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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Friday, 31 December 2010

Dorset's Weird and Wonderful Year of 2010

From more sightings of big cats to psychic octopuses, a macabre discovery at a car-boot sale to a ghost of a German airman haunting a Poole shoe shop. 2010 has been a busy year for weird and wonderful news in Dorset.

Dark Dorset looks back with a selection of twelve stories taken from our blog scrapbook.

JANUARY - Friday, 1st January 2010

Tatooed skin with Dorset connection turns up at car boot sale

The tattooed skin of a would-be killer that was used to bind a Victorian pocket book has been discovered at a car boot sale.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 1st January 2010

FEBRUARY - Wednesday, 17th February 2010

Seal makes friends on River Frome near Wool

Angler Matt Sparks was stunned when he spotted a seal while fishing – 10 miles inland from the sea.
Matt, 36, was fishing for grayling on the River Frome near Wool when the seal suddenly popped its head up. He clicked his fingers at the mammal, which then swam close enough to be touched.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Wednesday 17th February 2010

MARCH - Wednesday, 31st March 2009

Abbey unearthed in Abbotsbury garden

A grandfather has unearthed an 11th-century abbey in his back garden.  Peter Laurie, 73, and his grandson Oscar, 16, were searching for the remains of a Roman road when they came across their unexpected treasure.

 READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Wednesday 31st March 2010

APRIL - Thursday, 29th April 2009

King Edward VI's remedy oak tree gets revamp

An 800-year-old oak tree in Dorset under which King Edward VI is said to have sat and cured people's illnesses has been given a revamp.

A plaque on the Remedy Oak in woodlands near Verwood refers to the incident in summer 1552, when the king was aged 15.

Legend says he dispensed healing powers by touching those brought before him suffering from various ailments.

They included scrofula, which the King himself suffered from and became known as The King's Evil.

READ MORE - Source: BBC News 29th April 2010

MAY - Saturday, 16th May 2009

Upwey Well Dressing

This is the 24th Upwey Well Dressing and this year the display marks the centenary of the Girl Guides movement, depicting scenes of camping past and present..

Read more: Dorset Echo Wednesday 5th May 2010

Well dressing was introduced to Upwey in 1986. Some Derbyshire Ladies who moved to the area started the tradition of dressing the well, as per Derbyshire custom. Thus The wishing well is now dressed each year at around May Day. The Upwey Well Dressing is very much a community effort, which raises good money for local charities, this year proceeds will go to the South Dorset Girl Guides.

The origins of the tradition are alternatively said to lie in pagan tradition or in giving thanks for the purity of the water drawn from certain wells during the period of the Black Death. It is often said to have originated in Tissington, Derbyshire, though other claims can be made for Eyam and Stoney Middleton. Whatever its origins it was historically a custom exclusive in England to the Peak District of Derbyshire.

The information accompanying the Upwey Well Dressing reads:
"Well Dressing
Springs and wells all over the world have been revered since ancient times. In Britain the most famous examples of this tradition are Well Dressings in the Peak District villages of Derbyshire, where, during the time of the plague, communities with fresh water supply were able to protect themselves by sealing their village off from sealing their village from the outside world. Weymouth is were the Black Death entered the country in 1347. Since then wells and springs were dressed annually in thankfulness and celebration.

Here at Upwey Wishing Well is the main source of the River Wey - the largest natural spring in the south - and local people with Derbyshire connections introduced Well Dressing to the local community in 1986. Ever since the Wishing Well has been dressed annually at the May Day weekend.

Planning and designing takes several months but work starts in earnest during the week leading up to the May Day Bank Holiday.

First, a wooden framework is made and soaked for a week or so in the water gardens. Then, in the week before installation, a layer of clay is laid out on the framework of boards and the design marked out. Over the following three days the picture is built up with leaves, seeds, and other natural materials. Finally, on the day before installation, thousands of flower petals are added to give brilliant colour. Local gardeners are very generous and no wild flowers are used. The work is very intensive and painstaking and has to be completed within this short period. Although it is at its best in the early days, the Well Dressing last for three to four weeks."
Brief History of the Wishing Well

The Wishing Well at Upwey is a natural spring and source of the River Wey. The tradition as a wishing well is said to have begun as a visitor attraction in the early 20th century.

Visitors would often participate in the ritual by taking a few sips of well water from a glass. And throwing the rest of the water backwards over their left shoulder while wishing.

The Wishing Well waters are thought to also have healing properties especially in the healing of sore eyes. (see article 'Bincombe's Link to Ancient Spring 10th March 2004')

George III often visited the village of Upwey during his stay at Weymouth. He was particularly attracted by the spring that it is said that this caused a seat to be set nearby for his use. It is also said that the gold cup that the king drank the spring water from later became the Ascot Gold Cup.

