hart buck – spirit merchant – 1833

My last post on this blog was 11 months ago!

I am posting this newspaper snippet from 1833 which raises more questions than answers. 

Hart Buck Spirit Merchant advertisement [Stamford Mercury 28 June 1833]

Hart Buck Spirit Merchant advertisement [Stamford Mercury 28 June 1833]

HART BUCK, Spirit Merchant, Grantham, returns thanks to his friends and the public for the very liberal support, he has experienced for many years in the above business, and begs to announce to them that he has removed to a house in the High-street, opposite the Post-office, where he intends carrying on the same, and to serve his friends with an article of the best quality at moderate prices.

This advert, printed in the Stamford Mercury on 28 June 1833, popped up while I was searching The British Newspaper Archive website for great-great-grandfather Hart BUCK who was a draper and cloth merchant in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

It was a surprise to find he was also a spirit merchant. During the 19th century it was common for British wine and spirit merchants to buy their stock by the barrel and bottle it themselves.

Old rum bottles, Stage-coach and Tavern Days, by Alice Morse Earle,1900 [Project Gutenberg]

Old spirit and rum bottles of the nineteenth century came in many shapes and sizes.

Hart BUCK reports he has moved to “a house in the High-street“, not a shop, so I am wondering if his customers came to buy bottles to drink at home or maybe one of the front rooms in the house was set up as a tap room and folks stayed to enjoy a glass or two?

A Hart & Hound Tavern Jug which would not have been out of place in Hart Buck's establishment.

This stag & hound tavern jug would not have looked out-of-place in Hart Buck’s establishment.

This discovery definitely deserves further investigation.

POSTSCRIPT: Find further reading in my follow-up post thomas & hart buck – spirit merchants – 1822

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Sources:The British Newspaper Archive website; images Stage-coach and Tavern Days, by Alice Morse Earle, 1900 [Project Gutenberg Ebook #37272]

retouching family photos

I have been researching my family history for over 14 years now and have received some very old and battered photos from family members on various branches of your BUCK tree. It is always a great delight when they come to light as it appears no-one in the immediate family owned a camera until well into the late-1930s. Very early images are rare and they are all professional studio shots or taken by freelance street photographers.

My grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974) served at Gallipoli in WWI, [you can read more about him here]. I was frustrated for many years that I could not find anyone in our large family who had a photo of him in uniform.

At our family reunion in 2006 I was chatting with my cousin Peter and was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a small, faded and very scuffed photo of an Aussie soldier. I was over-the-moon to see it was signed E. C. BUCK. Woohoo! I was dancing around like a crazy lady.

Peter allowed me to take a high-resolution scan of his tiny original and I decided to create a portrait in honour of Private Ernest Clive BUCK, that I could frame and give to each of his children and grandchildren.

Thanks to my career as a graphic designer, working on complex photo retouching projects, I have the skills I need to bring my grandfather’s portrait to life. I set to work in Photoshop, adjusting tones, layering, recreating sections of his uniform and slouch hat, replacing the background and finally hand-colouring his portrait. This project took over 16 hours to complete. It’s unfortunate that the bottom of the image was so damaged that I had to sacrifice the signature, but the new proportions suit a standard 6×8 photo frame.


Private Ernest Clive Buck, circa 1914 – most likely taken in Sydney, Australia shortly after he enlisted and received his army uniform.

A couple of years ago my cousin Chris sent me a scan of this torn and battered photo he was given by our grandfather Ernest. Here is Private Ernest Clive Buck taken about 6 months after the one above, I think he posed for this photo when he was stationed with the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in Cairo on training manoeuvres in early 1915.

I retouched the large creases and scratches and the missing top corner, but decided to keep the age and character in this photo, so I retained the battered frame edges.


Private Ernest Clive Buck, circa 1915 – possibly taken in Cairo, Egypt before embarking for Gallipoli during WWI.

Next is a portrait of the BUCK family on holiday at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains in about 1915 or 1916. They are Ernest BUCK’s mother, brothers and sisters and friends. I believe it was taken by a street photographer who touted for business in vacation towns. He would have set-up his large format camera on a tripod in the street, taken the family’s portrait for a fee, and then sent them the prints by post.

This image was scanned from a modern colour 4×6 print owned by Honour Stroud, a cousin of my father. I don’t know if the badly cracked and discoloured original still exists. It would be interesting to see if the original has any photographer’s details on the back.

I spent about four hours working on fixing this photo, it was quite tricky repairing the large cracks running through faces.


Buck family at Katoomba circa 1915-1916 – Back L-R: William Buck, Ida Buck, a friend Lizzie Malloy, Jessie G Earls (Buck), far right back – Honor Stretton (formally Buck, nee Sutton). Front L-R: Bertha Legge (Buck), Jessie’s husband Arthur Earls, William’s wife Sadie, and Bertha’s husband Byron Legge.

