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Home Memories, Recollections and Nostalgia Summer Holiday – 1900

Summer Holiday – 1900

Orginally published Jul 2021
Last updated Aug 2021

A holiday diary kept by Joseph Burgess and Ethel Brooke

This is an account of a holiday taken by a young couple in Winsham at the turn of the last century, discovered in an old diary. Ethel & Joseph had just become engaged to be married, and stayed with Aunt Stowie, who lived at 16 Church Street and now identified as Louisa Stowers, aged 42, who lived on her own means.

The diary does not explain exactly the relationship between Aunt Stowie and the happy couple, but it seems likely that she is the aunt of Ethel (the betrothed) and the sister of ‘mums’-Ethel’s mother, Elizabeth Brooks, who accompanied the couple on their holiday.

The account, which is an interesting insight into the way of life of a young middle class couple of the time also provides interesting information and photographs of the area around Winsham, and the means of travel. It  does not tell us very much about Winsham itself. The couple did not own a camera, so they relied on printed postcards, for illustrations of the places they visited, popular since 1894,when they were approved by the General Post Office,  The ‘box brownie’ although introduced in February,1900 in the USA was still some years away for an ordinary family in England.

The family seem to be comfortably off, evidenced by the formal family group picture below, and the fact that they could afford a two-week holiday. 

Black and white group photo

Group photo shows Willie Brooks, Elizabeth Brooks and Ethel and Joseph Burgess

Photo of red bound diary
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The diary was strongly bound, with an embossed leather cover

Photo of red bound diary
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Page from the diary

Diary Entries - The Diary of Joseph Burgess

These pages document a holiday spent at Winsham. Being a record of his engagement to Miss Ethel Brooks 1900 - 1904 (the maternal grandparents of Sheila Ann Anderson - née Cornish)

These pages document a holiday spent in Winsham
Saturday 21st July to Monday 6th August 1900

Wednesday 17th July 1900
We have decided to start a diary, this being the first day of our engagement

Friday 20th July 1900
It was decided that I should go home to tea and Ethel should come on afterwards to supper arriving about 8-30pm, so my mother and Nell could say "Good life” before the holidays, and to see the engagement ring. Ethel did not arrive until nearly 10 pm and the following few lines sent by Nell to us at Winsham will show the state of my feelings between 8-30pm and 10 pm.

How often now my thoughts do fly
To that oft repeated sigh,
Heard by me on Friday night,
When Ethel did not come in sight.
What could have caused this long delay?
Had the bus horse run away!
or had the tram slipped off the rail?
Such things are mentioned in the Mail.
The ham and peas they colder grew
But his heart no comfort knew;
At last his hopes rise with a bound
As the knocker gave a sound
He runs upstairs and to his glee,
Finds her, whom he had hoped to see.

After this we spent a most enjoyable evening, then I escorted Ethel home, where we both spent another enjoyable time - I then returned home by an “All night tram”.

Saturday 21st July 1900
We commenced our holidays today. I having been invited by mums to visit Winsham, where Aunt Stowers lives, [Aunt Stower has been identified as Louisa Stowers, a widow aged 42, living on her own means at 16 Church Street, Winsham] and we accordingly arrived at Chard Junction, the nearest railway station to Winsham about 10pm. It was arranged that Mums and Aunt should ride in the trap with the luggage, while we followed on our bicycles, it being a damp night we naturally thought that we should all keep together, especially neither of us knew the way, so we were not nervous when we saw the trap turn the corner, we mounted our bicycles and followed, but when we turned the corner there was no trap in sight, nevertheless we continued until we came to some cross roads, Ethel suggested one way and I wanted to go another way - . We therefore dismounted and waited for some kind person to come along - . After a quarter of an hour waiting we got the desired information, and again started, but the road twisted about so, and we had such narrow escapes from accidents, which might have been serious, we decided to walk the rest of the way, which we did, although we caught the trap up after walking two miles. At last we arrived at the cottage just before 12 pm, and then we began to realise that we had sixteen days holiday in front of us, which soon put us all in the best of spirits.

Sunday 22nd July 1900
We paid our first visit to the orchard this morning, but were troubled by the insects, which seemed to abound in great numbers. After dinner we started to post some letters at Chard, it being four miles away, we took our bicycles but after we had ridden two and a half miles we saw a precipitous hill to go down, and another one that would have to be climbed, so we returned home and sent telegrams instead of the letters which we had taken to post.

