The word ‘gentleman’ is an expressive word in our language, which describes the assemblage of many real virtues, of many qualities approaching nearly to virtue, and a union of manners, at once pleasing, and accommodating respect.
Take a peep behind the curtain which prudence draws over domestic inquietude, reflect on the many heart-aches that must attend a slender contracted income in this very refined age (1859) and think in such circumstances how external shew must be supported at the expense of internal and rational quiet.
The Robin is a bird whose good fortune is never to be mentioned without some kindly reference to his universal popularity and the decoration (his little red waistcoat) which renders him so easily recognised.
Shakespear says “Welcome ever smiles, but farewell goes out sighing”.
A single sheet of paper found in a contemporary book I purchased in a secondhand bookshop in Norwich tells how the people of Epping marked the funeral of Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria, on this day in 1861. A Service was held at St John's Chapel, now St John's Church, at the bottom of the High Street.
Prince Albert is credited with being a key organiser of The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and for making Christmas trees popular in British homes at this time of year. His early death has a devastating effect on Queen Victoria, now a widow in her early 40s.
Mr Merry for many years was employed by our Government as a Diplomat, and retired to Dedham upon a Pension of fifteen hundred Pounds per annum for his services. Upon his death, he appointed me [ER] his Executer, with a very handsome legacy, and his Diplomatic Gold Snuff Box. As his Executer, and of the desire of his sister I became in possession of his Diplomatic, and valuable boxes, one in particular termed the Despatch Box, with the Crown, and G.R. upon it. I frequently used it when with my family. I left home, the last time was in London, and in endeavouring to unlock it unfortunately broke the key, the only way to obtain the valuables enclosed was to destroy the bottom of the box, and the next morning I took it to a Locksmith in order to have it immediately repaired. In the evening I called for it, and to my great surprise was requested to leave the Shop and retire into the Counting House, where I found Mr Pairce the Superintendent of the Police waiting to take me as a State Prisoner, and convey me without delay to the Foreign Office. It appeared the reason for this rather unexpected compliment, arose as consequence of an inscription engraved inside the lock stating, “If any person shall be detected injuring this Lock, the informer shall upon conviction of the offender, receive 100£ reward by applying to the Foreign Office”. The Locksmith lost no time in conveying the mutilated box and key to the Office required, and Lord Palmenston sent the Superintendent to secure and bring before him the delinquent. When we arrived, his Lordship was gone home but left Lord Minto, in his unavoidable absence. The Lordship’s first inquiry was, “Who are you, Sir, and in what manner became you possessed of the Government Box?” No sooner was he satisfied with my honest answers, than he begged my pardon, confessed the Mountain had proved a Mole Hill, and hoped I would partake of their dinner in waiting, which I endeavoured politely to decline, feeling very naturally not a little annoyed at my first appearance in the character of a State Prisoner.
An extract from ‘An Anthology of Essex’, edited by Charlotte Fell Smith, published in 1911
Chigwell, my dear fellow, is the greatest place in the world. Name your day for going. Such a delicious old inn opposite the churchyard – such a lovely ride – such beautiful forest scenery – such an out-of-the-way rural place – such a sexton! I say again, name your day!
Ensign W soon after he joined his Regiment at Liverpool, was passing through a very retired Street or rather Lane, and was caught in a pelting storm of hail and rain. In order to save his Regimental Coat, for he could ill afford to buy another, he took shelter under a Wall immediately opposite a most dingy looking House, in which resided an old gentleman, who had retired from trade with a very large fortune, his only child a daughter living with him. If there was any person in the World he disliked the most, it was a Military Man, always entertaining the idea, that some Rattle Cap of a Fortune Hunter might one day, or night endeavour to elope, with the only joy of his heart, his favourite daughter Eliza. The Ensign had not remained but a short time under the Wall, before the young lady spied him out, and called her father to witness the piteous situation of the stranger, and endeavoured to persuade her father to offer an umbrella. After a great deal of cunning she prevailed. When he mentioned his morning adventure at Mess, his brother officers all called out, “depend upon it my good fellow, your fortune is made, for in that very house you have described lives an old Screw, whose daughter will possess many thousand charms when the old fellow kicks the bucket”. They all advised him that on no account to send the Umbrella back, but to carry it himself, which he did. He experienced great difficulty in obtaining an entry, but made himself so excessively agreeable, in expressing thanks, that the old gentleman invited him to dinner if he would condescend to join his dinner table at the early hour of two o’clock. At ¼ before two the happy Ensign in full Regimentals and Review Order made his appearance. No heiress however made her appearance but he took care to observe, the table was prepared for number 3, and at the three sat down to a very plain dinner. Wine it has always been said does wonders, and the Evening was spent in a manner very agreeable to all parties present, the old gentleman as well as his daughter quite delighted with their unexpected guest, who in the course of a short period became his Son in Law, but, upon one express stipulation, that he would, upon his marriage, resign his conscription in the Army.
