A House History from Yeovil: Part One

In true ‘A House through Time’ style, welcome to my next set of blog posts about the history of my own house. When I was beginning to write these posts, a thought did occur about how best to present them. Should I start at the very beginning and work forwards like many house histories? Or should I try a different approach? In the end, I decided upon the usual genealogical approach: working backwards through time. But there is one small difference. Instead of looking at every single owner and family, I have decided to write about three to begin with. Also, out of respect, I decided it would be best not to include anyone who is still living.

My own house in Yeovil (in Somerset, England), was not built until the 1930s, so some of the characters in my story did not physically live in the house, but owned the land at some point before it was built. There are a variety of people, from different parts of society, who worked in different sectors. This first post begins not long after the house was built in the 1930s. It has needed some delicate treatment, as the story is not altogether a happy one. Please be aware that there is a particularly difficult event in this story and bear that in mind if you read on.

The current view from the back of Barton’s House, looking towards Westland’s airfield- no doubt it would have been different in Barton’s time. © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

The Wey family

On 26 February 1937, one Barton William Henry Wey bought what is now my house from Reginald Henry Ralph Lucas and Clifford Neatham William Thomas Lucas (nice long complicated names!).[1] The house is near the former village of Preston Plucknett, which has now been consumed by Yeovil. Barton lived in the house until 1947, but that is the end, not the beginning. There is much more to discover.

Railway beginnings

Barton William Henry Wey was born on 05 May 1893, in Down St. Mary, Copplestone, Devon.[2] You may ask how he ended up living in a house in Somerset? Well, Barton’s mother Harriett may have been born in Devon, but his father George was a railway porter, who initially came from Crewkerne, Somerset. Barton’s two brothers John and Stanley were also born in Crewkerne, so it is quite likely that Barton and his brothers were born in places where George Wey worked. There seems to have been a substantial amount of travel back and forth Devon and Somerset too. The family lived at Viney Bridge, South Street in Crewkerne in 1901[3] and 5 Temple Way, Larkbeare in Exeter in 1911.[4] George Wey’s employer (the London and South Western Railway), had stations in both Exeter and Crewkerne. The Crewkerne station opened on the LSWR’s Salisbury-Exeter line in 1860.[5] For George, who was born about the same time as the Salisbury-Exeter line opened, this might have been quite an attractive job prospect. I can imagine the excitement that some rural residents felt when the railways came through.

The marriage of Barton Wey and Florence Styles was announced in The Western Times on 16 June 1916.[6] They were married on the 11th of that month at St. Leonard’s Church in Exeter.[7] Both Barton and Florence were living in Exeter at the time and it seems that Barton’s family had settled at 5 Temple Way. Barton’s job as a librarian in 1911,[8] may have prepared him well for what was to come next.

The accountant and the bread theft

Barton began a job as an accountant with the Yeovil Solicitor’s firm of Newman, Paynter and Co. of Hendford in about 1919.[9] This means that Barton and wife Florence must have moved to Yeovil sometime after their marriage and before Barton started his new job. Who knows, perhaps he followed the railway line? But still, Barton was not living in my house. The earliest address for Barton in Yeovil is from 1920, the year of his son’s birth. Gordon Barton Wey was born on 26 August that year at 5 Peter Street, Yeovil.[10] This is yet a different address to the address that the Western Chronicle attributes to Barton on 21 April 1923. He appears in an article that we might think of as pretty un-newsworthy these days. It deals with an event which many might scoff at as being news at all! Barton Wey was the witness in a bread theft!

In April of 1923, Leonard Alfred Weale of 3 Quidham Place, Yeovil, was accused of stealing a loaf of bread from a baker’s van. The van belonged to Fred Bond of Tintinhull and was parked outside of Messrs Neale and Williams on Middle Street. Barton (of 26 Mitchelmore Road), said,

“…that he was passing the van and saw the accused and a companion take a loaf of bread from it. He then went into the shop to warn Mr. Bond. The men disappeared, the companion towards the station and the accused up Vicarage Street, then Silver Street….”[11]

According to Leonard Weale, he had not really stolen the bread, only pretended to. This was because he already had some in his coat. Whatever the outcome of the case, Barton Wey was the material witness to a heinous crime!

