Sep 172014

In the USA, today is Constitution Day, commemorating the signing of the constitution on 17 September 1787. The document was drawn up by the Constitutional Convention, an assembly of delegates from 12 of the 13 states of the USA (all except for Rhode Island) and bore 39 signatures, including that of George Washington, the first president of the USA. It defined the powers of the central government and the role of the states. US CONSTITUTION

Some conflict arose with regard to the representation of individual states, which varied greatly in size, within the national legislature. The larger states wanted representation proportional to size – unsurprisingly – and the smaller states wanted equal representation for all. A compromise was reached whereby states were represented proportionally in the lower chamber of Congress and by two senators per state in the upper chamber (the Senate).

The constitution was adopted in 1789 and gained its first ten amendments in 1791 with amendments added at irregular intervals, including national women’s suffrage in 1920.

In 1952, Constitution Day was amalgamated with I am an American Day and renamed Citizenship Day. It is a day devoted to study of the constitution in schools and to general discussion and recognition of the privileges and responsibilities of being a US citizen.

Wall Street resumed trading on Citizenship Day in 2001, after a six-day shutdown following the 11 September attacks.

Sep 162014

Away from the trials and tribulations of recent events, this week we have decided to look into some unusual regional words, located in research documents of yesteryear, to try to find out their meaning. All real words and, where possible, we have referenced them to location and also provided a ‘translation’!

Firstly, hotagoe which appears to be used as a verb. A Glossary of the Provincialisms in Use in the County of Sussex by William Durrant Cooper, provides a definition: 


Meaning literally ‘to speak quickly or babble‘, I am not sure this is a word which would pop up in common parlance nowadays, even in Sussex but do correct me if I am wrong!

And then we found bowssen - an odd word from the West Country, most commonly used in Cornwall. Documents make reference to ‘… many bowssening places for curing madmen …’ with definitions relating to immersion or ducking of an insane person in a holy well in the hope of ‘curing them’. The Western Morning News on 6 May 1938 stated in their quiz entitled ‘Do You Know the West?’ that the sudden immersion in water took place at St Nun’s Well, Altarnun.

Finally, we found the word peever which appeared to relate to some kind of children’s game of some sort, involving stones and it transpires that it is what the Scots call hopscotch - a game in which a child tosses a stone into an area drawn on the ground and then hops through it and back to regain the stone. Is this one of many steps towards independence? Speaking a different language…..? Hmmm….

Sep 152014

Together with several others built to the same design, the Rocket - a steam locomotive produced by George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son, Robert (1803-1859) – took part in the opening ceremony of the Liverpool and Manchester railway on 15 September 1830. The Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel and William Huskisson (a former government minister and MP for Liverpool) were among the distinguished guests invited to travel on the inaugural journey.

The procession was led by the Northumbrian, pulling the carriage in which Wellington and Peel were seated; the remaining locomotives and their carriages followed on the other line. At about seventeen miles from Liverpool, the trains stopped for water and a few passengers disembarked, one of whom was Huskisson who crossed the track to speak to the Duke of Wellington. Shortly afterwards, the Rocket passed at speed alongside Huskisson and, unable to escape in time, he sustained serious leg injuries. The procession continued to Manchester in subdued mood and Huskisson died later that day.

Although the railway line is no longer in use, a memorial plaque marks the location of the accident (see below from Disused Stations Site Record):


And a monument at Chichester Cathedral provides a vivid account of Huskisson’s life and the respect and admiration his colleagues had for him:


Sep 142014

Imagine my delight when I discovered a Baker line in my ancestry and to make it even better, Sarah Alice Baker was born of Thomas Baker and his wife, Rebecca, who was Gray before marriage. Two surnames which strike fear into the heart of any family historian!

The 1851 census for North Sway showed my great-great-great-grandmother, Sarah Alice (referred to as just Sarah), aged 14 and born in Eling, Hampshire. With an older brother, Thomas and a younger sister, Augusta and younger brother, James, Sarah’s father is noted as being aged 55, a butcher, born in Semley, Wiltshire. At Asherbridge, Eling in 1841 [HO107/399/9/54/2], the census simply states that Thomas was an inn keeper ‘not born in the county’. His eldest daughter, Lavinia, was still living at home, though not evident in the 1851 census.


Strangely, Mary Lavinia was baptised twice – once in Eling on 6 August 1830 and also in Donhead St Mary, Wiltshire on 26 December 1831, possibly on a return visit to the Baker family for Christmas?

Thomas married Rebecca Gray in Eling on 26 August 1823. Rebecca was an only child as far as I can make out, the daughter of Richard and Susannah (nee Forrester) Gray, baptised 14 December 1800 having been born just over a month earlier on 12 November.

Thomas appears to change his occupation more times than I have had hot dinners this week – poulterer, inn keeper, butcher, cattle dealer … the list goes on and no two records give the same occupation! Although it is unclear when he moved from Semley/Tisbury/Donhead area in Wiltshire, he settled in the New Forest in the 1820s and remained there until his decease at the age of 62. He is buried in St Lukes Sway.

But why did he move ‘so far’ in the 1820s? Semley to Eling is nearly 50 miles on today’s roads and would have been a vast distance to travel in the early nineteenth century.

I guess I should be grateful that I have one ancestral line to trace in the county I now live in, though I do wish the Bakers were slightly more inventive with their names – Thomas, son of Thomas, who had a son called Thomas….

Sep 132014

Taking some time out of the office, a visit to Poole and Sandbanks, I was almost so relaxed that I forgot to blog today…. good heavens! But sand between the toes and a tasty fish and chips on the Quay later, here I am!

Poole Harbour is a large natural harbour in Dorset, with the town of Poole on its shores. The harbour is actually extremely shallow, with one main dredged channel through the harbour, from the mouth to Holes Bay. It has an area of approximately 14 square miles (36 square kilometres) and is claimed to be the largest natural harbour in Europe. Contrary to some claims, it is not the largest natural harbour in the world though, as the Kaipara Harbour in New Zealand is 366 square miles (947  square kilometres) and San Francisco Bay in California is 400 square miles (1,040 square kilometres) – both significantly larger.

millionaire_rowA small peninsula, Sandbanks, crosses the mouth of Poole Harbour. It was once offered for sale by the Guest family, who owned it, for £200. There were no takers and the tiny slip of land, connected to the mainland by a sandy beach and isthmian road, was little more than a shantytown until the sixties, with residents and summer holidaymakers inhabiting converted railway carriages, often with no water or drainage.

Now, the story is very different. It is well known for the highly regarded Sandbanks Beach and property value; Sandbanks has, by area, the fourth highest land value in the world. The Sandbanks and Canford Cliffs Coastline area has been dubbed as ‘Britain’s Palm Beach’ by the national media and the main road (Panorama Road) is known as Millionaire’s Row. In 2005, a shabby bungalow in need of attention sold for three million pounds.

As well as being the home to one of the most highly-awarded and popular beaches in the United Kingdom, the peninsula is also home to the Royal Motor Yacht Club, an exclusive affair that boasts the Duke of Edinburgh as its Admiral and counts Lord Mountbatten, the Duke of Westminster, the Marquis of Camden and the Marquis of Milford Haven among its members, together with Fox and Cadbury, W. L. Stephenson (Woolworths) and Lois de Rothschild.

The Sandbanks area of Poole harbour, known as North Haven Lake, is widely used for water sports and by light marine craft, and the peninsula is home to three hotels, one of which is the four-star Haven Hotel, home to Marconi in the late 1890s and the site of many of his experiments. Sandbanks was the third place in the world to boast a permanent wireless station.

Apart from its three miles of sandy beach – only a small amount of which has been trodden today – Sandbanks is known for being the gateway to the Isle of Purbeck because of the chain ferry that links it with Studland.

Lovely day out …. now back to work …. Hey, when I am a Rockstar, maybe I will be able to afford to live in a property on Sandbanks!

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