Season 4, episode 4. 24th - 28th July 1882. Fred gets some very encouraging news from his boss Mr Cooper and we look at the average working wage in Victorian Britain. Emma gets hold of some liquor and lays into Polly again, but this time, Polly stands up to her and gives her what for!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 gets some very encouraging news from his boss Mr Cooper. And our Williams’ Polly finally snaps at Emma’s behaviour.
[Polly finally snaps at Emma’s behaviour]
Janie’s recent despondency finally seems to be lifting and we have a nice exchange of letters that are a bit more newsy.
July 24th 1882
My own darling husband
I received your nice long letter this morning. I do like a long one from you love.
Mother has sent me with some meat + puddings [etc] that we had spare at [the] Club feast to our Williams today as we have more than sufficient for ourselves + it will not keep long this weather time of the year. Louisa wanted me to go with her to Lucy’s tomorrow but having to come to Sheffield to day I thought I could do the two journeys in one day so I called at your house to see what Louisa would do, unfortunately she had promised to take the children to Hillsbro’ + they were all ready so they were obliged to go.
I don’t think I can go to morrow we may go on Wednesday. I shall have to go to Mrs Flears about [my wedding] dress so I shall go to both places if I can that day.
A very heavy thunderstorm came on when I got to Clifton square coming down from Handsworth I went into one of the houses. I asked them if they would allow me to shelter they said yes so I stopped until it was over. We are having very unsettled weather.
The Saturday nights are a contrast to the happy ones we used to have darling but we shall soon be able to have one of the old kind + we will enjoy it too + have a happy Sunday. I think we will go to Church this time love.
The Saturdays + Sundays that are coming will make up for the present loneliness darling husband. I wish I had been with you on Saturday afternoon to cheer you. We should not have been dull then love should we? I to [sp?] have gone with you in the Park, the time will soon pass darling + then I shall be able to go with you any time. I should like to see the roses + orange blossom, it will not be long to the “great day” + then I shall be wearing some + be your own wife. I am sorry you could not sleep love on Friday night.
It is an excellent testimonial I feel prouder than ever of you my darling. I am very pleased you sent it love. I will put Mr Robinsons name down for a bit of cake he shall have the nicest piece we can find.
You will have got your talk over with Mr Cooper by now love. I wonder what he wanted to say, of course if he does want to offer you any more money I don’t think I should refuse it love, though I am sure we shall manage very nicely on what you have now, but we can save what you get more.
Perhaps my mother does know that as I am now is the best prevention of any accident that might happen. I was better love this time so perhaps I may keep better from now.
If opportunity offers, I don’t think I shall refuse my husband the right a renewal of the marriage rights, it will not make any difference as far as appearances go love.
Only 12 days to our meeting then happiness + only so to our marriage love, you are right love I shall not have too much time to do what I want I want to do, I am getting what I can done but I shall have a lot to do in the last month.
I wish you could have kissed me just once love, we shall not have many when you come, we don’t generally do we love have many.
I wish you could have gone with me to see the wedding [at Sheffield old church] with me. We shall have to rehearse how to the night before ours, how to go on.
I should like to go to see them at Hathersedge if I could go for a day but I certainly shall not think of going for a week as I cannot spare the time you know love, I have finished two under garments this last week besides a little cape for Edie at Sheffield so I think I have not done badly love having to do a lot of other work besides.
Your mother’s hand was a deal better this morning but the thumb joint is very painful yet. Louisa + all the rest are quite well. John, Walter + Arthur had gone to Woodhouse Mill a fishing.
I thought you would be glad to hear of Jinnie Reckless’s good fortune, she says she will be able to raise a nice feather for her hat for our wedding now.
We were busy at the Club feast love, but I think it does not seem to make such a bother on Saturday as it did when we had it on the Monday. Kate was cleaning the Club room when I came, I cleaned her the chairs + tables so she had only the floor to scour.
I saw Ted Watts at Attercliffe Station this morning. He asked me how I had enjoyed myself at Middlesbro’ he + Miss Dalton are coming up to our house on Thursday night, they will perhaps tell me when [their] wedding is coming off, you know it was to come off in September.
Jinnie wished to be kindly remembered to you + said she expected she should have to finish her letter like this next July, with love to yourself, husband + a kiss for the baby very likely is it not love?
I remain always my darling husband
Your loving true + faithful wife
THE NORTH EASTERN STEEL CO.
