The Portland Shooting 1898.

Right throughout the whole of time certain laws of the human universe remained constant.

One of those being that no amount of wealth, social standing and prosperity could ever guarantee happiness.

So it was for one Weymouth hard working family.

William and Martha Lumley owned and ran an established, well respected Weymouth business. They were the proud owners of the Lumley confectioners and bakers at no 25 St Mary Street.


The couple had moved down to Weymouth not long after their marriage and set up shop in the pretty, popular and  bustling seaside resort.

Over the intervening years, along came their  only 2 children, William Gifford Lumley (b.1872.) and Annie Louisa Lumley (b.1873.)

As they grew up in Weymouth their parents had tried to instil in them good Christian morals and the importance of a strong work ethic.

letter Civic Society.

When they got older, the children worked in the busy confectionary shop along side their parents, and their two Aunties, Annie and Polly Gifford who lived with the family.

William junior, not surprisingly, learnt the bakery and confectionary trade at his fathers side, after all, he would be heir to this successful business later in life.

However life didn’t always go quite to plan, and sometimes children didn’t always turn out how their parents had envisaged.

William junior not only worked hard, he liked to play hard too…mighty hard!

He was to be found frequently out cavorting in the local hostelries with his pals,

letter Civic Society. 2

but what started out as simple fun with friends in the pubs around town turned into a devilish raging demon that would not only mar his life, but that of those around him.

On the 5th January 1894, 22-year-old William stood nervously waiting at the alter of St Mary’s church, his proud parents sat in the packed congregation and watched as their son was soon to become  a man, a husband, a provider for his wife and family to be.

They must have given a sigh of relief  too, now he was to be settled, there would be no more drunken nights out, no more humiliation of his numerous misdemeanours around town, time at last for him to settle down.

Down the church aisle came a shy young girl, 21-year-old Elizabeth Catherine Hodder. Holding her arm firmly and feeling immense pride that his baby was about to be wed  was her father, Joseph Scriven Hodder, a Portland businessman, a farmer and contractor who lived in Reforne, Portland.

As she positioned herself nervously before the alter and quietly whispered her wedding vows to William, Elizabeth  didn’t quite realise what sort of life she was about to enter into.

Over the next couple of years life seemed to amble along for the young couple, William worked alongside his father in the family business, and they had two children, Hilda Mary born 9th March 1895 and Reginald Gifford born 21st April 1897. At this stage they were living at no 1 Rodwell Terrace in Weymouth.

All was not well in the Lumley household though…in fact it was far from well, for poor Elizabeth it was sheer hell!

Marriage had not dimmed Williams liking for drink one iota, in fact, by now, he was fast becoming an out and out alcoholic, not only that, he was the worst of drunks… a violent bully and extremely manipulative. Elizabeth was often on the receiving end of his frequent drunken rages. Behind closed doors she was threatened, beaten, abused and her life was nothing but utter misery.

letter Civic Society.

Then the family had moved over to Portland where William ran his own confectionary business.

At least now Elizabeth had family and friends around her, she might not have revealed to them of her life of abusive hell living with William,  but they would have suspected, small signs of his nasty character revealed as his drinking became steadily worse.

It all came to a drunken and disastrous head in the December of 1898.

No longer able to stand the physical and emotional abuse from William, on Thursday the 1st December, a desperate Elizabeth took  courage, gathered up the two young children and fled to the nearby home of her sister and  husband.

Running a popular butchers shop on the island, Elizabeth’s sister, Ann Helena and her husband William Albert Henry Scriven, had heard the rumours about William. They knew he drank, and drank to excess, by now things had got so dire that he was under the care of Dr Colmer.

What they hadn’t realised was how just violent he could get when in one of his drunken rages.

Without any hesitation they took the frightened Elizabeth and her bewildered children in, they would make sure  they were kept safe.

When William had staggered home that evening and realised that his family had fled he was seething, he would make them pay…Elizabeth and her meddling relations.

The gossip in the Scriven’s butchers shop next day, Friday, was rife.

William Lumley it seems had just upped and sold all his goods…could it be that he was going to do a runner?  Was it really going to be that easy?

