Season 4, episode 10. August 23rd-27th 1882. Our Fred decides goes on an adventure and climbs Roseberry Topping just south of Middlesbrough, in which he narrowly avoids killing his silly self. Fred and Janie try and firm up who will be their bridesmaids and best man for their wedding, and it’s all hands on deck at the Cross Keys as Janie gets ready for the Handsworth Feast and Flower 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 try and firm up who will be their bridesmaids and best man for their wedding, it’s all hands on deck at the Cross Keys as they get ready for the Handsworth Feast and Flower Show, and our Fred decides goes on an adventure up the mountain of Roseberry Topping, in which he narrowly avoids killing his silly self.
[Fred almost falls to his death…]
The outstanding issue of who is to be best man is at last resolved - Fred *finally* gets a reply from Fred Johnson, and also one from John Meays. But first we start with the matter of bridesmaids, in this next letter of Janie’s. She also mentions that her gloves have mysteriously gone missing. Given what happened to the perfume that Fred bought Janie, I’m wondering if those gloves might have gone the same way… Has Emma taken them to spite Janie? Am I being too suspicious?
My own darling husband
I intended giving you a nice long letter last night, after I had sent the other one but could not as I had to attend to the bar.
I heard from Carrie this morning, she wished to be very kindly remembered to you.
I wrote last week to ask her to be a bridesmaid, + to come for a week before the wedding, She is sorry to have to decline both but will come perhaps the day before the wedding as a guest. It will be just a year in October since she was here. Carrie has only had one letter from Annie [in Australia] since then.
You remember that new pair of gloves I had on when you were here love, did you take them with you, if you remember I gave them to you to put in your pocket, + I thought you might have got them as I cannot find them anywhere at home, I am not sure but I think you took them out + put them on the room table but I thought perhaps you might have taken them up again + I had better ask you.
I should like to know what made my father seem so seem decided about not giving me the Piano, directly I asked him he said no, I did not say another word. I felt very so disappointed because I felt so sure of getting it. I shall get to know if our Emma has said anything to him.
I think you went to him in a right manner love + never mind the money or furniture we shall do very well without either, I do know love you are not marrying me for money, ours will be for love, won’t it darling? We do love each other.
It would be very nice to be nearer our house for some things love, but I am very pleased to go far away for others we shall have nobody to bother us then.
I am sorry Betsy Frith cannot be at my our wedding love, I should have liked to have all my old friends together on that day.
I think Fred Johnson is very silly to be drawn in by anybody, the engagement will be for life, + I should prefer to choose my own wife if I was him. I believe in anybody choosing for themselves love, don’t you?
I don’t think I should have taken the fireirons, if you had not told me I was not to take them because I always said I never would take anything that belonged to [Emma] + I intend to keep my word. I know what she has said about other things that she has given away.
We should be almost compelled as you say love to ask her if we let her give us anything + she shall not come to see us.
You must not knock yourself up my darling with working over, but you do keep late hours love at anytime, we will stop all that when we are married because late hours do not suit either of us, it will be agreeable to one love to go to bed at half past ten. I think that is just a nice time.
I am very glad you enjoyed your outing to Yarm + also your swim on the way. Have the blisters gone off your very horny hands love, + the stiffness out of your bones.
I shall be very pleased to have a country out there sometimes love. We shall not always want to go to Redcar, I will be so good my darling if you take me next summer.
I am glad you are going to all the places so that you will be able to take me to see them, as you say love to relieve the dreary monotony of our married life, very dreary we are expecting to be, are we not love?
I am afraid my letter will be rather short this next week, I wish it was over.
We are busy packing up the things to day to put in the stable + mother is wanting me to help her so love you must please excuse me giving you a long one.
Oh darling! Have they sent you word from home about young Fletcher, He was taken ill on Friday night (I mean the one you used to call Adam) he died on Saturday morning about four oclock, it was a sudden thing, but I suppose he has always been delicate.
My darling husband “till death us do part”
Your loving true + faithful Wife
THE NORTH EASTERN STEEL CO LTD
August 25th 1882
My own darling Wife
I received your letter dated August 23rd this morning. I expected it yesterday love from yours that I received on Wednesday, - I wrote to you on Wednesday in reply to that letter but I cannot find from this one received this morning that you have received it. Did you do so love?
Kindly remember me to Carrie love. I am anticipating seeing her at the wedding. You said you asked her to be a bridesmaid love, do you intend having more than one? Has she not heard from Annie lately – she must have missed the mail or else the letter has miscarried, for she must have written more than me if she is at all well.
