Season 4, episode 7. August 11th - 14th 1882. After the drama of cousin Maria's collapse last week, the 'Wellingtons' and the Warburtons rally around her. Also Fred & Janie get back on track with preparing and planning for their future married life. The joy however is tempered with Emma's continuing issues.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 continues house hunting, and Janie continues to prepare by filling her bottom drawer.
[Baskets and Wotnots]
After the drama last week it’s nice to see in this next letter of Janie’s, that her cousin Maria doing a little better, no doubt in part due to the family rallying round her and trying to keep her spirits up.
Aug 11th 1882
My own darling husband
I am so sorry I could not give you my promised letter for this morning.
I had promised Polly Roe to go down to tea for about three weeks, she said she should send for me when our Polly came and she sent yesterday just to say she was coming would I go + I had only just time to get ready, so could not get your letter done love. I was so sorry to disappoint you, but I could not get off going without seriously offending her. You must try to forgive me once more darling. I really could not help it.
Maria came up with Polly, she keeps better, she says she is coming to stop a few days at our house at the Feast rather an uncomfortable time to come but if it will keep her from brooding over her wrongs +then do her good, the doctor says she is to have change. I shall be very pleased to have her, the cheeky fellow had the impudence to come in the Wellington night before last, Willie Craven I mean, Cousin Mary told him if he came in again she should put him out, he is a scamp.
Sissy + I went up to the Blind Institution on Wednesday night to see Janie. I took the ring to change it love but Mr Lawton made it a size larger so that it fits very nicely now. I asked him what it weighed, it weighs 2 pennyweights + a half.
I am so afraid darling that our wedding day will be spoiled by our Emma, she has been tight this last three days, + I believe she will do then if it is only to vex me, I shall be thankful thankful to you love for taking me away. I really could not stand it, if you were not. I do love you my darling.
I showed J[inny] the ring at she thought it a very nice one, she intends being great at our wedding it is the first she has figured in. I was to remember her very kindly to you.
There is a meeting to night about the association dinner. I think it will be next Thursday. I shall soon have done with all the big dinners I shall be glad darling, you know I have a an aversion to waiting at them, but this one is the nicest we have in the year so I do not mind so much. I wish I could be with you to night love if only for a few minutes. I should like a kiss from my husband. I am looking forward to the happy time when I am with you for ever it will be such a happy change for me darling.
I will write for Sunday love. I cannot write more now the meeting folks will here in a few minutes.
Only that I love you more than ever + remain always
Your loving true + faithful wife
The next letter is also from Janie as their back and forth has gone a little out of sync. She mentions her mother buying at the door again, something that appears to have been happening quite regularly and I get the impression that callers of this nature at the Cross Keys were pretty regular.
Peddlers, Hawkers and Costermongers were not just a frequent sight but a cornerstone in the economic life of a village like Handsworth. While the railways were bringing in more and exotic produce and goods into the cities, villages like Handsworth would be more reliant on the itinerant work force that brought much wanted (and probably not so wanted) supplies up the hill. Janie mentions in earlier letters of a woman selling items that her mother trusts. This suggests that the way people protected themselves from the less scrupulous sales folk that turned up at the doorstep was to note the regulars and establish a relationship. I imagine winning the trust of the landlady of a pub was pretty valuable, both for sales and for reputation.
The hierarchy of traveling sellers would have the costermongers at the top selling fresh fruit and vegetables and the milk man selling from his cart. The lowest of the ranks would be made up of the women and children hawking bunches of watercress and twists of kindling. For these it was a mere step away from destitution.
Regulation of peddling and hawking etc, came about with the the pedlars’ act of 1871, you were required to apply to the local police for licence. You had to be ‘above seventeen years of age, a person of good character, and in good faith intend to carry on the trade of a pedlar’ On payment of a fee, the pedlar was allowed to trade in his own police area. This made matters difficult for the itinerant pedlar and in 1881, the amendment allowing a pedlar to operate anywhere in the UK came into effect.
Interestingly enough the Pedlars Act is still law in the UK and anyone who wishes to trade in such a manner still has to go get a licence from the local police station.
Anyway back to Janie - her next letter the ‘what not’ she mentions is a small piece of furniture that was usually a fancy set of freestanding small shelves supported by slender pillars that were designed for displaying ornaments or china. They were often triangular shaped so as to sit neatly in the corner of a room. Janie appears to have begged one off her mother for her future home.
Aug 12th 1882
My own darling husband
I received your nice letter this morning for which I thank you love.
It will give me a little more time to prepare for our wedding love being nine weeks instead of eight but it is a long time to wait before seeing you again, but I shall be with you always then, so I must not complain darling.
I have got a bargain to day I think. I got a dirty clothes basket, one of those deep work baskets + a little basket to fetch eggs butter or anything else in, all for 8-6. Mother bought them at the door. I bargained for them the dirty clothes basket is very well made + I should not have got it so cheap but it was one the man had taken in exchange, the lid is a little bit damaged but he says he is coming this way again this day week + will mend it for nothing. I can pack a lot of things in it, we shall want for nothing [with what] we have got love shall we?