Could Elizabeth and her children live life peacefully at last?

William Gifford Lumley was not going to disappear quietly, he was about to go on one huge bender, and while doing so, as his rage only increased, he began plotting his revenge.

For William Bridle of 4 Carters Cottages, Park Street, Weymouth, that Saturday morning of the 3rd December had started like any other. Bridle worked on and off as a licensed porter, he found work where ever he could.

That morning while touting for business, Bridle had bumped into William Lumley outside of the Clifton Hotel, which stood right opposite the train station in Weymouth. Arrangements were made between the two men for Bridle to accompany William to Bath…all expenses paid and a guinea on top. Bridle couldn’t believe his luck. this was going to be easy money, and a jolly to Bath thrown in for free.

Once the two men had arrived in Bath, Lumley set off on his non-stop round of drinking. Most of their evenings while there was spent living it up in the Lyric Music Hall, but any nearby pub or bar would do…..after all a drink was a drink!

men pub

Sunday the 4th, found the two men in a cab heading towards Wellow, just outside Bath, where they spent the entire day supping in a public house.

On the Monday, Lumley hired a cab to drive them to the nearby Viaduct Hotel, again it was a day of non-stop drinking, and the pair retuned to Bath that evening when they headed for bright lights and music of the Lyric..

Tuesday the 6th took on more somewhat  sinister tones.

The two men headed for Bristol, at first it seemed quite innocuous, a pleasant visit to the Zoological Gardens.

Then Lumley headed for the city where he began to drink heavily and plot the downfall of those who had thwarted him.

His first port of call was to a pawnbrokers on Dighton Street, where shop assistant John Burns served him. Lumley told him he was off travelling the globe, he was going to Nepal and he needed a gun. Not suspecting anything amiss, (well, he had no reason to really,) John sold him a six chambered revolver for 15s.

Next stop was a hairdressers, that of Thomas Deacon, who knew him well. Here, Lumley, well in his cups by now started to rave about how his wife had left him, how he missed his son, he became more and more distressed and his voice more strident.

A rather alarmed Thomas was becoming extremely worried. He tried to calm Lumley down, told him to go back home but to no avail.  Lumley was only just getting into his stride, he excitedly declared “No, I shall shoot him.”

Now Thomas was really concerned, looking anxiously around at his much bemused customers who were following this unfolding drama with great relish. “Don’t talk nonsense.” he sternly told Lumley. At which point Lumley started to withdraw the revolver from his pocket, “I shall, I have the revolver with me.” Thomas told him in no uncertain terms to put it away, he didn’t want to see it.

Finally, he managed to get the drunk and angry Lumley out of his shop, wiping the sweat off his brown, he turned to his customers and declared that the man was just jesting.

Thomas Deacon didn’t inform the police!

Later that night, about 7.15p.m. Lumley and Bridle were both drinking at the Lyric Music Hall, when they were approached by a smartly dressed man, this was Charles Dunford, a Detective Inspector. He was there to serve a summons upon Lumley, Elizabeth and her family had invoked the  Married Women’s (Summary Jurisdiction) Act, but they had also invoked even greater anger in Lumley, but he hid it well.

Lumley of course, never willing to take any blame for his situation, firmly passed the buck of his misfortunes to others, “All this strife and unpleasantness is through my brother-in-laws and my wife’s friends coming to the house so much.” He declared calmly, “the best thing I can do now is go back home and see my wife.”

A sentiment that the policeman agreed with, little realising that behind the apparent calm exterior lay a seething anger and a deadly means of revenge. .

The two men returned to Weymouth later that night on the boat train.

The morning of Wednesday the 7th, the train drew into the station, and from there Bridle and Lumley went to Wyke to the house of Mr Edward Cripps, a naval pensioner, who lived on Portland Road.

In the afternoon Mr Cripps drove them in a covered wagon over to Portland.

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Lumley went to the Castle Hotel to begin his days drinking and Bridle travelled back to Weymouth to tell his wife he wouldn’t be sleeping at home that night.

He next saw Lumley again at Wyke later that day, where he was told that Lumley was going back to Portland and that Bridle was to stay at Cripp’s house in Wyke until he came back.

