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Tuesday, 16 February 2021

The Elms & George III

The Elms (known in recent years as the White House) is a Grade II listed building, which Historic England dates to mid - late 19th Century.

According to the current owners, when local school groups pass the house on their tour of the village they are told by the tour leaders that this is where the President of America lives! Given the recent holder of that title, thank goodness that isn't the case. 

However, it seems that this house has a few good stories worth telling young visitors, which although not proven true do have some interest.

I recently read that 'the Elms was built circa 1815 for the illegitimate son of George III'.

On further research, the name suggested  was George Rex, for he was historically reported to be the son of George III and Hannah Lightfoot the fair Quaker (records claim they had three children). The relationship between Hannah and George III is well documented and there are also documents recording their marriage in secret in 1759. 

Hannah disappeared when she was due to be married off to Mr Axton and even her own Mother had no news of whether she was alive or dead. Hannah was born in 1730 at St John's Wapping. In latter years after her disappearance there were entries suggesting she was using the surname Wheeler (her Mother's maiden name).

George III

It is claimed that George Rex lived much of his life in South Africa in exile so as not to cause embarrassment to King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He died there in 1839.  His sister Catherine Augusta married a Welsh doctor and the graves of George III and Hannah's granddaughters were rediscovered in 2018 Grave of 'George III's granddaughter' restored in Carmarthen - BBC News

George III came to Weymouth regularly between 1789 and 1805 and the carving of the White Horse on the hillside around 1807/8 could well have prompted 'his son' to build a house close by after his father's death in 1820.

Tithe maps for the area show that in 1839 the Elms was already built and the land was then owned by Yeoman Thomas Hare. The occupier was Anne Grasett - the widow of Elliot Grasett  and a lady of independent means.  Her daughter Anna Grasett later married Edward Wood. 

The Elms in 1839

Earlier maps may well give us a clue to whom the original lands were bought for and what year the house was actually built. 

"Mrs Horsey's ghost"

Another story that has been given to me to look into is that of Mrs Horsey's ghost.

It is claimed that in 1907 The Elms was bought by Mrs Horsey who may have lived in the house until 1930. In 1976 Mrs Horsey aged into her 90's talked to the Cartwright family who lived at the Elms at the time about a ghost of a Nun. Mrs Horsey reported that this apparition walks from the old drive entrance across the garden and out through the wall near the boundary to the church yard.

Horsey is a local landowning family name but the owner during this time was George Foot and his family, so exactly who 'Mrs Horsey' is remains a mystery, although she possibly could be a grandchild of Mr Foot.

One of George Foot's grandchildren Anne Reed born in 1868 wrote:

"My grandfather George Foot lived at the Elms in Osmington for many years and it is where he died and was buried with his second wife, close to the South porch entrance of Osmington church. Nearby is a gate which he gave as a thanks offering for permission he had to walk through the Vicarage, thus saving him a long walk round".

Perhaps the ghost was glad of the shorter route from the Glebe lands at Shortlake to the churchyard too?

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year

We are all hoping for better times in 2021 and hope you are keeping well.

For those who enjoy getting out in the fresh air for exercise we have two trail/road routes to share with you. 

The White Horse loop is approx 14 miles long and the Springhead circular is approx 6.1m (10km).

We hope you have fun - we aren't running this as an event, just sharing a route we like walking with friends. There are some road crossings, cows/sheep, mud, steep bits and sometimes inclement weather so please take care and stick to the footpaths/bridleways, shut gates and wear appropriate clothing and make sure you are fit enough for the distance and elevation. 

We would love to see your photos of the routes, so please feel free to share on our facebook page.

Facilities (subject to government Covid restrictions)

There are public toilets at Overcombe corner Preston and Osmington Mills.

There are pubs at Osmington Mills, the Springhead Sutton Poyntz, the Spice ship Preston, the Bridge Inn Preston. 

Fundraising for future publications

Our publication Village Voices last year is still proving popular and we will be keen to produce more publications about the village's history in future. Once the pandemic has settled down we would also like to hold some more information evenings/talks.

We are keen not to go cap-in-hand to people but if you would like to support us (at no extra cost to yourselves) and you use Amazon, then please follow this link and we can receive 0.5% of what you spend paid directly into the charity bank account.

The funds raised will be used to pay for publication costs.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Village Voices with Jim & Mavis Legg

This video is part of the oral history project that aims to record the social history of Osmington village.

Village Voices with Kenny Miller

This video is featured as part of our oral history project to record the social history of Osmington. 

Friday, 13 September 2019

Talbot Hughes & Alice Ward update

You may recall back in April 2017 we brought to light the fascinating story of the extremely talented painter William Talbot Walter Hughes, who quit London society in the late 1920s and moved to Osmington where he lived until his death in 1942.

Since 2017 I have researched a great deal into the Hughes family and after trawling through the church records found the unmarked grave for Talbot in St Osmund's churchyard. As he was a famous man in his day, and as he played a huge part in shaping the village as it is today, the trustees of Osmington History thought it only right that he should have a grave marker. I installed this in October 2017 so that villagers knew where the grave was located.

As luck would have it, through our original article, I was contacted by Talbot's living relatives - his Great nieces - who have generously and lovingly paid for a beautiful headstone for Talbot and his companion Alice Ward.

