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Showing posts from May, 2024

Ethelbert the Unready Sailor

  Diminutive Ethelbert Holborrow (53) from Bridport had a clear mission in life. He wanted to sail single-handedly across the Atlantic to Bermuda. Yet, he had never been to sea before. A gunsmith by trade, he was only able to get about with the help of crutches. Despite having no boat building experience, Ethelbert planned to do this in a small sailing vessel that he intended to build himself. For two years he worked on his boat on the beach at Burton Bradstock. His only construction tools were a butcher’s knife, a hammer and a chisel. Local opinion was strongly against the voyage describing it as ‘ fool hardy’ . Ethelbert Holborrow set sail from West Bay in July 1914 on his lonely voyage in his homebuilt vessel that he named the Burto n. On board the 14 feet long craft were 40 gallons of water and a hundredweight of biscuits. Five days later he had only travelled some sixty miles. The Burton was sighted by a fishing vessel drifting dangerously close to some rocks off Salcombe.

'Dorset's Most Haunted Hotel!'

Crown Hotel, Blandford is probably the oldest hotel in Dorset as a local historian found a reference to the ‘ Crowne’ dated as far back as 1465. Yet there are some who reckon it is also the county’s most haunted hostelry. A horse’s head severely shocked a seated gentleman. This occurred when this equine apparition burst through a wall in the unlikely location of the gentleman’s toilet in the Crown Hotel’s Sealy Suite. It had been built on the site of the hotel’s former coaching stables. In some terror, the unfortunate man fled the hotel. Mrs Gordon was an eccentric old lady who was a Crown Hotel resident for a number of years and   a member of the Gordon’s Gin family. Her familiar appearance was apparently witnessed by staff on several occasions after her death. Appropriately, bearing in mind her family pedigree, one of these appearances was at the hotel bar. A lady in black wearing a long crinoline dress, said to inhabit the first floor, seems to be the apparition that has made

George Pitt-Rivers: Controversial Dorset Landowner

  George Pitt-Rivers was a major Dorset landowner and at one time was one of the richest men in England. Yet he was a controversial character and despite being related to Winston Churchill’s family was interned during the Second World War because of his Nazi sympathies. He was born in London in 1890 and during the First World War served as a Captain in the British Army. Pitt-Rivers was wounded in the First Battle of Ypres and had to return to Britain for surgery. After the war, he travelled to the South Pacific and he wrote about the clash of cultures he witnessed there. It was during the 1930s that he became increasingly involved in politics and attracted to the ideas of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. In 1935, he stood as a candidate for the North Dorset parliamentary seat but finished second last and lost his deposit. He met Hitler in 1937 and attended the Nuremberg Rally at the invitation of the Nazi Government. One of his guests to Dorset in the 1930s was an enigmatic Irishman,

Starfish Decoys

Dorset Starfish are not a rare marine invertebrate found off the Dorset  coast. In fact, Starfish saved hundreds of lives in Bournemoth & Poole during World War II by preventing an estimated one thousand tons of German bombs being dropped there. Starfish were decoy sites designed to deceive German night bombers away from strategically important towns and airfields. There were several Starfish decoys in Dorset. One was set up on the western side of Brownsea Harbour. It contained a mixture of different types of fire designed to simulate a burning town. Created with the help of a technician from Elstree Film Studios, it was operated by Royal Air Force personnel from a bunker about 200 metres from the set up pyrotechnics. Once the first wave of bombers had passed drums of oil and creosote-soaked hay bales were lit to simulate the effects of incendiary bombs. This sought to attract the focus of the drops from the next bomber wave. Poole & Bournemouth were a target for a large bomb