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Why Dorset postmen weren't allowed to ring bells in 1846

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TrueBlueTerrier
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Why Dorset postmen weren't allowed to ring bells in 1846

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Last week we turned our focus to the lives of impoverished labourers in Dorset in 1846.

Roger Lane of West Stafford supplied us with a 1916 article written by Dorchester man Sir Frederick Treves and published in 1917 examining poverty in the county 70 years previously in 1846.

Sir Frederick, getting his information from the article published in the 1917 Annual Year Book of the Society of Dorset Men, was shocked to discover what life in Dorset was like for 'peasants' and wrote that significant progress had been made for labourers in the 70 years since.


He also wrote about how things in general fared in Dorset in 1846.

Sir Frederick, who gained fame as the man who looked after the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, notes that Dorchester still had a reputation as a picturesque town and the Old Town Hall was still standing against St Peter's Church in the county town - two years later the town hall was pulled down in 1848.

The hall is described as 'a very simple building of two storeys'.

In front of the windows was a balcony from which the Mayor made public announcements on occasions of solemnity, while below was an archway which led to the butter and poultry market.

Sir Frederick writes that Dorchester was 52 miles from the nearest railway station but the coach trade was booming.

"Seven coaches rattled into Dorchester, with horns blowing and harness jingling, every day of the week, and seven left with the same bustle and ceremony," he wrote.

Three days of the week saw nine coaches from Dorchester coming in and out - the main coaches were the Royal Mail from London via Southampton, the Magnet from London by the Salisbury Road, the Emerald from London by way of Poole and the Forrester that came from Exeter.

Sir Frederick writes that it was reported that people of Dorset regretted the coming of the railway at the expense of the disappearance of the coach. Dorset dialect poet William Barnes even wrote a poem bemoaning the change.

The year 1846 also saw Maumbury Rings in Dorchester threatened with utter destruction, Sir Frederick writes, because Brunel was determined to run the railway to Weymouth through the ancient amphitheatre.


In 1846, the Penny Post had been in existence for six years and the adhesive stamp was still a mysterious novelty.

Sir Frederick writes: "The first stamps were black and the obliterating mark was red. The ingenious soon discovered that the red marks could be easily washed off by simple chemicals, so it came to pass that half the lady's maids in the land and all the schoolboys were busy converting old stamps into new.

"In 1846 the postman, who wore a tall hat and was by reason of the noise he made a public nuisance, was forbidden to ring his bell when delivering letters."

At the time there were no telegrams and photography was still in its infancy, Sir Frederick writes.

Also in 1846 Louise Philippe was still on the French throne, the Corn Laws weren't repealed until June 26, 1846 and the Fleet Prison in London was not yet demolished. A copy of the Times would cost fivepence; income tax was sevenpence in the pound (it rose to 1/4 in the Crimean War) and prices for typical goods were 8d to 8.5d per 4lb loaf for bread; wheat 52/2, barley 7/4 and oats 23/6.
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