My Love Letter Time Machine - Victorian History

Handsworth Feast and Flower Show

April 23, 2023 Ingrid Birchell Hughes Season 4 Episode 11
My Love Letter Time Machine - Victorian History
Handsworth Feast and Flower Show
Show Notes Transcript

Season 4, episode 11. 28th August - 4th September 1882. Janie bless her heart, is swamped, almost literally, working for the Cross Keys supporting the Handsworth Feast and Flower Show in miserable weather. Fred seems to have difficulty understanding why Janie just doesn't have the time to write to him.

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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 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.

[Handsworth Feast and Flower Show]

Before I start I want to address a few emails and comments I’ve had recently about how people are realising that the letters are coming to an end soon and how much they are dreading the end of this journey. 

I’m so touched you are loving Janie and Fred’s story so much, and I wanted to take a moment reassure you, and also to ask you for your input. 

Firstly, while Janie and Fred’s letters do come to an end after their wedding, I still have a lot of  their paperwork from afterwards. So what I’m planning to do, is to end this season before their wedding. I’m going to save the last of the pre-wedding letters for Season 5 but in order to continue with the story and the podcast I really need to get up to Sheffield and to Middlesbrough to do some extra research this Summer. I had a daft little idea that I’d like to time the release of Season 5 in September so that we might hit the wedding episode on their actual wedding day. They were married on Thursday the 12th of October 1882, and rather pleasingly, this year that date also lands on the Thursday. So we’ll be able to celebrate their 141st Wedding Anniversary! 

Secondly I want to do a bonus Q&A episode in the next couple of weeks, and in addition I would very much like to hear your ideas about what else you want to know about in the next episode of the podcast? I’ve already had suggestions from doing bonus episodes about other love letters in history, to setting my listeners challenges in helping with Fred and Janie research - which I think would be amazing! Also shout out to Dan and his wife in Handsworth for deciding to go on a walk in the woods to follow in Fred and Janie’s footsteps - that was fabulous. So please send me your thoughts and questions. You can message me on the my love letter time machine instagram or your can email me at my love letter time machine at gmail dot com. Let’s see how far we can take this journey, because, just like you, I am not ready to say good bye yet.

So where were we. Oh yes, last week Fred narrowly avoided breaking his neck in a gorge, and poor Janie, judging from her next letter, is about to be overwhelmed by the Handsworth Feast and Flower Show:

August 28th 1882
My own darling husband
I was so pleased to receive your nice long letter this morning, I do like to read your letters love + I am even more pleased to have them this week, it is my only source of satisfaction + pleasure darling, for you know what discomforts we have to put up with, if you saw my bedroom now it looks as if the baliffs had been + piled up everything for a sale.
I have only this one feast to get through then I have done with it all I hope, it my last as Miss W at any rate, it is possible that we might be at Darnall about that time, sometime, it might happen that you had your holidays in August then I should not mind going to see the flower show with you, but not to come to our house it is too uncomfortable.
We had a very hard day yesterday it was almost as bad as the flower show day.
I should like to send you + the firm some of our feast beer, it looks grand + they say it is. I wish I could send you a large bottle.

We have been very busy to day again, there has been a cricket match between High Green + Handsworth + they most of them have had tea.
I shall have to answer your letters at the end of the week for I have not time now love.
I wish I could see you only for a minute just to tell you I love you + give such a nice kiss.
I shall be able to give you one any time very soon now darling, it is not very long it will soon be here.
I am very glad you had such an enjoyable outing with Mr Phillips + very thankful darling that you escaped the fall, I don’t know what I should have done if you had fallen + hurt yourself badly + being so far away from you.
It is very good of Mr Cooper reposing such confidence in you love, but I should if I was him, because I should put every trust in you. I love you more than ever
+ remain my own husband
Your loving true + faithful wife
(I have not time for more to night love)

Royal Exchange
August 29th 1882

My own darling Janie
I received your letter this morning for which I thank you. It will be your last feast love, as you say as Miss W[arburton]. but we may come over to the Flower show but I am determined that you shall not have anything to do with [the] waiting or anything like that after we are married as I think you have done quite sufficient already.

I expected you would have a hard day on Sunday love + yesterday seems to have been busy as well. I mentioned to Mr Banks about the Feast beer + he says the firm (if we had it) would give a qualified + unbiased opinion on it. I wish you could send some love, I should like to taste it very much.
I wish you could see me for a moment love, I should like a kiss so much it seems such a long time since I had one.