I have unscrewed the whatnot to day I think I shall send it with the dinner service. If I go to Sheffield next week I will send it them both then, as the week after will be Woodhouse Feast week + a busy time at home + I will want the whatnot out of the way at our feast.
They decided last night not to have the association dinner next Thursday but to have it on the 20th of September, we shall have to get straightened by then if possible. We shall not have much papering or painting to do this year so that we shall be able to get it done rather sooner than usual. I wish the feast was over, but it is not, so I shall have to make the best of it. I feel greatly comforted that it is my last.
I try the ring on every morning love, it fits beautifully now. Jinnie of course threw up her hands when she saw it, she will have two or three days holiday at the time if she can get three it she will have the day before + the two following days, as I shall want her to help me to do lots of little things but if she can only have two she will have that day + the next. I shall ask Carrie to come the week before. Carrie + Janie will have to send the cake out the day after our wedding.
Mother did not say anything about us being upstairs together last Monday love.
Our Polly is going to take the children to Cleethorpes on Wednesday next by the half day excursion. Maria + Cousin Mary are going + want me to go. Maria says she won’t go unless I go. I think I shall go love as I don’t want Maria to stop at home because I think the change will do her good. She is to go out somewhere every day if only just to see her friends.
I think it is very shabby indeed of Fred not giving you a reply to your letter, even if he had refused the offer [of being your best man]. I think we had better give him until next Thursday though [he] hardly deserves it. If he does not write before then I would write to John Meays at once. There will be just eight weeks notice for him. I do wish darling we had asked him first. I should think Fred must be very great spoons on Miss Barton if he can’t find time for a few lines.
Our Emma did not get home until Tuesday night.
Any of the three streets you mentioned love will do, but if you cannot get one in those streets, I shall not be very disappointed love if you get one anywhere else that suits you, I like those streets because they are quiet.
I am glad Mrs Gordon has let her back rooms that will be a help to her, I shall be sorry love (with all due regard for her income as you say) if she does let the front ones, I do not feel afraid about settling. I could settle anywhere with you darling, but it will be more comfortable for you, you would have somewhere to sit down to get your meals + if we went straight to our house everything would be upset, besides love it will give me more time to devote to straightening the house as Mrs Gordon would do all the cooking tc + I could be down there all the day + get it done in a shorter time, than if I had everything to see to.
We have had lovely weather here this week, I wish we could have gone to Saltburn darling on that beautiful day it would have been enjoyable darling, like all the days we have been together. You will be able to take your wife next time you go, don’t you feel your hair going grey to think of it love.
I have not felt the separation so much this time darling the time is drawing near, it wont be long before I am your happy wife + you are my loved + loving husband, + then there will be no more separations.
I have not seen the paper you sent before, on “Matrimonial Superstitions” I am not superstitious at all love. I do not believe that anything like that can affect anyone’s happiness. Jinnie told [me] I was to be sure + not let the ring fall as it is unlucky.
I wish you could have given your good night kiss darling there is no life in them on paper.
I have not had a letter from Betsy Frith yet I shall write again next week if she does not answer it then very soon I shall not trouble about her any more.
I wish I could bring you some claret + ginger beer love it would refresh you. I have not had any this summer yet.
I hope you will enjoy your excursion to Yarm my darling. I will be so nice + good if you will take me some day when I am your wife. I wish you were coming to night love just to take me for one of our old walks, it does seem a long time since you went away last Tuesday. We shall be married people when we go for walks next time.
I have not time for more love, only that I love you more than my husband
Your loving true + faithful wife
August 13th 1882
My own darling Wife
I received your very welcome letter yesterday. I thought that you must have been busy love or you would have written.
Of course I will forgive you my darling, how could I help it.
I think it was very impudent of Willie Craven to go to the Wellington after what he had done. I think Jinnie’s mother did quite right in telling him to go out – he wanted kicking out.
I am pleased that you got the ring altered to suit love, + glad that you had not to get another one – as I think I should not have liked another one so well as the one we bought together. Because it seems nicer that we should both be there love for anything like that. Don’t you think so love?
I hope your fears will not be realised love, about your Emma spoiling our wedding day. If she does I shall be tempted to say something myself for I shall belong to the family then you know. I am determined that I we will not have anything to do with her when you get nicely here, because I think you have had sufficient trouble + bother with her at home without transplanting it here. I think you will agree with me darling in this.
I know you will be thankful to me love for taking you away from such an uncongenial home, + I hope you will rightly value our home my darling wife.
I thought Jinnie would go into a fit over the ring love. You must remember me very kindly to her love.
I wish you could have had a kiss from me love, for Saturday night – I wished the same.
[continued August 14th]
I received your letter this morning, for which I thank you my darling very much.
It is a long time to wait before seeing you again love, even now it seems an age since I saw you + kissed you. But we must try to manage love, as I don’t think we could afford me coming over again before October though I should very much like to do so.
