Shipton Gorge Parish Council

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Village Characters

Will Sanders


Alexander William Sanders (known as Will), his twin brother Joseph Henry (known as Harry) and his sister Sabina were born and brought up in Shipton Gorge. The family lived at Vine Cottage in Cuckoo Lane.   They went to Shipton Gorge School and the picture below, taken circa 1900 outside the school, includes all three children, although it is not possible to identify them individually. They were brought up by an aunt (Mrs Matthews) as their father was in the navy and it is believed their mother died in childbirth. On the original photograph the words SHIPTON GORGE SCHOOL can just be made out on the chalkboard held by one of the pupils.


Both boys saw active service in the armed forces in the Great War (1914-18). Will was in the 1st Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment. Harry survived but Will died on 2 May 1915 at Hill 60 near Ypres, as a result of the second chlorine gas attack ever mounted by the Germans in which the Dorsets suffered over 300 casualties, of which some 150 died. His death was reported as follows by Bridport News:


The sad news of the death of Private Alexander William Sanders No. 6614 of the Dorset Regiment by poisonous gas on May 2nd reached his father and relatives on Friday and great sympathy is felt for the family in their bereavement.   By command of His Majesty the King, a letter of condolence has been sent by Lord Kitchener, and Mrs. Matthews, an aunt, has received a letter of sympathy from his lordship the Bishop of Salisbury.   The deceased was only 21 years of age, of good physique, and of great promise.   He was a keen bellringer at the parish church, and joined in the ringing on the last Sunday he was in England before joining the Expeditionary Force in France.   We offer our sincere sympathy to the family of this gallant young soldier.


Florence Childs

It seems wrong, even now, to call her Florence as she was always known to everyone as Mrs Childs! She lived in Virginia House for many, many years having moved there with her husband and staying after his death. They were a farming family from near Beaminster and continued to run a smallholding from the field and orchard beside the house.

Virginia House, Shipton Gorge
Mr and Mrs Childs are buried together in Toller Whelme, the family home. After Mr Childs died, she lived on alone in the house almost until her death. She had by all accounts had a hard childhood, having been brought up by her father and archetypal wicked stepmother, or so she described her. Eventually she eloped with her husband over the hill to Toller Whelme and never returned! She was indeed one of those great village characters that epitomise the old farming traditions and ways of the mid 20th century.

Jim Chaplin

Jim and Irene Chaplin came to the village in the early 1960s, moving into one of the bungalows that had just been built in Gulliver's Orchard. Their youngest daughter, Hazel, lived with them and attended Colfox School.

Jim was to play an important part in investigating and recording the history of Shipton Gorge. He was an avid historian and wrote the booklet "Shipton Gorge, Some Notes from Its History"  which is a very comprehensive document on the history of the village and its inhabitants going right back in history.