A Dynasty of Shaftesbury Clockmakers, All Named Jasper Guy

In April Gold Hill Museum was delighted to receive the generous donation of an antique Shaftesbury-made longcase clock from Historical Society member Phil Proctor. Painted on the clock face above Shafsbury was, it was reasonable to assume, the name of the maker, Jasper Guy, though he might only have been the supplier. The installation of the clock on the first-floor landing, where it continues to keep good time, display the date, and strike the hours, prompted a surge of interest in the Guy family and clockmakers in Shaftesbury. The Pigot and Co. trade directory for 1830 lists five watchmakers: Frederick Belzoni of Bell Street; John Cole of Salisbury Street; Jasper Guy and Robert James, both of High Street; and Thomas Mansfield of Salisbury Street. If five seems a high number for a small rural town, Tribe and Whatmoor comment in Dorset Clocks and Clockmakers (1981) that clockmaking was strong and continuous in Shaftesbury … Surprisingly from the evidence so far of the known seventeenth-century lantern clocks, Shaftesbury and Sherborne were the homes of the earliest established makers.

In 1842 according to Pigot there were four watch and clockmakers: Frederick Belloni (sic) of High Street; Jasper Guy of Salisbury Street; William Guy of High Street; and Joseph Mansfield of Salisbury Street. This was not the same Jasper Guy as 1830, however, but probably his son. On 14 November 1831 the Salisbury and Winchester Journal reported: Died Wednesday last, after a short illness, deeply and deservedly lamented by all who knew him, Mr Jasper Guy, auctioneer etc of Shaftesbury aged 61 years. The sale of the deceased’s property in January 1832 included wheel and straight barometers, and eight-day and thirty-hour clocks and alarums.

Neither of these Jasper Guys can have been the maker of our clock. As Tribe and Whatmoor state: It was thought that the dials and movements of the painted-face or white-dial clocks were purchased ready-made from manufacturers, particularly in Birmingham. It is now known that the dials alone, already painted to order, would more often have been supplied from the specialist firms and the clockmaker (using some expertise) would have assembled a movement to go with the dialan 8-day movement, with certain mechanical complications [such as displaying the date] needed an additional plate (called a false-plate) between the dial and the movement. Very often the name of the factory which made the dial is cast into this iron false-plate.

Jonathan Betts is Vice Chairman of the Antiquarian Horological Society and a former Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers

Thanks to our President, we were fortunate enough to be able to call on the expertise of Jonathan Betts, who also advises the National Trust about their clocks. Jonathan inspected the false-plate and assigned a date of 1780 to our clock. This means that the maker, Jasper Guy, belongs to a previous generation, and was almost certainly father and grandfather to the Jasper Guys already mentioned. Our in-house genealogist, Linda Wilton, was able to clear up a lot of the confusion. (Linda hosts a Family History session at Gold Hill Museum on alternate Thursday mornings.) The first Jasper Guy was born in 1740 in Compton Valence, Dorset, and married Ann Elliot in Shaftesbury in 1768. He made our clock, using a bought-in painted face, and was buried in Shaftesbury in July 1801. Their son Jasper was born in 1771 and married Dorothy Hannen in 1804, dying in 1831. He still dealt in clocks but was widely respected as an auctioneer. The third Jasper Guy was born c.1808, married Jane Brockway in Cann in 1833, and seems to have moved to Beaminster by the time of the 1851 Census. An 1851 trade directory lists a Jasper Guy as a watch and clockmaker in Little Street, Beaminster. A fourth Jasper Guy was born in 1839 in Shaftesbury, but nobody of that name appears on a Dorset Census after 1851. The Central Somerset Gazette of August 1881 reported the theft at Somerton of one wood box, 7 pairs of spectacles, and 13 watch chains belonging to Jasper Guy an itinerant watch and clockmaker. A later report from March 1882 refers to an assault on Jasper Guy, a pedlar of Shaftesbury. It is tempting to assume that the fourth Jasper Guy took inherited family skills on the road and away from Dorset.

Hear donor Phil Proctor and Family History researcher Linda Wilton talk about the clock and Jasper Guy to Keri Jones on the Alfred Daily by clicking here

Historic School Photographs On Show During July and August

Forty years ago in 1983 three local secondary schools were merged into Shaftesbury Upper and King Alfred’s Middle Schools. A current temporary exhibition of photographs from the Gold Hill Museum archives provides snapshots of life at each: the Boys’ Grammar School, Christy’s School, and the Girls’ High School.