My friend, and brother officer, Capt. Garnham, was one of the most agreeable, and entertaining companions, when he chose, as the following adventure will prove. When we were stationed at Liverpool we had permission from Sir Chas. Bunbury to shoot over his Estate near Chester, our shooting expedition did not answer, for the best of reasons, we found little, or no game to shoot, and upon our return we dined at the table d’hote at the Castle Hotel, where the party was rather numerous both of ladies and gentlemen. We found ourselves seated next to Capt. and Mrs Hoy, with her brother, a very elegant and handsome young officer. They did not appear by any means inclined to be sociable, but kept themselves quite aloof. My friend Garnham soon took the hint, and desired the waiter to place his wine and dessert upon a side table at the window, where he placed himself with his favourite little dog upon his lap. I did all I possibly could to ingratiate myself into their favour, and fortunately succeeded. I was delighted with their manner, and conversation, particularly relating to India, where they had been stationed for many years. The young officer addressing his Sister mentioned Sir George August as their Uncle, the Chief in Command at Kingston Barracks Jamaica and it was there that Garnham had the yellow fever with his Regiment the 82nd. Every one thought he would never recover, and he heard the pleasing order given for the Band, to attend his funeral the following morning.
I observed he appeared to be listening to the conversation with a degree of interest rather unusual and upon hearing the name of Sir Geo. August his former Colonel he became exceedingly agitated, he very nearly knocked down his table, and stamped upon his little dog. Endeavouring to approach our party, and requesting the young stranger would favor him with his Name, which he very sternly answered by saying, “My name is Captain Meredith, if you wish to know it”. Garnham immediately, with his usual exclamation “God help me” embraced him most affectionately, and every body thought him labouring under some fit of insanity. As soon as he had recovered himself he said, “My dear fellow, the last time I saw you was twenty years ago, you were then five years of age, and upon the death of your dear Mother I brought you up with the greatest care, and regard” at Kingston Barracks.
It’s impossible to describe the effect of this scene, his sister fell into the arms of her husband, many pocket handkerchiefs were in immediately request with the ladies, and many of the gentlemen present, joined in the chorus of sighing, and sobbing, and as soon as the ladies retired to the Drawing Room, “Wine, more Wine, was the order of the Day” and we kept it up until the last half hour, when we were compelled to return again to Liverpool.
I understand afterwards, the Mother of the hero of my tale, was very much beloved of my friend Garnham, when he was a Subaltern he would have married her, but she preferred being united to the Major. He mentioned her name only once, and then with great emotion he said, “You are indeed my dear boy, very like your blessed Mother”.
The Masquerade went off extremely well and I regret very much you were not there for I am certain you would have enjoyed the fun very much – No expense was spared, and I have heard it cost our friend Lamb at least £300. Supper was laid for 350 and as usual Mr Gunter displayed his great taste, and extravagance. The first thing I saw, I observed in the lobby, was a pointed board “requesting the Ladies and Gentlemen to take off their Masques when the bell rang for supper”, and in my life I never heard such a row when this warning took place. The Baronet’s [Sir Buckworth Harner] rich, and handsome court dress of Mrs Smith’s Father in the reign of Geo: the 2nd which she lent me, fitted exactly, and I soon found a Lady in the most superb dress to correspond with mine, we danced a minuet, and which was encored, but she begg’d to decline the honor, as it was very exciting, and rather too much expose she felt to be repeated. I could not imagine who it could possibly be, but when the bell rang for supper, I discovered out favourite Lady Mayoress, Mrs Cookson. Before we began our minuet, a hollow square was formed and I was told that during our performance much wispering and conjecturing, who we were, and some did not hesitate to declare, we were from the Theatre, and engaged for the occasion.
