During the years that he lived in Dorchester (1908-1915) Grandad Beck took lots of photographs. From reports of court cases we know that as a detective he took photographs as part of his job. We don’t know if his interest in photography preceded his promotion. We do have lots of photographs taken by Grandad Beck of his family, many of them from the early 1900s. Today I thought I would share some of these family photographs, some of these may have been taken at Upwey before the family moved to Dorchester.
Between the family home and the police station in Dorchester, Dorset, is the earthworks Maumbury Rings. This was originally a Neolithic Henge, modified by the Romans into an amphitheatre and then used as an artillery fort in the English Civil War. The people of Dorchester use this area for recreation and picnics. While researching, I found that from 1908-1913 the archaeologist Harold St George Gray excavated the rings. He sank about 45 shafts, up to 36 feet deep, into the chalk. This probably explains the structure visible on the right of this photograph
Grandad Beck was promoted to Superintendent of Blandford Division on 16 June 1915. The local newspapers were listing the men killed or wounded in the fighting in the Great War. Prior to being promoted he was a Detective Sergeant based at Dorchester. It is a possibility that the promotion came very quickly, the day before Superintendent Ricketts had died. Rickett’s had been Superintendent of Wimborne Division. The Chief Constable, Captain Granville must have been very quick to move Superintendent Sims based at Blandford to Wimborne and promote Grandad Beck. This was a significant promotion and was to be his last. This not only entailed moving to Blandford but he would have had a significant pay rise. Something his wife would have appreciated, costs were rising fast, as I wrote about in last weeks post.
Move to Blandford Forum
Grandad Beck’s days would have been taken with up passing over his current duties and learning his new ones. For his wife, Rebecca this would have entailed packing up the house and, I assume, moving at very short notice. I am sure Rebecca was delighted with the promotion but must have had misgivings about the move to a new town. The house they lived in at Dorchester had 6 rooms including the kitchen. The neighbours were from different trades, (1911 census) none of them were Policemen, though they were not far from the Police station and other policemen lived nearby. Blandford was very different because they were moving into the police station. Police stations at this time, housed the men and their families, any visiting policemen, the offices and other rooms used by the police, prison cells and stables. At Blandford, the 1911 census lists a Sergeant and 2 Constables with their wives and families besides the Superintendent. Superintendent Sims lists 7 rooms occupied by himself and his family, suggesting the accommodation was slightly larger.
Lionel and May
Lionel would have been 16 years of age and I would assume working. We know he moved with the family, so he must have had to change job. When he enrolled in the Army 2 years later he was working in a shop, so it is possible this was his job in Dorchester. Given the circumstance of Grandad Beck’s promotion he must have had to hand his notice in very quickly, lets hope it was a job he was glad to leave.
May would have been 14 years old and may have still been at School. In 1911 census is seems usual for 13 year old daughters, including those of policemen, to be still at school. Girls 14 and older, living in the same area as the family, were usually listed without any occupation. As the war progressed girls and young women were taking jobs to help replace the men that were called up. We believe that May worked in Blandford telephone exchange at the end of the war. Whether May was at School, at home or working the move to Blandford would have been an upheaval and she would have had to leave her friends behind, but it could have been exciting as well. New places to explore and people to meet for both Lionel and May.
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Grandad Beck told my father the story of how May overheard a conversation while she was working at the telephone exchange in Blandford Forum. May promptly telephoned her father to tell him that the war was over. The call is likely to have been between an Officer in London and the RAF station at Blandford. Grandad Beck went on to tell my father that he gave her a good telling off. May was in a position of trust and must not repeat anything she should overhear.
On 23rd April 1917 Grandad Beck’s son Lionel joined the Royal North Devon Hussars 2/1 Battalion. His service was to last 101 days, just over 3 months. From his discharge papers and the three letters Lionel wrote to his sister May, we find out about this time. Less than a year after he returned home, Lionel died, his death certificate contained a surprise.
Lionel the soldier
We learn that Private Lionel Howard Beck was 5ft 6in with blue eyes and fair hair. Before his call up, Lionel, worked as a shop assistant, most likely in Blandford where he lived at home with his parents and sister. At this time Grandad Beck was Superintendent at Blandford and the family lived in the police station.
