NOVEMBER 2019 Image


The November meeting of Frome Family History Group took place in the library, however, instead of a speaker, several members of the group brought along a family heirlooms to describe to the audience.

The items may have had no monetary value but were important to their owners because of the family members they represented.

Among the items brought along were a rag doll owned by a deaf great grandmother, photos of criminal gang members who just happened to be related to Mike, I won't give his surname in case his credit rating suddenly goes down, and a bundle or romantic letters written by a lady's parents. We also had a magnificent gold chain belonging to a gentleman of very modest means. How he came to acquire such an expensive item is a question that his descendants will probably never know the answer.

Other items included hair clips for a lady who was in service, a photo of a tiny button badge, a wedding ring, a very large pocket watch and a certificate for a man working on First World War mines. Members were able to decipher a location on a World War Two drawing of someone's father.

The evening was organised by Sue Simpson who showed us how to photograph and record special items in our possession so that our descendents will know their history and what they mean to the family.

Chris Featherstone

OCTOBER 2019 Image


Frome Family History Group welcomed Alan Campbell from Frome Film and Video Club to their October meeting. Alan showed us six films of Frome and Somerset.

We started with the removal of Charlie Robbins statue from outside Tyco in Handlemaker Road where it had been for many years to the present position outside the Memorial Theatre. Charlie Robbins was a World War One soldier from Frome who modelled for several statues made by JW Singer to represent soldiers of the Great War.

The next film was about the restoration of Rook Lane Chapel followed by a short pre-war film by Humphry Barnes family on the Frome Carnival.

The bridges and tunnels walks undertaken by the Frome Society for Local History each year for the Frome Festival were filmed by Alan and included a fascinating view of the tunnels under the bridges which date back to the fifteenth century.

An old film of a fashion show from 1938 followed and finally a humorous little film about gladding in Watchet. Dating from 1969 this film showed the tradition of catching Conger Eels with dogs, now no longer practised.

Alan was thanked for a most interesting evening.

Chris Featherstone

SEPTEMBER 2019 Image


The Frome Family History Group welcomed Mike Bolton as the speaker of their September meeting for a talk entitled 'Fotography, Family History and Fun'. Mike started his powerpoint presentation by showing a variety of documents including census, workhouse registers, family bibles and gravestones, that told us about our ancestors.

Looking at the development of photography Mike noted that whereas in 1851 there were only 5 people with the occupation of photographer, by 1861 there were 2534 and the numbers increased enormously as the century wore on. The consequence of this being that thousands of photographs of our ancestors were being taken.

Mike touched on how to date family photographs by studying clothing and hairstyles and explained how guessing the approximate age of children in an image gave a good idea of the date the photograph was taken. He talked about the types of early photographs such as daguerreotypes, cartes de visite and cabinet prints.

Following a quick look at the development of cameras, Mike showed examples of interesting ways of displaying the photographs of our ancestors such as: combining photos of ancestors through generations into one composite photo; taking a theme such as wedding photos; comparing the clothing and styles of each generation; even using family photographs in textiles in a variety of forms.

There was finally some discussion on relationships of first, second and third cousins and mention of the difficulties for future family historians due to changes today in the many different types of families and more complex relationships.

Sue Simpson

JULY 2019 Image


The Frome Family History Group welcomed Sarah Villiers to their July meeting. Sarah gave a very amusing and enjoyable talk entitled Learn 'em Hard about the history of village schooling in Somerset. The audience participated with lots of reference to their own schooling and reminiscences from parent's school days.

Sarah began by outlining the early history of education and the major milestones through the decades. Her information came from school log books and manager's minute books where they have survived, and accounts of philanthropists and pioneers such as Hannah More 1745-1833 and Rev. John Poole 1770-1867.

Hannah More, a member of the well-connected Blue Stocking Circle, started a school in Cheddar using money she obtained from William Wilberforce. A number of other schools followed such as Axbridge, Congesbury and Wrington. It must be remembered that education was not considered beneficial for the labouring classes by their employers. Farmers, in particular, thought that schooling would ruin their workers by educating them above their rank in society. The Rev. John Poole was involved in daily teaching and in training young women who then went on to set up other schools in the locality.