Another man who bumped into Lumley that day while he was in the Wyke Hotel, was Samuel Diment, a labourer. He had come across him outside pub about three in the afternoon. Having fuelled up with hard spirits and unleashing his wrath to anyone who would listen he had accosted Diment, then he pulled the loaded revolver from his coat pocket brandishing it in front of the bemused mans face, telling the rather shocked chap that he was going to Portland to shoot Mr Scriven and Mr Hodder and his two children.

Here was another person who did nothing…when questioned about his actions, or rather, lack of, at the trial, Diment simply replied  claiming that “the man as a stranger to him.”

In the evening, James Edward Burbridge a cab proprietor of Wyke was hired to take a very drunk and festering Lumley back over to Portland.

In the meantime, Elizabeths brother-in-law, William had made his way to the Prince Alfred pub, which was just a couple of hundred yards down the road from his house. He was looking forwards to a quiet drink and a chinwag with friends.

Only problem was, not long after his arrival, in staggered Lumley.

Laura Comben, daughter of the landlord of the Prince Alfred gave her evidence of the exchange between the two men at the trial.

According to her testimony Lumley had said ” Hello Will, I am not bad friends with you if I am am with the rest.” and then promptly offered to buy him a drink but William  refused and turned his back to him. Undeterred, Lumley carried on “I want to see my boy.” he demanded. “Is it likely?” asked William. Taking on a menacing tone the errant father asked “who is going to prevent me from seeing my boy?”

At this point William Scriven left the pub to return home, he sensed trouble ahead and wanted the women and children safely upstairs out of harms way.

Within a few minutes came a loud hammering on the door, by now William Scriven had armed himself with a stout walking stick, and his son Albert with heavy poker.

Lumley called out to William to open the door.

When door was opened Lumley rushed at William and fired. “Take that.” he screamed. Williams face was scorched and  blackened by the gun firing. The two men grappled for control of the revolver during which time three more shots were fired. A close fired fifth shot saw flames from the guns muzzle burn Williams arm.

The still waiting cab driver, James Burbridge, heard the 5 shots fired, and within minutes Lumley had jumped into his carriage yelling “Drive home as fast as you can.” Not sure what had happened or wanting to argue with someone who was possibly armed and dangerous, he did as he was told.

But at least he did have the gumption to visit the police station next morning to report the incident.

Arriving back at the home of Edward Cripps where the two men were staying, Lumley stumbled into the room of Bridle and announced that he had been to Portland “and had been having a lark.” According to Bridle’s statement he appeared  highly amused and kept laughing out loudly if not somewhat hysterically.

On awaking next morning Lumley told Cripps and his wife, “I have frightened him.” then he asked Cripps to to go and see his father, to see if he could get £250 so he could leave the country.

Cripps wife said “you have not killed anyone, or they would be after you before now.” With those reassuring words ringing in his ears, Lumley staggered off to the nearest hostelry.

Lumley wasn’t be a free man for much longer though, he arrested at the Wyke Hotel  by Police Sergeant Ricketts charged with shooting William Albert Henry Scriven.

While he was being held in a private room at the hotel awaiting transferral to the police station he spoke with P.C Elliott “Let me know the worst. Is Scriven dead?” Upon hearing that Scriven was very much alive and kicking he replied “I am very glad he is not dead. I popped a couple at him and three on myself. It is all through Scriven that I am in this trouble, but you have releived my mind of a good deal. I should not have cared if I had killed myself.” But still he held the belief that his troubles lay in the laps of others, not himself.“It’s all Scriven’s wife’s fault, she is the cause of all the bother. I fired two shots at Scriven and three at myself, but they missed.”

The days of non-stop drinking had left their effects, according to the attending police officer, when arrested,  the defendant appeared bordering on “delirium tremens.”

In 1899, on the 18th January, William Gifford Lumley stood trial at the Dorset Quarter Sessions.

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His council claimed that William Lumley had only intended to frighten Scriven, not kill him, several witnesses were brought to attested to the fact that he was a crack shot, and had he wanted him dead, he would have no problem in doing so.

However, many stood in the witness box and lay before the courts damming evidence of Williams losing fight against the demon drink.

