MOST OF the information for a parish history is gleaned from various official sources-parish records, census returns, tax and rating assessments, electoral lists and the like-and such documents are necessarily of a formal nature. Occasionally, however, more personal private records have survived, such as the family notebook of the Goulds of Woodbury Hill who were carpenters and builders for several successive generations. The book is now housed in the County Record Office, and the following note is attached to it:
Old John Gould, who lived on Woodbury Hill, gave this book to me about 1880, when I was elected Member of Parliament for Wareham, the last who had sat for that Borough-1880 & 1885. Gould was quite blind, the book had been in his family for years, as his writings testify. The book contains some curious information about Bere & the neighbourhood. If it is ever found after my death, I should like it deposited in the Dorset County Museum at Dorchester. Montague Guest.
The book seems to have been in more or less continual use from 1723 until 1850, its main purpose being to record purchases of timber and building materials, and other items in connection with the family business, but these purely business items are interspersed with various unrelated notes on domestic and parish affairs, which are of great interest as they describe conditions and events which would have found no place in more official records.
The bulk of the Goulds' work seems to have been in the provision and maintenance of semi-permanent covered stalls in connection with the annual fair on Woodbury Hill. (See photograph below) During the 18th century when the fair still lasted for a week each year, the top of the hill served no other purpose and was laid out as a series of concourses and stalls in the nature of a permanent exhibition site. The stalls, or `standings' or `bowers' as they were called, were planned and constructed to the individual specifications of the traders concerned, some of them in considerable detail, and typical of such items are the following:
Memorandum I am to set up a place for a baker of Seren abby (Cerne Abbas) at ye north end of Mr Comfrys standing - 1734.
Standing to be built for mr Gravenor five foot at west End for a bed, and boarded up the iner side and a shilf 5 foot high over the door place going into bed; the midle for nine foot 8 Inches broad and apart. Each end and trim to be 18 Inches apart, and nine Inch broad, the Counter 2 foot & half broad the bottom back shilf a foot broad, and five more narrow shillves as above over it.
From the foregoing it is evident that the stalls were often used in addition as living accommodation for the trader during the week of the fair.
Before maps and plans were used to record the extent of manors and parishes the positions of such boundaries were marked at intervals by certain natural features and boundary stones, and human memory was relied upon for the exact delineation of them. Memory was aided from time to time by parish representatives walking the parish boundaries (see drawing here of the parish boundaries), and such an occasion, often known as "beating the bounds," is recorded in the notebook:
Mememberandum Concerning June ye 6=1750. Beer Folks & bloxworth people went a bounding together into ye east Coman-we began at ye ditch between new close & beerhambrech ye first stone is by a homing bush by ye way side: the next stone is in ye medle of ye pond: ye next is by a homing bush about a l00 or a l00 & 20 yard: ye next atone is by ye way aid to ye left of ye way about a 100 or a 100 & 20 yard: ye next stons are abour a 100 or a l00 & 20 asunder theare are 2 stones about 16 yard asunder one west and ye other east to part hide and beer ye east is to part bloxwortn and beer. Then we goes down to tho hedes corner and from yt thear is oak tree bouns a little ways from hide barn then from yt we goes to a oak tre in glasburys hedge & from thence we goe up ye hill & thear 2 holes & when we are a top of ye hill we goes on to thomas hardys grave and from thense we goe on to Boventon stone by Dorchester way: & from yt to a litle pond upon ye left hand of ye way coming from boventon stone: & benether yt is a nother pond in ye medle is a bound stone & from yt about 80 or a 100 yard is another bound stone.
It is often considered that human behaviour, particularly among the young is worse in the present age than in former times, but a study of old records including school log books, quickly reveals that this is not so, and that although conditions and ways of life are constantly changing, human nature remains much the same, and the following extracts from the notebook may serve to illustrate the point:
1742 July ye 25 being St James day Sunday will Ruttor John Baskome James harice broke ye widow (window). Strangmans window 10 or 12 quarels (panes) about 4 a clock or 5 a Clock in ye Afternoon will Rutter ofered harice to give him a J to break our windo. May ye 17:1790 The Mobb of Reselute Felows Risd at Bere Regis. They went to Kingston and forst men to go with them Down ye Vale. A very Scandelous Action. 1826 June ye 12 there were Some Horse Soldiers in Bere some of which Broke in to our House on Woodbury-hill where the Strong Beer were But The Officer put all Things Inn plase again. memorandum I do Intend if god willing ye 3 day of ye fair to go to she for my many for I do belive she has paid me severall bad peces of mony.
