark in Recreation Road.  The oldest two children are at work; Selina as a housemaid in Weybridge and Samuel Arthur working as a gardener on a fruit farm in Shalford. 

Cecil Edward Victor Norsworthy resided at TS Exmouth from 1913 until 1917.  He was selected by the Royal Navy to serve on HMS Impregnable and remained in the navy until 1928.  In 1930 he became a postman in Reading, Berkshire but in 1938 he rejoined the navy until invalided out in 1941.
Sadly, his elder brother’s life was much shorter.  Leonard John Norsworthy left TS Exmouth in 1913.  Initially joining HMS Powerful he later served on HMS Viknor as a telegraph boy, until he drowned when the vessel was lost in the Irish Sea in January 1915.  Leonard was only 17.  He is listed on two memorials, one in the castle grounds in Guildford, his home town and also on the Southsea Royal Naval Memorial to the Missing of World War Two.  The Viknor was assigned to the 10th cruiser squadron and was used to patrol the waters between Scotland and Iceland.  For unknown reasons the ship, which had been in wireless contact with shore, sank without ever sending a distress signal. Germany had recently mined the area and there was also a violent storm at the time. There were no survivors.

James Robert Sole

James Sole and his brother Thomas were orphans boarded out from the Workhouse to Annie Hart of Merrow who was married to a railway worker.  After being discharged from TS Exmouth in 1907 he joined the navy where he remained when war broke out.  He married Alice who also lived in Merrow, but in 1917 while manning the siege guns at Dunkerque he was killed by enemy fire for which he posthumously received the Distinguished Service Medal.

These are only a few of the boys who voluntarily endured the hardship at TS Exmouth, spending their days with bare feet and sleeping in hammocks in a very cold open area.

Records from
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Read about 2 happier boys at

Olhaõ in the Algarve

When we have visitors staying with us in the Algarve, we like to take them to Olhaõ, a fishing town where you can find ferries to take you across the Ria Formosa to the sandy beaches across the lagoon.  Driving in from the west, you first pass large piles of salt from the salt pans and then turn onto the long, wide esplanade, alongside the marina.  The tree lined walk is reminiscent of walks by the sea in the early 20th century.

During the French occupation of the Algarve by Napoleon’s soldiers, during the Peninsular Wars, a rebellion occurred in Olhaõ on 16 June 1808, resulting in the eventual expulsion of the French from Olhão and later the entire Algarve.

A month later, 17 fishermen set out for Brazil on a caique named Bom Sucesso, hoping to persuade the Portuguese Royal family to return to Portugal.  A replica of this vessel is moored up by the market buildings in  Olhaõ.

Bom Successo

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro


Walking through the narrow streets of Moorish style houses you soon reach the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, built in 1698, when it was the first stone building in Olhão.


A stork looking out of its nest

 There are many beautiful balconies in Olhao.


And several shabby, fascinating doors.