I think Bankes, Alvey, Retchford + myself are going to Malton on Saturday – Bankes has wanted us to go many times + we can get very cheaply next Saturday if we go I shall want my usual Sunday letter posting to Malton but I will let you know for sure on Friday. I expect you will be too busy to write on Wednesday love, so I must write on Friday.

I intended giving you a good long one to day but we have been so busy all day, + are working over now.

I wish I could see you tomorrow + help you to clear away as I did last year – you will remember darling your promise about the dancing.
I am glad you think I am worthy tc of Mr Cooper + yourself reposing confidence in love, I shall try to merit yours my darling + think I shall succeed.
I remain, my darling Wife
Your loving true + faithful husband
(1) I love you more than ever.

(2) How would it suit you love if we were married the first Thursday in October instead of the second, I have been thinking that perhaps it would be more convenient for me then. I will tell you why in my next.

(3) You forgot to say whether you received the money all right – I was almost afraid after I had sent it that you would have to pay the registration fee on it.

The Feast and Flower show at Handsworth was held that year on Wednesday 30th of August and judging by the column inches in the local papers appears to have been a significant event. I should imagine in part due to the village being the home of several market gardens and nurseries of size, and it attracted thousands of visitors. The Cross Keys was right in the centre of things, and given the sheer volume of customers, I’m now wondering what proportion of James and Maria’s annual income was actually done on that one day. In the following article from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph on Thursday 31st August 1882,  the reporter seems to have examined the quality of the exhibits at the show with meticulous detail as any gardeners among you will be able to attest. There’s also an interesting slant that seems to reflect a quiet delight in the cottagers and amateur gardeners being able to show the professionals a thing or two. I’ll just share the highlights or we’ll be here for hours. It reads:

HANDSWORTH FLOWER SHOW. Yesterday the annual exhibition was held in connection with the Handsworth, Floral, Horticultural, and Cottage Gardeners' Society, and the village as usual made high holiday for the occasion. This was the nineteenth show that has been held by the society, and the fact that the exhibition seems yearly to surpass the previous show speaks that the society has about it an amount of energy and cohesiveness which is lacking in other places. The accounts of the society show that the end of last year it had a balance of £144 17s 5d. and that the last show there was awarded in prizes £140 1s. This year the amount offered was about the same as on past occasions, but the number of entries was larger, particularly in the cottagers' classes. A prominent feature in the show has always been the displays of plants arranged for effect (space 10ft by 10 ft.) and this year there was increased competition for the prizes of £8 and £4. The first was carried off by Mr. James Keeling, gardener to Ald. David Ward, Mount View. Around a magnificent picture there were arranged amongst specimens phillanthus nivosus, crotons, colei, &c, edged off with ferns and orchids the features being coxcombes and yellow flowering begonias. The second prize winner was Mr. J Dore, Clay Cross, who had for his centre-piece a large palm of the ficus species. The other features were principally splendidly coloured-crotons and Amazonica lilies, but the stand lacked finish at the edges. … Amongst the other contributions in the open class there was a gorgeous display of ferns, both exotic and British; but the bloom on the fuchsias had a "dashed ' appearance, as if they had been exposed to rain. The cut flowers included a number very effectively arranged bouquets. Asters were poor; but hollyhocks were commendable, and amongst the dahlias were some splendid blooms, which were fine examples of form and colours. Rose were not as good might have been expected. Then was a very pleasing contribution of grapes, but, speaking generally, the fruits shown in the collections ware superior to those which were put in competition for the other prizes. Mr. Abbott, gardener to Mr. C. H. Firth, Riverdale, showed, not for competition, a new seedling pea, which has been named after the Duke of Albany, and which, for size at least, bids fair to outdo most its better known rivals. … The cottagers' classes window plants were well represented, and both lariss and geraniums contained some nice trusses of bloom. ... In fruits the display made by the gentlemen's gardeners and nurserymen was not good as might expected, but the plums were most commendable. The amateurs made on the whole a very satisfactory display, the most noticeable features being plums, grapes, and apples. Amongst the cottagers' fruits were some good apples and a few nice plums. Currants were also well represented. …The amateurs showed six trays of vegetables, which were better than those in the higher classes, the celery being much superior, and the same remark applies, though perhaps a lesser degree, to the potatoes and plums. 