The last image was emailed to me a few years ago by my second cousin, John Archer. This appears to have been taken in a family backyard in about 1926 using a hand-held Kodak Box Brownie camera or similar. It is a portrait of the daughters, daughters-in-law and two granddaughters of Robert BUCK and Honor SUTTON. Ida, Jessie, Bertha and Sadie are also in the photo above.

The only retouching I did to this image was adjusting the brightness and contrast, fixing a few scratch marks and recreating the section of brick wall and wooden fence at the torn right-hand corner.

Taken at one of the regular “get-togethers” of the Buck Sisters (L-R Standing: Mabel Hastings, unknown, Bertha Legge, Sadie Buck, Ida Archer, Agnes Earls; Seated: unknown, Gwen Archer, Jessie Earls, Betty Hastings. If you can fill in any of the “unknown” names, that would be appreciated.

One of the regular “get-togethers” of the Buck Sisters, circa 1926 – (L-R Standing: Mabel Hastings (Eggins), unknown, Bertha Legge (Buck), Sadie Buck (Roberts), Ida Archer (Buck), Agnes Earls (Buck); Seated: unknown, Gwen Archer, Jessie Earls (Buck), Betty Hastings.

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Original Photo Sources: Peter Stroud, Christopher Landers, Honor Stroud, John Archer. Retouched images by Susan Buck – I am happy to provide family members with high-resolution digital images of any of these photos for their family albums.

oxalic acid poisoning – 1835

While searching the British Newspaper Archive, I found an interesting bit of WELLINGTON family history linked to the sad death of a 46 year old shoemaker called Edward PINKARD, as reported in The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835.

YEOVIL. – Last week an inquest was held by Mr. Caines at Lymington, on the body of Edward Pinkard, and from the evidence it appeared that the deceased having felt unwell the previous night, desired his wife to get some salts in the morning; and she taking what she considered to be a paper of salts from the cupboard, mixed it with water, and gave it to him, the greater part of which he swallowed, and complained of a burning in his throat. He then exclaimed he had taken poison, on which the wife immediately sent for a surgeon, but before he could arrive he was a corpse. The man, who was a shoemaker, had been in the habit of keeping oxalic acid for the purpose of his business, and which was given him by his wife in mistake. Not the slightest blame could be attached to any one, as it is probable that the paper in which the acid had been kept must have been changed, which led to the sad catastrophe. A very malicious report was circulated of the salts having been purchased, without a label, of Mr. Wellington; but the wife fully proved that the acid had been in the house a long time, and was not bought in Yeovil at all. – Verdict, “Accidental Death.” – An Advertisement of Mr. Wellington’s refuting this malevolent rumour will be found in our first page.

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Public notices and statutory declarations by George Wellington, Mary Pinkard and George Edwards Wellington stating that the late Edward Pinkard “didn't buy it from us!” . [The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835]

Statutory declarations by George Wellington, Mary Pinkard and George Edwards Wellington stating that the late Edward Pinkard “didn’t buy it from us!” . [The Western Flying Post and Sherborne Mercury, 1 June 1835]

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A Report having been industriously circulated, that Edward Pinkard, who died at Lymington, on the 19th instant, from taking Oxalic Acid, had purchased such Acid at my Shop for Epsom Salts, the Saturday previous, I beg to state that the said Edward Pinkard did not purchase at my Shop any Salts or Oxalic Acid at the time stated, and that no mistake can possibly arise from the purchase of either of those articles at my Shop, because Epsom Salts are invariably weighed up in large quantities at a time, in white paper, bearing the following copper-plate label: – “Purified Epsom Salts, from G. Wellington, Chemist and Druggist, Yeovil;” whilst Oxalic Acid is invariably sold in blue paper, and a plain label: – “Oxalic Acid Poison” affixed to it. In order to remove all unpleasant impressions that such a wilfully malicious report might have occasioned, I beg to call the attention of my Friends and the Public to the Certificates underneath, which must at once convince all reasonable and unprejudiced persons that the mistake, so much to be deplored, did not in any way originate with me or at my Shop. The Original Certificates may be seen at my Shop.
GEO. WELLINGTON. Yeovil, 25th May, 1835.


This is to certify, – That my late husband, Edward Pinkard, who died on the 19th instant, from taking Oxalic Acid, or some other Poison, by mistake, did not purchase the same at the Shop of Mr. George Wellington, Druggist, Yeovil, when he was there in the Saturday previous, as has been reported; nor did he say, nor do I know, that he bought it at Mr. Wellington’s Shop at any other time, the same having been in the house several weeks previous to my husband’s death, and he being in the habit of buying drugs at several shops. That the paper containing the poison taken by my husband has no label on it; that I have frequently seen Salts in the house which my husband purchased at Mr. Wellington’s Shop, and that the same was always labelled with a printed label.
Dated this 25th day of May, 1835. MARY PINKARD.
Witness JAMES MILLS, Lymington.