There are several items concerning exceptional weather conditions and their effect upon seasonal occupations:
Memorandum in ye yeare 1745 it was a very wet winter & a very wet march I do not mind of ye like wet almost every day. June ye 9=1745 memorand it Raind for a bout a week together every day. Sansom Sheave sheard his sheep ye 9 of July 1745. 1751 it was a terable wet march & springe. 1795 A very Smart Winter Six weeks frost. In June ye: 18:1795 Being very Cold weather for ye Sheep Shearing great many Sheep Lcst. 1825 There was a great deal of wheat cut by the 20 of July and the harvest was all most in by the 24 of August. In the year 1826 July 17 There Ware Wheat Cut Wheat Ricks Made By The 22 of July. In the year 1828 A very wett Winter such as was not known by any man living before.
Some of the items are undated and in the form of notes regarding patent remedies and other matters:
An exelent Receit to make salve-take Lard & beeswax & rosam & stur in some venis turpentine & it will make a very good salve. to sumple any Joynts or fingers take ye Oyle of Saint Johns worth & attoynt ye greived place. The herbery is called ye English Physistian & do give account of all manner of herbs. theare is a Stone cald a Coastick tuch a sorlip a present remidy. ye prise of ye map of ye world is £0 Os. lOd.
The remaining items to be quoted deal with a variety of subjects concerning household and family matters, parish events and details regarding the Lord of the Manor and his family. They are given in chronological order:
John Gould ye son of Edward Gould departed this Life Dec ye 19:1719 2 or 3 days before St Thomas Day-in 1711 he was 67 years old febary ye 7. 10 houses burnt at woodburyhill in ye yeare 1723. April ye 16 1730 Henery Gould departed this Life upon a thursd about 3 a clock in morning and buryed ye 19 day paid John Ash for ye cofin 2s. Od. ye bords my own. in ye yeare 1747 Henery Drax esquire & his son thomas earl Drax esquire was chosen Candidates for ye borrough of wareham
ye poll stood so ......................................................... 264
I Pitt ........................................................................ 192
An account between my son John & I 1748 he came with ye sheep into Bere fields ye 7 of Sept & went away ye first of October=so theare is 8 weeks diet at 3s a week-£1 4s. 1749 we botled our beer July ye 29. 1749 August ye 5 I soed Leekseed. Sar.som Sheave Died in Dec ye 21=1749 & was buried ye 25 Christmas day munday. ye visitation was kept on wensday ye 17 day of July in 1751. In october 1751 our welldrocks was put in. August: ye. 13:1792 there was a boy Cilled by a Wagon over throughing with Turf on him at ye end of ye Lane to Shitterton. In March ye llth 1797 Mr. Grovenors Son was Chrisened. 1824 August 24 the Bishop Came to Bere and Confirmed A great Number of young Persons. 1826 Novr. 25 were Married Thomas Amey Gould to Harriot Meager.
In May the lst 1827 was Married Mrs Grosvenor to Mr. Sawbridge a Gentleman of Kent. gave to Bere Ringers £3. In the year 1828 there was a new Keepers House Built in Bere Wood. December 31 In the year 1828 was given at Bere an ox and half of Beef and eight Pounds worth of Bread given to the Poor of Bere The gift of Mr. Sawbridge Esqr. 1849 Miss Fanny Drax of an Age March 2nd. 1850 Miss Sarah Drax of an age April 3rd. Gave to Bere Ringers £1 Os. Od. on Each Occasion. The following items are undated: Aprill ye 28 ye Jack Ass Covered a she Ass. My Lords rent a woodbery hill for my house we Live is 6s. 8d. & Is. Od. marking and Coffins house is 8s. 8d. and Is. Od. marking. An account of Gentlemens names belonging to ye town of Beer Regis -