Season 3, episode 9. 31st May - 4th June 1882. Janie and Fred have to cope with renewed separation along with a new pregnancy scare, Fred can't balance the account books at work, Emma steals from Janie, and we take a little look at Whitsun traditions, as well as Victorian perfumes.
Written and produced by Ingrid Birchell Hughes
Welcome back to My Love Letter Time Machine, Hi, I’m Ingrid Birchell Hughes, and I’m serialising the love letters of my great great Grandparents, Fred Shepherd and Janie Warburton. Travel 140 years back in time with me now where we take a look at Victorian history through their eyes and today we’ll find out how they are both coping with being parted once again after Fred’s Whitsun visit, and also discover that Emma has been stealing something precious from Janie.
[Petty theft, and petty cash]
With Whitsuntide providing Fred the chance to come back to Sheffield from Middlesbrough and visit Janie, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look up some of the history to do with this time of year. No one seems to be very sure how Whitsun became the English name for the celebration of Pentecost in the church calendar, Whit could possibly mean White and it’s associations with purity, or it may mean the kind of wit and wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit. “The first mention of the word in English is found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1067, as ‘hwitan sunnan daeg’”* It has long been a time for feasts, wakes, fairs, sports days and other celebrations, and in 1871 was finally made into a bank holiday in the UK.
I was intrigued to discover that there were quite a few traditions that were particularly associated with Lancashire and South Yorkshire. At Whitsuntide, churches would be festooned with greenery - usually the branches of birch trees - which were poked into the ends of the pews. Sunday schools would participate in the traditional Whit Walks - assembling their scholars and teachers in parish churchyards and local streets to parade under their banners in a march. In Sheffield many of the marches culminated in the town parks, where the throng would join together in the singing of hymns. In 1882 a choir of 12,000 children and 1500 teachers convened on Norfolk Park, along with at least fifty thousand spectators. Similar scenes took place in Firth Park and all around the city and its suburbs. For those that could afford it, it was traditional to give children a gift of new clothes for Whitsuntide and these would have been worn with pride on the Whit Walks.
The Peak District, the southern region of the Pennines that encompasses parts of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and South Yorkshire has long had a tradition of Well dressing from Whitsuntide until September. Thought to originally have been a pagan tradition to ensure water purity, during the Victorian era this tradition underwent a great revival. People created living arbours decorated with flowers and moss, berries and seeds in colourful natural mosaics often depicting biblical stories. The tradition survives even today in many parts of the Peak District, although the images can now encompass more secular subjects - such historical themes and even Disney characters
Whit Monday was usually a day for fairs and feasting and I’ve been trying to work out which fair Janie took her little niece and nephews to after saying goodbye to Fred. I think it must have been the fair at the Smithfield Market. This was predominantly livestock based and the Sheffield Telegraph focuses much on the price of horses and cattle. But the fair also had all the associated toy and sweet stalls, brass bands and barrel organs, coconut shies and shooting galleries, steam powered carousels and swing-boats to entertain the visitors. You could also gawk at such appaling attractions as the “wild untamable Zulu” and the “Pig-Faced Lady” — which was a bit uncomfortable to read.
The main feeling I’m left with here is that Whitsuntide was massive event that encompassed the entire community to a level that you only really see now in the UK at Christmas time. Trying to piece together what Janie and Fred got up to that Whitsun weekend is the usual challenge, but it would appear that they managed to find a spot of quiet time together, because the pair of them are back on their vacillation of hoping and dreading that Janie might be pregnant. But first we find out how they are doing with their renewed separation after Fred boarded the train back to Middlesbrough once more.
Royal Exchange Middlesbrough, The North Eastern Steel Co Limited
May 31st 1882.
My own darling Wife,
I arrived all safe here at 2:45 this afternoon.
Mr Cooper asked me if I had spent a pleasant holiday. I said I had – at which he smiled. Pleasant is not the word darling is it, looking back now – it seems to have been heavenly. If you could have been with me wifey, the journey would have been delightful. The country looked beautiful – as it was, I cultivated a massive headache which has continued so far. I shall take a seidlitz powder when I get home and expect I should be better afterwards.
Oh my darling I shall not see you tonight! But I must not bemoan my hard lot, or I shall only pain you and I know that the parting was sore enough for you love, without my adding to it. I am looking forward to Darnall Feast day darling even now. I was alone almost all the way, except that a couple got in who I judged were just about as much in love as you + I, + judging from their talk were about to be married in August. Happy Couple!
I cannot write anymore just now darling, except that I love you my own darling wife – more devotedly than ever + shall always remain your loving true + faithful husband Fred
June 1st 1882
My own darling husband
I am very pleased to hear you arrived all safe. I wish I could have journeyed with you it would have been delightful, I got back to Darnall at ten, the parting from each other is awful darling but we shall not have many more now. I am sorry you had a headache I hope the Seidlitz powder will have done you good.