This is to certify – That Edward Pinkard, late of Lymington, who died on the 19th instant, came to the Shop of Mr. George Wellington, Druggist, Yeovil, on the 16th instant; that I then served him with the articles he wanted, and that the only goods he purchased were some Hair Oil, for the use of his daughter, who had lost her hair, and some Garden Seeds.
Dated this 25th day of May, 1835. G. E. WELLINGTON.

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Oxalic Acid in solid form is a fine white crystal that dissolves in water to a colourless solution. It is mainly used as a cleaning agent, especially for the removal of rust. It is also used as a bleach and dyeing agent for leather and cloth, and is most likely what the shoemaker used it for. Oral consumption, inhalation or prolonged skin contact of Oxalic Acid causes burns, coughing, wheezing and inflammation and oedema of the larynx and stomach. A lethal oral dose can be as low as 15 to 30 grams.


Oxalic Acid has a similar crystal form to Epson Salts (Magnesium Sulphate).

Magnesium Sulphate, commonly known as Epsom Salts, can be safely used externally and internally. A 1% solution of Epsom Salts is a safe and easy way to increase sulphate and magnesium levels in the body as it aids in the treatment of aches and pains.

As the images above show, it would be quite easy for Mary PINKARD to mistake a packet of Oxalic Acid for Epson Salts if it were not clearly labelled as “Poison”. The poor man must have suffered an agonising death.

Speculation and rumour would have been rampant upon the news of the poisoning of Edward PINKARD. A malicious rumour was circulated in the district that the poison was bought from my great-great-great-grandfather George WELLINGTON’s chemist shop; and that he or one of his staff had supplied the wrong product, or had failed to label the packet correctly.

We all know how quickly rumours spread and I can imagine someone jumped at the chance to tarnish the reputation of a successful business rival with malicious gossip. George WELLINGTON must have felt the damage to his reputation and business keenly in the two weeks following Edward PINKARD’s death. He wrote and had published statutory declarations from himself, his son George Edwards WELLINGTON and from the shoemaker’s widow Mary PINKARD repudiating the malevolent rumours.

There is one other person mentioned in this tragic affair who you have to feel very sorry for. What of the reputation of Edward PINKARD’s unfortunate daughter?

…the only goods he purchased were some Hair Oil, for the use of his daughter, who had lost her hair, …

Was it absolutely necessary for George Edwards WELLINGTON to go into so much detail in his declaration? The poor girl had just lost her father and now the whole of Yeovil knew she is bald under her bonnet. It was very inconsiderate of George to include that fact in his statement as he knew first-hand how damaging rumours and gossip could be.

You may also like to read:

two penny worth of arsenic

diseases and remedies of the 1800s

the chemist shop that time forgot

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Sources: British Newspaper Archive; Wikipedia Magnesium Sulphate, Oxalic Acid.

up in flames – 1897

I found an interesting bit of BUCK family history reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday 18 May 1897. I have transcribed the full news article below:

Extract from a report on a blaze at the home of Robert Hart BUCK. The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 18 May 1897.

Extract from a report on a blaze at the home of Robert Hart BUCK. [The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 18 May 1897]


Shortly after 7 o’clock last night considerable consternation was caused amongst the residents of Orange Grove, Leichhardt, by a fire which was discovered in a weatherboard cottage in the boulevard, owned and occupied by Mr Robert Hart BUCK. It is shown from the official report that a little fellow, aged three years, a son of the owner, went with another brother to procure some music, and knocked over a kerosene lamp, which almost instantly set the house in a blaze.


The Marrickville No 7 Branch of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, in charge of Mr LANGE, received the call first, and arrived on the scene simultaneously with the Balmain Volunteer Fire Company, followed by Leichhardt Metropolitan No 5 (with their steamer), Ashfield, and Newtown. Seeing that there was not the slightest hope in saving BUCK’s house, attention was directed to the weatherboard dwelling adjoining, occupied by Mr Henry DRYDEN, who, with the assistance of a number of neighbours, had removed his furniture into the street. The residence of Mr BUCK, which consisted of five rooms and a kitchen, was totally destroyed, and DRYDEN’s house, which is, owned by Mr Thomas SMITH, was partially destroyed.

This image shows the museum’s horse-drawn steam pump fire engine racing to the scene of a fire in Broken Hill, c 1905. This horse drawn fire engine spent all it’s working life at Broken Hill Central Fire Station in Blende Street, Broken Hill, from about 1897 until September 1921, when it was replaced by two motorised fire engines. Apparently Broken Hill Fire Brigade was called out more frequently to fires than any other single station in the State. When the alarm was raised, bells were set off all over the station, including the stables. This alerted the horses and the doors to their stalls automatically opened to let them out. They lined up under their hanging collars, which the firemen lowered and clasped in place before attaching the reins. Contemporary newspaper accounts advise that the two horses which pulled the steamer were called Prince and Kate. Prince worked with the steamer for about 10 years. It was said that Prince attended about 500 fires.

