Season 3, episode 13. 19th - 24th June 1882. A chance comes up for Janie to go to Middlesbrough and see Fred for a few days, so the letters are full of planning wrangling, and in light of a brass band starting up in Handsworth, Sheffield, we take a little look at the brass band movement.Support the show
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 Fred and Janie start to plan for Janie to visit Middlesbrough and we take a little look at the brass band movement in the North of England.
[Brass bands and travel plans (50th episode!)]
I was amazed to realise that this is the 50th episode of My Love Letter Time Machine. I can’t quite believe it - and I’m delighted that so many on you have been coming on this journey with me as we follow Janie and Fred in their story. Thank you so much.
So where were we??
After the excitement of her brother’s wedding, everything quietens down and Janie finally gets a moment to consider things in a bit more detail, including finally reflecting on Fred letting his landlady Mrs Snaith believe that he was a married man and that there was a baby on the way. However Janie doesn’t really seem that peturbed and takes it in her stride
June 19th 1882
My own darling husband
I received your letter this morning for which I thank you love. I am sorry I could not give you more for Sunday. I intended starting of it of Friday night after I got home from Darnall, but I felt so tired + I was rather late. Polly Corbett + I stood talking to Jinnie Reckless, she had just come home for her holidays.
The usual monthly came off to day. I was very sick all day yesterday. I thought I should have to come out of Church. I managed to stop the service out though the people stare so if you go out. Henry + Jinnie R came to brothers Freds to tea +I was invited too. I felt a little better in the afternoon so I went. We have to go there darling when you come over. They have a nice little home. Our Fred says he can’t reckon himself up at all, being there by themselves. Jinnie, Polly + I went for a walk down the Grange lane after tea. Henry + Fred went to our house. I did wish you were with me darling. The old lane looks so nice now. I think I miss you more than ever love. We called on Henry + our Fred + went down to Mrs Roes to supper. She said we were to go there.
I have been very bad all day to day. I was obliged to go to bed this afternoon. I fell asleep + have slept longer than I intended so darling I shall not be able to give you a very long one to day you will think I have nothing but excuses this week love I am afraid. I have had to neglect you for others. I am glad you got the cake all right, this wedding was very useful experience for me love + I did enjoy sending out the cake. I did not pump Polly a bit. I thought I knew exactly how they would go on so did not feel very curious about the first night. Our Fred looked all right love after the dreadful ordeal but Polly was rather pale.
I am glad you went in for a little festivity on Thursday. I was thinking about you all day + soon[sp?] much better. I should enjoy myself if you were only here darling.
Mr Davies information as to setting up housekeeping would rather provide[sic] [unreadable] you with the bills of his furniture it would make the £30 look small, you must not get glum over it. I think we shall make it do very nicely to get the furniture you said love. You will do well darling if you save six pounds this month. We shall not have to get married earlier now love as it has come off all right. I thought I would not say anything about it until to day as it often occurs two days after the time.
I wish I could have been with you at Middlelsbro’ sports + then perhaps it would have been more enjoyable looking on. I wish I could have relieved the loneliness of the sole representative of the firm in the evening love. It would have given me great pleasure. I love you my darling more than ever.
I am sorry you had such a bad headache yesterday. I hope you will not have another of these attacks that you had last year + the year before. I would go to a doctor darling + see if he can’t give you something to get you all right again. I must not have you ill over there + your little wife not there to look after you.
Mr Bankes might have given up playing his cornet when he knew you had the headache. I wish we were married my darling then I should be there to look after you, but we shall be soon love + then I will.
I will write you another for Wednesday it is post time.
I remain my darling husband
Your loving true + faithful
P.S. I will tell you about the excursion in my next. I am going to mention it to Mother to night. I have not done so yet.
June 19th 1882
My own darling husband
I have great pleasure in giving you a little more. I feel very much better after my sleep I shall be all right by to morrow.
I find I have not answered your two last letters fully. You asked the reason why Kate was going to leave. I need hardly tell you what it was about. Mother said she had not said anything to offend her that she knew of, but Mother says some very nasty things when she is in a temper + forgets them afterwards, but Kate has considered to stop again. I am very glad as I don’t think we should get a better + one that we can trust to tell no tales.
You bad lad to let Mrs Snaith think you are married. She will be wanting us to sleep together when I come + asking me about the little one we are expecting.
It must have been your very quiet + sedate manner that has assisted in convincing her you are a married man, my darling husband.
How did you get the board meeting over, you would be tired love. I know you are particularly fond of board meetings.
The wedding was the nicest I have seen at our Church in our position. I think you would have felt proud of me if you could have seen me. I hope you will be proud of me when I am your wife darling for then I shall be your very own but you are just as much to me now darling as if we were married. I gave them your good wishes love. I wish it could have been ours as well but it wasn’t […] my darling as we shall have to wait patiently until it is + that won’t be very long now love. I did let you share the wedding present. I brought them a very nice inkstand I gave 8s-6d for it love. We did get some rice. I never saw more thrown at anybody.