The article goes on with more exhibits, a list of the judges and a full list of the prize winners which I have scoured for any familiar names but perhaps Janie and Fred’s circle didn’t have time or inclination to be nurturing runner beans and the like. The article continues:

In addition to the show, usual attractions were provided for the amusement of the visitors. Music was furnished by band the of the Welsh Regiment, who were under the leadership of Mr, T, Barley, the bandmaster; the Hallamshire Hand-bell Ringers ware also in attendance, and Caoke's Quadrille Band had been engaged to play for dancing in the evening, but the heavy rain rendered this impracticable. With the exception of a shower about noon, the earlier part the day was fine, and crowds of visitors journeyed by rail and road to the show. Unfortunately, however, about four o'clock rain recommenced failing, and although many people braved the inclemency of the weather, it was a serious drawback to the sucess of the exhibition, and will cause a great diminution in the income of the society. 

Messrs. Fisher, Son, and Sibray opened their nurseries, as in past years, and the privilege was highly appreciated by thousands of visitors

Royal Exchange
September 1st 1882
My own darling wife
I was rather disappointed this morning at not receiving a few lines from you but I expect you would be busy all the day cleaning up; still I thought you must have perhaps found time for half a dozen lines if only to say that you were well. But I will not grumble love because I know you have always endeavoured to write if possible.
I saw the report of the Flower Show in the paper. You seem to have had some queer weather for it. I was rather surprised to see that it was not fine, as we had a very nice day here. How did you go on love, you must tell me all the particulars + then I can fancy I was there as usual. 
We have had the Secretary here today be he has [ sic ? ] not said much + only stopped about half an hour. I expect he will come for good next week as Mr Cooper is going to Vienna on the following  Saturday so that the Secretary will be boss while he is away. I hope he will be decent because if he likes he can make it very uncomfortable for me. However I do not feel much afraid as I think Mr Cooper will see me alright.
I am going tonight about a house in Milton Street. I suppose I must look sharp after one now as the time is getting very short. I intended going before but we have been working late every night but Wednesday + then I had to go to Stockton to find a Dutchman to translate a Dutch Specification for Rails.

I have seen Mr Cooper today about the wedding + he seems quite pleased. He will not get back before October 1st so that I could not get off the first week very well. However he says I am to make all arrangements for the second week, as he says, it is an event that doesn’t often occur so if anything is wanted just then it must give way. I wish it was next week love, for I do want you so much.

I remain my own darling wife
Your loving true + faithful husband.
P.S. We have decided to go to Malton tomorrow, will you please address to C/o J A Bankes Esq
Finkle St. Malton. Yorks.

September 1st 1882
My own darling husband
I was so sorry I could not write to you yesterday. I know you would be disappointed love.
I received yours on Wednesday for which I thank you. I think we have been busier this feast than ever, I am very pleased it is over we have had wretched weather it has rained every day, some part of the day.

On Wednesday morning it was very fine first thing but about eleven oclcck we had a very severe hailstorm then it cleared out again until three. 

I got permission to go in the show just to have a look round then there was another awful shower. I went in the tent with Louisa + Lilly I had to get round quickly so left them in the first, tent + the shower was about over as I thought when I got through.

I then met Jinnie Reckless + went to look at Punch + Judy + then the storm came on + we made for home + we got wet through in getting there. I had to stand in it all the night to nine oclock, there was no time to change anything, it came through our establishment across the road like a riddle. Mr Glover will tell you what a plight I was in, it was a miserable day. We closed the road at nine oclock it was fine then we were all very wet about the shoulders.
I have got a cold but not so severe as I expected to have.

I then changed my things + went into the tent to Jinnie Reckless, it was dry considering the day. I saw Mrs Falding she enquired after you very kindly. I came out with our Fred + Polly about quarter to eleven I was quite tired out.
Jinnie Reckless would just have the time for a turn round in a schottische with me. she said it would be the last. I knew you would not mind me having a turn with her + we were at the dark end of the tent. I had no more love than that one.
I have danced very little this feast I have danced with Maria, Annie Wortley + Annie Laverack only, we had very rough company in last night. I had one with Annie Laverack + one with Maria that was all. 

At the beginning the room was very full indeed later on more people than we had on Monday.
We have got most of the dishes cleaned up to day, so Maria + I have come down to our Freds to tea, I am writing this there.

