NOVEMBER 2018 Image

Commemorating the Armistice of November 1918
The Frome Family History Group held their November meeting in the library to commemorate the armistice and to remember how the end of the war was celebrated in Frome and the rest of the country.

The evening began with a look at how the armistice was remembered on November 11th 100 years later with a look at local events. We then moved to 1918 and the celebrations that took place all over the country as the word spread that hostilities had ceased.
The armistice was signed on 11.11.1918 at 5am. The Prime Minister, David Lloyd George announced that all hostilities would cease at 11am. In a speech in the House of Commons later that day he said "At eleven o'clock this morning came to an end the cruellest and most terrible war that has ever scourged mankind. I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars."
The troops on the front line responded cautiously. They acknowledged the German troops as they came out from their trenches and bowed to them but they had little with which to celebrate and were too exhausted to be anything but quiet and sombre.
On the streets of London there was much rejoicing; Mr Lloyd George said "you are entitled to rejoice. The people of this country and the people of the Dominions and our Allies have won such a victory for freedom as the world has never seen". The moment the news of the signing of the armistice became known bells pealed out in towns and villages throughout the land. Flags were hoisted and the day given over to unbounded jubilation.
A day of celebration was arranged for the 19th July 1919. Unfortunately torrential rain spoiled some of the events that were due to take place. The local papers record that a procession took place, the chairman of the Urban Council, Mr TH Woodland read the King's proclamation, the National Anthem was sung and the Union Jack hoisted after which Miss Birtwistle sang Land of Hope and Glory. By this time the rain was coming down in torrents and the children were sent back to their schools where tea was served. The sports events were rescheduled for Thursday 24th July.

Frome Family History Group is planning to publish a book early in 2019 to remember the lives of some of the men who returned to Frome and a selection of extracts from the book were read.

Finally the audience were invited to show us items relating to the First World War that had come into their possession.

Chris Featherstone

OCTOBER 2018 Image
The Frome Family History Group welcomed David Lassman to their October meeting. David is a local historian, lecturer and author. His talk began with a description of Frome in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries together with several descriptions of murders and other foul deeds that took place in and around Frome. David had many photographs of Frome including ones of the Blind House in Blind House Lane behind St John's Church, so called because of the lack of windows and the Guard House next to the Blue Boar which replaced it as the town lock up.

The most notorious murder was retold in David's book, The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts where he recounts the shocking details of this 1851 murder on an isolated farm near Frome, and the incredible events that transpired from it. On Wednesday 24th September 1851, with her parents at market, Sarah Watts was alone at Battle Farm. Sometime during the afternoon, an intruder battered, raped and brutally murdered her. As the case gripped the nation, a London Detective was sent to investigate. The result was three local men all notorious felons with previous convictions were arrested and charged. However, they were acquitted but only after they had spent six months in Shepton Mallet jail awaiting trial. The men were William Maggs, William Sparrow and Robert Hurd. The family from Battle Farm are buried at Trudoxhill.

David mentioned the Rode murder briefly as he was sure that the detectives investigating, Mr Whicher for Rode and Mr Smith for Battle Farm were colleagues.

Finally from his book Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths Around Frome, David says "the very existence of Frome is down to acts of criminality; as it has been said the reason Saint Aldhelm built his Saxon church in the first place, thus bringing the market town into being, was to 'civilise' the outlaws and bandits who roamed the interior of Selwood Forest; the huge tract of woodland which encircled the land that became the original settlement".

If you thought that Frome was just a pleasant little market town then think again. The programme secretary thanked David Lassman for a very interesting evening.

Chris Featherstone

SEPTEMBER 2018 Image
At their September meeting, the Frome Family History Group welcomed Mike Rendell who gave a fascinating talk concerning Eating, Drinking, Mealtimes and Associated Habits of our 18th Century Ancestors. Mike has been fortunate in that his direct ancestors have left him several trunks of family papers going back over several hundred years. From this wealth of historical information he has managed to research all aspects of his family history.

He began with changes in eating habits and what and how we ate. The tables were "boards", lengths of wood resting on supports, which were removed after the meal and stacked against a wall. This is where the name "board room" originated. The drinking vessels were made of leather, wood or pewter and you brought your own set of cutlery to eat your meal. Changes were made over the years and by the late 1700's there were elegantly made tables and chairs and silver cutlery.

The service of a cook came about in the 18th century and these were usually men. Wages included board and lodging and some cooks were female but these commanded a much lower wage and were regarded as inferior to the male cooks.