I remember the gloves you speak of love, but the last thing I recollect was putting them on the room table out of my pocket. I do not think that I took them up again love.
Never mind about the piano love, we shall be able to get one I have no doubt, + there will be the satisfaction of buying it ourselves.
I am glad you think I went to your father in the right way love, for that is more satisfaction than having any money + there is no doubt whatsoever love but that ours is a marriage of love, for we do really love each other my darling wife + I.
I think Fred Johnson is very silly to be drawn in to an engagement by his relations. I think with you love that people should chose their own partners for life; of course if there are objections they might be explained + then the parties left to make up their minds. I had a letter from Fred this morning, in which he says that he cannot attend – First, because it would be a great expense coming from the South, + second, he has a school examination near that time + could not possibly get holiday then. He begs us to “accept his warmest + most heartfelt wishes for our happiness.” He says that it was lucky he went to our house or we should have had two dinner services, + wishes us to “keep the door open for knives + forks for ordinary use” which he will send to our house before the event comes off. I thought I had better mention this love, as somebody else might wish to do the same thing + then you can get them to alter it if necessary. He also says that it will be about two years yet before he follows my example.
I also received a letter from John Meays this morning. He says he had heard that it was going to come off -I suppose Ted will have told Panton’s. He says he feels highly honoured, + will be pleased to appear in that character of “best man.” He also says he thinks it is a wise step to take – in which I agree with him. He says his mother has had a bad fall in the garden yard + cannot do anything, + [his fiancee] Miss Haversidge has been keeping house for them three weeks, which must have been very pleasant I should think for him – he concludes with “sincerest wishes for our future happiness.”
I hope you will not think love, that I am filling my letter with extracts from others, but I thought you would like to know all about them.
The blisters have gone out of my “very horny” hands + the stiffness out of my joints love, except in one joint which sometimes is very stiff + which I expect will be so until you come to take the stiffness out of it.
I expect your letters will be short next week love, but I must put up with that my darling for once – it will be the last time you know.
I have not had a letter from home lately love so did not hear about young Adam’s death – nor did I see it in the paper. I am very sorry as it must be a severe blow to his parents.
I must close now love as I have the Board minutes to draft out + it is now eight oclock.
My darling Wife
Your loving true + faithful husband
P.S. Do not omit to tell me whether you received a letter yesterday morning love.
August 26th 1882
My own darling husband
I received your letter this morning for which I thank you. You should have received one from me on Thursday not yesterday that I promised, it must have been delayed on the road because it was posted here on Wednesday in time. I received yours on Thursday morning all right love.
I have not been very well this last week. I think I got cold last Monday but feel very much better to day.
The feast is very near now my darling + will soon be over. Mr Glover is coming for the flower show, I wish I could see you then love but of course it would be another expense + we cannot afford it now love, we shall have to save all to bring us the sooner together, it is only six weeks on Thursday to the happy day my husband.
I know you cannot take me away love before October + I am going to bear everything bravely until then, it will not be long, then darling. I shall only have my own husband to please + I think I can please him I have not found him very hard to please so far.
I am so sorry I cannot give you a long letter to night but father is swearing because I am writing this + there six people happened to come in the bar. I will tell you more when I can on Monday if possible.
I love you more than ever my darling husband.
Your loving true + Faithful
In Fred’s next letter we get to hear all about his outing to one of the crown jewels of the North Yorkshire Moors.
Roseberry Topping is a sandstone mound 1,050 feet above sea level, from the top of which are far reaching views across the Cleveland plain, and on clear days you can even see the north sea. Tradition has it that these tantalising glimpses of the sea served as inspiration for Captain James Cook who lived in the area as a young lad. When Fred and his friend Philips climbed it was distinctively conical in shape but in 1912 a partial collapse left the peak with its now famous jagged appearance. This was possibly due to a geological fault being aggravated by local mining. It’s also since been dubbed the ’Yorkshire Matterhorn’ because of its now asymmetric shape.
Roseberry Topping presides over an area of landscape that the Vikings named ‘cliff land’ due the hilly nature, which obviously evolved into its modern name of Cleveland. They also gave the name "Othenesberg" to the summit, once of the few place names in England dedicated to the Norse god Odin. Over the centuries the name has mutated from Othensberg to Ohenseberg, Ounsberry, Ouesberry and finally Roseberry.