I have asked Mother about the excursion, she says she thinks I might go out but she will ask my father. I think we needn’t fear love but I shall get off. I shall come by the one days excursion + stop for a few days. We will say from Monday to Friday. If Miss Smith can conveniently get off then we will both stop at Mrs Gordons as I should prefer it from to staying at Mr Marstons, wouldn’t you love?
If Miss Smith + I come together we shall be nice company in the day time. I don’t suppose you will get many days off darling but we may be able to see you morning + noon for a few minutes, then have some nice long evenings, it will be like old times darling to see you every night. We shall not have to go to see many friends while I am there love, so that won’t take up much time.
I do want to see you my own husband it will be glorious to see you every day for five days or a week.
If Annie Wortley goes she will go by the three days trip as Tom is going with her + he wants to go to the races. I shall see her again before the time, then she may let Tom go by himself + go with us on the Monday but if she does not go with us, it will not make any difference as we shall not see much of her when she gets there in any case.
Mary + little Jessie are staying with us. I am going to take Jessie out for a walk to night + Mother keeps bothering me to see if I am not nearly ready so I shall have to give up now love.
You must let me know darling if you are any worse. I feel rather anxious about you darling.
I remain as always
Your loving true + faithful wife
Janie is exuding confidence about being able to make do on only £30, you can tell she can’t wait to get her teeth into the challenge in fact. I have every confidence she’s going to surprise Fred with her brand of practical creativity borne of ingenuity and a tight budget.
Their servant Kate deciding to stay must have been a source of relief for Janie - otherwise no doubt she would have been lumbered with more work until they found a new one. The fact that Kate’s ability to keep confidences was so highly prized, must be to do with Emma’s behaviour.
In this next letter from Fred’s he seems to have a belief that sexual activity can a direct impact upon how a woman experiences her next period. I wonder why he thinks this and if it was a common belief. But aside from misconceptions, The fact that Janie and Fred are prepared to have this depth of conversation about her monthly cycle feels decidedly modern in the level of intimacy they share.
June 20th 1882
My own darling wife
I received your kind + loving letter this morning love, for which I thank you. I am sorry darling that I said anything about your letters being short, as I might have known that you would give me much as you could. Forgive me Wifie, I was a little out of sorts.
I am glad to hear that the usual monthly has come off, but very sorry to hear that it was so painful to you my darling. I hope I did not contribute to the painfulness, but fear that I did love.
If it was not my fault love, you are not quite all right or it should not give you so much pain should it? Does not your mother suggest a remedy love? She must know of something that would relieve you. I don’t like to hear of my little wife having so much pain to bear, as I wish to bear all that for her.
I shall be quite agreeable to go to your Fred’s love, when I come over. I think I should “scarcely be able to reckon it up” if I had you all to myself darling, like your Fred.
I wish I could have you down the old lane with you my darling on Sunday, it would have been delightful, but I will take you in the Park when you come here, + then we shall enjoy it. I went in this morning before breakfast, it was lovely.
I am glad you still think we shall be able to manage love on £30, notwithstanding what I mentioned about Davis’s, but I think you have scarcely answered all the letter in which I gave you the estimates. I suppose the wedding would perhaps hinder you from giving much time to it.
The headache is all right now darling, I took a dose of Fruit salts + a Seidlitz powder + feel very much better now. I think the other matter I spoke of will pass off love, as I have not felt it much since Sunday.
We have got another hand to relieve me of the letters, so that I have not quite so much on my mind now. I got done at 7.0 tonight + after tea went in the Park + had a little footballing with some fellows there, feel very much better for the exercise love, + shall go in again.
I have some time now we have got another clerk. We are having some awful weather now here – the rain is something great.
I went to Stockton today to one of our Directors works to get to know how they paid their men + anything else that I could.
I rather enjoy these short Railway journeys, + it is a pleasant break in the day.
We had done at half past six tonight so that I have plenty of time to write to you.
I shall now go to bed + dream of my darling wife, + get up early to wait for your letter.
Good night my love, good night. (x)
June 21st 1882
I received your second letter this morning for which I thank you very much.
I am glad to hear that you are much better wifie, + that Kate is not going to leave you after all, as it would not perhaps be advisable to have a stranger in the house.
You have just anticipated the [situation] love about Mrs Snaith, she said yesterday that she should have to remove Alvey when you come as of course I should prefer you sleeping with me, of course I said I should do so, But I afterwards explained to her that we were not married – you so you need have no fears on that score darling.
The Board meeting went off all right love, + I have now the minutes in hand for the Directors.
I shall be proud of you my darling when you are my wife – prouder even than I a now. – I am glad you let me share your present darling as I like you + I to combine together in all things.
