Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good place to get pissed

I must be careful with blog titles like that, containing slang. I shouldn't take it for granted that Russian and American readers of Antipodes, for example, are aware that, in my native Australia, "getting pissed" means drinking an excessive quantity of beer... where the sense of the adjective "excessive" is rather relative.

One of my ancestral relatives in Dorset, living at Blandford St Mary, was described in the 1841 census as a brewer... but I have no idea yet of the nature of the beverage he brewed, or the place where he worked.


Incidentally, other records have enabled me to verify that, in the second quarter of the 19th century, in a tiny rural village in south-west England (Winterborne Stickland), a 40-year-old woman, Jane Woolridge, the wife of her younger husband James Skivington, could indeed give birth to a healthy son. As you can see in the census data, the name of this son was William Skivington. He became a cabinet maker, and married a local girl named Martha Coffin. (It takes all kinds of cabinets to make a world.) Later on, William became a piano tuner. Then he set up a prosperous business in Salisbury Street, Blandford Forum, with a shop on Market Place that sold pianos, organs, harmoniums, etc.


A few years ago, I visited the local museum in Blandford Forum. This excursion was described already in a blog post titled Dorset ancestral anecdotes [display].


Inside, I was thrilled to find myself face to face with a pump organ from  the Skivington music shop.


The museum curator knew all about this family, and he gave me photocopies of notes about my relatives. He even seemed to appreciate the musical qualities (or was he merely being polite?) of an ancient Anglican hymn, When I survey the wondrous cross, that I succeeded—more or less—in playing on the instrument. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Christian sounds I produced woke up all the Skivington ghosts in the neighborhood, who were surely charmed by the idea that an Antipodean member of their family might attempt, crudely, to breathe some audio life back into the old organ.


Incidentally, for readers who have been following closely all the trivial stuff I'm relating, here's a correct version, played by a competent unnamed organist, of the simple but catchy tune (from my childhood) that I was attempting to reproduce—with strenuous non-stop treadle pumping—on the archaic instrument in Blandford Forum.


Let's get back to beer. In the Blandford region, a tiny river, the Piddle, looks more like a piddling man-made canal than a real river.


Various local place names incorporate either "piddle" (Piddlehinton, Piddletrenthide) or "puddle" (Puddletown, Tolpuddle, Affpuddle, Briantspuddle, Turnerspuddle). Philosophical question: When does a piddle become a puddle? And can puddling be thought of as the same activity as piddling? The case of the Thomas Hardy village near Dorchester is amusing, in that it has been known officially both as Piddletown and Puddletown.

If you'll just bear with me for a second, I promise that I'll talk at last about beer. I still don't know what kind of stuff James Skivington might have been brewing in Dorset in 1841. But, a few years ago, two Piddlehinton lads got involved in a thriving business—more lucrative than selling organs—by creating the Dorset Piddle Brewery.


Click here to visit their website, enabling you to appreciate some of their inevitable play on words inviting you to this good place to get pissed in Dorset. I must drop in there, the next time I'm visiting my ancestral region, when I feel like a Piddle.

ADDENDUM: Well, it certainly wasn't difficult to find facts concerning the context in which my ancestral relative James Skivington was employed as a brewer, in 1841, in Blandford St Mary. In the middle of the village, there's a big and ancient red-brick brewery:


It's the home of Hall & Woodhouse, known today as Badger Brewery, whose foundation dates from 1777. Click here to visit their excellent website.


I'm embarrassed. There was an elephant in the sitting room, and I didn't even see it. This simply means, in fact, that I've never had an opportunity of strolling around Blandford St Mary (just alongside Blandford Forum). So, on second thoughts, when I'm next in Dorset, and thinking maybe about getting pissed, I won't even bother going to Piddlehinton. I'll simply look around for a pub in the ancestral Blandford context.

Unfortunately, all the old Hall & Woodhouse archives were lost in 1900 when a fire destroyed the original brewery buildings.

Talking about ancestral Blandford pubs, look at this nice place:


Known today as the The Dolphin, this ancient establishment was formerly the White Hart Inn, in West Street, Blandford Forum, operated by three successive generations of 18th and 19th century gentlemen named William Skivington.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment