Tag Archives: Priscilla Styles

“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

Tyneham Village

……..having walked to the beach and climbed the cliffs we went back through the woods to the village, now mostly in ruins (the story of Tyneham)tyneham tho ttyyn here is the old Rectory with its abandoned gardens – croquet on the lawn anyone?gdnWe could imagine the vicar walking to church past his ponds, and wondering if he and his wife planted the snowdrops.snowdDSC_0264The church still stands tych tywith poignant reminders of ancient families uprootedtyn

and loss tynettyand then this oh so cute kneeler. tynehI came to Tyneham about 20 years ago with my Mum, we used to love reading epitaphs in graveyards and found a grave stone here on which was written ‘she did what she could’ – at least this is how I remembered it. My Mum and I had had a good chuckle about this, we did not know what she had done, or not done, but she did what she could.  I remembered it was behind the church and to the left ….. had I remembered correctly would I find it? …….. YES! Here it is!Priscilla pPriscilla Styles, died in 1903, aged 44. The inscription actually says “She hath done what she could”. I was so pleased to find her again! (With the wonders of the internet I have since been able to find out a bit more about what she did – more of that another day).schThe School has been preserved with charming examples of pupils work on the desks tscha page from the teacher’s diary schdand empty coat pegs in the entrance. pegsSuch a strong mix of thoughts and emotions, mingling with ghosts and memories of a small, fairly isolated, busy seaside community. It is a peaceful setting on a sunny day, surrounded by beauty, a really fabulous place for a walk or a picnic – but for us a delicious pub lunchDSC_0284 at the Weld Arms in East Lulworth, sitting out in the sunshine on a Sunday in February    ……………..      and home to watch a wonderful sundownDSC_0196 from my bedroom window, feeling full of gratitude for where I live.

If you are as interested in Epitaphs as me and my Mum (and her Dad) there are a few more on my Dec 2012 post of a Winter Solstice Walk