Prior to the 1944 Butler Education Act most students left school at the age of 14. The Butler Act established a clear division at the age of 11 between primary and secondary stages, with an entitlement to free secondary education for all, and raised the leaving age to 15, with the goal of raising it again to 16 as soon as was practicable (1972, as it turned out).

Shaftesbury Grammar School c.1915, before the addition of the Memorial Hall

The Grammar School was built in 1878 to accommodate 60 boys, including 14 boarders. Several headmasters seem to have been keen cricketers and School magazines regularly carried reports of matches and full scorecards. Unfortunately the earliest magazine in our archives dates from 1909 so we know nothing about the interesting-looking 1903 team above. The Grammar School was fee-paying and the accounts book includes an example of philanthropy in 1915 on the part of vinegar tycoon Mark Hanbury Beaufoy, who paid the tuition costs and educational expenses of a wartime Belgian refugee.

A great many Old Boys were killed during the 1914-18 War and the School was extended to include the Memorial Hall in 1923. Under the terms of the 1944 Act, the Grammar School became part of the state system as a voluntary-aided Church of England School. It still took boarders but now offered free places to local lads who passed the eleven-plus examination.

Christy’s School was intended to provide a more practical, co-educational secondary curriculum, vocational rather than academic. A photograph dated 1939 shows woodworking skills being taught in a workshop of The Council Senior School, later known as the Modern School and then Christy’s. A splendid aerial photograph of the Christy’s site, off Mampitts Road, behind Christy’s Lane and the present Royal Chase Hotel, shows a mixture of building styles. Raising the leaving age in 1944, plus a post-war baby boom, meant that extra school places had to be provided quickly. The immediate answer was HORSA – a Hutting Operation for the Raising of the School Leaving Age. HORSA classrooms were prefabricated, with walls made from concrete panels and corrugated iron roofs. They had a notional lifespan of 10 years, but one suspects that the huts on the Christy’s site were required to last a lot longer, like these examples from Machanhill near Larkhall.

The raising in 1944 of the School Leaving Age to 15 prompted the introduction of prefabricated classrooms with a planned lifespan of 10 years. Photo by Paul Nardone (2007)

By the time the present writer arrived in Shaftesbury in January 1988, the Christy’s site had been cleared of all traces of the School and McLeans were busy building the 98 houses of the Linden Park estate. Someone at Christy’s did, however, keep a detailed scrapbook of school life, which is preserved in our archives and will repay further study.

The Girls’ High School was based in the eighteenth century Grosvenor House off Bleke Street. In 1884 Miss Dunn began her forty-one year headship of the fee-paying Grosvenor House School, maintaining high standards of appearance and academic performance for boarders and day girls.

This handsome blue plaque outside the courtyard of Grosvenor House encapsulates the history of schools there from 1723 to 1983

Classrooms and netball court extended the footprint of the High School over much of the present long-stay car park, adjacent to Morrisons and Elite Garages. In 1944 the High School became a County maintained selective school, offering free places to girls successful in the eleven-plus. In March 1950 a science field trip to Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel made the pages of the national press when bad weather and a lack of boats meant that the party of 6 Sixth Formers and two teachers was marooned for three days. By 1983, according to a former student on p57 of Roger Guttridge’s book Shaftesbury Through Time, some floors in the High School were in such poor condition that pupils were told to “sit down and not move” for fear of something giving way.

This free temporary exhibition can be seen in the display cabinets outside the Museum Library until the end of August. If you have any information which will add to our knowledge of the contexts of the exhibition photographs, or school life in general, please get in touch with us. Contact – Gold Hill Museum

Architectural Oddities of Swanage Revealed to The S&DHS

25 members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society enjoyed glorious weather and expert leadership from Sir John Stuttard and Martin Cross during their visit to Swanage on Thursday 08 June. Many of the architectural curiosities they were shown came back from central London as ballast in the ships of John Mowlem and his nephew George Burt. In a previous lecture Sir John illustrated the massive growth in traffic of Purbeck and Portland stone from the Dorset coast to the Thames. The Lock-up behind the Town Hall was, however, a domestic response to a local problem of anti-social behaviour during the Napoleonic Wars.

