'Down Corner.

The flat topped low wall which originally was from the telephone kiosk to the Blacksmith's shop over Hutchings Bridge and the Duke's Bridge was, before the advent of the motor car, was one of Burton's focal points.

My parents told me many times that it was the village fish market, where fish were spread on the flat top to be sold to the fish wives. These ladies came from Bridport and local villages with a cross handled, half bushel wicker basket on each hand to buy fish and then walk miles inland to outlying farms, villages and hamlets to sell their purchases.

In those days, as in my youth, a catch of fish on the Chesil Beach was heralded by the 'crying of the fresh'. Boys or agile young men were sent from the shore to the village to announce a catch at the top of their voices, a certain amount of rivalry existed as to who and of which boat's crew would be the first. Hearing the 'fresh' being cried the fish wives would emerge from the pubs (of which there was once thirteen!) or from some Burton crony's house where they had been swapping gossip and partaking of the eternally simmering pot of tea, to wait at the wall for the fish to arrive and get on with the business.

I can remember the last of the fish wives I saw as a small boy outside 'The Three Horseshoes'. This lady, leather skinned, gravel voiced, of indeterminate age, was engaged in a half humorous, half irate, wholly enjoyable (to the assembled small boys) cut and thrust conversation with some of the local fishermen and fish 'jutes' (fish buyers and dealers) in which Anglo Saxon words predominate.

Apart from their business activities these ladies, especially to the hard done by country housewives, were a valuable asset. In those days, long before radio and TV when universal education had either not begun or was in it's infancy, they were the carriers of news, juicy scandal and local gossip.

In my young days the fish wives and their market were long gone but the wall was still a focal point. Old men sat on it and basked in the sunshine to reminisce of other days and at evening they were joined by men and boys to review the doings of the day, usually in humorous vein or to plot some revolt or other or, with malicious glee, some practical joke directed against the village establishment, pompous newcomer or uppity fellow citizens.

If you had a query you could find the answer, facetious or otherwise 'Down Corner

Douglas Northover.