Monday 23rd July 1900
It was arranged that Ethel and I should have a whole day by ourselves at Seaton, whilst Mums and stayed with Aunt - we accordingly started and bicycled to Chard Junction, we found the road much better than we expected, there only being one hill that we had to dismount for, and we did the distance of four miles in twenty-five minutes. We then left our bicycles in the General Waiting Room at Chard Junction, while we took train to Seaton. Our first impression of the place was charming, and after we had had a bathe from the tents, and found that the bathing was grand, as well as ‘mixed’ we decided there and then that we would spend our ‘Honeymoon’ there, as we considered it an ideal watering place. - We had a lazy afternoon on the beach, and caught an early train home, this being the first day we had ever spent together at the Seaside, which we both thoroughly enjoyed, both our faces had got sunburnt, my neck and face looking like a beetroot. Ethel’s colour suited her extremely well, and she had many admiring glances thrown at her during the day by myself especially and many others.

Seaton taken from the Whtie Cliff and the railway station is on the right of this photograph
Seaton taken from Haven Cliff, the first cliff you can see if White Cliff, and it is under that cliff that the bathing takes place
Seaton Church
Seaton Church Interior

Tuesday 24th July 1900
We started for our bicycle ride before dinner, we alighted at the Post Office about one hundred yards from Aunts’ cottage, and commenced to push our bicycles up a hill. After a mile of this enjoyment, we climbed over a gate with our bicycles and went down some very steep grass hills to a roadway that looked beautifully level from a distance but we found on arriving to be impossible for cyclists, we continued our tramp and after a mile came to a roadway - if we went to the right or left it was uphill, thank goodness we chose the left, for after climbing that hill we had only to put our feet up and we were in Winsham once more, having walked four out of the five mile bicycle ride. Ethel now showed Mums and myself some exhibition in water drinking, which astounded us both, after this her arms became very sore and painful, we put it down to the exhibition that she had just treated us to, but it turned out to be caused by the sun while bathing at Seaton yesterday.

Wednesday 25th July 1900
Mums, Aunt, Ethel and I drove to Lyme Regis through beautiful country - a distance of twelve miles, we then had a bathe, leaving aunt to mind the jewellery, afterwards we sat on the Cobb, it being superb weather, then Ethel and I wandered off and had a quaint kind of tea while we sat on a stone bridge facing the sea. After this we sauntered back to the front of Lyme Regis and met Mums and Aunt, then came the drive home which was much colder than anticipated, but some slight refreshment at the Half Way House soon put matters right. Before closing I must mention the way Aunt Stower flirted with the coachman, namely Tom of the ‘Kings Arms’ [Tom was Tom Ackland, aged 23, the sone of Mrs Mary Swaffield (54), the widow licensee of the Kings Arms] Winsham, at one point of the journey there had been a slight tiff which I think we succeeded in making them ‘make it up’, after that Aunt was all smiles, and so ended a most pleasant day.

Thursday 26th July 1900
Spent most of the day in the orchard, but after tea we arranged that Ethel and I should bicycle to the pond in Cricket Park, Chard, while Mums and Aunt walked there, and that we should wait for them. Aunt informed us that the park formally belonged to Lord Bridport, but now it belongs to the chocolate man Fry, she then gave us a detailed account of how a poor woman was crossing Cricket Park with several youngsters when Lord Bridport met her with the remark, ‘are you aware that this path is private, and she said I have been this way before, and he said now be off behind and she said- etc. etc- this is the usual kind of tales that Aunt Stowers used to delight in telling us - we started from home about 6 pm and arrived at the pond about three quarters of an hour later, we waited for one hour, and there being no signs of Mums and Aunt we started off home, thinking we must meet them on the way - no! We did not meet them, or, were they at home. The doors being locked both back and front, so we went for a stroll and on return found them, and asked them why they had not met us; it appeared that they had been to a large expanse of water known as the ‘Lake’, while we had followed out our instructions and gone to a small expanse of water known as the ‘Pond’. I cannot remember either of them expressing regret, - Mums said “I guess that you managed to enjoy yourselves” which was perfectly correct.

Friday 27th July 1900
Another day at Seaton, only Mums joined us this time, the weather was not as favourable as before, and we had three or four storms. We were bathing at the time. As the afternoon wore on the weather improved, and we walked to the White Cliff, Ethel having a great desire to dangle her legs from the top, this I am glad to say she did not do. We returned home by the later train about 8 o’clock the train arriving at Chard Junction at about 9 pm., we could not get a trap to drive us home, except at the ridiculous price of ten shillings, so we walked across the fields home and if it had not been for Ethel, Mums and myself would have taken the wrong turning, and might not have arrived home at all. We did arrive home safely and after supper we cheered up, Aunt Stowers, in answering a question from Mums as to who was the oldest inhabitant in the village? Replied “ There is no oldest inhabitants in the village now, we have buried them all!!!”

