TODAY we take a look at a fascinating Weymouth couple who captured the imagination of people in the town with their extraordinary achievements.

William Craven and his wife Elizabeth were well known in Weymouth in the 1920s and 30s for their endeavours. Thanks to Weymouth historian Greg Schofield for his research which has drawn our attention to the Cravens.

William was an important figure in Weymouth's parks and gardens department and Elizabeth, a midwife, established a reputation for herself with her swimming activities and was considered something of an eccentric.

Many of you will recognise the Palm House, next to Weymouth marina, which was the creation of William, parks superintendent from 1921 until his retirement in 1933.

Originally from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, he was employed as a gardener, and in 1894, at the age of 24, married Elizabeth.

The 1901 census returns show that they had moved to Dorset and were living at Childe Okeford, William working as a domestic gardener. By 1911 they had moved again, the census showing their address as The Gardens, Moreton.

Part of the Frampton Estate, Moreton Gardens was a private three acre walled landscaped garden - clearly a considerable responsibility which was indicative of William's capabilities as a gardener.

In 1921 the family moved to Weymouth and William was employed as departmental superintendent with responsibility for laying out and extending all of the parks and gardens in the borough. His great opportunity came with the reclaiming of land between Commercial Road and the Swannery on the line of Radipole Park Drive. He laid out Melcombe Regis gardens on this newly reclaimed land, and was responsible for the many stunning displays of colour in the flower beds and rose walks; the gardens included a putting green, children’s play area, tennis courts and a bowling green. Most of his work has now disappeared, but his lasting legacy is the municipal hot houses, in which were grown bananas, lemons and oranges; these are now known as the Palm House.

In 1932 William was made an associate of honour of the Royal Horticultural Society. He had also been generous with his knowledge and willingly gave help and advice to amateur gardeners who sought him out. In addition he had a considerable reputation as a water diviner and also claimed to be able to detect treasure; unsuccessfully!

Elizabeth went swimming every day of the year from Weymouth beach, even if it was snowing, and continued to do for most of the rest of her life; her last swim in the sea was in 1959 at the age of 84.

But what really captured the public imagination was her stated ambition in 1925 to swim the English Channel, an ambition never fulfilled. With the thwarting of her ambitions, Elizabeth turned in another direction, and in 1926 the town council gave her permission to rent out between 12 and 20 inflatable hobby-horses from the sands and to have a tent on the beach. The success of this venture is not clear, but it appears to have gone on for some years and on his retirement in 1933 William took over the running of the enterprise.

In 1942, at the age of 67, Elizabeth finally retired and she and William set up home in Stoke Road, Wyke Regis, William dying in 1946 at the age of 77. In 1957, becoming rather frail, she moved next door to her granddaughter Charmaine in Radipole Terrace, and it was from there in December 1960 that she was taken ill and rushed to Portland Hospital, where she died on January 9, 1961, her life’s ambition never achieved.

Thanks so much to Greg for sharing the tale of a couple who certainly left a legacy in Weymouth.