The “House of Confinement” was five and a half by seven feet, and had no windows. It was moved to its present location behind the Town Hall when Swanage Church was rebuilt in 1860

The front façade of the Town Hall is altogether grander. Added to Crickmay’ s 1881 Victorian structure is the 1670 entrance porch of the Mercers’ Hall, designed in the wake of the 1666 Great Fire by a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren. This was recycled 200 years later by George Burt, at a time of street widening in Cheapside. Not everybody was impressed, particularly by the quality of the figures carved in Portland stone.

Statuary in the architrave of the front door from Mercers’ Hall. One critic described this as “positively dreadful. If ever a book comes to be written on How to murder Architecture, Swanage Town Hall should find a place therein”

A short distance up the High Street, George Burt built a spectacular mansion, Purbeck House, in the Scottish Baronial style made fashionable by Balmoral Castle. Though Burt was not keen on trespassers, as indicated in the inscription below, the present proprietors of the Purbeck House Hotel kindly allowed the party to stray into the grounds. Only a few of the gems to be found there can possibly be described in this blog.

Mowlem’s contract in 1874 to rebuild Billingsgate Fish Market was worth £100,000, enabling George Burt to finance the building of Purbeck House in 1875-76. It was designed by Weymouth architect G.R. Crickmay
This rustic stone arch was worked by George Burt and his brother in 1844 when first installed at Grosvenor Place, Hyde Park Corner. It was re-erected in the gardens of Purbeck House in 1883. The beard of Neptune / a river god has been trimmed by a lightning strike
Cast-iron columns from Billingsgate support the perimeter fence of a now-disused tennis court. One pillar is surmounted by the frames of antique tennis rackets, looking surprisingly modern

The informational part of a splendid tour finished appropriately at a high point in Prince Albert Gardens, where the Wellington Clock Tower, minus its clock, which never came to Swanage, could be seen from a distance. The clock tower had a short life of little more than 10 years in London, and was re-erected in the garden of another prosperous builder, Thomas Docwra. At a considerably greater distance: Old Harry Rocks and the modern high-rises of Bournemouth (below far left)

The memorial obelisk to Prince Albert (1862) originally stood at the entrance to the town. After years of decay and partial dismantlement, it was re-erected in Prince Albert Gardens in 2022

All successful summer outings conclude, as this one did, with a Dorset Cream Tea. Members could reflect on the privilege of having been shown a host of architectural features, missed by most visitors, but pinpointed by the meticulous preparation of our volunteer guides, Martin and Sir John, to whom we are indebted.


This City of London bollard stands at the rear of Swanage Town Hall

Museums Education Team Help Abbey Primary School Celebrate a Big Birthday

Claire Ryley and Penny-Jane Swift looked every inch Victorian schoolmistresses as they helped students and staff of Abbey Primary School re-create activities appropriate for 1873, the year of the School’s foundation. Claire writes:

In the morning Penny-Jane (with her Steps in Time hat on) taught country dancing to well over a hundred children, and then we taught embroidery and Dorset button-making, before the procession to Gold Hill and an all-school photo. This was followed by a dedication assembly and lastly tea, cake and maypole dancing back at school. It was a wonderful day and a tribute to the school, staff, children and parents who entered into the spirit of things with such enthusiasm.

Penny-Jane Swift and Claire Ryley of the joint Shaftesbury Museums Education Team, dressed for 1873

The crocodile along St James Street halted outside Chapel Cottage, where they heard recollections of the building’s previous social and educational uses from resident Colin Francis, a member of the S&DHS. Colin and other participants in the event can be heard here on The Alfred Daily.

The Forster Education Act of 1870 stimulated a surge in the building of schools. The Act laid down principles for the provision of elementary education for all Victorian schoolchildren between the ages of 5 and 12. It did not, however, make elementary school mandatory or free. So the parents of the first pupils of the St James National School, as it was then called, may well have had to pay weekly school pence for their children’s education. Attendance was made compulsory for pupils up to the age of 10 in 1880, and free in 1891.