Saturday 28th July 1900
Mostly a lazy day, in the evening Ethel and I bicycled around Cricket Park, and met Mums then walked home. We both agree that Cricket Park is the best place for miles around to do any bicycling in. Yesterday we could get no meat, but that often occurred so did not take any notice, but when Aunt came back with the news that bread was unobtainable, we began to think that the famine in India had settled in Winsham for its headquarters, this bread famine was got over by Mums making some, then came fresh surprises in the shape of “no eggs” although it was a country village, “no butter” although there were plenty of farm houses, and last but not least “no stout” although there were three public houses in the village.

Sunday 29th July 1900
Mums, Ethel and myself attended the morning service at Winsham Church [Daniel Spencer- the incumbent was Daniel Spencer aged 61, wife Jane 61, together with their family], we were rather surprised to find that the dogs of the village also attended, it certainly must have been a good Christian village in the old days, for they have erected a cross at the entrance to Winsham, which used to “nearly” make Ethel and I say bad words when we were bicycling, as it nearly always seemed right in the way- the oldest inhabitants being dead according to Aunt Stower’s account - so we could not find out who erected it, but we presume that it was Oliver Cromwell.

Monday 30th July 1900
In the morning Mums, Ethel and I went for a walk --- we did plenty of resting by the wayside - one resting place in particular was very comfortable - on a bank with hedges all round - afterwards Ethel gave Mums and myself an exhibition in tree climbing - her screams when I approached was heart rending. We got her down safely!!!

After dinner I was dressing, and I had a sudden wish to put my head out of the bedroom window, I satisfied this wish, And was surprised to see “Morley” trudging along. I called out to Mums “Here’s old Morley coming”, needless to say I was not believed. He arrived and was invited in, Aunt being very surprised when she heard he was a friend of mine. He amused us with his usual talk, then I took him up to the Kings Arms, where he immediately began to chatter, so I left him, and then Mums, Ethel and I left for a drive to Crewkerne, Aunt also came, sitting in her usual seat next to Tom. The drive was very pleasant through Cricket Park and Ashlands. We also passed Hinton House, but could not see it, the grounds belonging to it being very extensive.

Hinton House, Crewkerne
Ashlands village
Outside St. Bartholomew's church, Crewkernce
Inside St. Bartholomew's church, Crewkerne
Market Square, Crewkernce
East Street, Crewkerne

We told Tom to drive us to a good place for tea, his idea of a good place was certainly a bit off, it was a sort of third class coffee house. Large mug of tea 1d and one eyed steaks in the window also 1d each. We appealed to Aunt and she gave instructions to Tom, and we soon pulled up at the best tea shop in Crewkerne. After that we visited St Bartholomew’s Church, which was a fine old piece of masonry, which will be like a cathedral, when they get all their stained windows in. We then strolled round the town, and well we knew it, for we were stared at with critical eyes, and some of the towns people were positively rude, taking quite half an hour to examine us. Ethel asked me if her hair was straight, or her dress wrong etc. I asked Ethel if all my things were correct. We could not make out why we were different from other people, and received so much attention. We got some papers and were sorry to see that the king of Italy had been assassinated the day previously at Monza, and that the Duke of Sake Colung-fatha, the second son of the Queen was dead.

 We drove home by a different way, only pulling up at the half way house.

Lye Waters, Crewkerne
Poples Well, Crewkerne

Tuesday 31st July 1900
We both felt that we must record the splendid way in which Mr. Brooks kept us posted up with news, and also the regular batch of papers we received every morning from him, and I might add cigars as well.

In the morning I mended and cleaned up my bicycle while Ethel did some knitting. In the afternoon we sat in the orchard and were very amused with the cat and kitten. We were informed that the cat had just lost her only kitten about one day old, and she seemed to think that this kitten who was quite six months old was her new one, the way she dragged him down from the tree and the nervous state she was in when he was more than a yard away, indicated this and within two days this kitten had gone back to his old habits of existence which quite satisfied the cat - and for the rest of our stay at Winsham. They were always seen together and on the best friendship, previous to this they always fought on the slightest provocation.

In the evening Mums, Ethel and I went for a walk across “Five Fields” and returned the road way home, this was a walk of about one mile.