I see you are still in the purchasing mood love, we shall not, (as you say) want for anything we have got. I don’t think though, that you have got the good bargain you anticipate love, as we could get the linen basket quite new + good at 6/9 each at Pinch Bros. but still it is cheap seeing that your mother paid for it. It will be very useful too to pack things in.
I shall be very pleased to receive the dinner service + the whatnot, as soon as you like to send them love. You must let me know + then I can look after them, tho’ if you address them to Albert Terr. they will not be any more that sending them to Middlesbro Station + they will deliver them.
I am pleased that the Association dinner is postponed love, as I should think it will not be so inconvenient for you then, + it will leave you more at liberty now. It will be the last Feast + Dinner that you will have to deal with there love, so you must try + make the best of it a little longer.
I am pleased that the ring fits so well love, I expected you would have to try it on a few times. It must be a great comfort to you when you feel downhearted, to cheer your drooping spirits with the feel of it on your finger, + to think that it will not be long before it is there for good when you are my loving little wife.
I hope Jinnie will be able to get holiday at our wedding love for she will be very useful to you and Carrie too of course must have something to do with it. I should like to have seen her when I was over. I was wondering how you would deal with the cake sending out love, because it would be very inconvenient for you to do it yourself.
I am glad your mother did not ask any inconvenient questions as to our being upstairs love on the Monday afternoon.
The usual monthly should come off this week love shouldn’t it? You will of course let me know whether it does or not love.
You must go to Cleethorpes on Wednesday love by all means if it will be beneficial to Maria. It will also be an outing for you + I want you to get your running about done now as you will have to settle down to dreary … married life love with me.
I will wait until Thursday love to see if Fred writes, + then will write to John Meays as you suggest. I wish with you that I had written to him first, as he I expect would have been delighted.
I still think it would be best + much more convenient to go with lodgings for at least the first week love – for it would as you say give you more time to square up; + if we went to our house first, it would be real hard work for you looking after me + the house as well. As it is you will find it hard at first I expect love.
I dont feel my hair going grey at all love, at the thought of taking you next time I come – I only wish you were here now I would risk the grey hairs.
I am glad you are not superstitious love – I did not think you were, or I should not have sent you the paper. I thought Jinnie would have something to say about it.
We did not go to Yarm after all yesterday for this reason. Our new man who seems to be rather delicate was looking so ill that I told him he had better go home + go to bed at once, + then I had a set too + commence writing the letters at 12 o’clock on Saturday morning, + I had six letters to write after Mr Cooper left at 1.30 – which made it three o’clock before I left, + it was too late then as the train to Stockton went at 1.30. I went up to the Cricket Field instead.
I should have written early to day but I went to Phillips’ at 2.0, to go with him to their anniversary sermons at the Wesleyan Chapel – I had tea with him + then went again at night. He seems to be very desirous of being friendly + is a very decent fellow + may be useful to me. Of course I was careful to explain to him, that though I might be friendly with him it would make no difference in his favour with regard to business, with which condition he seemed to be satisfied. His wife is very nice, + I want to have some nice people for you to visit, for you know love after all you cannot get one very well without friends – + I want ours to be of the best.
Mr + Mrs Marston + family are staying at Redcar for a week or two. I intend that you shall have a week or two there next summer love, if we can afford it. I could come to Middlesbro in the morning + go down at night you know love, even if I could not get clear holiday.
I went on Friday night to look at some houses that are building at Linthorpe – I dont think they will be ready by the time we are married or I should be tempted to take one. It is so healthy out there, + they look straight across to the hills.
When the works get fairly going I expect we shall have dinner at the works, + by that time we shall I expect have one or two “bairns” – so that you will not be so lonely + we may then manage to live out there. I would put up with the extra distance love, if it were beneficial to my darling wife.
You will forgive me for not writing to day love wont you?
I think I shall have to retire to my virtuous couch, as it is now after twelve, + late hours are not conducive to good looks.
I should like a line or two for Wednesday love, if you can squeeze a few in for me, + I think you will contrive to do so.
I think you have made a slight mistake (I am getting a bit fresh again so I had better shut up) in the close of your last letter love, + it is this:- You say “I have not time for more love, only that I love you more than my husband.”
Who is your husband love? + don’t you think it is wrong to love me more than him? I suppose you mean, that you love me more than ever love, isn’t that it?
I love you my darling Wife more than ever, + will always remain
Your loving true, + faithful
How do you like the idea of signing your name thus? Not very euphomious love is it? I suppose it will be
Mrs Fred Shepherd
I have to admit to feeling a bit concerned when Fred writes, “I want you to get your running about done now as you will have to settle down to dreary married life love with me.” Is this normal? Does he expect that Janie will not be going on excursions without him after they are married? We’ll find out more next time when for a change we get Janie’s fabulous account of a family day at the seaside at Cleethorpes - I can’t wait to share it with you.
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 leave a review on your podcast app if if there is a space to? It really helps more people find Fred and Janie’s story. 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