I am glad to hear that you have got your mother’s permission to come here love + hope you will also get your father’s. About the stopping love if Miss Smith does not come I think it would be better for you to go to Mr Marston’s + have arranged accordingly. I have explained to him, that if Miss Smith comes – for her sake you would stop with her at Mrs Gordon’s.
Of course I am not yet sure that she will come. Alvey will get a letter tomorrow morning + then perhaps I can tell you more. She has got her mother’s permission if that is anything.
It will be glorious darling to see you every day, if even for only a few days. We shall not have many friends to see love as you say – we have to go to tea at Davis’s, + here as well of course.
I think you had better let Annie Wortley know that the Newcastle trip goes through Darlington (which is 16 miles from Middlesbro) + that it is certain that as the trip is booked for Newcastle they will not let her stop at Darlington + then come on to Middlesbro, she will have to go […on to] Newcastle + then come back to Middlesbro from there.
Are you sure love, the day trip is a week next Saturday, as I cannot find it in the paper. It will be inconvenient for you love leaving so early but you will no doubt arrange that. I wish it was to day love.
I remain my darling wife
Your loving, true + faithful husband
June 22nd 1882
My own darling husband
I received your loving + welcome letter this morning for which I thank you love.
We are having miserable weather here, it was drizzling all day yesterday + to day it has poured down. Jinnie Reckless + Ellen Staniforth came to see me yesterday even though it was such a nasty day, Ellen has had three days holiday this week, she has not been for such a long time she was did not like to come by herself so got Jinnie to come with her, they got to our house at half past four. We had tea then Jinnie would have me to put the dress on + everything that I wore at the wedding.
Friday morning 6.30
I am going to Sheffield to day with Jinnie Reckless so thought I would get up a little earlier to write to you love.
I don’t think you did contribute to the painfulness of my bad time love. I am afraid I am not quite all right, I should not have any pain at all by rights. I told Mother about it + she said she used to be just like me when she was young, she did not suggest a remedy.
I wish I could have gone into the Park with you before breakfast but you shall take me love when I come darling.
I am glad that you are very much better love + that you think the other matter will pass off. I should not like you to be ill over there.
You will feel relieved now you have got another hand to do the letters, it will take a little off your time. I should go in the park again love, to have another game at football. I think the exercise will do you good darling.
The short railway journeys are a pleasant break in the day for you love. I wish I could take them with you.
I am glad you had done early so that you could write to me, it is has been a scramble nearly every time last week to write to you darling, the wedding did hinder me a good deal.
It would be best to stop at Mr Marstons if Miss Smith does not come. You are a very thoughtful darling to make arrangements accordingly for which I shall kiss you when I see you + I know you will not like it. I do love you my darling husband.
The days excursion is on Monday week not Saturday. I think I said Monday in my letter love but I could not be sure being so hurried over them. I think it will be in the papers to day. I hope the mistake in the day will make no difference love.
It will be rather inconvenient leaving so early in the morning but I can put up with that love if it is to see you, I wish it was the day darling. I do want to see you.
You know the stable where we keep bottled beer, father has been missing it for weeks + could not think how it went because he knew we had not sold much + still it kept going.
It is a neighbour that has confessed to doing it, he has unlocked the door with his house door key. He is just such another as Charles Clegg always craving for drink, I don’t know what they are going to do with him yet. He is old Mr Wigleys son.
I have not time for more to day but will give you the usual one for Sunday love.
I remain as always
Your loving true + faithful
Royal Exchange , Middlesbrough
THE NORTH EASTERN STEEL CO.,
June 23 1882
My own darling Wife
I was very disappointed at not receiving a letter from you love this morning, but I suppose you will have been busy love, or else you would have given me a line or two.
I am afraid I cannot give you much as we have been very busy today.
Alvey’s young lady has got permission to come here with the day trip so you can make what arrangements you like with her. I have arranged for you to stay at Mrs Gordon’s if you like to do so.
Oh my darling, it will be glorious kissing you once more. I shall push on this next week so as not to have to work over when you come + then I can show you everything.
I love you my darling more than ever + remain as ever
Your loving true + faithful husband
In this next letter of Janie, in the middle of the continuing discussion of travel arrangements, she happens to mention that some folks in Handsworth have started up a Brass Band. The ‘flat cap and brass band’ image proves a persistent stereotype of people from the North of England but I thought it might be interesting to look at what became known as the brass band movement:
Valved brass instruments first came into production in the early 1800s and this technological advancement made them eminently
suitable for mass production. This in turn brought down the cost and the instruments came within reach of those with lower incomes.
The players in a brass band and those that came to hear them play almost always in the same social class, and with pieces by famous composers being transcribed for brass instruments, the working classes received an education in music that before then had largely been limited to hymns and popular music. This was surely the first time that the working class became properly engaged in classical music.