A steam pump fire engine racing to the scene of a fire, c 1905. This horse-drawn fire engine spent it’s working life at Broken Hill Central Fire Station, from about 1897 until September 1921, when it was replaced by two motorised fire engines. [Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum online photo collection]

BUCK’s house was insured in the Commercial Union Insurance Company, but the amount is not stated. DRYDEN’s house was insured in the Mercantile Mutual for £100. The residence of Mr J. S. BAGGS had a very narrow escape from destruction, the windows being smashed in many places from the excessive heat, and it was only saved by continuous flows of water being thrown upon it.

An advert for the Commercial Union Insurance Company printed in The Catholic Press, Sat 222 December 1900.

It pays to be insured. An advertorial in a Sydney newspaper for the Commercial Union Insurance Company.  [The Catholic Press, Saturday 22 December 1900]

Last night in the Leichhardt Council, Alderman ANDERSON called attention to the fire he had witnessed that evening at which several cottages were burnt, and he regretted to say that difficulty was experienced in procuring a suitable supply of water. The matter was a serious one in a thickly populated area, and he hoped the Mayor would at once cause a letter to be written to the Water and Sewerage Board directing their attention to this matter. Alderman O’TOOLE also asked the Mayor to again emphasise the request of this council on the subject of fire alarms in the locality. There had also been serious difficulty experienced in giving an alarm at the fire, and it was hoped that prompt action would now be taken. The Mayor promised to have prompt representations made to the authorities on the subject.

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Below is an explanation on how these BUCKs are related.

  • Robert Hart BUCK (1868-1954), known as ‘Hart’, was the eldest son of Robert BUCK (1822-1895) and his first wife Sarah Ann COLLIER (1844-1876).
  • Robert Hart BUCK married Hannah Maria MONTGOMERY (1867-1953) in 1890.
  • In May 1897, at the time of the fire, they had three children: Phyllis Emily (1892-1964) was 5 years old. The little fellow who knocked over the kerosine lamp was 3 year old George Robert (1893-1943), known as ‘Robert’. Reginald Collier (1896-1957) was just 6 months old, and it is very fortunate that all the family managed to escape the inferno without loss of life or serious injury.
  • Robert Hart was a half brother to my grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974), whose mother was Honor SUTTON (1853-1926), the second wife of Robert BUCK (1822-1895). Honor was 31 years younger than her husband. She was only 15 years older than her step-son Robert Hart, and he was 27 years older than his youngest brother Ernest.
  • I’m not sure what Robert Hart did for a living, he may have been an engineer with the railways. I have found that he worked in munitions manufacturing during WWI.
  • The family relocated to the inner-city suburb of Waterloo for a few years then moved to the neighbouring suburbs of Marrickville and St Peters.
  • They finally settled in Lillian Street, Campsie. A notice of the death of Robert Hart BUCK appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 23 March 1954:
    BUCK Robert Hart. – March 22, 1954 of 34 Lillian Street Campsie, relict of Anna Marie Buck and loved father of Phyllis, Robert (deceased), Reginald, Dorothy, Henry and Hazel, and fond father-in-law of Perc, Grace, Adelaide, Jack, Myra and Norm aged 86 years. At rest.

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Sources: TROVE; NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages; Powerhouse Museum online collection.

susanah’s journal – letter to mrs eason

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire. Her diary includes copies of letters and a record of the last few years of her life.

Letter to Mrs Eason, April 1835

Letter to Mrs Eason, April 1835

The copy of the letter the young ladies of Mrs Eason’s School wrote
to Mrs Eason when they presented her with a desk.

Yeovil April 1835

Dear Mrs Eason,

You undoubtedly feel very surprised at your presence being requested at this time. Need we tell you that your increasing kindness to us has long ’ere now made an indellible impression on our minds and we have frequently wished to testify how highly we appreciate it, by some memento of our affection.

We have found some little difficulty in deciding on something that would be as useful as ornamental, and we trust that we have at last selected an article which will be agreeable to your own taste. Allow us then to present you this desk as a small token of our united love and respect.

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1835 was the year Susanah WELLINGTON turned fifteen and the last year of her schooling. The graduating class gave a gift to Mrs Eason, the principal and benefactor of the school in the spring of 1835.

The desk may have been a portable table-top writing slope similar to one used by Jane Austen to write her manuscripts and letters.

Jane at her writing desk in a scene from the movie Miss Austen Regrets, starring Olivia Williams.

Jane at her sloped writing desk in a scene from the movie Miss Austen Regrets, starring Olivia Williams.