Abbey Primary School, Shaftesbury, built as a National (Church of England) School in 1873 for 220 pupils. (Photo by Mike Faherty)

Kelly’s Directory of 1895 lists two National Schools in Shaftesbury, the other being on Bimport in premises now converted into the apartments of King Edward’s Court, and inspiration for a key episode in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. There were also the fee-paying Boys’ Grammar School (opened 1878) and Grosvenor House Girls’ High School (1884) – now an architects’ practice, adjacent to Bell Street Car Park. There would be Poor Law schooling for children living in the Alcester Workhouse. Kelly records the teachers at St James National School as Samuel Robert Fisher, master; Mrs Elizabeth Fisher, infants’ mistress; and John Thurlow, student master. John would in effect be an apprentice pupil-teacher.

There is much more about local Childhood and Schools on the Shaftesbury Remembers website. The services to schools offered by the volunteers of the joint Gold Hill and Shaftesbury Abbey Museums Education Team are described here.

One Week Left to View a Peach of an Exhibition

In September 1931 Doris Peach, youngest daughter of John and Susan Peach, married James Hillier. The Western Gazette reported After the ceremony there was a gathering of relatives and friends at the bride’s home and John Hillier, son of the groom, has kindly provided this photograph, taken in the garden of 59 / 61 High Street Shaftesbury. John Peach holds a cat while immediately to his left is his granddaughter Margaret Hussey, who in 1930 was Carnival Queen following in the family tradition of supporting fundraising activities for the local hospital. Margaret’s parents, Hilda (nee Peach) and Sidney Hussey stand on either side of her in the row behind. Immediately to John’s right is his daughter Margaret Rosina, one of the bridesmaids, and to her right the bride, Doris. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a gown of beige lace, with hemp straw hat to tone and carried a bouquet of pink roses. On the bride’s right is her husband, and on his right his sister, Mary Hillier, also a bridesmaid. The bridesmaids wore dresses of Provence blue lace, with Baku straw hats, and carried bouquets of pink carnations.

All three of John’s daughters were active in the St John Ambulance Brigade, the members of which formed a guard of honour at the church. The public-spirited nature of the family’s extraordinary contribution to life in Shaftesbury is captured in this free temporary exhibition which runs until the end of the month. Many of the documents must then be given a rest from prolonged exposure to light. The “Shaftesbury” locomotive name-plate, donated to the town by James Hillier in 1964 after a long and successful career in railway engineering, remains on permanent display in Room 3.

Who Let The Bloodhounds Out? William Beckford Apparently

Bridport-based artist Jules Cross has very kindly donated his latest creation, a striking and atmospheric oil painting of Fonthill Abbey by moonlight, to Gold Hill Museum. This follows his generous gift of valuable first edition guides to Fonthill Abbey published by Shaftesbury printer John Rutter and his competitor John Britton. Their rivalry features in our free Fonthill Fever Exhibition, curated by Beckford Society Secretary Sidney Blackmore, and retained for a second and final season to coincide with the bicentenary of the second sale in September 1823.

Though Jules has lived in Bridport since 2005, exhibiting a series of paintings of Bridport shops and shoppers, he acquired a special interest in William Beckford while resident in Hindon. His 2023 work is entitled An Intruder at Fonthill – Evading Mr Beckford’s Bloodhounds. It was inspired by a story told by the renowned Victorian painter William Powell Frith (1819-1909) in his Autobiography and Reminiscences published in 1887. Frith was famous for panoramic scenes such as The Derby Day and The Railway Station (Paddington), and for portraits of fictional characters from literature. He is unlikely to have ever seen Fonthill Abbey as the structure collapsed in 1825, when he can have been no more than six years old. The story may therefore be fiction too.

A curious visitor finds the gate in the formidable wall encircling the Fonthill estate unattended. He wanders inside and encounters a man he takes to be a gardener, who provides a detailed tour of the gardens. An invitation is then extended to view the interior of the house and its art treasures. When the visitor worries that the owner might object, his host replies: I don’t think Mr Beckford will mind what I do. You see, I have known him all my life, and he lets me do pretty well what I like here.

The internal tour is followed by a magnificent dinner, served on massive plate – the wines of the rarest vintage. Rarer still was Mr Beckford’s conversation, for the host had revealed his identity. The guest dozes off in an easy chair, to be woken by a footman who says: Mr Beckford ordered me to present his compliments to you, sir, and I am to say that as you found your way into Fonthill Abbey without any assistance, you may find your way out again as best you can: and he hopes you will take care to avoid the bloodhounds that are let loose in the gardens every night.