July 27th 1882
My own darling wife
I received your letter dated July 24th from Cemetery Road yesterday morning. You must have posted it rather late love.
I should have replied to it yesterday but we have a Board meeting to day + consequently yesterday was a heavy day as usual, so you must forgive me love this once.
I suppose last Sunday would be Attercliffe Feast. I should like to have been at the old spot love just to have a look round. It seems as though I were going to miss all the feasts this year – already Darnall + Attercliffe are passed + then will come yours which is very unlikely that I shall attend. However I suppose we can’t have everything we wish for.
I am pleased that you like my testimonial darling. It is not a bad one certainly, we must certainly send [Mr Robinson] a nice piece of cake love when the event comes off – because though I used to grumble at his treatment + want to get away I can see now that it was the best for me + perhaps the only way he could have dealt with us + he certainly has been the making of me so far.
I have not yet had the talk with Mr Cooper love, we have been too busy this week, I expect it will come off tomorrow + then I will give you full particulars. We got a letter for Mr McBrie the new secretary yesterday saying that he was very ill and should like to have a fortnight to recover his health – Mr Cooper replied that he could have a month of he found it necessary for him. He asked me if I thought I could manage, + of course I said yes. I think I told you that he said at first that if I could keep the thing going until the secretary came it would be a feather in my cap, + I flatter myself that I have done so with credit. The Auditors said that our system of working is most complete + thorough + that is something love. I know love that we shall manage nicely on what we have but we shall want something you know wifie, for the proverbial rainy day, + a little more now would no doubt be acceptable.
You have evidently made up your mind to get your sewing done love seems that you have made such progress – don’t overwork yourself love because it cannot make much difference whether you get finished or not.
I am glad to hear that my mother’s hand is getting better love. I wrote on Saturday but have not got a reply yet.
I am also glad to hear that you will not refuse me wifie, if opportunity offers, not that either of us will have the slightest desire that way love, at all – only it is as well to know. It only wants nine days love now to our meeting, it will seem a long time to me before I see you again my darling Wife.
You will now perhaps be able to tell me when Ted + Miss Dalton intend to go into partnership – that is if they come up tonight to your house. I should like to be there love, we should be a jolly four – or rather a sad four.
I should not be at all surprised if Jinnie is right about the kiss for the baby by next July – but it will be quick work love, as it only means nine months you know after our wedding. You women folk are always thinking about the dear little babies, + I don’t know why because it means a lot of pain + trouble to you, but I suppose it is natural love.
There is one thing I should like to mention to you love, which has troubled me a little lately + that is this – you remember me remarking that I did not care for you playing quadrilles on Sundays when you were here, + you will also remember that I said the same thing when you played the same quadrille at Johnson’s on Sunday when you we were there. I have been wondering whether you prefer to play Dance Music on Sunday + whether you think Sacred Music is not worth the trouble learning. I was rather surprised + pained love when I heard, as I thought you would not have played it, + because you know that I did not care for it. I think that Sunday ought to be a little different from other days, don’t you. I really don’t think it is right love to place Dance Music on Sunday – what do you think?
I remain my darling Janie
Your loving true + faithful
I was a bit surprised at Fred’s admonishment of Janie for playing dance music on a Sunday, but perhaps I just don’t understand how differently everyone was expected to behave in keeping it a day of rest. It was usual for business and shops to close and no sports to be played. It was quite a common idea that children should be prevented from playing with most of their toys and instead had special ‘Sunday book’s that they could read and the one toy that was acceptable, if you could afford, it was a wooden Noah’s ark complete with the animals. Fred appears to have been brought up in a stricter sort of tradition that only certain types of music are acceptable. Janie obviously hasn’t as we’ll see in a couple of letters but first, in her next letter, it would appear Emma is up to her old tricks. The Polly that Janie mention’s is her much older sister-in-law who is married to Janie’s eldest brother William. You might remember that Polly had had a baby recently and Emma has been habitually rude to her. Previously that March, which was back in Season 2 of the podcast), Polly came to stay for a bit of a rest with her new baby. Janie described Emma’s behaviour at the time as “she has made Polly as uncomfortable as possible all the time she has been here, there is not a bit of pleasure in having anybody, she was like a great bull all last night when Polly [came in] … it not very pleasant for her, she had not been used to having anybody like our Emma about her, she has been as nasty as possible since she came!”