One of the best supported characters in the Rooms was a Quaker, I saluted him as Obadiah Prim and gave him at the same time a most hearty rap upon the back shoulders. Who did you imagine it was? General Johnson!
After supper I apologised for my familiarity but he begged I would not apologize as he considered my not knowing him was the greatest compliment I would possibly pay him. Ralph Selby and Miss Waldie were capital, the former an old Duanna with her Grandaughter you know how very plain she is, and it’s a pity she ever appears in public without a very pretty masque, for her elegant figure was so much admired. The Miss Pembertons as Sheppardesses I soon discovered by their pet lamb which the younger led with a blue ribbon and a flageolet suspended from her neck. I requested she would favor me with a tune but she could not paly upon it. I play’d for her ‘Fern of Aberdeen’ in compliment you know to her Scotch Lover, she was so astonished. The two Miss Bakers as flower girls and their father as Tony Lumpkin were excellent characters. I introduced my friend the Quaker and they prevailed on him to put a rose into the button hole of his demure coat, they discovered me by my laugh and then recommended a Rose as the Duke of Grafton was never seen without, and added Suffolk was a County they were well acquainted with – Our Rev. friend Orde (the priviledged man upon all occasions) proposed a toast: “May the innocent Lamb never meet with a Wolf in Sheep’s clothing” no one appeared more pleased with the toast than Lamb himself many however thought it rather severe wit and so did I. Our Brigadier Major 6 feet high as a Boarding School Miss dress’d with a Pink sach and frock, and red slippers, the whole room were convulsed with laughter. I hope you will soon return when I will give you a further description of the other characters, some worth hearing.
We expect a rout for Scotland any day, and I long to hear our Band strike up “The Girls we left behind us”.
Amongst the many observations of the Quaker, one was worth repeating, “Friend, if all thy faults, and peccadillos were written on thy waistcoat, thou wouldst button thy Coat”.
In 1849 Edward Reeve (1785 – 1867), known as “the Captain” to his family, retired to Stondon Massey in Essex having served in the West Suffolk Militia (from 1808) and then a gentleman farmer in Dedham. He purchased the advowson of Stondon Massey for his son and appointed him rector. After Edward James’ marriage the Captain moved to The White House in Ongar.
This series of entries is edited from a manuscript written in the Captain’s hand between 1857 and 1867. The work is known as a commonplace book which is described in a dictionary as “a notebook in which quotations, poems etc., that catch the owner’s attention are entered”. It was the blog of its day.
The book came into my possession via a relative of the Reeve family. It casts light on the ordinary lives of the privileged classes in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In short, it is a fascinating social history.
Welcome to this month’s round-up of local history and heritage in and around Blackmore, Essex.
‘Essex Ancestors’ is a pay-per-view service offered online by the Essex Record Office displaying images (not transcripts) of parish registers (baptisms, marriages and burials). The service was originally free of charge, although not as extensive as now, but in these difficult times Essex County Council (who run the excellent archive service) has found it necessary to charge. This has upset a minority of researchers who believe that access to archives should be completely free – which it is at the Essex Record Office searchroom itself. It’s difficult. One-day access costs £5, with prices on a scale up to £75 for a year.
The latest News from the Essex Record Office:
“Essex Ancestors was officially launched on Monday 7 November and it is clear the new service has been welcomed by genealogists and family historians. The project has been a demanding and complex one, resulting in Essex County Council’s first international trading. UK customers are in the great majority among our new clients so far, followed by Australians. The Americans have some catching up to do.
“We are planning to expand the range of images by completing parishes and wills. Other collections and record series are included in our digitisation programme and we welcome suggestions.
“The online accessibility of images of archives is an important contribution to the public’s awareness of historical documents, old handwriting and a long-lost way of life. We hope more people will be motivated to use original documents and become local historians.”
Today is the 4th anniversary of the blog, and judging by the number of visitors http://www.blackmorehistory.blogspot.com is more popular than ever – so I must be getting something right! Thanks everyone. I usually set out plans for the coming year, but since I utterly failed to do what I said I would do last year – I got distracted partly with other projects – I will write little other than to say that the Doddinghurst commemoration of those who died in the First World War needs publication online.