Stephen Shell

Published in "The Review of the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship"
Edition Number 6 – Winter 1997 / 1998


SOME time before the year 1864, a veiled lady was accompanied on the ferry from Weymouth to Portland by an "influential friend" (Sir John Coleridge) who had arranged for her to see Portland Prison. The lady in question was Charlotte Yonge. She was "getting local colour" for The Trial.

In June 1997, three members of The Charlotte M Yonge Fellowship also boarded the ferry, following in her footsteps. The voyage was very pleasant (despite a soaking when the bow turned into the wind) and we were soon at the foot of the steep hill where Dr May had submitted to being taken up in a "little carriage". We found a bus.

Not having any influential friends, we could not go into the prison building - rebuilt and now a Borstal; but we saw its outline magnificent against the skyline, and here is the photograph to prove it. In addition, we looked with some awe on the huge main quarry - presumably. worked by the prisoners: so large that it looked like a natural feature.

We took the opportunity of seeing the rest of the island and the famous "Chisell Bank" (variously spelt). To bring us up to date, we also saw the new prison ship!

For supper the night before, we had (like Ethel and companions); chicken, tea, eggs, and shrimps (in lieu of prawns).

Next day, we went looking for the location of Leonard and Aubrey's convalescence. After a number of false starts, we hit upon Seatown which had least against it. (However, time did not allow us to investigate Charmouth or Eyne. Perhaps in the future?) It was not 10 miles from Bridport and the approach had naturally been altered to cope with 20th century traffic, but the cliffs came down to the sea and there were houses of the right date. There were also many dogs, but none of the right breed.

Altogether we had a most enjoyable time. Perhaps other members of the Fellowship may wish to experience it one day.


Read the Trial on-line

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