I met the children at the Wellington + took them to the fair, the noise + confusion + leaving you brought me the headache, we went up to our Williams to tea so I had a rest on the sofa. I felt better after tea. Maria Staniforth came up so we went back together by the 8 o’clock train to Attercliffe. Darling you will not see me to night, I only wish you could but we won’t get down hearted will we love? We will try to be brave, though it is so hard to be parted, I do love you my darling husband, we have had a happy Whitsuntide it as has you say been heavenly, the weeks will soon pass over to Darnall feast lover + then we shall have two more glorious days.
You would envy the couple in your carriage. I am sure I do. I wish I could have been with you then we could have talked about our marriage.
You know the scent you brought me darling, when I looked this morning just half of it [is] gone. I thought [Emma] would never offer to touch it being as it wasn’t opened but she has. I told her about it before my father. I brought it down stairs and told her she had used it, she said she had used a little up. I kindly told her to go in my drawers again + she would catch it, my father gave her a good blowing up with not very much effect I am afraid. I can’t keep anything because of her.
I shall not have to bear with her many more months as darling I will try to think about the better time coming + not let it trouble me.
I will write you a longer one tomorrow it is nearly dinner time now + Polly Roe + I are going to Sheffield + to Mrs Flears this afternoon. I love you more than ever
I shall always remain
Your loving true + faithful wife
I really felt for Janie here, she’s the youngest of all her siblings and seems to have not had very much to call her own. As a present from Fred, that bottle of scent would have been treasured and for Emma to make free with it seems particularly mean. Especially as every shilling counted with Janie and Fred, and the money for a bottle of perfume would have been carefully considered on Fred’s part. While there were many fashionable perfume houses of the day taking advantage of all the recently discovered synthetic chemicals to make more and more complex fragrances, women lower down the class hierarchy would still have been getting their perfumes from local chemists who made their own preparations on site. Respectable but slightly more affordable brands like Yardley and Colgate were also in existence and I wonder if this would have been the sort of gift that Fred could have afforded. A little bit more special than a local chemist’s own version. Eau de Cologne and Lavender water were fairly common but around this time the most popular scent was Violet water. One of Janie’s treasured birthday cards has a bunch of violets on it, and so I am wondering if this could have been a scent she favoured. All conjecture of course. It wasn’t yet the habit then to wear perfume on the skin, you would instead use it to scent your handkerchieves or your gloves for a more subtle effect. The fanciest perfume bottles were of cut class with silver lids, but in Janie’s case the bottle was more likely to have had glass stopper. If the bottle was unopened it would have been sealed with a glued paper strip or tied on with a knotted ribbon that would have had to be snipped off to get into it. Boundaries obviously mean absolutely nothing to Emma.
The NORTH EASTERN STEEL Co LIMITED
June 2nd 1882.
My own darling wife
I received your welcome + loving letter this morning. It had not come at nine oclock so that I had to wait until dinner time, + then I feasted myself on it to my heart’s content. My own darling, I don’t know what I should do without your kind sympathy + hopeful + brave letters, they do me a world of good.
The parting was awful my wife, but we shall not have many more to come. That is some consolation my darling, for it is like tearing one’s heart away parting from you my own. We feel so lonely love, when we are away from each other; it is perhaps better that we should feel it so, darling, for then we realise how much we really are to each other. For we really do love each other so much.
The Seidlitz powder did me a power of good love. I did not work late so went to sleep early + awoke next morning quite refreshed. I am sorry to hear that you were afflicted in the same way but I was surprised for it must have been a sore trial for you my darling, to go amongst the merry making in the fair with a heavy heart. I wish you could rested your weary head upon my breast love, it would have been even better than your Williams sofa.
Oh my darling, I do miss you so much now, more than ever, I was wishing that I could see you last night + Wednesday night as well but it cannot be love, just yet. We will not as you say get downhearted wifie. I could not do so, when you are so brave + hopeful – although I know that you feel the parting very acutely. We had such a happy Whitsuntide love, but I know that it will be just as happy when I come over again.
What date will Darnall feast be on love, will it be July 2nd or July 9th. If it is July 9th it will only be six weeks after Whitsuntide, + only five from net Sunday. That will be splendid love, if we can only afford it. You see coming once in six weeks means 4/- per week in railway fares. But I will economise very severely, + then we shall be able to afford it without feeling the want of it.
I am sorry love, that your Emma could not leave the scent alone. You could not have locked it up, or has she a duplicate key to your drawer. It is mean of her to do a thing like that. You must have another lock put on my darling, if she can open your drawers. She does not seem to have any principles at all or she would not do it. I thought that after the other blowing up she got she would have been more careful, but it does not seem to have made any difference to her.
