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Local Newspapers 200, 150 & 100 Years Ago

Two Hundred Years Ago

Notice was given in the local press of the intention to replace the River Parrett crossing at Burrowbridge. The existing bridge was proving an obstacle to river traffic. Most of the goods coming up river from Bridgwater, destined for Taunton, or Langport and beyond, had to be transhipped to small boats that would fit under the arches.


A drawing of the proposed bridge. The accompanying map shows the road from Stathe running alongside the river from Stanmoor Bridge.

One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

"STOKE ST. GREGORY. Rare Visitors.—Three Egyptian geese were seen last week in the moors near Stoke St. Gregory. Two were eventually shot, and one of them was presented to the Taunton and Somerset Museum by the Rev. C. King, the other being purchased by the curator of the museum for his private collection. One of the same species was shot in the moors last year. The bird, which is a rare visitor to this country, is exceedingly shapely. It has a body of light pencilled grey, dark head, with a red bill, and wings of great beauty, the chief colours being bronze and light brown. On the breast is one large tawny spot, presenting an appearance of dried blood."


This story appeared in the Langport & Somerton Herald on Saturday 27th January 1872. No protection then for this beautiful bird!

Back up in the Village, there were always disputes going on between neighbours, and a surprising number ended up in court. This claim, reported in the Western Gazette on Friday 9th August 1872, was by Samuel Loveridge. He carried on his farrier's business from the Royal Oak, where he was also Landlord.

"Samuel D. Loveridge, farrier, of Stoke St. Gregory, v. Richard Sandford, shoemaker, of the same place. This was a claim for £1 11s 4d for farriery work done. At the last Court a judgment was obtained by defendant against the plaintiff for £1 2s; but owing to some error as to the day on which the Court was to be held, Mr. Loveridge did not appear, or he would have been able to plead the present claim as a set-off. Mr. Rouse, of North Curry, who represented the defendant, contended that the accounts between the parties had been made up in 1870, when part of the amount now claimed was allowed. As it was a matter of account only, it was referred, by consent, to Mr. David Bell, of North Petherton,who gave a verdict in favour defendant for 10s, after taking both accounts into consideration."

One Hundred Years Ago

Whist Drives were very popular during the first half of the last century, with people travelling long distances to take part. This cutting from the Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser,  Wednesday 22nd February 1922 sets the scene of a whist drive that was part of a national competition.

"STOKE ST. GREGORY - ST. DUNSTANS WHIST DRIVE - A very successful whist drive in connection with the St. Dunstans National Whist Championship was held in the School-room on Thursday. The popularity of these drives was evidenced the fact that the room was full, there being thirty-three tables in play. E. Poles performed the duties of MC, and was assisted in the checking of the scores, by Messrs. Herbert and Leslie Hembrow. A Ladies’ Committee had made arrangement for the refreshments, and had been successful in their canvassing the people in the district that enough had been given to more than pay the expenses of this departure. There was also a competition, guessing what was in an enclosed package, being given out that the article cost 4s 6d, which brought in about 25s, this sum covering the other petty expenses the drive. The score of 140 or over, which entitles the player to qualify for the district round, was gained by 13 persons, and the handsome prizes presented by St Dunstans were won the following:—Gent,’s—l, Mr. Douglas Hembrow; 2, Mr. J. Doster 3, . J. Dunford, Ladies—l, Miss Lily Bird ; 2. Miss Kathleen Barnett; 3. Misss Edith Chedzoy. There is balance of £22 to be handed over to St. Dunstan’s, and for this result thanks are due to all who kindly subscribed either by lending articles or giving towards the refreshments, as well as to those who helped with the necessary preparations. The funds were also helped by those who generously gave a subscription for the good of the cause."


In 1914 St. Dunstan’s Hostel for Blind Soldiers and Sailors was founded by Sir Arthur Pearson, author of Victory Over Blindness. A year later it moved to a property in Regent’s Park. The idea was to provide a hostel where ex-servicemen would go after they had received hospital treatment to ‘learn to be blind’.  The legacy of the war meant that in 1921 men were still waiting to be accommodated, with 57 men awaiting admission. By 1929 there were still two thousand men in their care. The intake included 103 colonial ex-servicemen who were trained during their time at St Dunstan’s.

On Saturday 12 August 1922, the Langport & Somerton Herald reported on the wedding of a village favourite, Evangeline Theodora Gurney. She was the daughter of the Vicar, Reverend H F S Gurney, who was something of a recluse and did not take the lead in village affairs that was usual for a vicar. His daughter seemed to make up for him, as this cutting from the Herald shows. This photo, taken outside the Vicarage at the turn of the century, may well be of 'Little Eva' on the horse.