I speculated at the time that Emma possibly was accustomed to being the centre of attention and acted out accordingly. It looks as if things may have come to a head:
July 27th 1882
My own darling husband
I have just a few minutes to spare so thought I would torment you with a little more. It is too long to keep you waiting until Sunday love, only one more to get over, then the next you will spend with me. I wish it was Saturday week + I was just meeting you. I do yearn for a sight of you darling, it does seem such a long time since I left you.
I was just starting to go to your brother Walter’s yesterday with Louisa. She had promised to go there on the Wednesday + to Lucys on the Tuesday. I could not go on the Tuesday, + I met our Polly coming to our house to tea to be turned back with her. I was rather late so I thought I would have a cup of tea + go after.
Mr Wigfield had been to dinner + our Emma waited upon him + so she got a good quantity of liquor. I was busy ironing in the little room so she had it to herself + made good use of the opportunity.
She had just got sufficient to make her as nasty as possible so she could not help insulting Polly, our Williams Polly, they had quite a set to + Polly gave it her well, not more than she deserved. Polly was grieved very much because she had given her no cause for saying anything.
I wish you had been there just to hear what she is, you have heard a little but nothing to what she can + does say, + yet Mother agrees with her, but I will not say any more about her or I am afraid I shall get rather bitter against her.
I went down after tea yesterday to see Jane, she does not look well at all little Jinnie + your Walter are quite well, I got up to Darnall Church at twenty minutes past nine so just caught the train people, Miss Corbett was not there so I came up with another girl out of Handsworth, Louisa Dawson, Mrs Higgs sister.
How have Mr Banks + Mr Alvey gone on with the billiards [who] has won [?]
It as turned out very wet again to night so I am afraid Ted + Miss Dalton will not come.
Your mother’s hand seems to be going on very well but is rather painful in the joint yet.
I wish I could have a walk in the Park tonight love with you, I should enjoy it. I shall be pleased to see you.
I love you more than ever my darling husband
+ remain as always
Your loving true + faithful wife
P.S. I send you another tie love I hope you will like it.
So Janie has definitely got the hang of making ties then. I wanted to do a bit of detail on Gentleman’s ties but the modern tie or necktie is pretty much identical to the ones made back then.
THE NORTH EASTERN STEEL CO
July 28th 1882
My own darling Wife
I received your kind present this morning love, for which I thank you very much. I did not expect it darling so was very surprised – but it was none the less acceptable. What shall I bring my darling wife when I come home? I thought of bringing you a set of collars + cuffs of “The Squire “ pattern as they seem to be the rage just now, but I do not know your sizes love? If you would like them will you let me know what size love, or else tell me what else I can buy for you for I am your devoted (slave)? + will do whatever I am commanded.
I had a talk with Mr Cooper this afternoon love, which was very satisfactory. I am to have an advance of another 10/- love which will make it £3 now my darling, so I think we shall manage very nicely on that don’t you wifie? He also said that under the Secretary, I was to be “boss” of the whole job which I should say would will be a good thing. He thinks that the Secretary will not interfere much, if any, with me, + thinks that we shall agree very well. I hope so, I think I am not difficult to agree with love. Isn’t that good news darling? I wish I could tell you instead of writing it, for I know I should get such a loving kiss from my darling wife. I do feel pleased love for your sake because we shall no doubt be able to have more luxuries, shall I say in the shape of bonnets love? To use a common expression we shall “blow on” now love.
You must give me a good long letter for Sunday darling, as it will be the last Sunday before I see you, + it will be very slow + I shall want something to cheer me up.
Oh my darling I do love you so much. I hope I should not offend you with what I wrote last night love, for I did not mean to.
I have got Alvey an advance of 7/- so I should think he will be preparing for a “double” now. I shall be able to give him good advice as to the advantage of saving tc – owing to my recent experience.
I remain, my darling Wife
Your loving, true + faithful husband
I wonder if it was Janie’s visit to Middlesbrough that made Mr Cooper decide it was time to give Fred a raise in good time for his marriage. This means that Fred will now be on £156 a year. When you consider that only 8 months before, at Brown Bayley and Dixon, his salary was just £66 a year so he’s nearly trebled his income.