Jules’s painting captures the surreal nature of this story, with a fugitive making off from the tree where he has spent an uncomfortable night, in the lower right corner. We are grateful too for Jules’s donation of prints of contemporary landscape engravings. It is planned to hang his picture in Room 8 when the promised new display cases have been delivered and assembled.

Fonthill Old Abbey with modern house
Remnant of Fonthill Old Abbey with modern house

Old Fonthill Abbey Grounds are open for charity 10.00-5.00 on Sunday 14 May 2023, entry at SP3 6SP on the Hindon Newtown lane.

The Two Coronations of the Previous King Charles

On 01 January 1651 the 20-year-old Charles II was crowned King of Scotland at Scone Palace in Perthshire. It was not an enjoyable experience, and Charles chose never again to return to Scotland. His father had been beheaded in Whitehall two years earlier, and to gain the support of the presbyterian Scots in the Civil War, Charles had been obliged to swear to uphold the Solemn League and Covenant. This committed him to abolishing the rule of bishops in the Church of England, a pledge which we knew, from clear and demonstrable reasons, that he hated in his heart … our sin was more than his. (Scots Commissioner Alexander Jaffray.)

The ancient ‘Honours of Scotland’ – a crown, sceptre and sword of state – were smuggled out of Edinburgh Castle for the ceremony. They were later wrapped in seaweed and buried at Kinneff Church to keep them out of the hands of the English. The Stone of Scone had already been looted 350 years earlier by Edward I, ‘Hammer of the Scots’.

Traditionally used at coronations, the Stone of Scone was taken from Scotland in 1296 and returned to Edinburgh Castle in 1996. It arrived at Westminster Abbey for the 2023 coronation on 29 April.

During the ceremony Charles was subjected to a harangue from Robert Douglas about the need to avoid the sins of former kings [which] made this a tottering crown … [otherwise] all the well-wishers to a king in the three kingdoms, will not be able to hold on the crown, and keep it from tottering, yea from falling … [Should Charles disregard the Covenant, his subjects] may and ought to resist by arms.

With friends like this, it is no surprise that Charles headed in the opposite direction from Scotland after defeat at the battle of Worcester. He escaped to France and became increasingly despondent as Providence seemed to favour Oliver Cromwell, who had never lost a land battle. However, there was no agreement as to exactly what form of republican government should replace the monarchy, and when the Lord Protector died in 1658 there was only the inadequate rule of his third son Richard (‘Tumbledown Dick’), who lacked his father’s charisma, or influence with the New Model Army.

Charles II returned from exile in May 1660. He was the last British monarch to have two coronations, the second being deliberately planned for 23 April 1661, St George’s Day. He was also the last to revive the old tradition of the Coronation Eve cavalcade, carrying the monarch from the Tower to Westminster. He was acutely aware of the importance of playing to English monarchical traditions, tying him to earlier glories like the magnificent processions of Elizabeth I, and the route was designed by John Ogilby as a visual parade of propaganda. (Jenny Uglow, ‘A Gambling Man’ p115)

The aldermen and livery companies of the City of London paid a huge sum, £10,000, for four triumphal arches a hundred feet high. Each symbolised an anticipated benefit of Charles’s reign, and long pageants were staged at each one. The following morning Samuel Pepys, the diarist and Secretary to the Navy Board, was up at 4a.m. to take his seat in a great scaffold across the north end of the abby – where with a great deal of patience I sat from past 4 till 11 before the King came in. And after all had placed themselfs – there was a sermon and the service. This time the sermon was a deal more sympathetic, drawing parallels between Charles and Christ as each sought to build a kingdom after a period in the wilderness.

Sample (above) of Pepys’s handwriting in 1700. He kept his Diary in code, and stopped writing it in 1669

And then in the Quire at the high altar … all the ceremonies of the Coronacion – which to my very great grief, I and most in the Abbey could not see. These would have included investing the king with brand new coronation regalia, which had been purposely melted down during the Cromwellian era. The goldsmith, Sir Robert Vyner, re-created the royal crown of St Edward the Confessor (above), sceptre, orb and sword at a cost of £30,000. Pepys would also have been unable to see the anointing with holy oil, perhaps because the Barons of the Cinque Ports were holding a cloth of gold above the king. Both Charles and his subjects attached considerable importance to this part of the ceremony. In the next 25 years Charles exercised his assumed curative powers by touching 100,000 individuals for the ‘king’s evil’, or scrofula, a tubercular disease. There was an unseemly spat between the Barons and footmen of the royal household as they disputed ownership of souvenir pieces of the canopy. By this time Pepys was bursting and slipped outside to relieve himself. At Westminster Hall he saw the opening courses of the ceremonial banquet delivered to high table by nobles on horseback. His personal celebrations continued with copious drinking, and its consequences. Now after all this, I can say that besides the pleasure of the sight of these glorious things, I may now shut my eyes against any other objects, or for the future trouble myself to see things of state and shewe, as being sure never to see the like again in this world.
24 April. Waked in the morning with my head in a sad taking through the last night’s drink, which I am very sorry for.

