Terrible News

The Helyar Arms, one of the oldest pubs in the Yeovil area (and a landmark in East Coker) has closed, according to the Western Gazette.

This time it might be for good; there’s talk of turning it into a block of flats.

I knew the Yeovil area had fallen on hard times but this is really bad news.  There’s been a pub there for hundreds of years!

I really wanted to go to this old pub if I can ever make it back to East Coker.

Details and Corrections

Since I was posting from my phone while half-awake, I’m posting this for more details on the likely grave of Jack’s brother, Albert.

The image was found via Billiongraves.com.  I searched the same cemetery on Findagrave.com and got no results.  Billiongraves even had a photo though for copyright reasons I won’t post it.

It’s a two-part headstone. On the left it reads “In loving memory of a dear wife and mother, Harriett Ann Harris, who fell asleep 30th Oct. 1971, age 93 years, at rest.”

On the right it reads “Also of Dear Dad Albert James Harris, peacefully, 21 Sep. 1975 Aged 96 years. Re-United.”  I had misstated his age as 93.

There’s something else interesting. Notice the name of the woman he married, Harriett Ann Harris. I remember having a sweetheart named Ann!  I’ve even written it down in earlier entries.  This begs some interesting questions for sure… Was I Albert? Did he marry Ann when I didn’t come back from the war? Or is the name only a coincidence?

Memories of Yeovil Junction

Unless you’re a hardcore rail buff, this video might be terribly boring. I’m not myself, but I did scan through this to see if I could find anything familiar.

Besides a good general overview of the history of Yeovil’s train stations and some nice shots of steam engines that really pressed some nostalgia buttons for me, I found something interesting.

At 24:37, A train approaches Yeovil Town station (now the site of the Cineworld Cinema) as seen from Wyndham hill, quite near where John and his family lived.

Incidentally, the junction you see in that particular scene is still there; however, only one track, the one to Pen Mill station, survives; the other track was removed in the 1960s and the track bed is now a landscape feature on a golf course, visible in satellite images to this day.

I had been fairly sure I’d been able to see the trains clearly from john’s room on the top floor of the house at Sherborne Road, but this (along with 1880s maps that show no houses behind the terrace where John lived) pretty much proves that this is completely plausible and that there might not have been many trees in the way back then (as there are now).

This explains a lot of why I found a lot of things about the town’s current layout confusing and frustrating.  I suddenly find myself terribly homesick for a Yeovil that is now many years gone.  Pen Mill station is the same as it was all those years ago but the rest has changed conspicuously in the last 120 years or so.

Windfall

Taking a history class that covered Angevin England has actually given me a pretext to do a little more research about William Longespee, and what I’ve found is fascinating.

First of all, the best source as far as modern history books are concerned for information about William Longespee is just about any biography of King John or a good history of his reign.  In fact he was such a central figure in John’s troubled reign that he remains inseparable from the narrative.  How exactly he managed to keep from being stained by King John’s reign, I don’t know because he was loyal most of the time.

Second, I discovered two interesting coincidences with John’s life.

There was an episode that took place in Sherborne during a revolt in Devon.  William Longespee, warned of an ambush awaiting him just a little further up the road, turned back only to be berated by John (though he later went back and the soldiers who waited for him fled in terror because he had brutal Flemish mercenaries with him).  Sherborne, incidentally, is six miles from Yeovil and John was born in a house along Sherborne road.  This is yet another instance where a distance of only a few miles separated important events in both lives.

Another interesting fact emerged.  A while ago I had a memory that during John’s life, I had a weakness for card games and lost money and items (including a keepsake box I kept my cigars in) by gambling compulsively.  It turns out that William Longespee was fond of cards and also, an habitual gambler who often had King John pay his gambling debts.

File That Under “Weird,” Part 2

My cat goes nuts whenever he hears a West Country accent.

I noticed a while ago that whenever I watch clips from “Time Team”  on YouTube, he starts walking around and yowling.  At first I thought it was Tony Robinson’s voice for some reason that he was mistaking for someone else, but then I had a thought: what if it’s Phil Harding’s voice?

Phil Harding, one of the Time Team archaeologists, has a very distinct West Country accent (Wiltshire, apparently).

I played another clip of a Somerset accent, which is another West Country dialect,  and my cat went straight to the door of the room, yowling as if he expected someone to come in.

Incidentally, John probably had a  Somerset accent in his youth that he later gave up for a standard RP accent if my memories are correct.

On a hunch, I tried petting my cat and speaking to him in the best West Country accent I could manage, addressing him as “puss,” and he calmed down immediately.  He’s now curled up next to me perfectly calm.

I was overdue for some weirdness.  Not sure what to make of this; I don’t remember having a cat in that life.  PKD was a cat person but I can’t imagine John would have been, since he was a bit more rugged.  Then again, you never know.

Promising

One of the things that made me question whether my memory of a partly-obstructed view of the railway line was possible from John’s window as a child is the fact that there is another terrace of houses behind the trace of six he lived in.  If that terrace was there in the 1880s, I reasoned, that might cast my memories into doubt.

However, I found a video someone took with aerial views of Yeovil from an RC glider and at about 4:24, John’s house is almost at the center of the frame.  There is a row of houses nearest the camera, that’s the terrace behind his house.  You’ll notice that his house (in the next row from the camera, the left of two with a brown roof) actually seems to sit substantially higher than the house around it and that the back window of the house is clearly visible in the line of sight.  It is also apparent that this part of town is on a downward slope.

It could still be an optical illusion caused by the relative distance of John’s house from the houses in front of it, but it could still make my memory of seeing plumes of steam when a train was coming plausible.

CONFIRMED

Based on comments on the 1881 census that I was previously unaware of, and a query to a local Yeovil historian, I have almost certainly confirmed that John Harris lived at the end of Sherborne Road near Yeovil Pen Mill station.

I was probably him.  Nearly every significant place I remembered has matched real locations and this only drives it home for me.

I had been wrong about living on the north side.  The historian I spoke to said that based on the way the districts were drawn and the comments on the census, it was probably the house next to the B&B (in fact, located right next door to it).  However, that does not preclude my memories of having seen the train from there; in fact I either could have seen it from John’s window in the other house, or I could have been visiting a friend across the street.

This confirms that I knew the neighborhood and that it matches my memories, a confirmation I have been waiting almost two years for.

I was probably him…  holy shit.  I was probably him.