Emphasise was of course on the three R's Reading Writing and Reckoning but with a fourth, probably the most important, Religion. Victorian schools were described with very amusing reference to the texts that children were given when learning to read. Examples of the three letter word texts for infants were "Do not sit on the sod" or "Let Sam sip the sap of red jam". Handwriting was probably more important than content of the writing and reckoning was complicated by the fact that children had to learn that in Somerset there were 24 poles to a rood not 22 as in most of the country. Sand was used for children to form their letters before being allowed a slate or pen and paper. Life during Victorian times was very hard in rural Somerset and there are many accounts of children being sent home for not being dressed properly, or not having the required penny that was payable before 1880, after which education became free and compulsory for all children up to the age of ten. The leaving age was gradually increased throughout the twentieth century.

Sarah finished her talk with the history of teacher training from monitors and pupil teachers to college education. It must be acknowledged that teachers in Victorian times had very little education themselves as a pupil teacher could only expect to get an hour's tuition from the Head Teacher each day. They were recruited from the age of 13 on completing their elementary education and began an apprenticeship of five years. Sarah was thanked for a most enjoyable evening and we were able to look at her books and documents from a time some of us could remember!

Chris Featherstone

JUNE 2019 Image


Mike Hobbs was the speaker at the Frome Family History Group's June meeting. Mike's subject was the Involvement of the Army at the Three Delhi Durbars 1877-1911.
Mike began by outlining the part the East India Company played in Indian history. The East India Company had long employed Indians as soldiers. There were supposed to be not more than 4 Indian soldiers to every British one. However, the British had withdrawn troops to serve in conflicts elsewhere. By 1857 there were only 40,000 British troops in India and 311,000 Indians. The mutiny began on 10 May 1857. The spark that lit the fire was the fact that soldiers were issued with a new rifle. It was said that the cartridge was greased with fat from a cow sacred to Hindus or pigs unclean to Muslims. The mutiny began at Meerut or Mirat 60 miles from Delhi. The soldiers massacred the British and the uprising spread rapidly. The rebels took Delhi and proclaimed the restoration of the old Mughal Empire. After the lesson of the Indian Mutiny the British became a little more respectful of Indian culture.

In Delhi's Coronation Park on January 1, 1877, the British monarch Queen Victoria assumed a new title: Qaisar-i Hind, the Empress of India. Victoria's proclamation was the central event of the jalsah-i qaisari, a massive imperial assemblage otherwise known in English as the Delhi Durbar. The first of three Durbars, was a rather drab affair, Queen Victoria did not attend but most of the nobles of India came together to hear the proclamation. Queen Victoria was now Her Imperial Majesty, a title important to her as it meant that her daughter, as an Empress, was no longer Victoria's superior.

The next Durbar was held in 1903 to proclaim King Edward VII as Emperor of India. Edward wanted to be present himself but was unable to go so the Duke and Duchess of Connaught represented him. The Durbar cost £233,000 to put on and was organised by Lord and Lady Curzon. It was a very grand affair and lasted for fourteen days.

In 1911 the last Durbar was held when George V was declared Emperor of India. The King and Queen Mary both attended what was to be the grandest of affairs. The Queen refused to go to the celebrations on an elephant and forbade the King to do so. The result was that the King rode on horseback and nobody knew who he was. Lord Charles Harding organised the affair which took a year to prepare for and cost £1,000,000. Queen Mary's crown was set with the Kohinoor diamond, a crown that is still worn today by Queen Elizabeth II and the King wore the Imperial Crown of India. As the Delhi Durbar required a large military presence, Lord Kitchener moved, in secret, 80,000 troops from the Khyber Pass to Delhi for the festivities.

The 1911 Durbar was the last as Edward VIII abdicated before his coronation and the Durbar for George VI did not happen due to the onset of war and the movement towards Indian independence. Mike was thanked for a very enjoyable and informative talk.