Breakfast and the evening meal were frugal and the main meal of the day was eaten between 12 and 1.30 pm. In the upper class house the meal could last for many hours with lots of meats and fish and wine. Vegetables were rarely included but there were lots of different sorts of sweets or puddings for afters.

Initially the men would sit at one end and the women the other end of the table but in the Regency period Prince George introduced the promiscuous seating of man, woman, man, woman and so on, in the French fashion.

Also in the Georgian period sugar was used in very large quantities, chocolate was a novelty and coffee was consumed in London coffee houses more than in any other place in the world.

We were amazed to hear how different the menus and eating habits were of our past ancestors and Mike was heartily thanked for such an interesting insight into their everyday lives.

Sue Latham

JUNE 2018 Image
Dr Janet Few was the speaker for the Frome Family History Group at their June meeting. Janet alias Mistress Agnes and her partner, Master Christopher dressed for the occasion in Seventeenth Century costume and remained in character all through the presentation giving us an often hilarious account of life in those times.

Janet started by outlining sources of information available to us as family historians but warned that most sources including paintings, wills, letters and diaries would only be available for the wealthy. Those of us with more modest ancestors would face more of a challenge. She went on to outline the political scene at the time and explained that the poor would, in most situations, give their allegiance to whoever their master supported.

The rest of Janet's talk was covering everyday life in the seventeenth century, covering all aspects of domestic life including homes, food, clothes, customs, medicinal herbs and witchcraft.

Some delightful references were made to sayings still in everyday use that originated back then. For example being straight laced refers to the Puritan women who laced their bodice in straight lines instead of crossed like other women. The term upper crust refers to the fact bread was sliced length ways to avoid giving the master the slice that was covered in ash from the fire and the saying sleep tight is a reference to the cords that formed the base of a bed which had to be kept taut.

Despite it being a very warm evening our programme secretary, Sue Simpson, offered to put on all the clothes a seventeenth century woman would have worn. Clad in a shift, petticoat or skirt, bodice, an item for making her bottom look bigger and a hat we all thought about how it would feel to have to do all the physical work that a woman at that time would have undertaken. The shift was put on clean on a Sunday ready for church and then not taken off day or night until the next Sunday. A poor person would have had only one of each of the other garments so they were never washed!

Other fairly gruesome examples of life in the seventeenth century were explained. Toothpaste was made from a rat's scull ground down with lavender and mixed with urine, in fact urine seemed to be the most useful commodity, as it was also used for bleaching washing, tanning hides and colour dying. Janet, and her partner Master Christopher, were thanked for a most enjoyable talk and for all the effort they put into creating an authentic experience.

Chris Featherstone

MAY 2018 Image
The Frome Family History Group welcomed Ian Caskie, Talks and Programme Lecturer for the SS Great Britain Trust, to their May meeting. Ian began by outlining his personal interest in maritime affairs and how his retirement from education where he was a head teacher in a Bristol primary school allowed him to follow his passion and volunteer with the SS Great Britain Trust.

Built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steam Company, the SS Great Britain was the largest ship in the world when she was launched in 1843 and was the first screw propelled, ocean going wrought iron ship. The ship was initially designed as a luxury passenger ship but her first few voyages were not a financial success and when she ran aground on the sands of Dundrum Bay in Northern Ireland she was sold on to Gibbs Bright and Co. Gibbs Bright and Co. took advantage of the increase in emigration to Australia as a result of the gold rush and converted the ship to sail although they retained her engines. They also increased her capacity allowing her to transport 750 passengers. The journey took about two months and the fare was the equivalent of £5000 for first class and £1500 for steerage. The passengers and crew enjoyed a very varied diet as live animals were taken to provide fresh meat, however, rats were an issue along with heat and sea sickness.

In the 1870's demand for emigration to Australia tailed off and the SS Great Britain was converted to a cargo ship and used to transport coal from Penarth near Cardiff to America. At this time she was converted to a three-masted sailing ship, however she was damaged going around Cape Horn and was sold to The Falklands for coal and wood storage. By 1937 the hull was no longer watertight and the SS Great Britain was beached at Sparrow Cove near Port Stanley and abandoned to the elements.

In the 1970 efforts were made to refloat her and she was towed back to Bristol to the dock where she was built to be greeted by over 100,000 spectators. Following yet another refit the SS Great Britain is now an important maritime museum with a newly opened museum dedicated to Brunel nearby.

Ian was thanked for an excellent talk and many questions were asked. Many of us intend to visit the SS Great Britain and the museum, Being Brunel, in the near future.

Chris Featherstone