Ranelagh Road, Weymouth, 1920

Holton - Ranelagh Rd

Many thanks to Susan Hogben, for the following research…

“This is a snapshot of Ranelagh Road, taken in and around the 1920’s, when WWI was still a fresh memory to those involved, and times were hard for many because of the deepening economic depression caused by the war.

It’s surprising what information you can uncover online these days, particularly with a lot of the Dorset records being added to genealogy sites such as Ancestry and easily searchable. For this piece I used information from Kelly’s Directory 1920, the list of persons qualified to serve on juries for 1920’s and the slightly more accurate Electoral Registers for 1920.

Ranelagh Road is one of the boundaries that marks out the Park Estate, it is a long road that runs alongside the railway lines as they enter Weymouth station. There used to be a tall wall, (well, as a child it seemed to be very tall)  that stretched  from the bottom of the railway embankment right down to the station entrance at the other end. This separates the railway from the road, and the terraces of houses face the wall. The train lines on the other side of the wall are raised higher than the road level, and it always gave you a tantalising peek of the train carriages on the other side as they arrived and departed the station.

I had walked this route many a time on my way into town or heading for the station.

Because there is only housing on one side of this road, the numbers run consecutively, but might have changed slightly over time. The numbers I shall use for the purpose of this piece are the numbers as they were listed in 1920.

Ranelagh Road itself hasn’t changed much over that period.

A series of terraced houses stretch away down the road, some three floors high, some two, many with pretty bay windows.  A few even bear the tell tale signs of their past use, an era when all working class areas like this had their own local pubs, local butchers and greengrocers, corner shops. With the dawning of the mega supermarkets and availability of purchasing everything under one roof, these businesses could no longer compete, and one by one they closed down.

Only ghostly imprints in the buildings’ structure, filled in shop doorways and windows, tiled fronts, whisper of their former glory as busy premises once bustling with shop staff and their customers, most of whom knew one another well. A meeting place where a good old gossip between local folk would make sure that nobody’s business remained their own.

That of course had its drawbacks, but it also had its good points. People knew and cared about each other, they looked out for each other, it was often the done thing to pop into a neighbour’s house for a cuppa and a good old chinwag.

We’ll start our tour at the station end of the road, and as that’s number 1 Ranelagh Road, its  probably the most appropriate.

Standing proudly on the corner is an oddly shaped building, triangular, with the pointed end sliced off, it fronts both Ranelagh Road and Queen Street. this is the start of a terrace of buildings three floors high.

At no 1, the ground floor is covered with deep red glazed tiles, and large ornate windows, so popular with the Victorians, a clue as to its earlier life, its entrance stands on the corner. This used to be one of the local pubs and a hotel,  it was rather unimaginatively named The Ranelagh Hotel.

Right opposite the station, it was the first port of call for many a visitor to the town who arrived by train.

In 1920, the business was under the management of Arthur James Rodway.  Arthur was of a good age, 74, he ran the business alongside his wife Elizabeth and their children, Sophia , Amelia and George Frederick.

Next door to the pub, at no 2, lived Frederick George Baker and his wife, also called Elizabeth. Fred worked for the Weymouth corporation, the couple were  newly arrived in the Park area, having only recently taken over the house from Samuel Halford who was a local haulier.

No 3 was the home of Francis Henry White, his wife Clara Jane and their son, Francis Henry junior. Francis senior was a carpenter who worked with a local building company.

Stroll along to no 4, and here we find widow, octogenarian Rebecca Hanger. She had previously been married to William who had died in 1911, leaving his widow fairly well off. William had been a wealthy business man, with a tailors shop in St Mary Street. Now Rebecca lived in her large house all alone until her death in 1925.

Thomas and Isabella Palmer lived at no 5, with them was their son, George W R, who was training to be a teacher. Father Thomas was another tailor, but he worked from home.

The building of no 6 Ranelagh Road was the home of Mark Richard Cook and his wife, a Guernsey lass, Amy (nee Vaudin.) Mark’s occupation was an Insurance Superintendent.