Copyright Osmington HistoryCopyright Osmington History

Alice Ward lived in the village until her death in the 1970s and was extremely well-known. Her ashes were buried with Talbot Hughes. On the church records it states she was his aunt, but this was probably for the churches benefit as they were companions.
Copyright Osmington History

If anyone would like to visit the grave, it is located at the back of the church to the right. There is a bench and a small wooden shed nearby.

Talbot bought a large area of orchards when he moved to the village and also purchased Stone lane cottage, which was derelict. He restored the cottage and extended it putting in an artists studio at the back where he continued painting.
Copyright Osmington History
The back of Stone lane cottage

A painting of Stone Lane cottage owned by Gerald Mabb shows how it looked when Talbot and Alice lived there. Gerald spent time there as a child with his Grandmother Mrs Mabb and remembers Miss Ward well. 

"Alice used to come to tea and was good friends with my grandmother; she gave her several paintings by Talbot". 

Copyright Osmington History
A miniature portrait by Talbot

Talbot also had the house next door Greensleaves built on his land using an architect from London; it is quite a unique building.

Other residents of the village have reported that prior to D-Day General Eisenhower stayed in the village with Alice. Jim Legg's elder sister worked for Miss Ward and cooked a meal for the American General. At the time, Winston Churchill, King George VI, Dwight Eisenhower and General Charles De Gaulle had gathered at Pennsylvania castle on Portland to finalise the D-Day invasion plans.

Talbot's Great niece Bryony very kindly gave me incite into Talbot's life and explained through her father's memoirs why the painter left London for a life in Osmington.

" Talbot followed his father’s profession with no family opposition and became a painter of decorative pictures and portraits of great charm. But he was very delicate and suffered from continuous bad health and never really fulfilled his early promise.
In spite of his disabilities he was the merriest of men and quite a favourite uncle; he and my father were very close and devoted to each other".

Blair Hughes Stanton

Copyright Osmington History 2019

Thursday, 1 August 2019

The 1955 Flood of Osmington

The following account is Sue Merkle's recollection of what occurred on 19 July 1955 in Osmington Mills. It is read by Historian Lucy Wyman.

Village residents in Osmington village and at the Mills were flooded from their houses. Sue's location very close to the coastline, made her families situation very perilous.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Exercise Smash - 4 April 1944

As we reach the 75th anniversary of Exercise Smash, the National Trust at Studland have put on display information and photographs relating to the top secret project, and it's tragic consequences.

Exercise Smash consisted of four linked exercises and played a crucial part in preparing for the D Day landings. Training with the DD (Duplex drive) Valentine tanks, which were effectively tanks that swam, took place off Studland beach because it was similar to the beaches in Normandy.

Albert Price the last remaining survivor of this exercise has contributed to a memorial project along with the Royal Dragoon guards and the Purbeck Sub-acqua club. On the 75th anniversary they will lay a poppy wreath on each of the tanks, in the location they sank in Studland bay between 4-23 April 1944.

Six soldiers from the Royal Armoured Corps 4th/7th Royal Dragoon guards died inside their tank and sank to the sea bed just off Old Harry rocks during a live ammunition trial in front of King George VI, Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery, who watched from Fort Henry.

  • 269616 Lieutenant Charles Robert Gould age 20
  • 5772493 Sergeant Victor Hartley age 27
  • 14301770 Trooper Albert Victor Kirkby age 19
  • 7907384 Corporal Arthur Jackson Park age 24
  • 7952162 Trooper Ernest Granville Petty age 20
  • 320390 Corporal Victor Noel Townson age 20

Lieutenant Gould was the only one to be recovered from the tank and is buried in St Mark's church in Highcliffe. The other soldiers are commemorated at Brookwood Military Cemetary, Hampshire.

Albert Price recalls,

"My tank was one of the ones that sank. We launched about three thousand yards offshore but soon lost control as the sea was so rough. Eventually, my tank hit a rock. We got out and hung on the screen but when the tank began to slip off we soon had nowhere to go but into the sea. We were floundering round for a while but luckily a naval boat came and picked us up".

Following his ordeal, 17 year old Albert was given some rum and told he was not allowed to divulge what had happened to him other than he fell in the sea. He was put back to training at Bovington for the D Day landings immediately. Eight weeks later he landed at Sword beach during the landings and was wounded.

On 4 April 1944 seven tanks were lost off the coast of Studland and six men were lost. Twenty five of the tanks returned and based on this trial it was decided that the Valentine tanks would be used on D-Day.

Ron West, a former soldier recalled that the soldiers were frightened inside the tanks because any shrapnel would tear through the tank's canvas skirt and it would drop like a stone to the bottom of the sea.

The tanks could not withstand choppy water conditions and would sink with the canvas skirt blocking the escape of the soldiers inside. They were not provided breathing apparatus in the event of a failure, although one soldier did hide a 'Mae-West' breathing device in his tank and survived as a result.

Studland beach where the tanks sank and still remain

Fort Henry

Inside Fort Henry where the King and Political leaders watched

Fort Henry

Dragon's teeth, a visual reminder of Studland's wartime heritage