Upwey: Three Histories

The three articles that once formed the basis of the last three posts have now been rolled up into a single book, which is now available on Amazon. It is about the village of Upwey, which is now at the northern end of the town of Weymouth. The village is seen through the lenses of King George III, The Wishing Well and Thomas Hardy. There were plenty of surprises for me, and I expect for most readers as well.

Please click the image to view the book on Amazon

The three lenses through which I look at the village may at first seem unconnected. However, King George III visited Upwey’s Wishing Well, and when researching the latter I found that Thomas Hardy went there too. This led me to wonder what else in Upwey might be connected to Thomas Hardy, and what I found seemed to me to be surprising. Another surprise, to go back to George III, was the extent of his visits, and particularly those of his wife, Queen Charlotte. Indeed, these were not the only royals to visit The Wishing Well.

The book is divided into three parts, which reflects the fact that these sections originated in three separate “lockdown projects.” They are provided in the sequence that I wrote them in order to illustrate how researching George III would naturally lead into researching The Wishing Well, and how Thomas Hardy’s presence in Upwey was initially revealed to me through his visit to the same place.

I have tried to make the book relevant to visitors as well as people from the locality. Hopefully it will add to a sense of place for people in this lovely village and will provide the pleasure that comes with knowing more about one’s surroundings. 

The Wishing Well at Upwey: A History

Another lockdown project comes to fruition and has now just been published. This is all about The Wishing Well at Upwey, Weymouth in Dorset. This place is special to many people, tourists and locals alike. When I started this I had no idea how much history there was to uncover, particularly to do with Royalty. Indeed, I started this after I had looked into King George III and Upwey (see another post), when I discovered that the King came to the Wishing Well.

The link to the full article is no longer available as it now forms part of a book, available on Amazon.

Click the image to view the book on Amazon

The location seems to have been favoured by Royalty. Those who visited include the following:

King George III. and his wife Queen Charlotte, who came repeatedly, with the princesses.

Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria

The Duchess of York, who would go on to become Queen Mary, consort to King George V.

The Prince of Wales, who would go on to become King Edward VIII.

Outside of Royalty, famous visitors include Thomas Hardy, who came her on at least one occasion when on a cycle tour with his niece. It seems like John Cowper Powys would have also visited, because he includes the place in his novel Weymouth Sands.

Upwey Wishing Well tourist jugs

Upwey, Wishing Well, Dorset, Postcard
Upwey, Wishing Well, Dorset, Postcard
Upwey, Wishing Well, Dorset, Postcard

Thomas Hardy and Upwey

Another lockdown project completed and published. This one examines in depth the relationship between the great writer Thomas Hardy and Upwey, a village in Dorset between Dorchester and Weymouth, now absorbed into the latter.

Thomas Hardy had close relatives who lived in Upwey, and the main focus of these seems to have been The Royal Standard public house and nearby buildings. Thomas Hardy also used locations in and around the village in his writings, including Under the Greenwood Tree (The Old Ship Inn) and The Trumpet Major. I also discovered that Thomas Hardy visited The Wishing Well at Upwey.

I was unable to come across any earlier examination of Thomas Hardy’s paternal aunts in Upwey, so this may be the first publication of this kind.

The link to the full article is no longer available as it now forms part of a book.

Please click the image to view the book on Amazon

The Old Ship, Upwey, Weymouth, Dorset
The Royal Standard, Upwey, Weymouth, Dorset
Upwey Wishing Well, Upwey, Dorset

King George III in and around Upwey, Weymouth, Dorset

The article once linked here is no longer available as it now forms part of a book.

Please click the image to view the book on Amazon

The article examines the activities of the Royal Family in the area around Upwey, which is about 4 miles north of Weymouth town centre. This started as a project during the “lockdowns” when I found myself unable to travel to do the research for my next project on Anglo-Saxon history. Instead, I found myself reading more and more books on local history. I noticed a few references to King George visiting Upwey, which whetted my appetite and I wanted to learn more. What I found out quite surprised me in that the King, and even more so his wife Queen Charlotte, visited the area on many occasions.

Looking from south-west to north east over Upwey. The part of Upwey where the church is located is out of shot to the left. In the distance ((with the clump of trees) is Bincombe Down
The Royal Standard, Upwey. King George III would have passed this location more than 90 times. Perhaps this is why this pub has this name, although I have no evidence that there was a pub here at the time of King George’s visits. It is one of my favourite pubs.