They lived next door to the local hairdresser, the business of 40-year-old John Prince Frost at no 7. John was the go-to hairdresser for the Park district, a hair salon that positively hummed with hairdryers and gossip. Helping him in his business was his wife Fanny.

Standing at the end of this first terrace was the family shop of the Farwells, bakers and grocers. Baker, John Albert Farwell had run this business until his death at the age of 79 in the summer of 1920. But the business was in safe hands, as his son Albert Edward took over after his fathers death. Also helping out in the family run business was dutiful daughter Ada Louisa.

We now cross over the road (Stanley Street) where we find on the next corner another local business, this time the shops of Holton & Sons,  butchers at no’s 9 & 10 Ranelagh Road. In charge was father, George William and his wife Catherine, and their son Bertie William. The outside of the building at no 10, still bears the earlier forms of its life. The Holton name still imprinted on the decorative yellow and green glazed tiles, the Holton name embossed in gold on the name plate over the premises.  A name that many of the older Park district residents  may have memories of.

This business sat at the beginning of a little terrace of two story houses, with bow windows on the first floor, and highly decorative window surrounds on the ground floor.

Next to the butchers was no 11. Here lived Thomas and Martha Ann Arnold, Thomas was a gardener. To supplement their income, they let out rooms, and in 1920 Edward O’Rourke was a lodger in their house.

No 12 was the residence of a local railway worker, Richard Joseph Farwell Simmonds, he was a porter in Weymouth station, and lived with his wife Annie. At some stage around that same period, the Simmonds moved out and the Moyes family took over residency, John Charles and Rosa Evelyn. John Moyes was a coppersmith.

Sidney Cloutman lived next door, (no 13,) along with Tom and Lillian Victoria Davis.

At no 14 was Mary Ann Vowell.

In the corner house of this terrace was no 15, the home of William Richard and Annie Burbridge, the couple were in their sixties.

Again, we need to cross the road, this time its Derby Street, and start at what would have been no 16, which was once another local shop. The only clue as to its former life is the flattened corner, where once a shop doorway had stood, the entrance to the local provisions dealer, the business of the Gale family. In 1920 Herbert Charles and  Alice Maud were the shop keepers, they had only just taken over the business. A couple of years later, and they had moved on again. Maybe they couldn’t make it pay? Or perhaps they had found owning and running your own shop, literally ‘open all hours’ was no mean feat.

Their neighbour for the short period that they lived above their business premises was 45-year-old Dulcie Elizabeth Swatridge. She had moved to her home at no 17 in 1915 when she had lost her husband, Edward John, he had been a builders clerk. Perhaps Dulcie had moved here with a view to taking in lodgers to help make end meet. But she too had moved on again by 1921, this time to Queen Street.

Bootmaker, Charles Edwin Mabb lived at no 18, with his wife Fanny.

Neighbours Joseph James and Bessie Attwooll were the occupants of no 19.

No 20 Ranelagh Road was home to 64-year-old Archibald Forsyth and his wife Charlotte, living with them was Archibald’s younger  brother, Alfred James. Archibald was a Credit Draper, he was the man who knocked on your door to collect the weekly payments for items that you had purchased from the store he worked for. Sometimes known as tallymen, maybe he had even lugged the goods from door to door, often  selling the items at inflated prices to those who couldn’t afford to buy.

I wonder if his neighbour at no 21 had ever purchased goods from him? Sarah Jones lived there, a single lady, probably took in lodgers to eke out her meagre income.

The Washer family lived in no 22, Joseph Arthur, who was a clerk and his wife Eva Maria, she was the lady in charge of the house, they kept ‘apartments.’ Two of the people who had rented out rooms long term from them in 1920 were Edmund Holly and Mary Ann Jeffries.