Small table-top writing desk from the Jane Austen Society of North America Photo Courtesy of the British Library [www.jasna.org/persuasions/announceP30.html]

Small table-top writing desk from the Jane Austen Society of North America. [Photo Courtesy of the British Library]

Or it’s possible it was a small ladies writing desk called a cheveret, which stood on dainty legs and had several drawers to hold paper and correspondence. They were often topped with a detachable book carrier. The lower drawer was fitted with compartments for pens and ink-wells.

George III satinwood cheveret, with a removable book carrier with fitted drawers. Estimated price today of £1500-£2000. [www.liveauctioneers.com/item/3026266].

George III satinwood cheveret, with a removable book carrier with fitted drawers. This beautifully-made piece is worth between £1500-£2000 today.

Everyone of good standing needed a handy writing desk. Letter writing was a daily ritual and an art form. Letters were the social media of the 1800s. It appears to me that Susanah’s transcriptions of letters were her study of correspondence suitable for any occasion. She was learning what to say, and also how to say it.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyJournal transcription by Terry HASTINGS. The British Museum website. Jane Austen Society of North America.

susanah’s journal – samson and sampson

From the journal of Miss Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire. Her diary includes school lessons, letters and a record of the last few years of her life.

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In 1835-36 Susanah recorded details of some of her mother’s family. Her mum was Elizabeth WELLINGTON [née SAMSON] (1794-1865), the second wife of George WELLINGTON (1781-1847), Chemist and Druggist of Yeovil, Somerset.

I have found baptisms and marriages for this family recorded in parish registers as SAMSON and also SAMPSON. It often depended on which spelling the minister or parish clerk thought was correct. There are also a variety of spellings for first names. Susanah, Susannah and Susanna; Elizabeth and Elisabeth; Gerard and Gerrard.

Records show later generations of SAMSONs adopted the ‘P’ to become SAMPSON. Susanah spells the name SAMSON, I know from her journal she is quite literate and would have received the information ‘first-hand’ from her mother, so that’s the spelling I am using.

Elizabeth Samson died November 15th 1833, aged 69 years*
Gerard Samson died January 8th 1835, aged 78 years*
*Proverbs 14th 26 verse.  * I Corinthians 15 chap. 58 verse.

Elizabeth SAMSON [née GROVES] (1764-1833) and Gerard SAMSON (1757-1835) were Susanah WELLINGTON’s maternal grandmother and grandfather. They lived in Wayford, about 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) south-west of Yeovil in Somerset.

The Bible references may be the sermons delivered at their funerals, but more than likely they are inscriptions on their tombstones:

In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and his children shall have a place of refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
I Corinthians 15:58

Levi Samson died August 17th 1835.

Levi SAMSON (1789-1835) was Susanah’s uncle, her mother Elizabeth’s older brother. Levi was 46-years-old when he died and was buried at Wayford, Somerset.

St Michael & All Angels Church at Wayford, Somerset

St Michael & All Angels Church at Wayford, Somerset

My Uncle Tom was married the 31st December 1835 and
My Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom left Wayford April the 1st 1836.

Thomas SAMSON (1806-1879) was another uncle. There is a record of a marriage licence being granted to Thomas SAMSON of Wayford, Somerset and Anne WARREN of Monkwood in the chapelry of Marshwood, Dorset on 28 December 1835.

If Tom’s wife was Anne, then who was Aunt Mary? Why did Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom leave Wayford three months later? An entry in Susanah’s Journal dated 16 January 1837 may help clear up this puzzle:

My Papa, Mamma, Aunt Mary, Uncle Smith & Tom went to Ludney to settle the Wayford business.

Aunt Mary is likely to be Mary SAMSON (a sister to Levi, Elizabeth and Tom). Upon the death of their father Gerard SAMSON in January 1835 the family estate would have been willed to the eldest son William SAMSON (1784-1851) or divided between the many children.

When Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom left Wayford in April 1836 they may have received a share of money after probate was granted on their father’s estate. It appears that they all returned in December that year to finally settle the division of the assets. I think this warrants further investigation, I might be able to find a record of the will or probate.

Sarah was married January 9th 1836.

Sarah was Susanah’s half-sister and the daughter of George WELLINGTON and his first wife Elizabeth EDWARDS. Sarah WELLINGTON married James DAVIS at the parish Church of St John the Baptist in Yeovil on the above date. Witnesses to the marriage were her brother George and sister Sophia WELLINGTON and James’s sister Ann DAVIS. Sarah was born in 1812 and died in 1902 in Hampshire at the age of 90.

Parish Church of St John, Yeovil. Its large arched windows let in so much light it was called ‘The Lantern of the West’.

Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Yeovil. Its large arched windows let in so much light it was called ‘The Lantern of the West’.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyYou can read other posts on members of the WELLINGTON family here: george wellington’s letters; susanah’s journal – births, deaths and marriages. The National Archives http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

susanah’s journal – mottos

I found this page in Susanah’s journal a bit of a curiosity. A few strange words and shapes ruled off at the top and the rest of the page is left blank.