A Christmas Poem

Christmas Coals, by Danielle Wootton.

As days lose their shine, people snuggle tight, sitting around fires absorbing warmth through bright lights,
Pets rolling and sleeping in front of coals dotted with blue sapphire sparks, 
Feet warming, faces glowing in front of a fire with everyone’s secrets. Past Christmas’s appear in one’s mind as mini-stories amongst the fire coals.
Everyone has a story whether joyful or sad, or affected by illness. All of us not left untouched by the power of Christmas past or present. Just stare into the coals for one’s fortune to be told. The coals drop suddenly through the grate, the burner blows and gasps as the wind whips down.
No one stirs while the fire bows and puffs,
The cat yawns, stretches out just a few minutes more before moving,
More coal is poured onto the fire, now it is too much for the black cat with emerald eyes, though he remembers a time when there was no place at the fire for him as he had no home, the  long-haired cat rescued from the garden now loved like a prince remembers his lonely Christmas story living amongst the Badgers and pines,
He looks with love in eyes at his rescuer who is lost in the coals not well lacking energy for spirited festivities,
Nothing is perfect as Christmas always demands, but kindness over-rides real life imperfections damping Christmas.
Warmth and love is in the room not just from the coals.

black cat and Christmas decorations

Sid’s Story part 1: “Black Slash”

This charming piece of prose was written by Danielle Wootton. It describes how Big Sid came into our lives and inspired our name: Black Slash! Read and enjoy.

Between the badgers fumbled a shape clothed in long black hair at first I thought maybe it was a totally black badger with no stripes. I was wrong it was a fluffy big black cat hungrily eating peanut butter sandwiches one warm night during May. At first I was shocked to see a cat so close to the badgers as normally only the foxes are brave enough. I rushed across the patio to get a better look this was my first view of Sidney, our Sid with his bright green eyes staring at me not scared, just tired.

The badgers ran off into the trees back to the field but the black cat remained I got a better look he was big yet thin, dull and hungry with fur missing on the one side. He didn’t let me get near but at that point I knew we were friends for life. He ran off in the same direction as the badgers once trod through the trees as I got nearer he poked his head out to give me the once over, curiosity got the better of the cat.

I ran back in the house and grabbed our cat Maisie’s food. Then I placed it near the opening in the trees then quickly retreating to a safe place to watch. Eventually a big black head peeped out from the conifers followed by the whole cat jumping on the food with vigour, such a hungry cat.  I disappeared back in the house and brought out some more food, and milk. I left it on the patio I retreated again eventually the mess of black fluff worked his way to the food on the patio. Once all the food had disappeared so did he, without giving me a backward glance.

After that balmy spring day in May 2017 Sid appeared most days. I couldn’t get near to him for about three weeks – it was hard-work I never knew when he was going to appear so some days I went into a melt-down worrying that was he OK.  One night he came running across the patio with a rabbit in his mouth and he then took great pleasure in eating the head in front of us.

I managed to get some worming tablets into him along-side a tablet to make his fleas jump off which made him hop about like a frog. He became greatly interested in the greenhouse so I made him a comfy bed up with blankets in a big old chair, he loved that especially as he could guard his bowls of food at the same time or chase off any cats who dared to enter his den. Once he had his own bed, he decided that I was a potential owner and friend in the making, he gave me a friendly nip to declare his intention and I had a tetanus injection to show my dedication.

I still couldn’t get near him he was scared but all the fur was starting to regrow into a long-crinkled mane, and he was looking healthier but still pretty wild in out look as the endless mice on the patio testified. All in all, a very handsome chap just a bit down and out.

Then he got bitten very badly by another cat on the bottom. This terrible incident meant that I had to get him into a cat cage and to the vets. Up until then I had not picked him up, he occasionally brushed past me but that was about it. I had named him Sidney (Sid) as it was easy to call but I did flirt with the names Wilf, and Howard. I had figured out weeks previously that he was a tom cat. He allowed me to pick him up with garden gloves on he cried in the cage all the way to the vets I had previously warned the vet that he might bite – instead he rolled over on his back with his legs in the air for a fuss.