"STOKE ST. GREGORY VICAR'S DAUGHTER MARRIED. SUNDAY SCHOOL SCHOLARS AS BRIDESMAIDS. Much interest was shown by the Stoke St. Gregory parishioners on Tuesday of last week, in the marriage at the Parish Church of Mr. Frederick Cecil Gurney Gurney-Champion and Miss Evangeline Theodora Gurney. The bridegroom, who Is the eldest son of Mr. F. S. Champion, of Eastbourne, and a solicitor by profession, obtained first class honours in the Law Society's examination, and won the Law Society's prize. He has also travelled very extensively. The bride, who is very well known and popular in the district, is the youngest daughter of the Rev. H. F. S. Gurney, who has been vicar of Stoke St. Gregory for over 45 years. Miss Gurney has been closely identified with well nigh every organisation in the parish, her activities including the holding of the superintendentship of the Sunday School, secretaryship of the local Nursing Association, and the post of quartermaster of the V.A.D.


The church missionary organisations had in her a keen friend, and she was also president of the ladies' tennis club. These as well as other parochial organisations have benefited by her work and interest, and in all associations she has made herself beloved by the parishioners. There were a large number of relatives and friends in the church, which had been prettily decorated with flowers by parishioners. Among other relatives present were Mrs. Champion (mother of the bridegroom), and Mr. Charles Gurney, and Mrs. Gurney, of Eastbourne. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. H. F. S. Gurney (father of the bride) and the Rev. G. M. Hutton (vicar of Pevensey). The bride, who was given away by her brother, Mr. Ernest Gurney, was attired in a grey  gabardine travelling costume, blue embroidered, with grey hat relieved by blue forget-me-nots. She wore grey stockings and shoes, and carried a bouquet of white Madonna lilies and pink carnations. She was attended as bridesmaids by four scholars from the Sunday School—the Misses Mabel Boobyer, May Bird, Gladys Hembrow and Winifred Hearle, who wore frocks of white voile trimmed with blue ribbon, white hats with blue pink rosebuds and white shoes and stockings. They carried bouquets of pink and white sweet peas. A fifth bridesmaid, Miss Margaret Spencer, was attired in a grey crepe-de-chine dress, and carried a bouquet of pink carnations. Dr. A. Gurney (Eastbourne) carried out the duties best man. The marriage service was fully choral, the hymns, " 0 Perfect Love" and " Lead, kindly Light" being sung. The organist Miss L. Connett, a former teacher at Stoke St. Gregory day and Sunday Schools, Also played the " Wedding March" from Lohengrin among other suitable music. Mr. and Mrs. F. C. G. Gurney-Champion are spending the first part of the honeymoon on Dartmoor; the latter portion will be occupied in travel on the Continent, it being the intention of the bride and bridegroom to visit Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, Austria, and Italy. The wedding bouquets were supplied by Mr. W. E. Cousins, of North Street, Taunton.  Merry peals were rung on the church bells during the afternoon and evening. It was the wish of the happy pair to make the day a memorable one for the children, and a tea and sports were held in a field kindly lent by Mr. Hembrow. The children assembled soon after the service, and photographs were taken of the Sunday School group, and also the day school, together with the committee responsible for carrying out the arrangements. The infants' races were then run off, the children later sitting down to a sumptuous tea, which included wedding cake, each youngster receiving a piece, cut by the bride, from a large cake. After tea races were run by the older children, the prizes being presented to the successful competitors by Mrs. Gurney-Champion. Scrambling for sweets was indulged in, and thoroughly enjoyed by the children; buns were also handed to each child before leaving the field. The proceedings concluded with a display fireworks, consisting  mostly of rockets, so that the youngsters could see from their homes. The children, one and all, had a most enjoyable day, and their appreciation of the kindness shown them by Mr. and  Mrs. Gurney- Champion was expressed in lusty cheers. The sports and fireworks were arranged by a committee consisting of the churchwardens (Messrs. Hembrow and Shire), Mesdames Hembrow and Shire, Messrs. Coles and Chedzoy, junr., Miss Kate Hembrow, and Mr. Fellender. The farmers of the parish, with their wives and families, were invited to a reception and tea at the Vicarage on Thursday to view the wedding presents. There was a large number present. An interesting ceremony took place in the Sunday School last week, when a presentation was made to Miss E. T. Gurney on the occasion of her marriage. A willing band of collectors had met with such a ready response in the parish that a sum of over £17 was received. With this, after consultation with the prospective bride, a solid silver salver was purchased, and suitably engraved. Mr. Herbert Hembrow asked Miss Gurney to accept the gift as a present from the parishioners. Miss Gurney, in reply, expressed a wish to have a list of the subscribers. It was therefore decided to utilise a small balance in purchasing an album to contain the names of the subscribers. Mr. Hugh Chedzoy, as president of the Sports Club, added a few words of appreciation of Miss Gurney's valuable assistance to the organisation."

The last clipping from 100 Years Ago is from the Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 01 November 1922. It involves someone stealing a length of rope. Even though he is caught red handed he denies the theft . . .

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