Dark Dorset Online Scrapbook is an archive of current and past events relating to local history, folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the English county of Dorset.

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Sunday, 29 March 2009

New Book! - Landscape of Memory: Living Folklore in England by Jerry Bird

Recently launched at Caer Dur Festival in Dorchester yesterday. Landscape of Memory: Living Folklore in England by Merry Meet editor and folk musician Jerry Bird and published by Green Magic Publications. Takes the reader on a journey through England, visiting some of its lesser known sites and exploring some of the stranger aspects of folklore, music, literature, tradition, myth and legend that have survived in our sacred landscape.

The book is a compilation of articles from past Merry Meet Magazine, rewritten and expanded with new text and many more illustrations.

Landscape of Memory: Living Folklore in England by Jerry Bird

ISBN: 978-0955290879 at £12.99 is now available at Green Magic Publications or at Amazon.co.uk

Friday, 27 March 2009

Share your Dorset memories for a historic project

People who have lived and worked in Dorset are being sought to come forward and share their memories for a special project.

Organisers of Dorset’s Living Memories are urgently seeking volunteers and participants for the launch of the project on Wednesday, April 1.

The aim of the project is to give older people in Dorset an opportunity to share their memories, stories and experiences of everyday living in the county from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 27th March 2009

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Bravery of Bournemouth husband who went back to die on Titanic

The story of how a Bournemouth man perished on the Titanic after helping his wife and children to safety can be told for the first time.

Arthur West helped wife Ada and daughters Constance and Barbara on to a lifeboat before darting back to their cabin to get a flask of hot milk for them.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 26th March 2009

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Teenager paints giant phallus on roof of parents' home

A teenager inspired by an ancient fertility symbol has painted a 60ft-long phallus on the new roof of his parents £1million house.

Rory McInnes, 18, decided to give aerial observers an eyeful, with the aid of a tin of white paint, after watching a documentary on Google Earth.

But the imposing member remained a closely-guarded secret for a year before it was 'discovered' by a helicopter pilot flying over the area, who let his passengers take photos.

READ MORE - Source: Daily Mail 24th March 2009

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Caer Dur (City of Oak) Festival 2009 and Witch Market

A whole day of great entertainment with speakers Marian Green, Graham King, Sorita D'Este, David Rankine, Kit Berry, Linda Lindfield and Jerry Bird. Music from Tam Lyn & Fingerz 'n' Fretz. All day 'Pickled Witch Market' with bar and Cafe. Bardic Competition.

Entrance FREE (small charge to see speakers)

3 great bands in the evening: 5th Quarter, The Morrigan and Dragonsfly. Evening entrance £10.00.

Money raised will be donated to Dorset Wildlife Rescue

More details at www.caer-dur.co.uk

Click on the image to download the Caer Dur poster

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Trees, woods and the Green Man

Sue Clifford of Common Ground will give an illustrated talk on trees, nature and culture as part of the BARK! festival at Shaftesbury next month.

Sue's talk will be followed by Sean Couch, from Natural England, with a look at north Dorset's ancient trees. Both talks are on Sunday 19th April, from 7.30pm.

THEY grow bigger, live longer, fix their own energy, feed and shelter thousands even after they have died - we take trees for granted and yet our culture is full of ancient understandings and references. In this we share much with peoples across the world where the ancient tree is still the centre of the settlement, the crossroads where the market sets up, the shade where the moot is held and festivals happen. The gallows tree and the boundary tree still stand at the edge of many a parish, the names of many places reveal original particularities – locally Child Okeford (oak ford), Bagber, Todber (ber = bearu, Old English for grove or wood) for example.

The deciduous tree with its long learned trick of dying and coming back in the spring intrigued our forbears. It is just one more miracle of life we take for granted. As we face myriad perils of our own making, perhaps we need to renew our relations with the magic of the natural world.

Comes the time comes the man

Click here for more

Amazed at the hue of him,

A foe with furious mien,

Men gaped, for the giant grim

Was coloured a gorgeous green.

(From Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Anon. Penguin, 1974)

In this 14th century poem King Arthur's Yuletide meal is gate-crashed by the Green Knight; he strangely survives the sad loss of his head and, green head held in green hand, challenges Sir Gawain to offer himself for the same fate a year and a day later. So the annual struggle is played out, as the wheel of time circles.

The Green Knight may not seem to have much in common with the Cerne Giant, but both have been cast as the Green Man. Some see a holly club in the Cerne Giant's right hand perhaps an echo of the cyclical showdown with the Oak Knight.