JUNE - Monday, 14th June 2009

Big cat 'beast is sighted in forest

A man has claimed he saw a big cat prowling Wareham Forest. Lytchett Matravers man Daniel Green says he saw the puma-like creature crossing the Bere Regis Road as he drove from Holton Heath on Monday morning last week.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Monday, 14th June 2010

JULY - Thursday, 29th July 2009

Mystery "Cave Man" spotted in Dorset woods

A mystery ‘caveman’ has been spotted in the woods along the coastal path. He was snapped by holidaymaker Nuala Hamilton from the Mull of Kintyre. Ms Hamilton, 43, had travelled to Lyme Regis on holiday with a friend and her greyhound Judy to look for fossils

 READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Thursday 29th July 2010

AUGUST - Monday, 16th August 2009

Beast of Dorset makes another appearance - in Crossways

The Beast of Dorset has made another appearance near Crossways. Pam Massey, of Crossways, and Molly Parkin and her mother Jenny Parkin, of East Dulwich, London, were driving from Bovington to Crossways on a minor road late at night.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Monday 16th August 2010 

SEPTEMBER - Monday, 28th September 2009

Ghost of German bomber pilot believed to haunt Stainers shoe shop in Poole

The ghost of a German bomber pilot is believed to haunt a shoe shop where his plane crashed during the Second World War.  Staff at Stainers in Parkstone claim to have had many “Herr-raising” experiences over the years, thanks to a resident spook they’ve nick-named Heinz.

Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 23rd September 2010

OCTOBER - Wednesday, 27th October 2009

Paul the psychic octopus is dead

Former Weymouth Sea Life resident Paul the psychic octopus has died at an aquarium in Germany. Management and staff at the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre were devastated to discover that oracle octopus Paul, had passed away overnight. Paul, who was born at Weymouth Sea Life Park, made a name for himself by correctly predicting the outcome of this year’s World Cup matches.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Wednesday 27th October 2010

NOVEMBER - Monday, 8th November 2009

Whale of a task for bone expert

A curious 130-year old whalebone arch gracing Chideock Manor has been preserved for posterity thanks to a bit of serendipity and a lot of specialist knowledge.  Deirdre and Howard Coates bought Chideock Manor 14 years ago and have watched the whalebone arch – probably dating back to around 1880 – steadily crumble before their eyes.

READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Saturday 20th November 2010

More information visit http://www.natural-history-conservation.com/chideock.htm

DECEMBER - Thursday, 23rd December 2009

Colossal pliosaur fossil secrets revealed by CT scanner

The innermost secrets of a colossal "sea monster" skull are being revealed by one of the UK's most powerful CT scanners. The X-rays are helping to build up a 3D picture of this ferocious predator, called a pliosaur, which terrorized the oceans 150m years ago. The 2.4m-long (7.9ft) fossil skull was recently unearthed along the UK's Jurassic coast, and is thought to belong to one of the biggest pliosaurs ever found. The scans could establish if the giant is a species that is new to science.

READ MORE - Source: BBC News

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

News Clipping: Thomas Hardy's beloved home to throw its doors open to the madding crowd

The country home where Thomas Hardy wrote some of his best known novels is to be opened in full to the public for the first time.

Max Gate in Dorchester, Dorset, was designed by the author himself and is where he played host to the luminaries of his time including Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Marie Stopes and H G Wells.

From mid-March thousands of paying visitors will be able to examine the Victorian villa which is just down the road from the cottage where Hardy was born.

Read More: Source - Daily Mail 29th December 2010

Friday, 24 December 2010

News Clipping: Babylon Mummers are keeping the festive spirit alive

There are lots of events planned for the week after Christmas to help keep the festive spirit alive. West Dorset’s Babylon Mummers will be bringing a taste of traditional Yule to Beaminster and the surrounding villages on New Year’s Day.

The Babylonians will be dancing and mumming with friends from Red Stags Morris and Treacle Eater Clog and you can catch their wonderful show at Beaminster Square (11am), Broadwindsor Square (noon) and The Hare and Hounds at Waytown at 1pm.

The Quangle Wangle Choir will be in fine voice on Monday, December 27, when they give their annual post-Christmas concert in the United Church, South Street, Dorchester at 7.30pm.

Also on Monday, you can enjoy Abeng music, drumming, dancing and singing with Chief Nana Kofi Simba Leo in Fordington Church Hall, Fordington in Dorchester.