Wednesday 1st August 1900
In the morning we bicycled around “Chard Road” then home to dinner, intending to have a long ride afterwards. At dinner time Ethel seemed suddenly to throw herself on the floor, but we found out that two legs had broken off her chair, and this was the cause, both very thankful no damage was done.

Then we started for our bicycle ride which turned out to be our longest ride, quite fifteen miles being done, and what with the 5 miles done in the morning was quite a creditable performance. First of all we bicycled to Ford Abbey [Photo of Ford Abbey] and then on to Chard Junction, from here we went to Chard, a distance of four miles, and going up one hill (something like the enclosed) I called out to Ethel ‘Look out, there is a trap coming down’ to my surprise she said  ‘You silly, there are four traps coming down the hill’. If this diary should ever fall into other peoples hands they would naturally say ‘drink’ and turn over to the next page, but I could prove that her strongest drink that day was some ‘Eiffel Tower Lemonade’ no, it was a passing bilious attack. After this experience we arrived at Chard, and found the place all excitement, fair day was on, we steered through the horses and traffic and arrived at a quiet place for tea, then came the journey home, Ethel riding down a very steep hill and up the other one in a very creditable manner.

Thursday 2nd August 1900
This day was used as a general letter writing day, we cleared off a lot of arrears of correspondence, and afterwards went to sit in the boot workshop adjoining Aunt Stowers [Albert Hussey at number 15 Church Street (56) boot maker, Susan Hussey (57) his wife, Frank Hussey (24) son and boot maker and Ernest Hussey (22) son and gardener - not domestic - in passing no17 was occupied by Charles Batstone and family who were house painters and decorators].  There was a deaf and dumb workman there, who was very amusing, he made us understand he was a hard worker, while the manager was only a novice at boot making, also about Bert’s previous visit, the questions he asked were very funny and when he was answered he showed his delight by opening his mouth and screwing up his eyes in an attempt to laugh, which always made us do it in earnest. In the evening we watched the ‘head boot man’ kill some bees, he estimated the hive to contain twentyfive thousand, the noise inside the hive when the first puff of sulphur was blown in was great. It seemed cruel to kill them

Friday 3rd August 1900
Had an early dinner, and then Mums, Ethel and I were driven to Chard, it is a fine old town, we saw Judge Jefferies Old Court House, and the church was also a grand one in good condition. We could not go over it as there was a service in progress. We also called at the Dure(?) Inn where Mr. George Morley had headed his letter from. The woman in attendance gave us some interesting details about George, the principal one being that she consideredhe had ‘Too much tongue juice’. On our way home we were caught in a storm, but succeeded in not getting wet, Ethel and I made a sort of tent out of our macs.

Fore Street, Chard

Saturday 4th August 1900
Mums, Ethel and I spent another splendid day at Seaton. The weather keeping fine although it looked very doubtful at the start. First of all we walked to Chard Junction, then on arriving at Seaton we walked to Beer, a quaint little fishingvillage between the high cliffs, the place looked clean enough, but the salt water seemed to smell very strong, or something else and we were glad to hire a rowing boat, and so got back to Seaton. On the way round we passed the ‘white cliff’ which looked imposing from our small rowing boat. It certainly is a very fine cliff and wants a bit of climbing at places, but the view one gets at the top is well worth all the exertion. We were landed from the boat, just by the bathing tents, - so we had an enjoyable swim, then came dinner, and afterwards a walk to AxmouthVillage over the toll bridge. This village was quite a novelty, as a small stream ran down the principal (and only street that we could see)street and when we had walked to the end of it we had a rest in the way side inn, and then a tramp to the station. Then came the march home, we were all tired as we had been on the move all day, we reckon we had done fourteen miles:-

= 14 miles

Besides this we had over half an hours swimming. We had not time to visit the landslip, but secured a photo instead: 

White Cliff, Seaton
Beer Street and Church
Beer Cove looking east
River Axe and bridge
Axmouth village
The landslip from Gateway

Sunday 5th August 1900
I arrived downstairs this morning in a sort of Scotsman’s dress, and put Aunt Stowers in a ferment when I went to the front door to answer the postman’s knock - It rained all the morning and most of the afternoon but in the evening it cleared up, and having hired a trap we drove round Leigh Park, and eventually arrived at Chard Junction - we dug up some fine ferns and we hope they will long live in their new homes in London.

Monday 6th August 1900
Rained all the morning but it cleared up in time, so that we might catch our train :-Mr. Brooks, Bert and Carrie met us at Waterloo, and so ended our first summer holiday together, our best thanks to Mums.