Once he’d had his injections Sid was scanned for a chip – one was present. At that point both the vet and I looked crestfallen, me especially as Sid was becoming part of the family, Paul my partner and Maisie our 21-year-old tortoiseshell, although Maisie was quite immune to Sidney’s charms. On my way back home, I looked at Sid and said “don’t worry I am sure you can stay with us if you like.” The vet phoned the next day and said that the previous owners had relinquished Sid to us my heart leaped now Sid was formally ours. Although as far as Sid was concerned, we were still on probation …  

As I am writing this account in 2019, I am amazed at the wonderful life and journey we have had with Sidney, “Our Sid”. He is one of the biggest cats I have ever seen his coat is long, luxurious with waves especially when he gets wet. He is never far from us he still hunts and explores our large garden but more as leisure activity now. He has a den on the top of the wood-store with his own carpet but what he loves the most is blankets, especially 100% wool ones. We call him “Blanket Sid”, every bed, sofa and chair has a blanket that Sid calls his own when he is not being cuddled and boy does he like being cuddled.

Oh, why is he also called “Black Slash”? – in part because he rushes around close to the ground darting between trees and house. He moves in great silence one never knows when he is behind us or where he is coming from. Sid is everywhere all the time. He has a great heart and when our old cat Maisie died in January 2018, he sat with her even though they were not friends as she lived upstairs and Sid down stairs. Apart from the times he would rush upstairs like a Black Slash…

War Cemetery, Etaples

This beautiful poem, titled “Time stands still” was written by Danielle Wootton after a visit to Etaples military cemetary in northern France, where her great grandfather, private William Horn was interred after he was killed there in the First World War, aged 32.

Time stands still for war graves covered in dust,
Surrounded by toiling gardeners not able to forget the bones beneath their feet,
Death fails to distinguish between national pride they are now soldier’s simply lying side-by-side,
Some made enemies in life for reasons not of their own,
Buried beneath headstones constructed from limestone brought as a memorial from home,
How the graves dazzle’s when the sun is out,
Looking all dressed up in their Sunday best here they wait in lines for people who may never come,
Other graves witness relative’s secrets untold to the living, The graves have no voice to care, they are at peace now,
Sorrow now rests with relatives who mourn a person they never knew but will never forget,
When the wind rustles through the graves shaking the trees, it is time for the relatives to leave, with their hearts on their sleeves,
The graves let out a sigh and yawn they can go back to sleep as their duty has
passed on,
Time has stood still for the graves but not for us

Time Stands Still being read by Paul Kelly at Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea event in Weymouth in 2018.

World War One

In 2018 Dr Danielle Wootton was invited by the Daily Telegraph to participate in the work they were doing on the subject of people lost in World War One. Her story of her great grandfather, Private William Horn, became part of the article, which you can read here. She also took part in a touching video, which you can watch below.

King Alfred

The statue of King Alfred in Winchester

UPDATE: THE BOOK, KING ALFRED: A MAN ON THE MOVE is now published and is available through bookshops and Amazon, through the link here

My name is Dr Paul Kelly and I am writing a book on King Alfred the Great. The adventure started when I accompanied my partner to Winchester and found myself at the former site of Hyde Abbey, the last known location of King Alfred’s remains. I was struck by the absence of visitors. I have since been back a few times and it has been the same (except a few local residents, joggers and dog walkers). I am also a repeat visitor to Athelney, on the Somerset Levels, perhaps one of the most significant sites in English history. It is where King Alfred set up camp as a first step in wresting back his kingdom of Wessex from the Vikings. Usually it is just me and some sheep. So I started to develop an idea about a book that would raise the profile of these places and inspire people to visit and appreciate them. It soon started to grow into something bigger as I realised how much there was to learn and pass on. Despite trying to focus down on what really happened, I also came across numerous legends and mysteries surrounding King Alfred’s life and I decided to include these as well. There are quite a few books on King Alfred, but I feel that I have created something original. There will be a few ideas that are not particularly main stream, but I have followed the evidence, such as it is. The book is aimed at a general readership andI hope that it will be read by all those with an interest in King Alfred, the Anglo-Saxons, and English history in general. I have been writing a blog on King Alfred, which has much more information, and there is also a website for the book. There is even a Youtube channel!