The session starts at 7pm and costs £10 from 07979 885685.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Friday 24th December 2010

Website: http://www.babylon.org.uk

Thursday, 23 December 2010

News Clipping: Colossal pliosaur fossil secrets revealed by CT scanner

The innermost secrets of a colossal "sea monster" skull are being revealed by one of the UK's most powerful CT scanners. The X-rays are helping to build up a 3D picture of this ferocious predator, called a pliosaur, which terrorized the oceans 150m years ago. The 2.4m-long (7.9ft) fossil skull was recently unearthed along the UK's Jurassic coast, and is thought to belong to one of the biggest pliosaurs ever found. The scans could establish if the giant is a species that is new to science.

READ MORE - Source: BBC News

A folkcharm to combat the credit crunch 19th Century style

On this day in 1882 a farmer's wife who lived near Bridport, took a gamble with four pounds. She entrusted the money to two travelling women who claimed that they could treble money, and who asked for just a few shillings in return for their financial acumen.

They marked the coins with astrological symbols, and hid them. The farmer was having none of this and demanded to know where they had put the loot. Despite his wife's warnings that it must be left undisturbed until Easter Sunday, the farmer dragged the truth from her and discovered that the two strangers had stuck something up the chimney.

The something turned out to be a cloth-wrapped, pin-stuck smoked pig's heart stuffed with polished farthings. That was that: the spell was broken, and so the four pounds was never trebled. That is the non-cynic's way of viewing it.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

News Clipping: Pirates of the Caribbean role for Dorset historian

Dorset historian Justin Pollard has helped recreate the Old Bailey courthouse, as it was in 1750, for the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. The latest instalment in the movie franchise recently finished filming and is due for release in 2011.

READ MORE - Source: BBC News Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Monday, 20 December 2010

News Clipping: Have a wassailing and merry Yuletide

Have yourself a wassailing and merry Yuletide some would argue that, for years, Christmas has been swept along on a wave of technology and commercialism. A Mummers performance outside a pub in Hampshire
But the tide could be turning, as it would appear that more traditional aspects of the season are now being embraced. Rituals with roots going back as far as medieval times are enjoyed by people across the country, with Dorset no exception.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Monday, 20 December 2010

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Events: Songs and Dance Music of the English Village Bands and Choirs with the Mellstock Band

On 18th December 2010 at the Village Hall, Cranborne, Dorset. West Gallery music has unique vigour and excitement, as well as being accessible to singers and musicians of all abilities. It is rhythmic, full-voiced, and has a fascinating combination of wild harmonies and unorthodox counterpoint. The choirs and their music are unforgettably portrayed by Thomas Hardy in Under The Greenwood Tree and some of the pieces we will be singing and playing come from the Hardy family's own collection of manuscript books, and from other Dorset sources. Singers and musicians will find it helpful to have a basic knowledge of written music. The intention is to do as the village bands did, and welcome whatever suitable instruments are available, whether in modern or historical forms. The only instruments not suited to this repertoire are keyboard instruments and chordal instruments such as guitar.

Workshop and Concert (events can be booked separately)

Workshop info: A day of singing and instrumental music making, led by The Mellstock Band.

Time: 10.30am – 4.30pm.
Cost: £35.

Concert info: The Leaves of Life - Christmas Concert by the Mellstock Band

Christmas music in the English tradition, from Carols to Revels and from Alehouse to Church Gallery. Fully-costumed performance with period instruments.

Time: 7.30pm
Cost: £10

More information - Contact: 01202 885294 or 01258 840097 or info@joyousisle.com or visit

News Clipping: Skeleton's story is fleshed out in novel about Roman invaders

A young man who died nearly 2,000 years ago defending a huge hill fort from Roman invaders has been brought back to life as the hero of a new novel. A male skeleton, unearthed in a mass grave by archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler during a major investigation of Maiden Castle in the 1930s, was found with a Roman ballista bolt embedded in his spine. It is one of the most dramatic exhibits at Dorset County Museum, Dorchester.

READ MORE - Source: Western Gazette 16th December 2010

The book "Defenders of Mai-Dun - A Story of the Roman Assault on Maiden Castle" is published by Roving Press at £5.99.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Events: The Purbeck Mummers Yuletide Tour 2010

Mummers' plays have been performed in England since the late 1700s and most Dorset villages would have had their own play. The Purbeck Mummers will be performing their annual Mummers Play within the Isle of Purbeck.