The proliferation of bands started to ramp up in the 1850, and while the original brass bands started up in the colliery towns of South Wales, it was noted by commentators of the day that “almost every village and group of mills in the north of England had it’s own band”. Band origins seem to have followed three main patterns, first were those who were started up within a single workplace, second were the subscription bands that were supported by their local community and lastly there were the military bands associated with the home volunteer forces, the Victorian equivalent of a territorial army or home guard, that would often receive funds from some kind of patronage by the middle class.
The encouragement of workplace bands in particular can to some extent be seen as developing alongside the temperance movement, in the attempts of the patriarchal style of charity in the Victorian era, to encourage working class people away from from alcohol and into a more wholesome style of living. Rehearsing and performing music kept people away from pubs and drinking.
Well unless you start up a band and ask to use the local pub as a rehearsal space.
Actually given that so much of Janie’s family are involved in the inn-keeping trade, I think I’d like to go into the contrasts here in more detail at some point - it would certainly explain her dubious opinion of the Salvation Army who were newly active in Sheffield at that time
Anyway I digress, back to Janie:
June 24th 1882
My own darling husband
I received your letter this morning. I am sorry you were so disappointed love at not receiving one on Friday, you would get one this morning so I hope it would make up for it. I was busy.
The excursion is in the paper to day, it starts very early in the morning 5-30. I should not mind that very much darling. I should have to stop at our Williams on the Sunday night then we could start together Miss Smith + I from the Victoria Station.
We have to come by the [Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway] I must see Annie Wortley tomorrow if possible.
How shall I make arrangements with Miss Smith. Will you let me have her address so that I can write to her or shall I have to see her at Cockayne.
I have got fathers permission to come love, it will be glorious to be together again + to be kissed once more by you darling. We will stay at Mrs Gordons. I think it is the best arrangement we can make under the circumstances love, don’t you.
We shall not be able to bring much luggage with us, they will only allow what we can take under our own care.
I wish it was time to come now darling I do want to see you.
I shall be delighted darling to be with you, you will be able to show me everything but don’t work too hard love to knock yourself up.
I went to Sheffield yesterday. Jinnie Reckless was to have gone with me by the half past eleven train but could not get off until afternoon. I went up to our Williams to dinner then came down in the town + met Jinnie + we did a little shopping, which we both like + had a look in all the windows then we went to tea with Polly and spent a very pleasant evening up to half past eight. I always feel loth[sic?] to leave their house when I get there it seems so comfortable from ours. We came by the nine oclock train. I went home with Polly Corbett.
Jinnie seems to be very friendly with little David again, we met him as we went down the station road + Jinnie went a walk with him. He went by the same train to Sheffield in the morning as I did, he told me his father + mother are going to Middlesbro’ to see Mr Cooper next Saturday to stay till Tuesday, so they will be there the same time as we shall are.
You must send up to the weather office + have nice weather for us when we come, it is very unsettled here, we have had a very heavy shower to day + some thunder.
Jinnie Reckless says I am to tell you to be sure + come to their feast as it may be the last you + I will be able to come to together. I told her I did not think you would as I was going over there but she said you must.
I don’t think you know love that we have got a brass band in Handsworth, a lot of young fellows have started one, they came out for the first time. I think it was Tuesday night + they are coming out again to night + they are coming to our house to torment us. I wish they would not as their music as yet is not of the sweetest + a brass in a house is not the nicest music you can have or the quietest.
I wish you could come love + take me for one of our old walks instead, we did live in those days darling, now we just exist, but we have some glorious times to look back upon + a glorious future to look forward to, so we will not despair love we will look on the sunny side + not get down hearted, only nine days before I see you darling. I am sure this has been the longest time it seems months since I saw you.
I still think we shall be able to manage on the £30 love, with what you suggest in the furniture line + we should manage very well at first.
You have put 1-10-0 down for the fender + fire irons. I think we could get very nice ones for a pound, though they may be dearer at Middlesbro’ than Sheffield. The leather suite will be very cheap love if you get it for 9-13-0. I have not seen any ticketed here under 14-0-0 but we shall be able to talk everything over when I see you love, if we don’t forget + think only of the pleasure of being together.
I have got such a nice flower stand it is a good large one for the middle of the table, Mother bought it for two shillings. It has turned out a lovely night. Oh darling I do wish you were here we would have a glorious walk down our old lane but we will have them at Middlesbrough won’t we love? I do love you more than ever y darling husband
+ remain always
Your loving true + faithful wife
P.S. The band is coming up the street now.
I can’t believe how complicated it seems to arrange a trip like this, it appears so fiddly with all the back and forth and getting other people to write to each other. Next week we get to see the final preparations as Janie gets ready to go have her first look at Middlesbrough.
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
The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History
edited by Trevor Herbert