A year on the Webfoot: at sea before the mast. Diary 1876-77

As his great-grandson, John McCallum is the custodian of Charles Lister Smith’s diary about his life on the clipper ship Webfoot, from 1876-1877.
John has transcribed some of the diary entries in this article. 

A year on the Webfoot: at sea before the mast. Diary 1876-77
©John McCallum

Charles Lister Smith

Charles Smith was born on the 29th January 1858 in Ebley, the second son of Richard and Emma Smith of Stonehouse in Gloucestershire. He was educated at Prospect House School in Dursley and afterwards went to work as a clerk in the offices of Strachan’s, the Woollen Manufacturer, at Lodgemoor Mills. He then rebelled and at the age of 18 ran away to sea, joining the crew of the clipper ship, “Webfoot”, at Cardiff. On his return after a year at sea, sailing round the world to Singapore and back, he went to Pembroke and two years later, in 1879, to London. Here he was married in 1882 to Gertrude Lane Round, who was from Stroud. (They had become engaged in October 1877 on his return from his travels. Interestingly he doesn’t mention her at all in the diary. Maybe he met her on his return). His eldest son, Herbert, was born in 1886 in Highbury, North London. He had three other children, Marjorie, Alan and Mary. While in London, Charles had taken the name ‘Round Smith’ because he said there were a number of Smiths in the Office and he was fed up with being a Smith number..!

In 1888, he and his family returned to Stonehouse where he took over his Father’s bakery business. His mother, Emma, had sadly died in January 1885 from uterine cancer and his father remarried in October of the same year to Louisa Artus. Richard retired to live in “Holmleigh” at Whitminster. He became the Poor Law Guardian for that area. Family legend has it that the children never got on with Louisa and when Richard died he was buried with Emma in Stonehouse churchyard.

During the next 25 years the bakery business continued to prosper although Charles’ heart was never really in it. At the back of the bakery was a large 3 acre orchard and, seeing the wastage of fruit each year he experimented with bottling the fruit. As early as 1903 he was developing this into a business called Severn Valley Fruits and by 1911 his son Herbert had returned to join him, giving up his career as a journalist in Bath.

After the First World War he sold the Bakery business and concentrated on the Severn Valley Fruit Company. It became a limited company in 1936 when it was rescued by Cheltenham Dairies after the trade had declined during the Depression.

Charles’ first love was always local history and he wrote many books and articles about Stonehouse. He was a member of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, elected to Stroud Rural District Council, a member of the Stroud Board of Guardians and of the Stonehouse School Board of Governors.

During the Second World War he acted as Company Secretary for the Severn Valley Fruit Co., although in his 80s, and died in 1945 at the age of 87.

His round the world voyage certainly cured him of any desire for adventure again. It is telling that almost his last entry in his Webfoot diary are these words – “to the Presbyterian Church to give thanks to Almighty God!”