Chris Featherstone

MAY 2019 Image


History and Mystery in Maps was the title of Tony Painter's talk for the Frome Family History group's May meeting.

This excellent talk began with Tony giving a little of his background and how his interest in maps began. We went on to look at examples of very early maps including the Mappa Mundi. The Hereford Mappa Mundi is a medieval map of the known world, dating from c.1300. It is displayed at Hereford Cathedral and is the largest medieval map still known to exist.

The Gough Map, or Bodleian Map, is a Late Medieval map of the island of Great Britain. Its precise date of production and authorship are unknown but thought to date to around 1360. The map is named after Richard Gough, who bequeathed it to the Bodleian Library in 1809. These early maps feature prominent religious sites including Bristol and Wells Cathedrals.

The Mercator Atlas was an important navigation tool. Gerardus Mercator was a 16th-century Southern Dutch cartographer, geographer and cosmographer. He was renowned for creating the 1569 world map based on a new projection which represented sailing courses of constant bearing as straight lines, an innovation that is still employed in nautical charts today.

In the seventeenth century John Speed and John Ogilvy contributed coloured town maps and maps showing county boundaries and in the eighteenth century Ordnance Survey maps started to appear. The origins of OS maps lie in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising 1746. It was realised that the British Army did not have a good map of the Scottish Highlands. One of the assistants mapping the Highlands was William Roy who later had an illustrious career in the Royal Engineers and was responsible for the principle triangulation of Great Britain which led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey. This was a national military survey starting with the south coast of England and begun in 1790. By 1840 good accurate maps of the British Isles were becoming available.

Tony's talk concluded with a look at the Godfrey maps. These maps are invaluable for historians and genealogists. There are now more than 3,000 titles in this major series of reprints of Old Ordnance Survey Maps of towns throughout Britain and Ireland. Old maps can also be sourced online and, in Tony's opinion, the best site is,

Tony was thanked for a brilliant evening and for donating a Godfrey map as a raffle prize.

Chris Featherstone

APRIL 2019 Image


TICKET TO RIDE was the title of the Frome Family History Group April talk by husband and wife team Chris and Judy Rouse.

Judy began the talk by explaining that the coming of the railway had a bigger effect on the country than technology in the twentieth century. To start with railway travel was limited to goods, particularly coal, but the wagons would often come back empty and gradually people started climbing aboard the empty wagons. This led to the introduction of passenger carriages and a three tier system was introduced. For the very wealthy there was the option of taking your own horse drawn carriage on to the train or travelling in comfort in first class compartments. Middle class people would travel second class, if not in comfort at least with a roof on their carriage. Third class consisted of open wagons without seats. In fact Brunel thought that there was no reason why poor people should have a need to travel.

William Gladstone, a member of Robert Peel's government, who thought that it was necessary to enable poor people to travel in order to find employment, introduced the Parliamentary Train. This was a passenger service operated to comply with the Railway Regulation Act 1844 that required train companies to provide inexpensive and basic rail transport for less affluent passengers. It had a wide ranging effect on the mobility of people looking for employment and later, the beginning of tourism.

Gradually, rail travel improved with the introduction of timetables and, in 1862, The Railway Travellers Handbook gave instructions on how to cope with a journey. Timetables were of limited use however as they gave a start time but no guarantee of when you would arrive. This was compounded by the fact that the railway worked on London Time. For example the time in Bristol and Bath was eleven minutes earlier.

Accidents were so frequent that passengers chose seats as far from the engine as possible. People were able to insure their journey through the Railway Passengers Assurance Company. In the period 1874 to 1878, on average 35 passengers and 687 railway employees were killed per year on Britain's railways. High profile accidents such as Abergele in 1868, in which 32 people died, put fear into the heart of the travelling public. How could the passenger avoid leaving their family destitute if they had the misfortune to be in an accident? The answer was railway passenger's insurance.

