Fishing for trouble, Weymouth quayside 1887.


Weymouth harbour early morning is a beautiful tranquil place, with only the local fishermen busy on board their vessels getting ready to set out to sea, but as the day picks up, so the harbourside begins to fill with boats of all shapes and sizes and  people, some working  and those out enjoying themselves.

So it was during the Victorian era.

Since time immemorial the harbourside has been like a magnet to many, especially children, summertime and the quayside walls plays host to the many fidgety bottoms perched along there, with lines a myriad of lines dangling in the water ready for that big catch.

The Victorian children were no different.

Also running along Weymouth’s harbourside is a railway track, this carried the goods wagons right from pier on the quayside to its final destination or later on the Jersey boat trains that carried hundreds of passengers depositing them virtually at the gangplank of their chosen vessel.


Living in Weymouth you became accustomed to dodging the metal tracks in the road surface, or even the great trains themselves as they slowly trundled along at a walking pace making their way through the busy street, a man in front waving his flag warning folks of oncoming railway traffic. Not that you could miss them, their wheels ominously creaking and grinding along, metal against metal as they slowly rolled towards their destination.


During the Victorian era , further back in the harbour, along Commercial Road, the train line ran between the rows of terraced houses and the old quay wall, now an area of the Backwater which has since been filled in and built on.

When the railway came to town in the mid Victorian era, so did the men who worked them. Such was the family of the Jones’s.

Newly weds Charles James and his wife Clara Isabella had moved to Weymouth, Charles was working as an engine driver on the London and South Western Railway. The family lived in a little terraced house at no 8 Bath Street, a short side road that originally ran out onto the quayside. Their family grew over the years, Dad was in a steady job, he earnt a decent wage. The kids grew up with the entire harbour area as their playground, they had no fear of the water.

JUVENILE MAG 1889 dolly in water

Life had it’s usual ups and downs for the family, but all in all they were happy.

That was until one fateful day in 1887.

One Wednesday morning late in July, the youngest son of the family, Arthur James, who was only 4-years of age had wandered the short few steps down to the harbourside completely alone. Armed with a simple stick and a bit of string, a piece of stale bread swung on the end as he tottered along the road towards the quay wall.

Laying down on his tummy, he peered into the murky waters below as he dropped his make-do fishing line down, he was after some crabs. His little chubby legs stretched out behind him as he reached over the old wall.

Concentrating so hard on his attempts to catch that elusive crab the little lad didn’t hear or see the danger approaching him…and neither did the driver of the train!

Arthur’s legs were laid right across the outside railway line…within seconds the metal wheels of the great steam train had passed over Arthur’s little wayward limbs, severing them both completely!

His heart rending screams brought people out from their houses, only to be confronted by a nightmare scene, the two severed legs lay in between the tracks, and blood poured from his gaping stumps.

He was bundled up in blankets and rushed immediately to the local hospital, but there was nothing to be done…Arthur died not long after.

policeman in dock with boy quiver 1891

On the 25th July 1887, what remained of the tiny body of 4-year-old Arthur James Jones was lowered into his last resting place in Melcombe Regis graveyard.



Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.

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