The Green Man is seen most often as a face amongst or of leaves, carved in stone or wood, foliage flowing from his mouth, sometimes his ears and eyes. In cathedrals as widely dispersed as Norwich, St Davids, Lincoln, Exeter, minsters from Beverley to Wimborne, and churches from Kilpeck to Long Melford, Bishops Lydeard to Crossthwaite he appears on roof boss, pew end, misericord, tympanum, door arch.

The 20th century stained glass windows in Wessex Hotel, Winchester by John Piper and the oak, maple, hawthorn stone-garlanded faces in the 13th century Chapter House of Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire reveal the staying power of this symbol, though early meanings remain obscure. Kathleen Basford, botanist, set some hares running with her book The Green Man (Batsford, 1978). She found foliate heads across Britain and Europe, and we now know that the form is found as far afield as India and Japan.

A natural champion

If you would rather, you can choose your champion from pub signs where he goes through many transformations from a wizard with a still in the forest depths (actually in London's East End), to leafy young gadabout (on the A358 near Taunton), club brandishing adversary, leafy head, hunter, archer or wild man of the woods.

Our most famous son, Robin Hood, relying on the generosity of the forest, remains its most natural champion, he is surely guardian of the groves. Puck, Robin Goodfellow, Herne the Hunter all have allegiance to oak or forest, and far from being the place of terror of Germanic fairy tales, Shakespeare mused "are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court…" (As You Like It)

The Green Man has been reinvented as shambling leafy figure to lead May Day celebrations (old and new) to greet the rising sun at Hastings and Rochester. The month of May seems to be his time, the moment of rebirth – "The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said…" (Phillip Larkin).

The Green Man can be what we want him to be and in the last few decades he has emerged as a symbol of renewal, gathering an ecological role. The warp and weft of our folklore, literature and practical invention gathered over centuries from many cultures offers imaginative routes for us to rethink our relations with Nature.

As we quest to fix energy from the sun in less destructive ways, we have much to learn from the trees who make photosynthesis look easy - 6CO2 + 6H20 > C6H1206 +602 . Now you try it!

Green was understood in medieval times as the colour of the supernatural, but we need some very down-to-earth invocation of the Green Man in ourselves, reviving hope and building real understanding of how we and Nature can work together positively – rather than leaving the future to chance and having to "touch wood".

Sue Clifford, joint director of Common Ground

Source: Western Gazette Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monday, 16 March 2009

Amorous king snake on the loose

An amorous snake is on the loose after it escaped from its home in a bid to find a mate.

Trio's owner Phil Bennett believes the snake picked up the scent of two females in a vivarium underneath his enclosure and fought his way out.

The king snake, which is not poisonous, was last seen at its home in Bournemouth, Dorset, on Friday night.

READ MORE - Source: BBC News Monday, 16 March 2009

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Mysterious Bright Green Light seen at Christchurch

On March 10th 2009, at 6.45pm, two witnesses from Christchurch, Dorset, saw a bright green light travelling Southwest at incredible high speed in a straight line, probably below 5000 feet. Visible for just a few seconds then vanished. Clear moonlit sky, no cloud, stars evident. It did not disappear into cloud, just ceased.

Source: HBCC UFO Research 14th March 2009

Friday, 13 March 2009

Plan to revive Weymouth's past - plus New Videos

An Exciting community project to reclaim Weymouth’s old town hall for the community could also rejuvenate Chapelhay Gardens.

The Chapelhay Community Partnership is to lease the Grade II listed 16th century building from Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

The main focus of the town hall will be an art heritage centre with re-enactors telling the real life story of the battle and siege of Weymouth during the English Civil War.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 13th March 2009

Below is a selection of videos highlighting the spectacular re-enactment event on Saturday 7th February 2009 to commemorate the Battle of Weymouth and the Crabchurch Conspiracy of 1645. (see previous blog entry Commemoration Event of the Battle of Weymouth 1645 and the Crabchurch Conspiracy)

The Battle of Weymouth & the Crabchurch Conspiracy of 1645 Commemoration Event

This film shows highlights of the march and wreath laying from The Old Town Hall to the Nothe.

Trial and Execution Part 1

Trial and Execution Part 2

Trial and Execution Part 3

These three films above show the performance of the mock trial and execution of the traitors. Dorchester's Town Crier, Alistair Chisholm played the leading role of Colonel William Sydenham and delivered a stunning performance at the Nothe.

The History

The catalyst for the three and a half weeks of subterfuge, siege, pitched battle and executions, was a plot by royalist sympathisers in Weymouth and Melcombe, named the Crabchurch Conspiracy. Charles I needed a south coast port where he could land a force of French Catholic soldiers to help him turn the war in his favour.

A local merchant, Fabian Hodder, helped soldiers from the royalist garrison at Portland gain control of the Nothe Fort and the Chapel Fort of St Nicholas at Chapelhay in Weymouth. He set up the Royalist commander in Dorset, Sir Lewis Dyve, to attack Melcombe at the same time namely midnight on the 9th February 1645.

Francis Sydenham immediately made a counter attack to retake the Chapel Fort but he died early the next morning. Dyve then arrived in Weymouth. He bombarded Melcombe into submission, but William Sydenham reciprocated. Dyve refused the offer of a cease fire so Sydenham sent a raiding party to set fire to Weymouth. Several buildings and boats were set alight; finally Dyve ended the assault.

Lord Goring, a royalist leader in Dorchester, sent Dyve a baggage train of supplies but Sydenham took it. Dyve sent out most of his force to try and recapture it. Sydenham sent a large force and retook the Chapel Fort. Goring retaliated by attacking Weymouth.

On the 27 February 1645 the Battle of Weymouth started at around midnight and was ferocious. The town gate and the barricade at Boot Hill fell to Goring's men. They poured down the old high street, past the Old Town Hall, thinking the victory was already theirs but met Sydenham's weapons and forces. At least 200 cavaliers died and the rest turned and fled, pursued all the way by Sydenham's soldiers. A force of about 250 Irish catholic troops of Lord Inchiquin's regiment fought their way into Weymouth from the east. Sydenham's force fell upon them. The Irish fled into the freezing waters where around 250 were either drowned or were picked off by the parliamentarians (near the Old Rooms Pub). The Battle of Weymouth was over. Just over a thousand roundhead soldiers, led by Colonel William Sydenham had beaten off 6000 royalist troops.

This is all documented in Mark Vine's book,The Crabchurch Conspiracy, available at

Dinosaur footprint dating back 135 million years stolen

The 18-inch print was chiselled out of a limestone block and taken from Coombefield Quarry along the Jurassic Coast in Portland, Dorset, sometime over the last six months.

About 25 slabs bearing the footprints of dinosaurs such as the two-legged herbivore Iguanadon, the four-legged herbivore Sauropod and the two-legged carnivore Megalosaur have now been moved to a safe place by The Portland Gas Trust.

READ MORE - Source: The Telegraph 13th march 2009

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Civil War heritage for Weymouth's Old Town Hall

THE future of Weymouth’s Old Town Hall has been secured for community use after a deal was struck that will see the historic building used as an art heritage centre.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s management committee has agreed to lease the building to the Chapelhay Community Partnership.
The terms of the lease will see the building restored to be used as an art heritage centre focusing on the Siege and Battle of Weymouth during the English Civil War.
READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Wednesday 11th March 2009

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Dark Dorset featured in Dorset Echo Saturday Magazine

Just been told that reporter Ruth Meech has written a feature about us and the Dorchester Youth Theatre group in this weekend's Dorset Echo's magazine. Click Image below.

The Circus of Horror comes to town

The Circus of Horror descends on Weymouth Pavilion tonight in all its gory glory. Macabre sights, dark humour, and great music make this a night not to be missed - as long as you are not faint of heart or under the age of 16.

The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £18 plus concessions - call 010305783225 for bookings and information

Friday, 6 March 2009

Dartford warbler alert

Fears have been raised that half to three-quarters of the rare Dartford warbler in Hampshire may have perished during the icy weather.

In neighbouring Dorset, disaster is thought to have been averted, with the majority of rare heathland birds surviving the Arctic blast.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 6th March 2009

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

A bustling walkway with a dark past

Dorchester's Antelope Walk has always played a leading role in county town life. A quaint and cobbled link between the bustling thoroughfares of South Street and Trinity Street, it is a magnet for shoppers and as well as those interested in learning a bit about Dorchester's past.

In Antelope Walk today, a number of High Street shops rub shoulders with popular independent retailers and the alleyway is usually thronged with customers. It has changed considerably over the years. The Cornhill/South Street end of the walk used to host the Antelope Inn, one of Dorchester's three old coaching inns, as the bow front windows of Monsoon and the Body Shop and the wide gap between the two bear witness. The other two inns were the Kings Arms in High East Street and the Greyhound Inn which stood where Waitrose now trades.

Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 4th March 2008

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