This article appeared in Issue 74 of Buckets & Spades. Pat Hase reports on research she undertook for a Water Diviner in the Weston-super-Mare area about 1890.
A pdf copy of this article is available for download using the link below.
This question was asked in a query posted to me via the Web Site in January.
“My great grandfather Alfred Wills worked for many years with a water diviner or dowser known as Leicester Gataker. He was based in Weston-Super-Mare from around 1890 “
This was written by Stephen Tollyfield and an article by him about his great grandfather, Alfred WILLS, can be read on page 16 of www.britishdowsers.org/dt_archive/2004/Main doc 24pp March 04b.pdf.
If anyone has additional information about GATAKER I would be pleased to pass it on.
I did discover that John Bailey had included a comment about him in one of his articles for the Weston Mercury in which he wrote:
“Weston diviner Mr Leicester Gataker developed the art [of water divining] so successfully that he could gauge not only where water could be found but also the depth at which it would be reached. Mr Gataker had a chief assistant to help with the divining, and a staff of men to sink wells and provide necessary services. His work took him all over the British Isles, and overseas.”
Although referred to as a Weston diviner his connections with this town do seem to be rather short lived.
It’s always worth using A2A (Access to Archives) for any name you are researching.
There are 4 entries showing the advantage of this search because it picks up references to County Record Offices as well as the National Archives itself.
These documents are held at: Dorset History Centre
During the late 19th century there was a need to find a good water supply for the developing urban areas and people like GATAKER were in demand. Water diving was also used locally on the Mendips to assist with the lead mining.
Further investigation showed that Leicester GATAKER had been born Melmoth Leicester Swale GATAKER in Bath in 1874 (see www.bathbmd.org.uk ) and that his mother’s maiden name was WOOD.
In an article in the Bristol Mercury of November 1896 - obtainable by using your North Somerset library ticket to access the 19th Century Newspapers online - from www.n-somerset.gov.uk/Leisure/Libraries/Onlineservices/ - there is mention of an interview with “Mr GATAKER of Weston-super-Mare on the subject of water finding or dowsing. Mr GATAKER’s father is a gentleman resident in Bath, although his father comes from the east of England, but the water finder’s mother is of Somerset descent, which is curious as these dowsers seem to be nearly all west countrymen”
In 1899 Melmoth Leicester Swale GATAKER married Annie Madeline YOUNG at St Margaret's Westminster and it was stated in the Bristol Mercury Feb 18th 1899 that on their return from honeymoon in Italy and the South of France that they would take up residence in Weston-super-Mare.
Extract from the 1901 Census
Branksome Manor, The Avenue, Branksome, Bournemouth
|GATAKER, M Leicester S||Head||M||27||Expert Water Discoverer And Water Works Contractor||Bath Bathwick
|GATAKER, Annie M||Wife||M||32||London|
|GATAKER, Violet De M L||Daug||F||11mths||Weston S Mare, Som|
|LEGGETT, Arthur||Serv||S||25||Butler||Redenhall, Norfolk|
|BAILEY, Eli||Serv||W||65||General Help||Dinton, Wiltshire|
|MELROSE, Elizabeth||Serv||S||24||Parlour maid||Newcastle on Tyne|
|HARRIS, Florence||Serv||S||22||Cook||Hungerford, Berkshire|
The 1901 census of Bournemouth shows that their daughter Violet Louisa De M GATAKER was born in Weston-super-Mare in 1900 and that they appeared to be well set up financially. But the address at which they are living was the one given in the newspaper account as the address of the Bride. Their next child was born in 1904 in Bournemouth so although Leicester GATAKER was said to be "of Weston" I'm not sure how long he was actually here.
I realise that I haven’t checked the Street Directories for 1900 for Weston-super-Mare, or found a christening for Violet, either of which might indicate where they were living in Weston when she was born.
On Historical Directories www.historicaldirectories.org he is to be found in Kelly’s Directory of Somerset for 1897 at 2 Crescent Gardens, Upper Bristol Road, Bath. His address in a 1903 Telephone Directory was 25, Forester Avenue, Bath.
An advertisement for Leicester GATAKER dated 1905 does not mention Weston-super-Mare, but the picture states that he had been prospecting for water in Egypt!