Part of Temporary Display in Room 8 explaining Coronation Regalia and the story of past Coronations

Join the Historic Byzant Ceremony on Monday 08 May 11.00

The Byzant is unique to Shaftesbury, though it resembles May Garlands carried in festivities elsewhere. As inhabitants of a hilltop town, Shastonians were long dependent on water carted up the hill from springs at its foot in Enmore Green. Some householders had – and still have – their own wells, but most would have bought their supply from a water-carrier. A great deal of beer would also have been consumed in preference to potentially impure water. The right to draw this water required ceremonial payment of an annual tribute to the Lord of the Manor of Gillingham, first mentioned in a document of 1364. On the Sunday before Ascension Day, the Mayor of Shaftesbury walked in procession down to the wells to deliver bread, a calf’s head, a cask of ale, and a pair of gloves. (Shown in Janet Swiss’s mural in Gold Hill Museum, above).

The Byzant was also handed over and then immediately returned. The origin of the name is uncertain, but a legal document of 1662 requires that a staffe or prize besome be carried. In discussing possible derivations of the name, Gordon Ewart-Dean comments that a Harry Potter broomstick makes a good base to posh up with ribbons, feathers, flowers and a few trinkets. The trinkets may have been rather more expensive plate and jewels, loaned for the event by local worthies, as the Corporation’s accounts for 1708 include two shillings paid for watching ye bezant. Other expenses at the time included new clothes for the most recently married couple in the borough, who were appointed Lord & Lady for the day. No doubt there was a festival atmosphere, with much music, dancing, dining, and drinking. The Mayor and the twelve Capital Burgesses (co-opted rather than elected) always treated themselves to a private banquet. In 1771 this cost £54.11.0., when £17.11.0. was also spent on a new Byzant. It is a reasonable assumption that this was the gilded wooden Byzant (photo above by Alan Booth) saved by Lady Theodora Grosvenor, given to the town, and now on display in the museum. In 1830 the still-unreformed Shaftesbury Corporation decided to abolish the ceremony to save money, and the last Byzant became a relic of a lost tradition, revived again this year to coincide with King Charles III’s coronation. There was a re-enactment in 2019 before the pandemic.

You are invited to join the Byzant Procession, gathering outside the Town Hall from 10.45a.m. for an 11.00a.m. start. Vaguely medieval or Tudor costume welcome, but not compulsory. You can choose a costume to hire from a selection at the museum. On the day, look out for the seven silver pennies!

Further details of the event from Elaine Barratt at chairman@goldhillmuseum.org.uk

It’s a Peach of an Exhibition

For the new season beginning 01 April 2023 Gold Hill Museum offers an intriguing temporary exhibition on the contribution to the Shaftesbury community of the Peach family. John T Peach (1866-1941) was the eldest son of Walter (1832-1901) and in the coronation year 1902 he and his family were living “above the shop” at 61 High Street, Shaftesbury, where John ran a thriving hairdressing and tobacconist’s business. Edward VII should have been crowned king in June 1902, but underwent emergency surgery for acute appendicitis two days before the ceremony, which was postponed until 09 August. The patriotic decoration of the shop exterior (above) seems appropriate for a coronation, and the photograph has traditionally been assigned to 1902. However, the present writer thinks (and it’s only his opinion) that the photograph was probably taken in October 1899 when Edward made a flying royal visit to Shaftesbury as Prince of Wales. The town had geared itself up for a royal spectacular, with a temporary grandstand built in the High Street outside the Town Hall, and a competition for the best celebratory bunting. In the event, the Prince changed his plans and didn’t even step down from his carriage. More of a Pit Stop than a Royal Visit – Gold Hill Museum

