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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?

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