Grandad Beck’s mother died on May 26th 1919, Grandad Beck, Rebecca and 18 year old May would have joined Eli (Grandad Beck’s father) and the rest of the family at Garland Road, Longfleet, Poole, Dorset for the funeral. My Great, Great Grandmother, Frances Jane Beck was buried in the St Mary’s churchyard, Longfleet. Later to be joined by her husband, Eli and Grandad Beck.
On November 21st 1919 Grandad Beck took over his duties as Police Superintendent of the Bridport Division from Superintendent Saint who retired the day before. Prior to this Grandad Beck had been in charge of the Blandford Division, this was a promotion as the Bridport Division was larger than Blandford’s. The Bridport Division consisted of 2 Borough town, Bridport and Lyme Regis and the Market Town of Beaminster. The Division police station was built at Beaminster around 1862. The choice of location was most likely because, as a borough, Bridport had their own police force. Grandad Beck’s new division consisted of 3 Sergeants (one each at Bridport, Lyme Regis and Beaminster) and 22 constables, 11 of these based in the rural villages. Blandford was smaller with 1 Sergeant and 10 constables, 5 in nearby villages. It is unlikely that either of these divisions had their full number of constables, see last weeks post.
This week I thought I would share some of the photographs that were taken at Beaminster Police Station during the 1920s. These are not dated but would have been taken during the time Grandad Beck, his wife Rebecca and daughter May lived there, from November 1919 to August 1925. In August 1925 Grandad Beck, and his wife moved to Bridport, I wrote about this here. The Station was not only a working Police Station, containing the visitors office, Court room, Police cells etc., but a home to the Superintendent and his family. It also contained separate accommodation for a Police Constable and his family. A Sergeant was also based in Beaminster and had separate accommodation in the town. In 1925 Sergeant and Mrs Symes lived in North Street, Beaminster while PC and Mrs Diment lived in a ‘cottage’ at the back of the Police Station. Grandad Beck and his family had their accommodation on the first and second floor, overlooking the main road through Beaminster.
Last week I wrote about the wedding of Grandad Beck’s daughter in the month of May 1925. (Laura) May Beck had lived in several police stations with her parents, she was born in Lyme Regis where her father was a constable, the family then moved to Upwey, followed by Dorchester and Blandford before coming to Beaminster. She must have known many of the police officers in Dorset and the local officers gave her with a guard of honour at her wedding.
The Bridport News reports that the weather was stormy and in this photograph it looks chilly and wet. Two of the guests have umbrellas up as they assembled for this photograph outside Beaminster church. Most of the guest are wearing coats and hats, from the photograph it doesn’t look like a summer wedding.
On a stormy day, at 2 O’clock on Thursday 7th May 1925 my Grandparents married in Beaminster parish church. My Grandmother, Laura May, was the only daughter of Grandad Beck and his wife Rebecca. Because she died when my father was a small lad, there are few memories of her. We have a few clues to their wedding day, family photographs, a Bridport News article and a hand written note book of invitations sent. From these sources I have written this post.
The wedding took place at Beaminster Parish Church, described as capacious and stately, and was filled with relatives and friends. The ceremony was impressively conducted by the Vicar (Canon G. C. Hutchings, M.A.) assisted by the Rev. Mr Kershaw, of Powerstock. The paper also tells us the hymns sung were, “Lead us heavenly Father lead us,” and “O perfect love all human thoughts transcending.”
Letters and post cards give us a small glimpse into the life and thoughts of our ancestors. They may tells us something about their characters but it would be too easy to make conclusions from these sources. For example what could we deduce from Grandad Beck’s start of his letter Hello you folks! and ending All the love yours APB to his daughter and son-in-law. The letter (well it is actually added on to his wife’s letter) shows a practical side, a sense of humour, a casual way of writing and yet ends with his initials APB.
I don’t have many letters but I have chosen a couple both written in 1926. Grandad Beck and his wife Rebecca had recently moved to Peel House, Bridport. There newly married daughter and son-in-law lived at Wytherston Farm, Powerstock about 6 miles away. May and Fred were married on 7th May 1925 and this post celebrates the birth of their first child, my Uncle, Frederick Osborne who was born on 17 March 1926.
Post Card 15 January 1926
Sometimes it is odd which correspondence survive, for example why did the card below from Grandad Beck to his father Eli survive but not the card/letter that was being answered.