OCTOBER 2017 Image
At their November meeting, Alan Campbell from Frome Film and Video Makers entertained the Frome Family History Group with a series of old films from their collection.

The audience enjoyed a variety of topics such as willow basket making, peat cutting, the Frome carnival in 1937 and the restoration of Rook Lane Chapel. The films last from about five minutes to twenty minutes and show a way of life sometimes long since forgotten.

The film that caused the most amusement however was the one on cider drinking! Another favourite was the "gladding" film, a pastime that is only practised in Watchet where terrier type dogs extract conger eels from the mud.

Alan was thanked for a most enjoyable evening.

Chris Featherstone

AUGUST 2017 Image
Frome Family History Group welcomed a return visit from Marek Lewcun to their September meeting. Marek's talk was on documentary sources for finding family ancestors in old documents. Marek, now an archaeologist but formally the owner of a family history research business, illustrated his sources by taking us through them alphabetically with examples of many from his research into pipe makers. Some of the sources were familiar to us but a great many offered the chance to take our research in a new direction or possibly to find an ancestor that had been alluding us. Suggestions included the following:-
Alehouse keeper's licences or victuallers licenses began in 1552 and are held at city or county record offices.

Bastardy bonds are where any woman pregnant with an illegitimate child had to name the father who was then responsible for the upbringing and eventually the apprenticeship of the child.

Diocesan records. These are a series of records that may include a list of those who did not attend church or take sacraments.

Hospital records may have survived from as far back as medieval times.

Nonconformists records are often more detailed and in particular the Quaker records hold a great deal of detail. County record offices frequently hold minute books of their quarterly meetings in which one can find details of children who would be apprenticed and to whom as well as a wealth of other information.

Manorial records, many cottages and tenements were still owned and governed by a lord of the manor well into the 18th century.

Overseers of the poor. Overseers dealt with the administration of affairs relating to the care and maintenance of the poor. These records were contained in the parish chest but most of them have been transferred to the local record office.

Newspapers, the British Newspaper Archive are available online and cover papers from all over the country. The Frome Times, Taunton Courier and Wells Journal are among those titles available with more are being added all the time.

Police records, the Bath Record Office has a huge collection of police records including summons books and evidence statements dating from the 1870's.

Settlement papers, a settlement certificate was required to move from one parish to another, the first parish guaranteeing to take you back should you become unemployed or a burden on the finances of the new parish. It was essential to know the boundary of the parish to establish where a person came from and whether they were entitled to poor relief. Some parishes still follow the custom of "Beating the Bounds".

These are just a few of the many sources Marek covered and he was thanked for a most interesting evening.

Chris Featherstone

JULY 2017 Image
Local author David Lassman was the speaker at the July meeting of the Frome Family History Group. David's well illustrated talk covered both domestic life in Frome in the First World War and also life on the front line for men from the town.

David began by showing photos of the flower show which was the last one for the duration of the war before reservists, those soldiers who had been in the forces before, were called up. There was great jubilation at the railway station with family and friends waving them off. More troops were soon needed and recruitment was extended to all single then married men. Horses were also required and farmers were paid £40 for each suitable horse.

Social events in the town were cancelled and, as factories became short of manpower, hours of work were cut. Women began to take over from the men called away and Scouts were given the task of guarding vulnerable locations such as reservoirs against saboteurs and spies.
Several local buildings became military hospitals including Keyford Asylum, The Blue House, Longleat, Keyford Red Cross Hospital and the Frome War Hospital Supply Depot opened in Cheap Street.
Soldiers enlisted in many different regiments but the majority chose the Somerset Light Infantry who were based at Colchester. Others joined the Wiltshire regiment including Private Louis Paynter who died in October 1914 at the age of just seventeen. One of the first soldiers be killed was Private Bertram Vincent who died on the 26th August 1914 and the Hanney family from Marston Road lost three of their sons, George, Frederick and Alexander.

David illustrated how life might have been for soldiers fighting on the frontline, showing pictures of the beautiful locally made postcards which were often the only means of communication with loved ones. The battle against lice was a significant activity as even the weekly washing of their uniforms and underwear would not kill them. Entertainment for the troops was important to keep up morale and allow a respite from the horrors of war. The organist from St John's church put together one of the most well-known concert parties, the Diamond Troupe.

This is just a small flavour of David's book, Frome in the Great War which is available to buy from Frome Society for Local Study and local bookshops. It is a fascinating although often harrowing read and a must for anyone interested in military history or those wishing to find out more about the history of their town. David was thanked for a most interesting evening.