Again, we reach the end of the terrace at no 23, this was the home of the Towers family. Forty five year old William Henry Towers was a Captain in the Royal Garrison Artillery, probably based at the Nothe fort in Weymouth, part of the coastal brigade. Living with him was his wife, Ellen.

Look carefully both ways as you cross the street over to the other side, the road you are looking down  is Chelmsford Street.

This new terrace of two floored houses starts at no 24. Here lived 3 spinsters. Miss Florence (aged 54), Miss Julia (53), and finally the youngest of the bunch Annie Rhoda, a mere youngster at 51. These were the Sharpen sisters. They were all needlewomen, still living in the house that had originally been their parents home, their Dad, Henry John Sharpen had been a railway clerk. the three Misses were running a boarding house.

Long term resident in the street, Richard James Cox lived next door to the sisters, at no 25. Along with his wife Catherine, they also owned no 55. These were business people, running the Cox & Sons iron and brass foundry that stood at the end of the road at the bottom of the embankment steps. This was a series of workshops and buildings that had housed various businesses over the years, and premises that I can remember well as I passed to and fro every day. The old businesses and buildings that had once bustled noisily with lathes and drills, cars and mechanics long since demolished and converted to blocks of flats.

No 26 was the home of Helen Alicia Board, widow of James White Board, who had died leaving his widow fairly well off. He had been in a responsible job as a rate collector for the borough. Helen was aged 79 in 1920, and she joined her husband the following year.

Living next door to the widow was Frederick John Stockting and his wife Maria, this was no 27. Although Fred had a steady job as a marine coal foreman, they had also needed to supplement their income by letting out apartments.

So did their neighbours, the Rudd family at no 28. The head of the family was Mum, she  was  67-year-old Sarah Ann, a widow, and living with her still were her grown up children, Mabel Annie and William John. Times were very hard, and many had to find a way of bringing in that little bit extra.

At the house of no 29 was another home where many of the rooms were let out. Elizabeth Cockram lived here by herself, another lady left after her husbands death to fend for herself.

Widow Theresa Hunt living in no 30 was in the same situation. Well over the age of 80, she still needed to earn her money. There was no such thing as an old age pension to help keep her in food and warmth and a roof over her head.

We reach the end of this terrace, where we find the home of the Iverson family, living at no 31. Here lived Charles Stephen Iverson, a Master Mariner with the Great Western Railway Company. He had fought in the war, when the shipping that normally plied between ports was requisitioned for the navy. Charles, aged 44, had been  decorated with the Star medal, Victory medal and the British War medal. Despite these trappings of his past glory, he and his wife, Laura Mary still had to add to their income. They too let out their rooms.

We have reached Brownlow Street, one that I turned into many a time as a teenager as my best friend lived here.

Having crossed this, we are now stood outside what was once a busy local pub, the Brownlow Tavern, or as it was rather more grandly known in the 1920’s the Brownlow Hotel, (no 32.). That year it was under the management of Arthur Erasmus Stevens, along with his wife Alice. Sadly, the pub finally shut its doors in 2010.

After this building the style of houses changes. This little terrace of five houses has bay windows on both floors.

The one next to the old pub is no 33. Again it was home to another widow who had chosen letting out her spare rooms as a way of making a living. Sarah Ann Gill lived here, she was aged 55. Her rooms were mainly let to men of the Royal Navy, one of those being Arthur Rendall.

Yet more lodging rooms in no 34, the home of a stonemason Frederick Burt. His wife Augusta Ada saw to needs of the rooms residents.

William Henry Jones, a retired engine driver resided at no 35, he was living with his new bride, Florence. They might have both been in their twilight years, but they had  found love again after losing their relative spouses.

Another William in the next house along (36,) this time, William Henry Dermott. At 67, this William had a lifetimes experience and expertise to call upon, he chose to help his fellow man, working as a layman at the local Seaman’s Mission. Emily Jane, his wife of many years also helped out where she could. In these times of austerity everyone did what they could to help those in need, some more charitably than others.