By the 1880's travel was much more comfortable with the introduction of toilets, ladies only compartments and refreshments, first in the stations then on the trains in the form of dining cars and trolleys. Travelling by train was getting safer and more pleasurable for all.

Chris and Judy were thanked for a very interesting and informative presentation.

Chris Featherstone

MARCH 2019 Image


Bryn Hawkins talked about coalmining at our March meeting and he was also instumental in the setting up of the display on coalmining at the Radstock Museum, which is well worth a visit.

Bryn Hawkins was a coalminer, born into a family of coalminers in the Camerton area of Somerset. He gave us a delightful talk on his experiences of the industry including the tough, gritty manual work as well as the light-hearted camaraderie of the mining men and boys. His grandfather, Tom Davies, came from Wales, was a carting boy and took part in the 1908/9 Dunkerton Strike for half a penny.

When Bryn was young the New Pit at Camerton was his playground and he explained how the trains took the coal away, how steep inclines were dealt with, how the winding engines worked, what lamps were used for illumination and how the coal was extracted and put onto a moving belt system. It was here also that the seven mile stretch of track between Camerton and Limpley Stoke was used to film the TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT with Stanley Holloway and Sid James and the GHOST TRAIN with Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge was filmed at Camerton Station.

The audience was riveted as Bryn interspersed his talk with fascinating clips of film showing working coal mines, musical renditions and a nostalgic interlude showing items from the 1950's like juke boxes, furniture, bubble cars, Vespa scooters, gas cookers, Lonnie Donegan music and much more besides.

Bryn explained that the Somerset Coalfield ended in 1973 and Kilmersden and Writhlington were the last mines to close down. There were lots of questions asked when he'd finished his talk and he was warmly thanked for such an interesting evening.

Sue Latham

JANUARY 2019 Image

The Loss of the Titanic
The annual business meeting for Frome Family History group took place on Tuesday 29th January at Frome Library. The meeting was chaired by Chris Featherstone who thanked the committee for all their hard work over the preceding year and also thanked members for the contributions they had made. Mention was made of the book, about to be published, on the members of the Armed Forces who returned to Frome after the First World War. The treasurer's report was read out and the committee voted in for another year.

Following our business meeting, Gerald Burdall gave a talk on the loss of the Titanic, in particular, looking at the role of the ships in the vicinity.

Gerry began by describing the three ships built by Harland and Wolff in the early twentieth century. The Olympic, launched in 1911, the Titanic, launched in 1912 and the Britanic launched in 1914. The ships were built to fulfil a requirement for transporting emigrants to the United States. Between 1900 and 1914 13,000,000 people emigrated to the USA and with liners carrying about 2,500 passengers at a time it was considered to be a lucrative business. Of the three ships, the Olympic was in active service until 1925, the Britannic hit a mine in 1916 and sank and the Titanic sank in April 1912 as we all know. One lady, Nurse Violet Jessup survived both the Titanic and Britannic sinkings.

On Sunday April 14th 1912, the Captain of the SS California radioed the Titanic to say that there were Icebergs on route. Captain Lord of the California stopped his ship but the Titanic continued travelling south, the message coming back "shut up, shut up, busy working!" It is not clear whether the message got to a senior officer but about twenty minutes later the Titanic hit an iceberg.

Distress rockets were fired from the Titanic but Captain Lord did not recognise them so took no action although his ship was only about 15 miles away. However, the Royal Mail Ship Carpathia did take action despite being 58 miles away. Captain Royston prepared his ship, asked for medical help from passengers and travelled at about 17 knots to reach the area by about 4pm. Captain Royston and his crew rescued 705 survivors and were hailed heroes whilst Captain Lord spent the next few years of his life trying to clear his name despite an enquiry deciding that the outcome would have been no different had he responded to the emergency and gone to the aid of the Titanic.

Both ships were torpedoed during the First World War, SS Californian in 1915 and RMS Carpathia in 1918.

Gerry was thanked for a very enjoyable evening where we all learnt new information on a very familiar story.

Chris Featherstone