Chris Featherstone

JUNE 2017 Image
The Frome Family History Group welcomed a return visit from Dr Steve Poole to their June meeting for a fascinating if gruesome talk entitled "Hanging Felons at the Scene of their Crime".

Steve began by outlining the various ways a hanging could take place and what happened to the body afterwards. Gibbeting was a common punishment in addition to execution. The unfortunate felon was placed in a metal cage and left suspended on the gibbet for a considerable length of time to deter others from choosing a life of crime. This practice is also known as hanging in chains. Following the 1752 Murder Act anatomising was another punishment that could be added to the death sentence. Passing the body to surgeons for dissecting helped to increase the number of bodies available to them. This practice continued until the 1832 Anatomy Act when prisoners were required to be buried within the precincts of the prison in which they were last confined.
The usual place for scene of crime hangings to take place was on the outskirts of the nearest town or on a hill or crossroads near to where the crime took place. The site chosen needed to give the required prominence to the execution but must also allow for many thousands of spectators. This necessitated a long procession by horse and cart for the felon who had to be accompanied by the Chief Constable, one hundred Special Constables and many other dignitaries.

The village of Kenn in North Somerset was where the last scene of crime hanging took place. The felons were William Wall, John Rowley and Richard Clarke who were convicted in 1830 of setting fire to wheat the property of Mr Benjamin Poole. The men were thought to be part of a gang who committed various crimes in the neighbourhood. William Wall was the proprietor of a cider shop where young men of bad habits and idle character frequented. We presume the authorities decided that the obviously lawless village of Kenn should witness the punishment bestowed on three of their number. All three men repented their sins and their bodies were placed in the coffins that had accompanied them on the procession and returned to Illchester prison where they were interred.

Steve was thanked for a truly amazing talk and one that would probably give many of us nightmares but that would be a small price to pay for such an interesting evening!

Chris Featherstone

MAY 2017 Image
The May meeting of the Frome Family History group was a members evening with contributions from the committee on various topics of particular interest to beginners although we all learnt a great deal from the hard work and research put in by the committee.
Sue Latham began the evening with a look at less familiar aspects of the 1911 census such as the birth place codes and the occupation codes. Sue also explained photo copyright and how to use the snipping tool available on most computers now which is very useful for extracting part of an image and listed websites (many of them free) which contained the latest data.

Sue Simpson and Sue Leather took us through the National Archives website and the General Record Office website and Chris Featherstone demonstrated the local tithe maps available on microfiche from the library.

Over 30 pages of useful notes were made available on:
1. 1911 census occupation codes
2. 1911 census birthplace codes UK
3. 1911 census birthplace codes worldwide
4. 1911 census how to access street addresses
5. How to search the National Archive Discovery website
6. How to search the GRO website
7. How to find & use the snipping tool (PC & Mac)
8. Websites & notes

APRIL 2017 Image
Sue Bucklow was the speaker at the April meeting of the Frome Family History Group. Sue gave us a well-illustrated talk on the history of J.W.Singer and Sons using photos reproduced from glass negatives showing many of the substantial works undertaken by the company in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
John Webb Singer was born in 1819 and after his education at Bluecoat school he became apprenticed to a watchmaker and jeweller. In 1848 John Singer cast his first brass candlestick followed by more church ornaments using premises in Eagle Lane, later moving to a forge in Justice Lane. John had two sons and a daughter all of whom were educated at the Kensington Art School. His daughter Amy chose to work in Paris but both Walter Herbert and Edgar Ratcliffe joined their father in the business.
In 1888 a new statue foundry was built where many of the famous statues were cast including Boadicea and Justice in London, King Alfred in Winchester and of course the statue of Charlie Robbins, the soldiers memorial, now outside the Memorial Theatre. For many years Singers was the only place in the country where very large sculptures could be cast.
During the First World War the 1916 Controlled Munitions Act meant that the factory had to be turned over to war work and the workforce, mainly women turned out shells in the now expanded site where the present Cheese and Grain is located. J.W.Singer produced around 23,400 tons of metal during the war. After the end of the conflict orders came in from all over the world for memorials and one of the best know is the sculptural group for the Paisley War Memorial by Alice Meredith Williams.
In 1914 Singers purchased Spital and Clark of Birmingham and in 1926 the art metal side of the business was taken over by Morris Art Metal Works later becoming the Morris Singer Foundry located in Basingstoke. In 1946 Singers were taken over by the Drayton Group and in 1949 amalgamated with Mansell Booth. Finally in 2000 Singers moved to Handlemaker Road in Frome where they now make water sprinklers.

Chris Featherstone