The current view of Middle Street in Yeovil where Barton was witness to a bread theft! Many of the shops have changed hands and the area is pedestrianised. © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

A difficult time

I make light of this bread theft, because life got harder for Barton and his family. He purchased what is now where I live in 1937, but in 1939, he underwent an operation to remove a malignant growth.[12] The stress and worry must have been immense. But things seemed to be getting back to normal, as Barton, his wife and their son Gordon were living in the house later that year when the 1939 Register was taken. Barton was still a solicitor’s accountant and Gordon was a bank clerk. Other newspaper articles show snapshots of their lives throughout the 1940s. In February of 1944, they placed an advert to sell a black sheepskin rug and a brass fire screen.[13] In the Autumn of 1946, Barton was the representative of his employers, Newman & Paynter, at a local funeral. This took place at the Abbey in Sherborne for one Joseph Williams Burt.[14]

But only a year later, Barton Wey had died. According to the death certificate, his death occurred ‘between the fourth and fifth’ of August 1947[15] and the circumstances are very sad and frankly, difficult to read about. There were a couple of newspaper reports written at the time and they both reported that Barton was found dead in his office chair, at No. 12 Hendford.[16] [17] The official statement was that he had committed suicide. The newspaper articles recorded the opinions of various people who knew Barton. The general consensus was that he had had good health since his operation in 1939. His work colleagues said that he was an excellent workman but one William George Hutchinson of 108 Mudford Road, did think that he had been depressed from time to time in the past two years. This seems to have been due to a worry that his health would deteriorate again, although his son Gordon had never detected any suicidal thoughts.

A telling opinion

For me, the most telling opinion was that of Hubert Frederick Gould of South Petherton, a partner in the solicitor’s firm that Barton worked for. Mr Gould noted that Barton had been employed since 1919 and had been in charge of their Yeovil branch accounts department. It seems he made a point of saying that Barton was ‘perfectly honest.’ The coroner even remarked upon his own gladness concerning Mr Gould’s remarks- Barton’s family could then be spared any gossip. This goes to show that there was a real worry that Barton’s suicide may have meant that he was doing something illegal with the firm’s accounts. Thankfully for Barton and his family, this does not seem to have been the case.

The newspaper reports do give us some other information about Barton. The report from the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser notes that Barton was the vicar’s warden at St Andrews Church. This would have been the nearest church to where Barton lived in Yeovil. It also says that he was interested in the Co-operative movement and was on the management committee of the local society. This information paints the picture of a man who was well liked, hard-working and involved with his community. As with cases of illness and mental health today, Barton seems to have been deeply affected by his health even when it seems that whatever malignant growth he had would not return.

Next time…

As I said at the start, Barton’s story is not altogether a happy one. It really brings it home when I think that he lived in the same rooms that I do, although his death took place at his office and not in the house. But his story is still part of the story of my house and needs to be remembered just as much as the stories of the other owners, perhaps even more so.

Next time, we go back to before the house was built and learn about a Yeovil man who grew from nothing into something.

[1] Land Registry, UK. Register Entry. 111 Preston Grove, Yeovil, Somerset. Title no. ST110662. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry : accessed 15 January 2018.

[2] Births (CR) England. Down St. Mary, Copplestone, Devon. 05 May 1893. WEY, Barton William Henry. Entry no. 66.

[3] Census. 1901. England. Crewkerne, Somerset. PN: RG13/2295. FL 79. SN 134. ED 04. p. 19. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 01 July 2020.

[4] Census. 1911. England. Exeter, Devon, 271. PN: RG14/ 12688. ED 20. SN 152. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 01 July 2020.

[5] Historic England. Crewkerne Railway Station. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1345931 : accessed 09 October 2020.

[6] Marriage announcements. (1916) Western Times. 16 June. WEY, Barton H. and STYLES, Florence M. p. 4f. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[7] Marriages (CR) England. Exeter, Devon. 11 June 1916. WEY, Barton William Henry and STYLES, Florence May. Entry no. 309.

[8] Census. 1911. England. Exeter, Devon, 271. PN: RG14/ 12688. ED 20. SN 152. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 01 July 2020.

[9] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. (1947) Yeovil man’s sad end; Found dead in Solicitor’s office; Coroner and health anxieties. Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. 09 August. p. 3e. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[10] Births (CR) England. Yeovil, Somerset. 26 August 1920. WEY, Gordon, Barton. Entry no. 124.

[11] Western Chronicle. (1923) Loaf Stolen from Baker’s Van; An expensive “Bit of Fun”; The Disappearing “Foot”. Western Chronicle. 04 May. p. 5c. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[12] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. (1947) Yeovil man’s sad end; Found dead in Solicitor’s office; Coroner and health anxieties. Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. 09 August. p. 3e. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[13] Western Gazette. (1944) For Sale. Western Gazette. 04 February. p. 4f. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 08 July 2020.

[14] Western Gazette. (1946) The Late Mr J. W. Burt; Funeral Service at the Abbey. Western Gazette. 08 November. p. 2f. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[15] Deaths (CR) England. Yeovil, Somerset. Between 04-05 August 1947. WEY, Barton William Henry. Entry no. 189.

[16] Western Daily Press. (1947) Yeovil man took own life; Worried over health. Western Daily Press.08 August. p. 2e. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 05 July 2020.

[17] Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. (1947) Yeovil man’s sad end; Found dead in Solicitor’s office; Coroner and health anxieties. Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. 09 August. p. 3e. Collection: British Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.