I will give you a long one for Sunday my darling with all particulars + answer your letter fully.
I had to pay 9 pence on that you sent with the money my love.
I love you more than ever my own husband
+ remain
Your loving true + faithful Wife

Royal Exchange
Septbr 4th 1882
My own darling Wife
I received your letter on Saturday love for which I thank you. I should have written a line or two on that day so that you would get it this morning, but we were so busy + had to run to catch the train.

I was sorry to hear that it was such a miserable day on Wednesday + very sorry to hear that you got wet, but you should not watch Punch + Judy until you get wet through my love. Could you not really have made time to change your clothes love before night surely you could have screwed in five minutes to change in. You really must take care of yourself my darling, for I shall want you very soon now – it is perhaps as well that I shall, for they seem determined to enable you to injure your constitution. The miserys [sic ] of the Beer traffic is brought home when one’s nearest + dearest is mixed up with it – I shall be pleased when you have to leave my wife.
I hope your cold is better my darling, for I want you to avoid taking cold more than anything else. – I do not mind you dancing with Jinnie Reckless love, but I did not expect you would dance in the tent. – I am obliged to Mrs Falding for so very kindly enquiring after me.
I am pleased that you have danced so little this feast love, for I am so greedy that I do not like anybody to dance with you but myself – I suppose  it is because I love you so much my darling.
I regret that you had to pay anything on the money that I sent. You see with sending it on the Sunday I could not register the letter, + I forgot to get the stamps on the  Saturday. However you must remember that I owe you 9s love. I suppose your father or your mother would have something to say about my stupidity in sending it like that. But as it was in five sheets of paper I thought it would go all right. 

I received your letter yesterday at Malton love for which I thank you very much. I wish quite as much as you love that I could have been there at the feast for you evidently wanted me to look after you, for it would have been a pleasure even to see you. – I hope you shoulders are better love by this, if they are not you must have them attended to, for how shall I go one if you are laid up + me so far away.
I am almost sorry love that we cannot get married the first week in October instead of the second,  but it will perhaps be better so as I have not got a house yet.

There is one in Milton Street but it is £17 a year rent + then there would be about £6 a year rates which would bring it up to £23. Do you think we could afford to go as high as that love, for a start?

I am very much obliged to Jinny for her “kind regards”, + please to hear that her teeth are such a great improvement to her – they were necessary. 
You enquire whether I shall “have to take care of Mrs Cooper + the servants this time while Mr Cooper is away.” I dont think so, I hope not; as Mrs Cooper is going with him, + in that case there would be nobody to talk to – for servants are not much in my line. I hope you are not jealous love.
I think with you love that it would be better to leave the oilcloth question until you come, + then you can suit yourself.
We have had the secretary very nearly all day today – he is very decent, but wishes to introduce several new things in our style of bookkeeping, which I must confess I dont know much about – but I expect I shall pull through all right.
I enjoyed myself pretty fair yesterday love at Malton. We went to Scarbro on Saturday. There was a trip from Malton to Scarbro - + we found that by taking a trip ticket + a tourist ticket to Scarbro we could see both places at less money than the ordinary return fare to Malton alone, + come by the trip train the last thing on the Saturday night which we did. It rained all the time we were at Scarbro as it was not so very nice, but the aquarium was as usual “grand.” We had a beautiful day yesterday at Malton + I like the old town very much – We went on one of the Yorkshire Wolds in the morning, from which we had a splendid view. I did wish you had been there darling.
You said you would answer my letters fully love – but I think you have omitted to do so.
I remain, always my darling Wife
Your loving true + faithful husband

Oh my goodness, give the poor girl a break, she’s been working her backside off and she’s getting over a cold! And you know full well if she writes to you when she’s expecting to work in the pub that she’ll get shouted at. Honestly Fred. Sorry - I love him to bits but really…

Next time Janie is full speed ahead with all the wedding arrangements, and Fred seems to extend his (frankly at this point) annoying obliviousness to the concept of having a firm idea of guest numbers. I’m starting to wonder if he’s one of those chaps that thinks these things just …kinda…happen and not really see the amount of labour the women in his life put into the smooth running of households and social events. 

However he’s not slacking as his house research seems to be paying off and it looks as if he is firming up on what will be their first house!

Thank you so much for listening to My Love Letter Time Machine. As I said earlier I’d love to get your questions for the Q&A and any ideas you have for the future of the podcast - you can message me thoughts and questions on instagram at my love letter time machine all one word or you can email them to me at my love letter time machine at gmail dot com.

Until next time, take care.
© Ingrid Birchell Hughes 2023