When I first looked at it I could not make out any of the words except “Mottos” at the top. I think it may say a rose” to the right of a little doodle of a flower losing a petal. The only other English words I could see were “change” and the word in front of that might be Jane” – but the rest I couldn’t decipher.


 Then the Eureka moment – it’s in French!

 “Je ne change qu’en mourant”

translates to

I change only in death


I will remain steadfast until death.

The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck – these are very prophetic words. The page is undated but sits chronologically within the notebook between 1834 and 1835. Susanah WELLINGTON was fourteen or fifteen-years-old at the time and had experienced her fair share of death. You can read more about the circumstances in these posts: susanah’s journal – births, deaths and marriages and diseases and remedies of the 1800s.

Terry HASTINGS is my distant cousin who was custodian of Susanah’s Journal before passing it on to me for safe keeping. I emailed him to share what I had discovered and to ask for his thoughts on what it might all mean. Terry replied with the following:

“Susanah was probably conversant in French through her education. It was considered an accomplishment of young ladies of the era and fits well with the music she both taught and learned at Mrs Eason’s school. “I change only in death” indicates awareness of her fate, resignation to her end and expectation of a heavenly reward for what must surely have been a pure and blameless life.

“The strong religious tone of the diary also complements the French motto, presaging the immortality of Susanah’s convictions. It was God’s will and she would therefore accept it. In an age when premature death was common, perhaps this was a consolation for the dying.

“The emblem of the rose is significant too isn’t it? It’s undefiled beauty is gradually withering just as a young lady’s life is gradually deteriorating.”

A poem and song The Last Rose of Summer by Irish poet Thomas MOORE would have been popular in the early 1800s. Moore wrote it in 1805 and Sir John STEVENSON set the words to music in 1813. 

‘Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?

The words reflect the shortness of life and the ‘bleak world’ the rose inhabited. This is more than likely the message to be found in Susanah’s little rose sketch. The circle with the initials is still a mystery to me.

“Vous” (You)
O. L. P. or O. J. P.
“Mes” (My)
I. D. or J. D.

It may indicate a secret love interest or could be simply a tribute to her loving family. The initials are perplexing as they do not seem to relate to anyone mentioned before in the journal or any other family members. As Susanah had great faith it might be a religious motto. Capital D at the end may stand for “Dieu” (God).

If you have come across anything similar and you can shed light on these little encryptions, please let me know. I would be grateful for your help.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. Her diary includes school lessons, letters and a record of the last few years of her life between 1832-1838. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney. Many thanks to Terry HASTINGS for his contribution to this article.

susanah’s journal – letter from mrs smith

The copy of the letter which Mrs Smith wrote to the young ladies of Mrs Eason’s school on the receival of the piece of plate which they gave her, December 18th 1833.

My dear young friends

I have waited only for your reassembling to express to you the grateful pleasure with which I accepted the piece of plate, the testimony of your affection towards me and be assured whatever were the feelings of tenderness which prompted its bestowment, they did not surpass those with which it was received.

Wherever my future life may be passed, to hear of your welfare will always afford me sincere delight, to hear not only that you are becoming useful and lovely characters for this world, but that you are ‘redeeming your time’ as having to give an account of it to God himself; and that you are submitting every proud and unamiable feeling to the discipline of that Saviour who was ‘meek and lowly in heart’. May I hear these things of you all! May I see their evidences if ever we meet again on earth! – and should this not be permitted, may it be my happiness to greet you where those who meet in joy shall never part in sorrow! Believe me my dear young friends,

Your sincerely affectionate friend,
Martha Smith

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Ralph Stevenson & Sons ‘Millenium’ transferware plate made between 1810-1835. The design features the bible open at Isaiah's prophesy of a thousand years of peace on earth under the rule of God. Images include the Dove of Peace and the prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

Ralph Stevenson & Sons ‘Millenium’ transferware plate made between 1810-1835. The design features the bible open at Isaiah’s prophesy of a thousand years of peace on earth under the rule of God. Images include the Dove of Peace and the prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

The letter from Mrs SMITH was written in January 1834 when the young ladies of Mrs EASON’s school in Yeovil, Somerset returned to their lessons after the Christmas holidays. I assume Mrs SMITH was a teacher at the school.

"Wolf in Sheeps's Clothing’ Staffordshire plate from 1833 depicts Aesop's fable ‘Wolf in sheep's clothing’

This Staffordshire transferware plate from 1833 depicts Aesop’s fable of the ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.’ The moral of the story – appearances are deceptive.

She was Miss Martha ROWLES before she married James SMITH on 5 March 1832 at the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Yeovil. Martha most likely resigned from teaching at the end of 1833 to attend to her husband and to raise a family.

Josiah Spode 'Willow Pattern' octagonal platter

In the late 1700s, Josiah Spode developed a new range of porcelain based on the blue and white tea sets imported from China. The ‘Willow Pattern’ design was adapted by other manufacturers and is still fashionable in households today.