The walk that Fred took from Roseberry Topping to Captain Cook’s Monument x miles to the south, has remained popular to this day and takes in the wild moors and patches of woodland. The Monument is a 60 foot high obelisk that was erected in 1827. It bears an inscription that is a fascinating and somewhat uncomfortable snap shot of past attitudes - it’s full of unapologetic colonialism and language we wouldn’t dream of using today. It reads:
"In memory of the celebrated circumnavigator Captain James Cook F.R.S. A man of nautical knowledge inferior to none, in zeal prudence and energy, superior to most. Regardless of danger he opened an intercourse with the Friendly Isles and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. He was born at Marton Oct. 27th 1728 and massacred at Owythee Feb. 14th 1779 to the inexpressible grief of his countrymen. While the art of navigation shall be cultivated among men, whilst the spirit of enterprise, commerce and philanthropy shall animate the sons of Britain, while it shall be deemed the honour of a Christian Nation to spread civilisation and the blessings of the Christian faith among pagan and savage tribes, so long will the name of Captain Cook stand out amongst the most celebrated and most admired benefactors of the human race."
If you go on to you tube you’ll find lots of people have recorded vlogs of their day outs doing the very same walk that Fred did and I have had fun in virtually walking in Fred’s footsteps, but none contain the drama that he seemed to encounter on his own adventure which he describes in this next letter:
August 27th 1882
My own darling Wife
I received your welcome letter for which I thank you. Your letter of Wednesday mins have been delayed on the road love, because I did not receive it until Friday. Did you write on Thursday as well love, as I only received one on Friday – I suppose from that that you did not.
I am glad that you received mine on Thursday love, as it is not pleasant to have letters knocking about the world for anybody to read, especially ours my darling which are only meant for ourselves you know:- + which would perhaps surprise most people if they could read them as no doubt your Emma would like to do sometimes.
I think I should be very careful love not to leave any in the dresses that you pull off, because it is evident that she is thoroughly unscrupulous about looking into your pockets, or she would not have found out that other unfortunate letter which has caused so much trouble.
I am very sorry to hear that you have not been well my darling, this last week., because you will have a very hard time of it this week.
It must have been getting cold on Monday that has caused you to be ill. It is evident love that you require me to look after you, for you did not catch many colds when I was with you. I suppose it would be because we were generally close enough together to keep one another warm, + so kept off the cold.
I am glad to hear love that you are better, + hope that you will keep so – as you will want all your strength to keep up through the trouble + annoyance of the Feast week.
You must take care of yourself my darling for my sake, + not do too much + so knock yourself up – for I shall want you you know.
Mr Glover told me he was coming over for the Feast, I wish I could come over for a few days love to see yo my little wife; but it is of no use wishing because it can do no good. Besides it only wants six weeks as you say love + then we shall be happy perhaps more so with being separated for so long, dont you think so darling?
I know my brave little wife will try to bear a little while longer, + then as she says she will only have her own husband to please, + I know she will succeed in doing that to her satisfaction + also of mine.
I am sorry that you were so busy that you could not give me more, but I know my darling that you would do if you had time, so I must make up for it by giving you more than usual – for I know that you like to read my letters, + perhaps will be even more pleased this week, because it will be about the only source of satisfaction to you – all the other will be thankless hard work.
I am so sorry my darling that your father felt it necessary to swear at you, + on my account too. I am afraid you have got into lots of trouble + bother for poor me love, but I will try + make up for it to you my darling when you are my wife. I think I can promise that I will not swear at you, for how could I swear at my loved one.
I had a very enjoyable outing yesterday. Phillips + I went by train at 12.55 to Hutton Gate, which is seven or eight miles from Middlesbro on the Gainsbro line. [The Member of Parliament for South Durham] Sir Joseph Pease lives there + has a magnificent house with a carriage drive opening onto the station platform.
From there we walked through the woods to Roseberry Topping. You will remember Roseberry Topping is the hill that comes to a sharp point that I showed you from the Park. It is very steep but there is a beautiful view from the top which is well worth the trouble of climbing.
We rested on the top a little while + then “made tracks” for Captain Cook’s monument which is on the other hill opposite. We can also see that from Middlesbro. You will remember it, it has a column on the top in memory of Capt. Cook. We had quite an adventure going from Roseberry Topping to Capt. Cook’s. We had to go down the side of one steep hill + up another + there is no road, but + you can generally get easy enough, but yesterday with the heavy rains the brook at the bottom of the hills was very much swollen + it was quite impossible to get across, so we had to cross higher up by means of a fir tree that had been blown down + which had fallen across the stream. This fir tree was very slippery, + in going across I slipped + fell + should have gone to the bottom but I caught hold of a branch + held myself up. If I had not done so I should have fallen about 30 ft through the brambles + twiggs [sic] into the water below, but fortunately I escaped.