It’s so difficult to get a true picture of what that means today. The National Currency converter says that £156 in 1880 was worth just over £10,000 in 2017 and was equivalent to 472 days of a skilled tradesman wages. The Bank of England Calculator says it was worth just shy of £15,000. According to the National Archives, between the 1874 and 1900 the average national wage rose from £34.9 to £42.7. The national wage in the UK for 2022 was approximately £31,000. (About $37,600 at time of recording). I’m hesitant to say that because Fred was earning more than 3 x the national wage back in 1882 it’s going to be the equivalent of the 3 x the national wage now as purchasing power was different, prices were different and even the British currency was different (I meant it was still pounds, shillings, and pence). Having said all that, I’m confident enough to be able to say, that Fred is doing really really well and our Janie is more than a bit delighted at the news in her next letter:
July 28th 1882
My own darling husband
I received your welcome letters for which I thank you. I am glad your talk with Mr Cooper proved so very satisfactory. I was so pleased to hear your good news this morning. I wish you could have told me darling instead of writing. I would have given you such a loving kiss but I will save it for next week + then love I will reward you. I don’t think your good fortune is more than you deserve my husband. If you are the “boss” I shall be the bosses “shan’t I! I feel six inches higher. I think Mr Cooper a very nice man if he keeps adding 10 shillings occasionally. I shall think him the nicest excepting you. We shall be able to have more luxuries, now your salary is £3 in shape of bonnets love or anything else. I am glad you thought about the bonnets love.
We shall be able to manage nicely love on £3 + put some away darling for a rainy day.
I feel sure you and the new secretary will agree he will be a very queer man if you don’t, you are not difficult to agree with.
Only one week + then I shall see you, I shall be at the station at the usual time love.
I shall be very pleased to have a set of cuffs + collars, the collar I wear generally are No. 14 from my devoted husband, not slave are you love?
The next week will pass slowly. I do want to see you. I feel all impatience darling, if I can’t wait patiently I be as patient as I can, there is only one more Sunday to pass over, then you will be with me the next, but Oh I do wish it was here, it will be here soon won’t it love, I mean, it won’t, it will be ever so long in coming. I shall soon be with you all together then darling no more partings. I shall be your happy wife with the right to be with you always, it will be a happy change for me love.
I had a postcard yesterday to say the cake boxes were at Woodhouse Junction Station so I sent Maurice to fetch them, they are very pretty love + just a nice size. Jinnie Reckless will derive great pleasure in seeing them I am sure. Mrs Gover is going away on the 4th August to the I of Man, so Jinnie will be Matron while she is away.
I am glad you have got Alvey a raise. I should think he will be thinking about marriage. You will be able to give him good advice as to the advantage of faring tc.
I was not offended with you for telling me about the music love. I am very sorry it has troubled you. I did not mean any wrong, nor do I care for playing dance music on a Sunday. I don’t know why I played the quadrille unless it is because when I play the “Troubadours March” [sp?] I have a habit of playing that after it. I do remember you telling me about it at Johnsons. I am sorry I pained you again forgive me this time love.
Sunday ought to be different from other days love. I always try to make them so at home. I do play sacred music it is not right love to play the other I know on a Sunday + I am very sorry I did love. I will not do so again. I do love you + feel so sorry I hurt your feelings forgive me husband.
You will be pleased to hear our John has got some more parish work to do, I think it will last about a fortnight.
There is a cricket match here this afternoon. Heeley + Handsworth. The Handsworth team generally get beaten. Catcliffe won last week.
Jane + Jinnie, Louisa Lilly + Walter are coming to our house to tea on Monday + I am going to take
Them through the Nurseries if it is a fine day.
I should enjoy a walk in the Park to night love, it is a splendid night, more settled than we have had it for a long time.
Ted + Miss Dalton did not come on Thursday it was too wet, I thought perhaps they would come last night but they did not, we should have been a sad four if we could have been together, have you thought who is to be best man at our wedding yet love, you might ask Fred [Johnson] first + see if he could come + then if he could not, I think John Meays would be the next you might write this week + then you would get an answer before you come love, then we can make all arrangements as I shall not see you again before you fetch me to be with you for ever.
You are missing all the feasts this year love, last Sunday was Attercliffe Feast, do you remember that one we went to + had such fun. You will not miss a very great treat love in not coming to ours, everything is so uncomfortable. I am sorry I cannot give you a longer letter darling to night it is club night + we are expecting the cricketers. I expect Mother calling me every minute so please excuse more.
I remain always my husband
Your loving true + faithful wife
We’ll leave it there for now. Next week Fred and Janie discuss who is going to be Fred’s best man , Fred goes to see a practice of the North Yorkshire Artillery Volunteers and we look at the Victorian tradition of the Language of Flowers
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 2023