The last house in this row is no 37, which snuggles into the building that sits on the end of the terrace. Here lived John Francis Piddington a skilled labourer at the Government Torpedo works at Wyke. He lived with his wife Eliza Jane. This family had seen a great deal of tragedy. According to the 1911 census, Eliza had given birth to six children in total, but sadly, only two had survived into their older years.

Another street to cross, Walpole Street this time.

The first house on the block does not come under Ranelagh Road, as its entrance sits on Walpole Street.

No 38 starts off this row of 10 terrace houses, like the row before, they  all have two bay windows, up and down. William George and Ada Appleby live here, he’s in the Navy. The house they lived in had once belonged to Ada’s parents.

Henry and Mary Heasell were their neighbours, (no 39,) Henry was an iron and brass founder. Maybe he lived here because it was nearby the works of Cox and Sons at the end of the road, perhaps they were even his employers. Still living at home with them was their son, Henry James Rock Heasell, and a lodger, Frederick Gilbert.

No 40 was the home of Joe and Mary Ann Mitchell, later that year they moved to next door, no 41, taking over the tenancy from Emma Gertrude Hodder.

Another local engine driver had set up house at no 42. William and his wife Lucie Beatrice Jessie Higgins. They lived here with their adult children.

Ranelagh Road, not surprisingly,  was a popular residence for those who worked on the railways, it was close by to their place of work, and it was affordable housing for a working class man, with many of the residents letting single rooms out. Hence we see that yet another engine driver living in no 43, Amos Price, his wife Clara Jane and their son John James.

A change of work place for the next house’s occupant, he was an engine miller over at the torpedo works. That was 56-year-old Alfred Jeyes and his wife Elizabeth. they lived in no 44.

Neighbours to the Jeyes were the Rate family, Walter and Winifred at no 45.

Then came the home of William George Slydel, (46,) he was a cleaner at the Post Office. William was already a widower, having lost his wife Agnes May in 1913, aged only 37. To eke out his meagre wage he took in lodgers, husband and wife Henry James and Harriet Swyre.

Another husband and wife lived next door at no 47, Frederick Charles and Mary Jane Cox. He was an oil merchant.

Last house with its entrance on this block was no 48. the home of Victor William Misselbrook, a 52-year-old pianoforte tuner.

Pass the windows of the house on the corner, whose entrance is in the next street we have to cross, Charles Street.

Here things start to change drastically, stylistically and historically.

Like those at the the start of Ranelagh Road, this block of terraced houses are larger, and grander than those rows sandwiched in between.

The first house on the corner now has its entrance in Charles Street, but the cut off corner of the building hints again at its earlier life, its original shop entrance and windows that saw its customers coming and going all hours of the day and evening now altered and plastered over .

This used to be 49 Ranelagh Road, and a grocery shop. The  business of  73-year-old Eleanor Sarah Rashley, and her son Frank. Eleanor’s husband William had been running the shop with her in the 1911 census, but he died in 1913, so she struggled on with her sons help. At the grand old age of 83, Eleanor passed away.

Next door to the shop, (no 50) lived Elizabeth Swyre and her lodger, William George Leslie Hillier.

No 51 was the abode of Frank and Jenny Wilcox, while the Rooke family, Mary Ann, Edwin and Charles Edwin lived at no 52, along with their lodger, Albert Henry Garton.

Nearing the end of the row, no 53, was the home of George Henry and Miriam Ruffell.

The very last house now standing on this terrace is no 54. This and what had been the next house  once used to adjoin the workshops that ran to the end of the road, but which have since been demolished and redeveloped.

In that last house still standing lived Robert Henry James and his wife, Emma.

At no 55, no longer existing, were the couple, Horace Reginald Clark and his wife Ethel Marion. They wouldn’t recognise this area now, what had once been their home no longer there, the workshops all gone, new blocks of flats stand where workmen once stood.

Next time you stroll down this road, take a look at the old shop premises and think about those ghosts that wander in and out looking for their old haunts.”