Two of John’s daughters, Hilda (1890-1964) and Margaret Rosina (1892-1978) are visible in the shop doorway, together with two of his brothers, William (1875-1936) and Sidney (1877-1947). Sidney married Flora Cooper in 1901 and moved to Newbury in Gillingham (Dorset), where he too set up as a hairdresser and tobacconist. This tends to confirm that the photograph is from 1899 rather than 1902 (if one of the young men is Sidney.) Sidney’s story can be consulted in a folder alongside the exhibition kindly provided by David Lloyd of Gillingham Local History Society. William also married in 1901, to Elizabeth England, but remained in Shaftesbury working in his brother’s shop. John had moved to the larger premises at 61 (later also incorporating 59) High Street in 1896, from 09 Salisbury Street. The year before his move, he had been left with the only unfrozen water tap in Shaftesbury during the big freeze of February and March 1895.

The Great Freeze of February 1895
The Great Freeze of February 1895. John Peach gave fellow townsfolk free access to the only unfrozen water supply in Shaftesbury. His daughters and brothers are almost certainly in this photograph too

Archive volunteer and exhibition curator Heather Blake has found a tangible expression of Shastonians’ gratitude to John Peach for his 1895 altruism, in the shape of a brass plaque. John refused to accept any monetary reward, so the proceeds of a collection went towards the provision of a public bench (now gone) in Boyne Mead.

John Peach supplied free water to fellow townsfolk during the big freeze of 1895

A third daughter, Doris Blanche, was born to John and Susan (nee Davis) Peach in 1902. All three daughters became energetic supporters of the St John Ambulance Brigade and Shaftesbury Carnival, which was a major source of funding for the local Westminster Memorial Hospital in pre-NHS days. John formed the Shaftesbury Hospital League as another means of assisting health care. Hilda’s husband, Sidney Hussey, dealt in coal, corn and general merchandise at 58 High Street, where the St John Ambulance was parked in a yard at the rear of the premises. At Doris’s wedding in 1931, St John Ambulance members formed a guard of honour, having the previous evening given the bride-to-be a handsome oak clock. Her husband, James Hillier, rose to be a regional manager in British Railways engineering. In 1964 he salvaged one of the name-plates from the recently-scrapped steam locomotive “Shaftesbury” and presented it to the town.

Name-plate of 'West Country' class locomotive 34035 'Shaftesbury', scrapped in 1963. On loan from the Town Council, to whom it was presented in 1964 by Mr J.T. Hillier
‘West Country’ class 34035 ‘Shaftesbury’ locomotive name-plate, presented to the town by Mr J.T. Hillier in 1964. On show at Gold Hill Museum in Room 3

The Peach business expanded to include ladies’ hairdressing and the sale of confectionery. The 1935 Kelly’s Directory lists Peach, Jn. Thos. Tobacconist, 61 High St, and Peach, Miss Margaret Rosina, confectioner, 59 High St. John held a policy from the Shaftesbury Plate Glass Mutual Insurance Society, becoming a director of the Society, and keeping its Minute Book in an immaculate hand, as shown in the exhibition. After her father’s death in 1941, Margaret Rosina continued to manage the Peach enterprise.

The heading for this Peach of an Exhibition is “Shopkeepers Who Made A Difference.” Heather has assembled a fascinating variety of artefacts, documents, and photographs, with invaluable help from descendants of John Peach. You can see this display on the first-floor landing outside the Museum Library and Lift. Keep going to the far side of Room 4 Life in the Town. As with all our exhibitions, it’s free.


Invoice for cigars supplied by J.T. Peach dated February 1906. Note the cut-throat razor

Escape or Die 1651 – Charles II the Most Wanted Man

On 03 September 1651 the mainly Scottish army of the 21 year-old Charles II was defeated at Worcester. The young king, whose father Charles I had been executed in 1649, was now the most wanted man in England, with a £1000 price tag on his head. He spent the daylight hours of 06 September hiding in the branches of the original Royal Oak at Boscobel, while Parliamentary troopers searched for him below. On Tuesday 04 April at 2.30pm at Gold Hill Museum Paul Cordle tells the gripping story of Charles’s haphazard flight after the battle, which, full of near-misses and narrow squeaks, brought him through south Somerset, west Dorset, and south Wiltshire. After six weeks of living on his nerves and thinking on his feet, Charles finally found a boat to France at Shoreham in West Sussex. Paul’s illustrated talk is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society and open to members of the public on payment of £3 at the door.