Martha SMITH wrote a fine letter to thank the students for their kind sentiments and the china plate they gave her upon her departure from the school. She let them know she was sincerely happy to continue correspondence and hear how they grow and become “useful and lovely characters for this world”. Fourteen-year-old Susanah WELLINGTON certainly felt the sentiments in the letter were worth transcribing in her journal. The “piece of plate” may have been similar to one of these transferware patterns which were popular in Britain at the time.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyJournal transcription by Terry HASTINGS; Blue and White Transferware: 1780 to 1840, by A. W. Coysh.

susanah’s journal – papyrus and paper

An extract from the journal of Miss Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset. Susanah attended Mrs Eason’s School in Yeovil, she was 14 years old when she transcribed the following lesson into her notebook.

Susanah's lesson on the origins of paper.

Susanah Wellington’s lesson on the origins of paper (1833).

Lesson Notes

The most ancient kind of paper was made from the Papyrus, a species of reed growing on the banks of the Nile, from whence our name paper. Leaves also were employed at a very early age for the purpose of preserving & transmitting the opinions and experiences of mankind; hence originated the word folio, folium being the Latin for leaf & also the meaning of leaves as applied to a book. The use of bark succeeded that of leaves, generally the bark of the lime tree: it was called by the Romans liber & they gave the name of liber to a book & we have adopted the term library for a number of books. For the convenience of carrying, this substance was rolled up, and in this form it was denominated volumen from which is clearly derived our volume. Our Saxon ancestors employed the bark of the birch, which they termed boc & which we have transferred to our book.

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Detail from the Ebers Papyrus (C1550 BCE) from Ancient Egypt.

Detail from the Ebers Papyrus (circa 1550 BC) from Ancient Egypt. [Wikimedia Commons]

As a graphic designer and typographer, I find this lesson from 1833 very interesting. I remember learning about this in the first year of my composition and typography apprenticeship in 1983.


Following on from Susanah’s lesson, I’m including some printing and bookbinding terms.

A sheet of paper is known as a leaf. One side of a leaf is a page. A sheet of paper folded in half is a folio (4 pages). Several folios collected together for stitching as part of the bookbinding process make up a signature. The signature is formed from a printed sheet of paper that has been folded in half, quarters or eighths to create a set of pages in proper order for reading. Multiple signatures that are folded, collated and trimmed make up a book.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney.

diseases and remedies of the 1800s

This quote by Francis Bacon (1561–1626), English philosopher, essayist, and statesman, often rang true in the 19th Century.

This quote by Francis Bacon (1561–1626), English philosopher, essayist, and statesman, often proved true of those poor souls who were unfortunate enough to pick up a tummy bug or a fever during the 19th century.

A novel side-track on the road to researching my family tree is the amazing first person information I have found. Letters and journals which give a personal narrative of the social and cultural world my ancestors inhabited. I believe it’s called Historiography – studying the social history on a personal level rather than on abstract and analytical circumstances.

If you have read my blog you will know a bit about my 3 times-great-grandfather George WELLINGTON and his large family who lived in Somerset between 1780 and 1850. I have written about sad letters George wrote to his daughter in 1840 which give an insight into his family life. I am also sharing his daughter Susanah’s journal entries and examining the social and cultural aspects of her life from her diary.


Given George WELLINGTON’s profession as an apothecary and druggist and his knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants and inorganic elements, you would think he and his family might have had a life expectancy over and above the national average. You’d be mistaken.

The last article I posted, susanah’s journal – births, deaths and marriages, got me thinking that maybe George’s profession was not so beneficial to the health and well-being of his family.

  1. Was the frequency that George Wellington come in contact with sick people a risk to his health and the health of other members of his family.
  2. Were the remedies doctors and druggists prescribed to their patients in 1833 worse than the diseases they were treating?

George WELLINGTON and his first wife Elizabeth EDWARDS had eight children: two died soon after birth; four died aged between 29 and 36 years; Elizabeth EDWARDS died giving birth at the age of 43 years. George and his second wife Elizabeth SAMSON had eleven children: three died as infants; and one died at the age of 18 years. Was a 25% infant mortality-rate normal for the time?

There were some very serious diseases floating around in the early 19th Century. Smallpox was beginning to be controlled by the new practice of vaccination. But, outbreaks of influenza, measles, scarlet fever, typhus and whooping cough still regularly took the lives of tens of thousands people – young and old.

In the 1830s and 1840s there were three massive waves of contagious disease. The first, from 1831 to 1833, included two influenza epidemics and the first appearance of cholera which spread from India up through Europe to the British Isles and through trade routes to the rest of the world. Before it ran its course the disease had claimed over 52,000 lives. The second and third waves brought rolling epidemics of typhus, influenza, smallpox and scarlet fever in 1837-38 and 1846-47.