Here is their 2010 Touring Programme:
  • 11th December
19:15 - Crows Nest Inn, 11 Ulwell Rd, Swanage
20:00 - Red Lion, High St, Swanage
20:45 - Ship Inn, High Street, Langton Matravers
  • 12th December
13:00 - Weld Arms, East Lulworth

13:50 - Sailor's Return, Chaldon Herring, East Chaldon

14:50 - Black Bear, High St, Wool

16:00 - Kings Arms, North St, Wareham
  • 16th December - Provisional
20:00 - British Legion, Colliers Way, Wool
21:00 - Stokeford Inn, Stokeford - Wareham Whalers' Folk Club
  • 17th December
20:30 - Quay Inn, The Quay, Wareham

21:00 - Black Bear Hotel, South St, Wareham

21:30 - Duke of Wellington, East St, Wareham
  • 19-Dec-2010
12:00 - Clay Pipe Inn, Organford Rd, Holton Heath
  • 26th December
12:00 Village Square, West Street, Corfe Castle
12:30 The Fox, West St, Corfe Castle

13:00 - Castle Inn, East St, Corfe Castle

13:30 - Scott Arms, Kingston

14:00 - Square and Compass, Worth Matravers
More information can be found via their website www.precisionproductions.com/mummers

N.B. The information above has been compiled with the best of intentions and I am afraid we cannot accept any responsibility for any of these events being cancelled or venue changed.  Always phone before you set out on your journey, especially if you are travelling long distances.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Still Folk Dancing... After All These Years on BBC IPlayer

Rachel and Becky Unthank
If you missed it on BBC 4 this evening, you still have a chance to see the young Northumbrian folk-singing siblings Rachel and Becky Unthank take a journey around England from spring to autumn 2010 to experience its living folk dance traditions in action.

They lead us through the back gardens and narrow streets of towns and villages from Newcastle to Penzance to discover the most surprising of dances, ceremonies, rituals and festivities that mark the turning of the seasons and the passing of the year.

On their journey the Unthanks learn about the evolving history of the dances, whether connected to the land and the cycles of fertility or to working customs and practices in industrial towns. The girls talk to local historians and visit Cecil Sharp House to explore the dances' 20th century revival and codification through archivist Sharp and others, and we get to enjoy extraordinary film archive of the dances through the decades which show that although the people have changed, the dances have often remained remarkably constant.
Rachel and Becky grew up clog dancing in their native Northumberland and now get to observe and try other English dances, including travellers' step dancing in Suffolk, horn dancing with huge antlers in Staffordshire and stick dancing in Oxfordshire.

This curious but vibrant world of local dances flies in the face of modernisation, and sometimes of ridicule, to keep the traditions and the steps alive.

Events: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Wassail

Wassail - A Traditional Dorset Christmas with The New Scorpion Band in collaboration with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Purbeck Village Quire will be performing at the Lighthouse, Poole on Saturday 18th December 2010.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is introducing a new concert to this years Christmas celebrations at the Lighthouse, Poole. Join the BSO and the New Scorpion Band for a unique fusion of folk and classical music. The Scorpions play an impressive number of instruments alongside the BSO and the evening’s performances comprise of British carols - The Sussex Carol, Sans Day Carol, Shepherd’s Arise and The Seven Joys of Mary following the West gallery Quire tradition.

An exciting enactment of a traditional Blackmore Vale Mummers play will also be performed – an English Christmas tradition. Lets not forget the mulled wine and figgy pudding!

Events: The Stourvale Mummers Yuletide Tour 2010

The team was formed in 1979 by members and friends of the Bourne River Morris Men. The object of the performance is to raise funds for local needy children, as well as keeping alive a colourful local tradition. During the Christmas season they perform a traditional Mummers' play from Sixpenny Handley.

Here is their 2010 Touring Programme:
  • Saturday 11th December
2:00 pm (approx) at the Save the Children day in Wimborne along with Bourne River Morris Men (who will dancing between 12.00 noon and 2:00 pm).
  • Friday 17th December
8:00 pm Horton Inn - Horton

8:30 pm Drusilla's Inn - Horton

9:00 pm Barley Mow - Colehill

10:00 pm Cross Keys - Mannington
  •  Saturday 18th December
8:00 pm The Roebuck Inn - Sixpenny Handley.

8:30 pm The Inn on the Chase -Cashmoor

9:00 pm The Drovers - Gussage All Saints

9:30 pm Grand Christmas Ceilidh - the Village Hall, Tarrant Keynston
  •  Sunday 19th December
12:30 pm Lambs Green Inn - Corfe Mullen

1:00 pm Red Lion - Sturminster Marshall

1:30 pm Botany Bay - Winterbourne Zelston

2:00 pm Holme Bush - Corfe Mullen
  • Tuesday 21st December
8:30 pmThe Churchill Arms - Alderholt

9:00 pm The Horse & Groom - Woodgreen

9:30 pm Elm Tree - Hightown, nr. Ringwood - Folk Club ceilidh & the bar
  • Wednesday 22nd December
8:30 pm Fox and Hounds - Canford Bottom

9:00 pm Kings Arms - Longham

9:30 pm Owl's Nest - West Parley

10:00 pm The Curlew - West Parley
  • Thursday 23rd December
9:00 pm The Vine - Pamphill

9:30 pm The Horns - Colehill

10:00 pm Royal British Legion - Wimborne
More information can be found via their website www.bournerivermorris.org.uk

N.B. The information above has been compiled with the best of intentions and I am afraid we cannot accept any responsibility for any of these events being cancelled or venue changed.  Always phone before you set out on your journey, especially if you are travelling long distances.

Events: Frome Valley Morris Yuletide Mummers 2010 - 11

Every year since 1978 the Frome Valley Morris Mummers have performed an action packed mummers play which up until 1936 was originally performed at Broadwey near Weymouth. Their bright costumes with colourful streamers hanging down over the face for disguise are based on the actual costumes worn at the time.

This year events in which the group will be appearing:
  • Friday January 7th - Bothenhampton Village Hall at 7.30pm
  • Saturday January 29th - Burn's Night, Upwey Village Hall at 7.30pm
    N.B. Events are subject to weather permitting
The Mummers, as remembered by Thomas Hardy for the Mummers' play in the 'Return of the Native' performed in Dorchester in 1920. The Frome Valley Morris based theirs costumes, on the ones used by the Hardy players, originally designed from a sketch by Hardy.
The Frome Valley Morris Mummers specialise in turning up at a venue, entering and performing the play. The first the surprised audience knows is the unexpected entrance of the Announcer, followed by each character in turn introducing themselves Father Christmas, Saint George, A Turkish Knight, A Doctor, Beelzebub, Jack Vinney (A Village Idiot). This does not usually stop anyone watching joining in with the spirit of the play with interactive cheers and good humour.

Read more about Christmas Mummers on our website

In 2007 Dark Dorset followed the Frome Valley Morris Men as they performed there end of year Mummers Play at a variety of venues in Dorset. The video below was taken at the White Horse, Litton Cheney on 22nd of December 2007.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Events: New Books - Enchantment of the Black Dog & Defenders of Mai-Dun: A Story of the Roman Assault on Maiden Castle

 New Books from Roving Press
  • Sunday 5th December – Book Launch - Enchantment of the Black Dog
White Stones Cafe Gallery, Easton, Portland, 2–4 pm. 
Exciting launch of Enchantment of the Black Dog (the second in the Portland Chronicles series). Dressing up, lots of activities and displays, and all children receive a lucky-dip prize. Meet author Carol Hunt, illustrator Domini Deane and the puppets. Buy personalised copies of The Portland Chronicles Books 1 and 2 at the special ‘launch’ price. Special offers on other Roving Press books too. Come and have some fun over delicious coffee and cake, with 10% off all food and drink purchases.
  • Friday 10th December – Children’s Storytelling on Portland
Easton Promise Night, Portland Tophill Library, 5 pm 
You don't have to be a library member to come along to this free event. Festive rhymes and stories for under 5s with local author Carol Hunt reading extracts from her new book Enchantment of the Black Dog. During this late-night shopping evening most Easton businesses will stay open, providing festive cheer, special deals, food specialities and craft stalls.
  • Saturday 11th December – Book Launch - Defenders of Mai-Dun: A Story of the Roman Assault on Maiden Castle
Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, 2–5 pm 
An apt venue as the Museum holds a number of artefacts mentioned in David Macpherson’s new book Defenders of Mai-Dun: A Story of the Roman Assault on Maiden Castle. Complimentary drinks and nibbles, children’s activities and special displays. Why not combine it with a look in the Museum? All children receive a lucky-dip prize. Meet author David Macpherson, a local retired history and Head teacher, and buy personalised signed copies at the special ‘launch’ price. Special offers on other Roving Press books too. Free entry to the Launch Party only.
  • Saturday 18th December – Meet Roving Press Authors
Words Etcetera Bookshop, 2 Cornhill, Dorchester, from 1 pm
Roving Press books and authors will be at the bookshop with special offers and signings on all our local books. Come and chat, buy your last-minute presents and enjoy free refreshments and children’s activities. All children receive a lucky-dip prize.
 For more information visit Roving Press at www.rovingpress.co.uk
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