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1883 - BACK  to Years of History Index

Victoria was queen, and her prime minister was  William Ewart Gladstone. Blackburn Olympic beat Old Etonians F.C. 2–1 in the FA Cup Final at The Oval. The Royal College of Music opens in London. GPO introduces the Parcels Post service. The Boys' Brigade is founded in Glasgow. Potter Thomas Twyford invents his 'Unitas' single-piece ceramic pedestal (free-standing) flush toilet. Not that it would have been much use in Stoke, as we had no mains water supply. In Huntham, Meare Green and Woodhill some of the houses had wells, with a common one, called the 'Ringers' Well' and maintained by the parish in what is now the Square. In Curload most families would have used river water.

1883 Twyford UNITAS displayed in Twyford Reception March 2004 BEST ss.jpg


The year started badly with the effects of flooding, as the Wester Gazette reported on 12th January: STOKE "ST. GREGORY. The Floods. —The following circular cannot possibly need any endorsement on our part, after the many columns we have published of late descriptive of the floods, and of the melancholy results the unfortunate inhabitants of the inundated districts :—" Owing to the excessive rainfall and high tides of October last, the banks of the river Tone, near the famous Isle of Athelney, have broken in two or three places, deluging a tract of land in the parishes Stoke St. Gregory and Burrowbridge—no such calamity having occurred for more than 40 years. The sufferers are poor people ; their furniture damaged : their health is endangered ; their garden produce, stored potatoes, &c, destroyed ; most of them are thrown out of work several of their cottages are ruined, and others very much injured."

The next month, when the waters had sunsided, the Gazette reported a tale of snakes and rats: "Wholesale Slaughter of Vermin. —On the line between Durston and Yeovil, which crosses tbe moor, not far from the Isle of Athelney, a number of withies have been planted in order to prevent the wear and tear of the wash of water on the line. These, having grown into considerable trees, have been polled, and within the last few days it was discovered that vast, colonies of rats, moles, and snakes have taken up their abodes in these pollard withies, barking the trees, and otherwise doing much damage to them. The railway authorities, having made the discovery, sent numbers of men out to exterminate the pests, and we hear that thousands of rats, snakes, and moles have been destroyed all along the extensive line of trees, which, had the vermin left unmolested, would doubtless have been ruined. These creatures were no doubt driven to the trees for shelter by the persistent wet."

Athelney Estate Sale

In July, the 130 acre Athelney Estate was sold at the Royal Clarence Hotel in Bridgwater, along with a property in Lyng, and various other parcels of land, including parts of West Sedgemoor. 


In the run -up to the sale much was made about the King Alfred connection, and how Alfred had established a monastery there to give thanks for the protection it had provided during his preparations to take on Guthrum and his Danish army.

Temperance Society

Total abstinence from alcohol took hold in the village in 1883, as reported by the Taunton Courier: "STOKE ST. GREGORY. Temperance Meeting. The Stoke St. Gregory Total Abstinence Society held their second (and very successful) meeting in the Baptist Chapel on Wednesday evening. There was a large and attentive audience. The Rev. W. Fry presided. Temperance hymns and melodies were sung, and recitations given by the following members: —Messrs. C. Garland, J. Dare, C. England, G. Bobbett ; also Misses R. Cousins, E. Cousins, S. Bobbett, E. Hearle, and several others. A reading was given by Mrs. Fry and Mr. John Dare. A very pleasant evening was spent, and at the close about 50 persons signed the pledge, making a total of about 80 in the two meetings. Mrs. Fry decorated the new members with the blue ribbon."


The Stone Breakers

Before the days of ashphalted roads, men would be employed to break, or 'nap' stones into pieces small enough to be flattened by a visit from the steam roller. It seems the work was not being done quick enough in 1883, as reported in the Taunton Courier & Western Advertiser in September: "The contractor for the manual labour in Stoke St. Gregory parish is so much behind with the work of stone breaking that I think it necessary to ask your permission to employ men to do his work. At least 400 yards remain to be broken, that it will require several hands to complete them by the end of October." The surveyor was instructed to employ hands to make sure that the work was done.


Waiting for the Stone Breaker: A pile of stone outside Gilbert Gent's shop. This was demolished when the church graveyard was extended

And Finally . . .

From the Western Gazette in November 1883: "Killing the Goose that Laid the Eggs.— Thomas Hearne, Stoke St. Gregory, v. Thomas Hembrow, of the same place. Claim 30s for goose. — His Honour asked if this was not a wonderful goose.—Mr. Cook, who appeared for the defendant, said probably it was the goose that "laid the golden egg." His Honour asked how the plaintiff made out the goose to be worth 30s.— Plaintiff said the goose had laid 12 eggs and brought forth 12 goslings, which he sold. After this the goose laid eight more eggs, and ninth was found in her after death. Besides this, the goose was a lucky one. (Laughter.)— Defendant was called, and stated that he did kill the goose, which in his opinion was worth 4s. He had paid into Court.—Defendant, during his cross-examination by plaintiff, said, "I will tell you what, Mr. Hembrow, I would rather have the 30s than the goose." (Laughter.)— His Honour remarked that the evidence of the plaintiff was very unsatisfactory."

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