But we do not let it trouble you darling, because you will only be troubled with her for four more months at the most, + if I was successful the last time you know love, we shall have to get married in September. Unless you would care to get married before your feast. Which would perhaps be the best plan if you were so, for I should not like anybody to notice anything love especially at the feast, for then people are not always on their best behaviour.
Did you mention to Polly my suggestion about taking apartments for a week or two love after our marriage? I intended asking your Williams opinion about it, but it quite skipped my memory.
I shall be very pleased to receive your letter tomorrow morning darling, it will be an additional pleasure. I am sorry that our secretary’s house is finished for then I could go down to Redcar. If I go now, it will cut something which in the present state of our finances is not advisable to do.
I wish there was a delivery on Sundays at Handsworth darling, + then I could give you one for Sunday morning which would perhaps help you to get over the Sunday more pleasantly wifie, as yours do for me. I don’t know how I should get on if it were not for your Sunday morning’s letters love.
I hope you have not suffered anything from our intercourse my darling wife, you said you would tell me, + you have not said anything about it in your letter. I suppose it is too soon to tell whether it will come off or not?
I feel sure you will give me a good mark for the writing of this letter love.
I remain now + always
My own darling wife,
Your loving true + faithful husband.
June 2nd 1882.
My own darling husband
Polly Roe + I went to Sheffield yesterday + met our Polly at Brookes, we had tea there, then went down to Mrs Flears + had our patterns out, + got back at ten minutes past eight to Roes, I stayed there until nine then went home had supper + a time on the piano. I couldn’t stop there long love (I mean in the room) without you, it seems so desolate, we are so happy when together darling. I was rather tired. So I thought. I would go to bed + have a good nights rest. We have to go down there again tonight. I shall be glad when all the running about is over, we have to get them fitted on the second + last time.
If you were down that way love I don’t think I should mind how many times I went, do you remember how often you used to miss the committee meetings, not on my account at all love was it?
I do long for the old times sometimes darling but we must look forward to the happy time coming. I know you have gone to enable us to be together sooner hasn’t you love? So we will both try + make the best of it + not get down hearted. I do wish you could bring me back through the wood to night though it seems harder than ever to be parted.
I love you more than ever My husband whatever happens I shall still love you, just the same. I think it wont come off love so don’t trouble about it. I don’t feel very much afraid. I have not felt any different than from usual. Only six more Sundays before Darnall feast it will soon pass + then darling I shall see you again.
They have sent Charles Clegg to the Workhouse this morning.
Our Polly is coming to tea this after. She is coming by the 4:25 train + going back by twenty to seven. I shall walk down with her + meet Polly Roe in Attercliffe. Polly Roe has gone down there this afternoon. I could not go with her because of our Polly coming.
We brought our hats yesterday at Abbeys. I mean we ordered them they had one that we took a fancy to but it was too expensive so we ordered two to be trimmed like it but of material less expensive. I am sure you will like mine, I shall have the dress + hat on at Darnall Sports so you will see it love.
I haven’t time for more to day darling I will give you your usual Sundays letter.
I remain always
Your loving true + faithful wife
My darling Fred
I hope you will like the tie, it was the nicest I saw in the window + wear it for your loving + true wifes sake.
P.S. I do love you (x)
37 Albert Terrace
21 Church Street
June 3rd 1882.
My own darling Wife
I received your welcome letter this morning, for which I thank you. It was very good of you my darling to give me so much pleasure on consecutive days. I do love you!
I can well understand the room seeming desolate love, when you think what happy nights we have spent there together, you + I.
I do remember my darling missing the committee meetings, not on your account love at all; but your society was much more to my taste than the committee men’s; + for which society I had to pay. I would gladly do the same again if I had the chance but that is impossible now.
I like you my darling, long for the dear old times, but am looking forward to even happier times in the future, though I should have liked to have been with you last night + then we could have had a happy walk through the wood.
I am glad that you think you will love me the same, no matter what happens wifie; I feel sure that if it does happen I shall love you even more, for you will want my love then darling, even more than now, + you may depend on having it. Altho’ I hope for your sake love, that it will be all right, because I cannot be there to bear the trouble for you, + it is my great desire to spare you as much care + trouble as possible.
What have they sent Clegg to the Workhouse for love? Couldn’t your father put up with him any longer?
I feel sure you will look nice in this new hat + dress love. I suppose the hat is bound to be a nice out of a shop. I shall look forward to seeing you in them at Darnall Feast darling.
