Thursday, 15 March 2018

Spotting The Signs

We had a really interesting Day Off this week. In fact we crammed so much in that |I am going to post about it over a few days! I've wanted to go to Dorchester again for a while - out first brief visit was back in 2015, and I felt that we did not do the place justice. Furthermore, I knew that our Salisbury Museum pass would also get us into the Dorset County Museum. I had a long list of things to see and do [Bob is very patient]
So we set off just after 8am intending to have breakfast en route. A few miles outside Dorchester, as we drove along the A31, I suddenly said "red fingerposts! I forgot to check up on the location of the red fingerposts" Dorset has four of these, and somebody at church had told me about them. These brightly painted posts have a dark history; they were were markers or reference point for illiterate guards who were escorting prisoners from Dorchester prison to Portsmouth from where they were transported to Botany Bay, Australia. Being unable to read, the guards used the distinctive sign as an indicator to the correct road to take. There are four in Dorset, including one on the A31 trunk road at Anderson, between Bere Regis and Wimborne Minster. The others are located at Benville Bridge, Hewood Corner and one near Poyntington. Near to the latter is Botany Bay Farm where prisoners were held overnight in a barn, now largely destroyed. The substantially built barn at the farm was used as a cell for the prisoners when they were held on their first overnight stop. Only the base of the barn walls remains now after the building burned down in the 1930s. I'd looked all this stuff up a couple of years ago, and even found a picture online of the A31 post, in very poor condition. 
Anyway, almost immediately I'd remembered about the red fingerposts, we came upon one just ahead of us. Bob turned into a side road and I got out to take a picture.
One side of the road is the modern green sign, the other the old red post.
It was restored by a team of local volunteers last summer and now is resplendent in its new coat of scarlet paint.
As I have researched this subject, I have discovered two myths which need debunking;
First, red fingerposts marked the journey of convicts en route to transportation NOT the site of gibbets
Second, the phrase "one for the road" simply means "have a drink before you go" it does NOT relate to a non-existent custom of giving a condemned man a drink before he was hanged. In fact the wonderful Snopes site has pin-pointed when people started sharing this false information on the internet- January 2010. [I frequently use Snopes to check my facts - it is reliable and useful, especially with those dreadful, false 'warnings' which friends persist in sharing on Facebook]
So, another Dorset Site of Interest ticked off on my list, we proceeded into Dorchester. As the Museum website suggested, we parked in the 'Top O Town' car park [opposite the Baptist Church]. Then we had breakfast - in the A35 Cafe at the end of the car park! The tea and bacon rolls were good- not quite so sure about the Decor. There were sad strange soft toys dangling from the ceiling.

After breakfast we set off on the 2 minute walk to the Museum, it was 10am and the doors were just opening. And in a subsequent post, I shall tell you what we saw...

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post! Thanks for mentioning Snopes. Sounds a good site to have a look at!


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