Charles had no preconceived escape plan. He had no intention of following a beaten army back to Scotland, and thought his best chance of survival lay in the fewest people being aware of his presence and intentions. The only senior Royalist who stayed with him, Henry Viscount Wilmot, was something of a liability, in that he insisted on riding everywhere and declined to change his appearance. As Charles told Samuel Pepys in 1680, I tooke care not to keepe (Wilmot) with me, but sent him a little before or left to come after me.

By the time Charles took refuge in the Royal Oak, his hair had been cut short, his face and hands stained dark, and his clothes dumped for a Country-Fellowes habbit, with a pair of ordinary grey Cloath Britches, a Leathern Dublett and a greene Jerkin. He did not look like his 1653 portrait (above), painted during his exile in France. Nevertheless, he was in constant danger of being recognised – not least because of his height (“over two yards high”) – and he had to use his wits to persuade the suspicious that they had met him in other, plausible circumstances. Some of the best advice and practical assistance came from Catholic Royalists. They were accustomed to being careful what they said, and the more affluent had built concealed priest holes into their houses. But anyone who helped the fugitive king was putting life and property at risk.

Boscobel House, Shropshire, contained hiding places, and was surrounded by dense woodland, including the Royal Oak

A brief foray on foot revealed that crossing the River Severn into Wales was too dangerous a proposition. The opportunity arose for Charles to masquerade as Will Jackson, servant to Mrs Jane Lane, who already had a pass to visit her pregnant friend Mrs Norton at Abbots Leigh near Bristol. Jane rode pillion to the king, and again when they moved on to Colonel Francis Wyndham’s house at Trent in Dorset, once they had learned that there would be no ships leaving Bristol for France for a month.

In all Charles spent 19 days at Trent, where he may have felt safer after the maid of the House (who knew me) told me that there was a Rogue a Trooper come out of Cromwell’s Army that was telling the people that he had killed me, and that was my Buffe-Coate which he had then on. Upon which most of the Villiage being Fanatiks, they were ringing the Bells and making a Bone-Fyer for joy of it.

‘Will Jackson’ had a new pillion passenger, Mrs Juliana Coningsby, when as part of a pretend runaway marriage party they rode to Charmouth to await a summons to a ship in Lyme. They were let down and returned to Trent via Bridport, where they Rodd directly into the best Inn of the place and found the Yard very full of soldiers. I alighted, and taking the Horses thought it the best way to goe blundering in among them, and lead them through the middle of the Soldiers into the Stable, Which I did and they were very angry with me for my rudeness. And as the Ostler was helping me to feed the Horses, Sure, Sir (Sayes the Ostler) I know your face. Which was noe very pleasant Question to me. The king was able to convince the Ostler that their paths had crossed in Exeter, where Charles said that he had been servant to a merchant, Mr Potter, whom he knew to exist.

A monument stone to the north of Bridport, indicating where Charles took a lucky turning to Broadwindsor. The posse galloped straight on.

On 06 October the king, still playing the role of Will Jackson, carried Mrs Coningsby from Trent to Heale House near Salisbury, via Wincanton and the George Inn at Mere. As this is a journey of at least 43 miles there would need to be breaks for food and perhaps a change of horses.

On 06 October 1651 the fugitive Charles II, in the guise of manservant Will Jackson, stopped at the George Inn, Mere. The truncated remains of stone steps embedded in an internal wall may have led to his upstairs hideaway.
Alternatively, as Charles seemed to favour hiding in plain sight, perhaps he warmed himself by this fireplace in the George Inn.

The following day, for the benefit of any prying eyes, he rode off as far as Stonehenge, and returned to Heale at night. After five days in hiding, he headed for Shoreham, where the captain of a collier bound for Poole had agreed to a diversion to allow two impecunious merchants to collect a debt in France. On 16 October Charles and Wilmot disembarked at Fecamp in Normandy.

The Monarch’s Way is a long-distance footpath through 15 counties replicating Charles’s 625 mile trek from Worcester to Shoreham

England’s brief flirtation with Republicanism ended in 1660. Some years after the Restoration Charles said to his heir, the future James II: Brother, I am too old to go again to my travels. James failed to take the hint and was deposed in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688.