“She did what she could”

About 20 years ago my Mum and I visited the lost village of  Tyneham – we used to love looking at Epitaphs in graveyards. I did this with my Grandad too, we were interested in the history and making up stories about the lives recorded. Mum said I learnt to read from the gravestones. Apparently I insisted that she helped me to sound out the words of the epitaphs, and I’m still fascinated.

Twenty years ago, we found the gravestone of Priscilla Styles. The wording must have been much easier to read then, as I’m sure I would not have spotted it today. I had remembered the inscription as ‘SHE DID WHAT SHE COULD’.


This photo was taken on a recent walk, you can see more pictures of the walk here and here.                                                                                                          Epitaph: “She hath done what she could”p

I have thought about her often in the last 20 years and now with the help of the internet I could find out a little bit of what it was she did:

Priscilla Styles (nee Phippard)

1859: born: Jan, Feb or March, St. George Hanover Square, (Pimlico?) London

1861: Priscilla aged 3, her father died in Pimlico, London. According to the Census, it seems that she then went to live with her maternal Grandmother in Swanage.

1871: aged 12, she ws living with her Grandmother in New Road, Swanage

1881: aged 22, still living with her Grandmother, Mary Phippard, nee Chinchen, in Mill Pond, Swanage, Dorset.

1883: (age24) married 7.March, Parish church, Swanage to Henry Thomas Thorn Styles (Thomas was born 1858 in ‘Union’ – Langton Matravers. son of John Trim and Emily Styles, 5 siblings, some with surname Trim)

1887: (age28) 17.Aug. Amy Louise born in Swanage. (Amy died Dec. 1973 in Waltham Forest, London)

1889: (aged 30) 5.Aug. Freda May Priscilla born in Hill Bottom Coast Guard station, Dorset. (Freda died 9.Feb,1970, Enfield, Greater London).

1891: (aged 32), living with husband in (Coast Guard Station) Corfe Castle in April, Emily Violet born, Hill Bottom, Dorset

1896: (aged 37) 3rd June, Dorothy Gertrude Styles born in Lyme Regis (Dorothy died, aged76, in 1972 in Wales)

Mother of 4 daughters: Amy Louise Styles, Freda May Priscilla Styles, Emily Violet Styles and Dorothy Gertrude Styles.

1901: living at No2. Coastguard Station, Worbarrow (Dorothy aged 4)worbarroThis is a photo on the Worbarrow information board down by the bay. I’m sure Priscilla and/or all or some of her children must be in this picture. Her daughters would have been 13, 11, 9 and 4. I’d love to know which ones they are.  As far as I could tell there is nothing left of these cottages now.

Priscilla died: 24.April.1903, aged 44,  in Coastguard Station, Worbarrow-in-Tyneham, Dorset. Her daughters were aged 16, 14, 12, and 6.

Her husband: Henry Thomas Thorn Styles, was born at Studland in 1858, and after Priscilla died, he went on to marry Martha Minnie White on 1.Aug.1904 in Tyneham, and had 3 boys: 1905, William, 1906 Roland, and 1908 George all born in Swanage.                                                                                                      Thomas died aged 66 in 1925 in royal Naval Hospital Portland.                              In 1881, 2 years before marrying Priscilla, he was in the Royal Navy.

I would so love to be able to share this with my Mum, she is 86 and has Alzheimers and would not have a clue what I was talking about. My Mum is Welsh and known as Mamgu (mam-gee, with a hard G), Welsh for Granny. Miss E says she thinks “Mamgu’s brain has fallen over sideways”, a good way of putting it!

I am still intrigued to know more about what prompted the words on Priscilla’s epitaph and why she died aged 44. I wonder if I will ever discover more.

If you would like to know more about Tyneham, there are quite a few You Tube clips with interviews of the villagers and walks round the village.houses

9 responses to ““She did what she could”

  1. You have become very involved with this lady. I take it she isn’t related to you. You have done a fantastic research job and it does ignite the imagination what could have been meant. Great post. Sorry you can’t share it with your mother.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And 100 years later, here we all are… leaning into your blog in hopes of knowing more about this unassuming young woman who simply did what she could… Oh if she only knew! 🙂 ♥ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Tyneham Village | Wild Daffodil

  4. I think it’s a very positive epitaph… I would like people to remember me as having done what I could!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into the history of Priscilla. Fascinating.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure Christie – you might have noticed I have become just a little bit obsessed with our Cilla – I’ve even joined the Tyneham Facebook group to see if anyone there knows more – I feel like stalker!!! Ha!

      Liked by 1 person

I love your comments, keep'em coming :-)

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