Imagine me hanging over the “dangerous” + “deadly” gulf.
[…and here Fred has helped our imaginations along as he’s dashed off a fabulous sketch of the incident. He’s drawn the gorge with the rocks and water below, and the fir tree lying across it - tapering to a point on one side. There is a branch sticking out at an angle and from it is dangling the shape of a man, arms and legs akimbo. I’ve put it up on the m l l t m instagram so you can see it. He continues…]
After crossing the bridge we stopped to admire the beautiful flowers of all kinds which grow here, + then toild [sic] up the hill to the monument. There is also a beautiful view from the top of Capt. Cook’s but we could not see much just then as it came on very thick which obscured all the surroundings.
We then went on the top of the range of hills for about a mile + then came down the hill through Kildale wood[s which] are simply grand. You came down about half a mile through a thick fir wood until you get to the bottom when there is a broad level grassy walk by the side of a stream on which are several waterfalls. On the other side of the stream is another wood which starts from the banks of the stream. It was beautiful, I think far nicer than Wharncliffe except for the Crags.
After going about a mile on this walk we came to Kildale village which is a little village surrounded on all sides by the hills + woods. We had tea at the one public house, which had not a soul in except us. We had tea in the “best room” which was something like your club room.
We had a very good tea of ham + eggs + then went out to look round the village. It has about 20 houses in it + a very nice Church. There was a man in the church cleaning so we went in + had a try on the organ which is something like Treeton organ for size.
After we had finished with the organ we went down to the Station (which is on the road to Whitby) + got to Middlesbro at 7.30.
Mr Cooper left yesterday morning for his usual round + asked me if I would sleep at his house until his return, to take care of Mrs Cooper + the servants. I went up last night + am going up tonight + tomorrow night.
Fancy me the defender of helpless
He has a beautiful house + the bedroom I slept in was the nicest I have ever slept in. I think it was simply “complete.”
I had breakfast this morning with Mrs Cooper + am treated quite as an honoured guest. She asked me when I was going to be married. I told her October, + she said she was very pleased to hear it as she was sure from what Mr Cooper had told her of his experience in lodgings that I could not be very comfortable.
She is very nice + free. I like her very much. Mr Cooper also keeps some good bottled beer + cigars – which [I can now be the] judge of.
I think it is very good of Mr Cooper reposing such confidence in me – dont you love?
I should like more than ever for us to live out at Linthorpe, + am determined we will go there or else to Redcar when we get nicely established in the place, until then we must put up with the town.
I shall have to close now love as it is post time.
I remain my darling wife
Your loving true + faithful husband
(1) Mrs Cooper hoped that you would make me a good wife. I told her that I was sure you would. She said you would if you cared for me, which is indisputable is it not my darling about your caring for me?
(2) Shall we want any oilcloth for the floors love? Because Phillips being a merchant gets a good commission off + would give me the benefit of it, + we should get the stuff at about half the shop price.
(3) I intended giving the children something when I was over love, but it quite slipped me. I enclose 1/- for them – will you please give it to them for me wifie, as being the feast I suppose they will want some money to spend.
(4) I love you my darling, more than ever - + am your own Fred.
Wow Fred, are you ever in with the boss. This is fascinating! I wonder if not only was Arthur Cooper wanting to make sure his family was ok (after all this wasn’t the first time he’d traveled away from them) but perhaps wanted to get Mrs Cooper’s opinion on Fred? At this time Arthur Cooper was the managing director of the North Eastern Steel Company and was endeavouring to get the whole venture built and operational by the following year. Fred hasn’t just become someone Cooper can rely on in work hours, but is perhaps becoming a bit of a right hand man here. There was only 10 year between them so I’m wondering if an emerging friendship has a role to play here too.
I’ve actually found a picture of Arthur Cooper online - I think it must have been taken when he was a bit older - perhaps in his 50s or 60s rather than early 30s as he must have been at this time. I’ll put that up on the my love letter time machine instagram.
Next time Fred has to adjust to the new Secretary at the works, and Janie bless her heart, is swamped, almost literally, with supporting the Handsworth Feast and Flower Show in miserable weather.
Thank you so much for listening to My Love Letter Time Machine. I’d very much like to get the podcast up the charts a bit more, 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 with the algorithm. I’m still putting excerpts of Fred and Janie’s letters on instagram at my love letter time machine all one word and you are very welcome to write to me at my love letter time machine at gmail dot com.
Until next time, take care.
© Ingrid Birchell Hughes 2023