susanah’s journal – xmas party

From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire.

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2nd. We had a letter from Mrs D Marshall informing us she would not be able to pay us a visit on account of the weather.

3rd We had our Xmas family party: the young men & Mr Vincent supped here.

15th Uncle Smith & Uncle Tom came down and spent Sunday with us.

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In Susanah’s previous journal entry of December 1836, we read about Rev Jukes and the Jews meeting.

The Wellingtons of Yeovil had friends and family visiting for the 1837 new year holidays. The weather was very bad. Heavy snow started to fall on Christmas Eve, 1836. There was a great east-north-easterly gale and snowstorm on 25th and 26th. Many lives as well as livestock and crops were lost. Roads throughout England were impassable for days, snow 5 to 15 feet (1.5 to 4.5 metres) deep in many places, a few great drifts 20 to 50 feet (6 to 15 metres).

extract from a report on the snow storms from Sherborne Mercury, 02 January 1837.

An extract from a newspaper report, gives an idea of how the severe weather impacted life throughout England. Western Flying Post, Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury, 02 January 1837.

The snow storms in late December 1836 covered the roads in large drifts. The regular stage and mail coaches were disrupted which brought business to a stand-still. The stage coaches and mail coaches could not get through, goods and shipments could not be delivered, and general trades could not do business or work outdoors in such bad weather.

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Illustration of a bountiful Christmas feast from a Comic Alphabet, designed, etched and published by George Cruikshank, 1836.

The Wellington family held their Christmas party on the 3rd of January. It may have been a tradition to celebrate with family in the new year, or their gathering was delayed due to the bad weather. Susanah mentions the young men and Mr Vincent shared Christmas supper with the family. The “young men” may have been the chemist apprentices and shop assistants in her father’s employ. Mr Vincent was probably a family friend.

On the 15th January Uncle Tom and Uncle Smith visited the family in Yeovil. Thomas SAMSON (1806-1879), was a younger brother of Susanah’s mother Elizabeth SAMSON (1764-1833). Uncle Smith was William SMITH (1801-1879) the husband of Elizabeth’s youngest sister Susannah Sharp SAMSON (1806-1843). They lived in Wayford, about 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) south-west of Yeovil in Somerset. You can read more about the SAMSON family connections here.

I am sure Susanah enjoyed good cheer with her family and friends in spite of the cold and miserable weather, which continued well into March, April and May. The English Spring of 1837 still holds the record of the coldest ever seasonal average at just 5.6 degrees C.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneywww.dorsetshire.com. You might like to see other work by George Cruikshank; British Newspaper ArchiveHistorical Weather Events.

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george wellington’s letters

A transcript of sad correspondence from George WELLINGTON (1781-1847), Chemist of Yeovil to his eldest daughter Mrs Elizabeth Blackaller GROVES at Blandford Forum. 

You can click on the image to enlarge it for reading.

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1 – Bessie is Elizabeth Wellington GROVES, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Blackaller WELLINGTON and Simon GROVES, Chemist of Blandford Forum, Dorset. Bessie died Tuesday, 30 April 1839, aged 12 years, cause of death ‘effusion of water on the brain’ or Hydrocephalus.

2 – Lucy is Lucy WELLINGTON the seventh child of George WELLINGTON and his second wife Elizabeth SAMSON. She was 13 years old in May 1839 and she may have been away at boarding school when she fell ill with seizures caused by ‘water on the brain’ and was brought home to her family in Yeovil.

3Leeches and blood-letting were common procedures in 19th Century medical care. The theory followed that fevers, apoplexy and headaches resulted from an excessive build-up of blood. As a chemist in 1839, George WELLINGTON would most likely have administered medicines and the two courses of leeches to his daughter. Remarkably, Lucy actually recovered, she remained single, worked as a fancy needleworker and a draper, lived a long life and died in 1899 aged 73.

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4 & 7 – Mary’s dear babe is Mary Matilda VINING, the eldest daughter of Mary Webb WELLINGTON and James Tally VINING, Solicitor of Yeovil. Mary Matilda Vining died on 18 May 1839, aged 1 year. There is a large obelisk on a plinth in the grounds of Yeovil Parish Church of St John the Baptist with the inscriptions very worn. The monument was erected by James Tally VINING in memory of his wife Mary, the daughter of George WELLINGTON. She died 21 August 1842, aged 33 years. In the same vault are deposited the remains of Mary Matilda and William Richard, the infant children of James and Mary.

5 – Grandma would be Mary EDWARDS, the mother of George WELLINGTON’s first wife, Elizabeth EDWARDS who died in 1815. Grandma EDWARDS most likely travelled from her home in Shepton Mallet, Somerset to visit her family.

6 – George is George Edwards WELLINGTON, the eldest son of George WELLINGTON and Elizabeth EDWARDS. He was a Druggist and Chemist in Yeovil, in partnership with his father, and aged 31 at the time of these letters. George had married Sarah SANDER in May 1838, but fate dealt them a rotten hand, as they had only 5 years and 5 months together. George died of ‘heart disease’, most likely a heart attack, in 1843, aged 36 years at Creech St Michael, Somerset while travelling on business. Sarah died in 1852, aged 33 years. There is a monument to George and his wife Sarah inside the Yeovil Parish Church, you can view it here.

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Sources: Wellingtonia, The History of the Wellington Family, by John Evelyn; GRO Indexes and documents, UK Census 1941 (HO107/0958  Folio 11/8 Page 8), Pigot’s Directories of Somerset and Dorset 1830 to 1840.