In 1869 a little incident occurred on Weymouth sands, it really shouldn’t have been a problem, but it was, and one that ended up in the national papers much to the local council’s horror!
William Wynn, a well-educated gent from London had been residing in Weymouth with his family for a much welcomed holiday. The Wynn family were down on the beach, having fun, minding their own business. It was low tide, the bathing machines were down by the shore, there was plenty of room on the sands. William had been quite contentedly playing with his young son, enjoying a game of trap and ball together. Suddenly they were confronted by the proprietor of the bathing machines, aptly named Solomon Sly, who had marched up the beach to confront the playful duo.
In no uncertain terms an extremely irate Sly told William Wynn to leave the beach immediately. Of course, William Wynn wasn’t having that. He declared in a loud voice that the beach was public property, and that Sly had absolutely no authority whatsoever ordering him and his family off. This only further enraged the already furious Sly, who was described in the local papers as in ‘a very excited mood’. Poking him repeatedly in the chest, Sly informed William in no uncertain terms that he paid £40 a year, the beach was his!
A feeble half-hearted tussle then followed between the two adults. Sly pushed William Wynn who fell over onto the sand, enraged, Wynn jumped up and retaliated by hitting Sly over the head with his child’s cricket bat.
Their case later came to court, but of course, it wasn’t really over the assault.
Mr William Wynn, rather cleverly, had brought the case before Weymouth magistrates on the grounds that he wanted it made clear to any visitors whether the beach was public property or not. Because, if it wasn’t, then future visitors to Weymouth had a right to know that they had no legal access to the beach.
Seeing as those dealing with the case, magistrates and solicitors, were also on the town council and local business owners, they had to tread very carefully how they responded, especially as this case had aroused a great deal of national interest, and the gallery was full of spectators including reporters.
The Mayor at the time, Mr Tizard, graciously thanked Mr Wynn for bringing the case on behalf of the public. He assured him that the public had every right for access to the beach.
The council was at that time heavily promoting Weymouth as the perfect family holiday destination, with its superb soft sandy beaches and safe sea bathing.
They had come to realise that they could no longer rest on their seaweed laurels gathered when King George used to visit at the start of the century, and it had become the place to be seen by those in high society. Weymouth was going to have to start attracting persons from certain other classes, which was where the money was to be made. With other sea side resorts now becoming popular along the South coast, and increased flow of families from further afield brought in by the developing railways, 19th century holiday resorts were having to promote themselves heavily to win their custom.
The vision of future visitors fearing being assaulted, or even worse, banned altogether from the beach was not exactly the family friendly and welcoming image that the council wanted for Weymouth!
Later that same year, another unexpected, if not a tad unusual visitor arrived on Weymouth’s soft sandy shores.
Opposite the Royal library the large, bloated body of a very peculiar animal had been washed in on the tide. Badly decomposed, with its feet missing, the massive skull and legs stripped of its skin. Fascinated onlookers could only surmise what fearful creature this was…or had once been. After some closer investigations though, from what was left, namely the fur and its sizeable teeth, it had been deduced to be the remains of a large black bear. Not wishing to offend the sensibilities, (or presumably the nostrils) of the tourists, a large, deep pit was hastily dug in the sands where its body was laid to rest.
I wonder if any of those bones are still down there somewhere?
Anyone digging for lugworms?
If you enjoy reading tales of Weymouth folk got up to, why not read Nothe Fort and Beyond; in Defence of Weymouth & Portland. It tells of our towns relationship with those men who arrived to build the Nothe fort and later occupied it, and the Red Barracks.
Life in old time Weymouth was definitely never dull.
Available to buy at Weymouth Museum and Nothe Fort bookshops, it’s nice to support local.
Or online at Amazon @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nothe-Fort-Beyond-Weymouth-Portland/dp/1977592686
- 1824; Weymouth, the Great Storm (susanhogben.wordpress.com)
- Weymouth’s Victorian bandstands. (susanhogben.wordpress.com)
- 1872; Chesil Royal Adelaide shipwreck; part 2. Armageddon! (susanhogben.wordpress.com)
- 1879; Tragedy at the George Inn, Weymouth. (susanhogben.wordpress.com)
- 1877; Weymouths shipping trade (susanhogben.wordpress.com)
- Why Weymouth and me? (cannasue.wordpress.com)
- Weymouth’s harbour area; Brewers Quay (susanhogben.wordpress.com)
- 1873; The battle for Greenhill gardens;2013. (susanhogben.wordpress.com)
- Underrated! (oldmarion.wordpress.com)