I received the tie all right wifie, + feel quite delightful, it is a beauty. I think I really wanted one, but intended leaving it until our marriage, + then no doubt I should be great in a green one or something like that. I thank you very much darling, + only wish that I could thank you personally + in our usual way. I shall be very pleased to wear it love, “for my true wife’s sake” for I would do anything for her. I return the kiss (x) you sent my darling, but it is very cold in a letter isn’t it love?
I wish it was morning my darling, + then I should get a letter from you. It is now after 12, so I shall have to away. I should have gone at eleven but we have no latch key on the door so had to wait to let Banks’ in. It has been pouring with rain since 8 oclock, so I expect he has stopped somewhere to shelter.
We were working until after three this afternoon, + then we could not get finished, so I brought some work home with me, + shall have a go at it tomorrow, it is very wicked darling? Isnt it.
I was very much put out this morning, at finding that owing to Alvey’s + Jarvis’s carelessness we have overpaid a man £2 some weeks ago, + unfortunately he does not work for us now so we cant stop it back. It always upsets me to have these mistakes, because it makes me feel that I cannot trust them to do anything, + so for the sake of accuracy I have to do a lot of work that ought to be left to them. Besides I do not see how I can prevent Mr Cooper knowing, as I cannot balance the Cashbook, + it is very humiliating to have to say that we have made a mistake. However I will go to sleep on it love.
So will wish you a loving good night, not in the same manner as last Saturday night darling, I wish it was. But I shall be able to wish you “good nights” every night soon love, so I will not repine.
I love you my own darling true wife, more than ever. (x)
June 4th 1882
I received your dear loving letter this morning – you are a little darling. I thought I should get a good mark for writing in such good style.
I feel sure you will be a kind, sympathetic, loving little wife my darling – I expect you will be everything to be desired in a wife love, I always feel so confident that we shall be happy.
I think like you love, that the last Whitsuntide was the happiest we have spent so far, altho. They have all been happy.
It only wants five weeks to Darnell feast love then, from to day - + that means only four more Sundays away from you my darling. I shall certainly come if it is at all possible love. You will be able to tell my darling, by Darnell feast whether I was successful or not, + we can then talk it over about our marriage. I should certainly not like you to suffer any inconvenience wifie, through my mis-conduct. I hope you will never think that I do not really love you in this placing your good name in jeopardy darling?
I am glad that you mention taking apartments to your mother + Polly, + that they agreed with it love. Did your mother offer any objections love or any suggestions about what would really be the best thing to do under the circumstances. You see we are placed in such exceptional circumstances being so far away from each other love.
Of course it would not make much difference to us here love, what people thought about it in Sheffield, but we might lose chaste a little here, amongst these eminently respectable people at M’bro.
It will mean a lot of trouble love, in any case for you before we get settled down.
I am glad that you have not suffered anything from our intercourse darling. I have felt much better this week, but whether it is due to that or to the change of air + your loving companionship I cannot say. I should think both.
I shall be very pleased to take the “missus” out my darling when I get her here. I only wish I could do it now. I know it would be most enjoyable for both of us love.
I should think we could manage on £30 love, if your Fred can – for a time at least. When I was down at Saltburn the other week, Phillips said he bought his furniture from the makers + got merchants’ commission off. He strongly advised me to do the same. I think I shall get some more information from him about it, with price lists tc – if we can get a good suite from there at the same price as we should pay for a second rate one here we shall not do badly. Of course he would get it the commission off being a merchant, but we should get it at cost price from him + they would deliver it carriage paid to Middlesbro.
I have put the tie on this morning love, + it looks very nice – but the pin I have scarcely suits it. That of course is not of much consequence, as there are quite as many worn without pins here as with them. I feel as grateful love for your kindness, you are always thinking of my comfort my darling.
It is much better here to day after the rain, + is quite refreshing – it is very nice to be so near the Park love.
We shall have to get as near as possible to it darling for you will not like being cooped up in a town. But we can settle that afterwards.
I shall have to close now my darling so will only add what I have told you before + which you will no doubt be tired of hearing – that I love you my darling Janie more than ever, + remain always
Your loving true + faithful husband
Fred seems very proud of his tie, I think that must have been the gift that Janie bought after she belatedly remembered his birthday. Fred seems to have forgiven her - but she’s back in his bad books next time, when jealousy comes between them - Janie and Fred have a proper bust up over the company that Janie has been keeping.
Thank you so much for listening to My Love Letter Time Machine. I’d very much like to share Fred and Janie’s story with more people, so If you haven’t already - can I ask to share this podcast with someone you think might enjoy it? You can also find excerpts of Fred and Janie’s letters on instagram at my love letter time machine all one word and you can write to me at my love letter time machine at gmail dot com.
Until next time, take care.
© Ingrid Birchell Hughes 2022