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Showing posts from October, 2023

John Weeks: Poacher's Tale - I

John Weeks has the unusual distinction of being convicted twice in a Dorchester Courtroom to be transported to Australia. Born in Handley in 1775, John by trade was a poacher as at the time it was said were many of the Handley villagers. By 1815, the authorities had had enough of John Weeks. So, following an altercation with a gamekeeper, he was found guilty and sentenced in the Dorchester Courtroom to be transported to Australia for seven years. Prisoners at the time had to walk from Dorchester to Portsmouth or Gosport under armed guard to await transportation. First day’s walk from Dorchester was about 14 miles and it is said brought the prisoners to a red post between Bere Regis and Wimborne. It is reckoned the post was red so that it could be identified because most of the guards were illiterate. Close by was a brick barn where the prisoners spent the night chained to a large post. John Weeks never left these shores and spent the entire seven years in the convict prison ship

John Weeks : Poacher's Tale - II

After release from the prison convict hulk, Laurel in Portsmouth Harbour, John Weeks returned to his poaching trade in Handley. As a result of some further skirmishes with the law John became far more familiar with the Dorchester Courtroom than any of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. When John’s children married their prospects in Handley were pretty grim. Wages paid to agricultural labourers in Dorset were among the lowest in the country. So Benjamin, John & Jane seized the opportunity when a local clergyman, the Reverend John West of Chettle offered them the chance in 1836 to start a new life in Australia. This was under an early assisted passage scheme sponsored by the new colony and the Australian landowning Macarthur family. Their father John was desperate to travel out with them but had no chance. He was too old at 62 and he also had a criminal record. The only way the wayward father could get out to join his children was as a convict – as a ‘ prisoner of His Majesty’ . So John Weeks

Trafalgar Way & Pickle Night

Greyhound Inn, Blandford was the twelfth stop for Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere during his express dash from Falmouth to the Admiralty in London. His purpose was to tell both the King and the Prime Minister of Nelson’s victory over the French & Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar but also of Horatio Nelson's death. This route is now known as the ‘ Trafalgar Way’ . Lapenotiere  arrived in Blandford around lunchtime on the 5 th November 1805 and paid just two pounds ten shillings & sixpence (£2.52) for a change of horses. This he would do 21 times during the 271 mile journey. A plaque commemorating his arrival in Blandford can be found in the Greyhound Yard.   He was travelling in a ‘ post-chaise’ which was the quickest form of horse travel for a passenger at the time. Before Blandford, he had stopped and changed horses at both Bridport and Dorchester. The next stop would be Woodyates and then Salisbury. That day was the 200 th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot to bl

Great Train Robbery

  Blandford’s Great Train Robbery occurred back in March 1917 when large quantities of chocolate bars went missing from an automatic vending machine on Blandford railway station platform. For some time past, the machine had been robbed by washers and tin discs being used instead of pennies to extract chocolate bars. On one occasion as many as 60 washers were found in the machine. As a result seven Blandford boys were summonsed for stealing chocolate. They were Thomas & George Shave, Oliver & John Turner, Harry Blandford, William Neale and Edward Tanswell. Evidence was given by Police Sergeant Otter and railway booking clerk, Mr Wood. The Bench considered the case to be a serious one. Oliver & John Turner, George Shave, William Neale and Edward Tanswell were bound over to be of good behaviour for 12 months and each ordered to pay five shillings (25p) towards costs. Thomas Shave was ordered to receive three strokes of the birch and to pay seven shillings & sixpence costs