L0006579 Engraving: 'Monster Soup..." by William

A woman drops her teacup upon seeing the monsters swimming around in a drop of Thames water. During the 19th century, sewage and waste contaminated the rivers, making them a prime source of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Etching by William Heath, London, 1828. [www.wellcome.ac.uk]

Cholera was spread by contaminated water, so it affected mainly the poorer and crowded neighbourhoods where public water sources were easily fouled with effluent. Influenza had no economic or social barriers and was spread through close contact with those already infected. A steady stream of coughing and sneezing customers seeking a remedy from their local chemist might increase the spread of infection to other members of his family. But a large family group socialising with their neighbours and gathering in church each week is just as likely to lead to contact with these serious diseases.

Three of the WELLINGTON children who died as infants may have contracted whooping cough, measles typhus or influenza. A solid dose of the flu would undoubtedly kill a small child if left untreated. It is the most probable cause of death of Alexander Samson WELLINGTON who was laid to rest on 10 May 1833 aged just 1 year and 8 months.

The symptoms of the influenza are set out in a pamphlet entitled Rules for the Successful Treatment and Prevention of the Influenza the Prevailing Epidemic which I found in the Wellcome Trust’s online library. In 1833, doctors could not agree on how people contracted the disease, but opinion was that it was propagated by an air-borne contagion.

Some of the symptoms are listed as follows:

The disease commences with the usual symptoms of the common cold, in conjunction with others that are distressing to the patient and alarming to the physician; such as great languor, lowness and oppression, anxiety, with frequent sighing, and violent headache. The pulse is peculiarly quick and irregular, and at night there is often delirium. Sometimes there are severe muscular pains, both general and local.

 The pamphlet goes on to describe the best way to treat the disease:

… our principle object is to clear out the bowels, to promote a determination to the surface of the body, to support the strength of the patient, and to alleviate the hoarseness, cough and oppression at the chest which usually accompanies this complaint.

Extract from a pamphlet on treatments for influenza in 1833 [wellcomecollection.org]

Detail from a pamphlet on treatments for influenza in 1833. Many of the ingredients are quite toxic to humans.  [wellcomecollection.org]

Ingredients such as acetate of ammonia and powdered rhubarb are purgatives which will bring on diarrhea. Sweet spirits of nitre or nitric acid is a highly corrosive mineral acid. Camphor when applied to the skin acts as a vapour rub and as a steam vapour can be beneficial, but if taken orally is poisonous in large doses. Calomel is mercury chloride, which when taken internally is a laxative and disinfectant. Calomel was an ingredient in teething powders in Britain until 1950 and caused widespread mercury poisoning in infants. It was also widely used until the early 20th century to treat syphillis, and was administered to patients in such toxic quantities that their hair and teeth fell out.

If flu symptoms persisted and signs of inflammation of the lungs showed themselves, it was recommended that a course of four or five leeches, or a blister be applied to the chest to relieve the oversupply of blood in the body; bearing in mind to keep the bowels completely open. These don’t seem to me to be treatments designed to support the strength of a patient already weak with infection and fever; and who is now suffering from dehydration, a serious case of diarrhea and mild anemia.

Sick Infants and toddlers did not really stand a chance. They were treated with syrup of squills, an extract from a bulb that grows in the mediterranean area. It was prescribed to babies with whooping cough and croup to induce vomiting. In order to prevent too much inflammation to the stomach, it was frequently combined with a potion of opium or syrup of poppies. Opium was the universal pain-killer of the early nineteenth century. It was used as readily as we use aspirin or ibuprofen today. 

I’m starting to see how disease made such an impact on the lives of families living in the early 1800s. In his book The Healthy Body and Victorian Culture, Bruce Haley sites:

A Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Gt. Britain, by Edwin Chadwick included figures to show that in 1839 for every person who died of old age or violence, eight died of specific diseases. This helps explain why during the second and third decades of the 19th century nearly one infant in three in England failed to reach the age of five. Taken together, measles and whooping cough accounted for 50,000 deaths in England and Wales between 1838 and 1840, and about a quarter of all deaths during this general period have been attributed to tuberculosis or consumption.

The statistics now add up. I am not surprised that only nine of the nineteen WELLINGTON children born between 1799 and 1840 survived into their 50s, 60s and 70s. Five children died as infants; a daughter Mary died aged 33 during child birth; the eldest son George died of heart disease at 36; his brother William died of consumption aged 36; Sophia aged 29 and Susanah aged 18 also died of consumption or pulmonary tuberculosis.

It may be said the accepted medical treatments prescribed by doctors and druggists in the 1800s were harsh and often hurried patients to their deaths. The secret to living through this era was “being strong enough to survive the disease and the remedy”.

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Sources: The Victorian WebThe Healthy Body and Victorian Culture, Bruce Haley; you can view a PDF of the Rules for the Treatment and Prevention of the Influenza pamphlet as well as other library resources and images at the Wellcome Trust websiteSusanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney.