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George Rackstraw Crickmay - information from the Internet, May 2002

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The People's Palaces

Chapter Five

Crystal Palaces Beside the Sea

Thomas Masey appears to have been the driving force behind the setting up of at least four aquarium companies in the mid-1870s, including the abortive Weymouth venture, which was seen off by the townspeople. The Royal Aquarium was only briefly successful and its parent company, the Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Garden Society, incorporated July 1874, was wound up in 1904. The Yarmouth Aquarium Society was incorporated in 1875, as was the Tynemouth company, and the Weymouth Aquarium and Winter Garden Company followed in January 1876. Although enthusiasm for winter gardens was at its peak, this headlong rush to set up companies and foist substantial buildings on small resorts smacks of profiteering, if nothing worse. Certainly the directors, architects and contractors would have been paid while the building was under construction; subscribers would have been encouraged to invest in their local winter garden company, despite the poor financial record of similar projects. Thomas Masey succeeded in involving a local worthy with his Weymouth company, but the townspeople greeted with scepticism an offer by the Royal Aquarium Company to erect an aquarium in Weymouth free of charge. The result was the setting up of a competing and locally based company, the Weymouth Hotel and Floral Hall Company, in 1877. It had the support of local architect George Rackstraw Crickmay and, although its plans came to nothing, it served as a focus for opposition to the London speculators. The Weymouth Jubilee Hall, a metal and wood structure designed by Crickmay, was completed in 1887.

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Thomas Hardy Memorial Window

St Juliot Church, Boscastle

Two years after Thomas Hardy's death in 1928, a memorial window to him, designed by Douglas Strachan - the money raised by public subscription - was installed in Stinsford church outside Dorchester in recognition of the centrality of Stinsford to Hardy's personal and emotional life, and as a tribute to one of our finest poets and novelists.

St Juliot Church near Boscastle is second only to Stinsford in significance for Hardy for it was on the doorstep of St Juliot Rectory that Hardy first met his future wife, Emma Gifford, on 7th March 1870, when sent by the architect 'G.R.Crickmay' to oversee restoration work on the church there. After Emma's death in 1912, Hardy wrote perhaps some of the greatest poems of loss in the language, many of which recalled those radiant days in Cornwall at the outset of their relationship.

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Hardy's employer, G.R. Crickmay, wrote to him in February 1870 to ask "if he would go to Cornwall and 'take a plan and particulars of the dilapidated church in the tiny hamlet of St. Juliot."(Michael Millgate. Thomas Hardy: A Biography. 121)

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The bridge across the harbour is most characterful, and needed several rebuildings - I think the stonework of the extant version is that of 1770. Across the bridge, another T. T. Bury building is Holy Trinity Church (1834-6), with later work by G R Crickmay in the 1880s. The picture at the top of this page shows the bridge and this church as it was just after it was built.

Thanks to Chris Elsden and Marie Wilson for these extracts.

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