Randolph William Board, his brother-in-law, husband of his own sister, Annie, stated he not only drank to excess but he  was also extremely fond of bullying and frightening people, including his wife and his own mother. In the past he had pretended to commit suicide with a knife, but was careful enough not to seriously harm himself. On another occasion he had thrown himself over the bannisters, laying still on the floor pretending he was dead.

Lumley’s accomplice on the drunken fueled trip to Bristol, William Bridle, was hauled before the magistrates, and received a grilling as to the weekends events. He claimed he was hired to act as servant ( at this point there was a great deal of laughter in court, one suspects that maybe he was most likely nothing more than a drinking buddy,) and he was there to take care of Lumley.

Bridle stated that Lumley had been heavily drinking all the time he was in Bath, and at night time he was delirious. The judge told him rather scathingly that “you don’t seem to have done this man much good.”

Elizabeth took to the stand, and amongst other incriminating details she told of the occasion when her husband had come home drunk the previous August and threatened her with a revolver.  Telling him to not be silly, and put the gun away, Lumley had fired a shot narrowly missing her, going through the window instead.

In the November he had accused her of taking something of his, despite her frantic denials, he had calmly stood in front of her slowly sharpening a  knife declaring that was going to kill her and their servant.

Lumley’s Doctor, Dr Colmer told how he had treated him for alcoholism over the years, he was a habitual drunk.

Dr Good who worked at the County jail told how the day after he was arrested, he was “delirious tremens” very bad. Basically, Lumley was suffering from the DT’s. It had made him dangerous for warders to approach, he was overpowered eventually and placed in a cell.

His solicitor asked that he could be tried under the New Innebriate Act, but the judge made a ruling that it wasn’t possible, there was nothing set in place for those who needed help yet such as an Inebriates Home.

William Gifford Lumley was found guilty of serious assault, the charge of attempted murder had been dropped. He was given 5 years hard labour and found himself incarcerated in Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

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But sadly, that wasn’t to be the end of William and Elizabeths story.

For whatever reason, upon his release from prison in 1904, William had wheeled his way back into the family home with Elizabeth and children. Now they were living at no 30 Kings Road in Reading, far away from the safety of Elizabeths family and friends.

Had prison cured him of his wicked ways?

Had it as heck!

For the next couple of years Elizabeth endured a life of utter misery and terror.

When she finally saw the writing on the wall, and had realised that if she didn’t escape this man, she would be lying in a morgue slab somewhere, Elizabeth moved back to live at 5 St Georges Estate Portland.

Finally, in 1906, she cited William in a divorce, accusing him of cruelty towards her and of having numerous affairs.

A list of horrific attacks are listed within the divorce papers including one that took place when in a drunken rage he had locked her into her room, forced her down onto the bed, seized her by the neck, and was squeezing the very life out of her. Luckily for Elizabeth the door was kicked open by her relative, Thomas Hodder of Trinity Terrace, Weymouth, and Lumley was thrown out.

By the time of the 1911 census, William Gifford Lumley was back in Weymouth again living with Alfred George Parker and his family, at 26 Horsford Street, Weymouth

Elizabeth Catherine had moved out of harms way to Bath with her two teenage children, presumably, to avoid the shame of a divorce she lists herself on the 1911 census as widowed.

Later in 1911, on the  1st June William Lumley departs on the Royal Edward from Bristol to Quebec Canada. He was off to start a new life for himself.

One hopes that he had conquered his demons by now, and that his new life was a much happier and more peaceful one.

Our final view of William is in 1914, three years later, when the Great War blights the globe.

Aged 40, he signs up at the Vancouver enlistment office to the Canadian army on the  4th Dec 1914 for the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

The only two pages of his war records give us a tantalising glimpse at last of the man himself.

He’s 5ft 10″ tall, with a fair complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. Rather oddly, his second toe is completely missing on his left foot…maybe his shot hadn’t always been as accurate as he bragged?

William states he’s single, a widower. His next-of-kin is his son Reginald Gifford Lumley who is still living in the old family home, 1 Rodwell Terrace, Weymouth.

Maybe he had been able to build bridges with his children over the years.


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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 more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


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