susanah’s journal – rev jukes & the jews

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

SW_DIARY_p4&5

Poor Wm Etheridge died on the 2nd of November 1836 his funeral sermon was preached by Mr Jukes at his chapel on Sunday Evening Novr 13th 1836.

January 1st 1837. Mr Ewald and Mr Davis preached two sermons in behalf of the Jews 30 pounds were collected at the doors. 2nd The Jews Meeting was held at the Mermaid Inn.  When we returned we found quite a large party assembled in our dining room from Martock.  Sophia Vining was with us.

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I found a notice in the Salisbury & Winchester Journal, Monday 14 November 1836:

Died, at Yeovil, on Wednesday, the 2nd inst., aged 18 years, after a few days’ illness, of effusion on the brain, William, fourth son of Mr. H. Etheridge, auctioneer. He was a very promising youth, and much and deservedly respected in the circle in which he moved.

William’s parents were Henry and Ann. Henry ETHERIDGE was a surveyer, auctioneer, real estate and insurance agent. William ETHERIDGE was born 24 June 1818 and christened in an Independent Chapel in Yeovil on 26 July 1819.

Auction of dwellings by Mr Etheridge, Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 02 June 1834.

Auction of dwellings by Mr Henry Etheridge, Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 02 June 1834.

Mr John JUKES was a protestant non-conformist minister of the Independent Chapel in Yeovil, aligned with the Baptists. Mr JUKES served on the Yeovil Board of Health during the 1830s, along with Dr John PENKIVIL and chemist George WELLINGTON. Rev JUKES ran a school in Yeovil until 1835 when he resigned from teaching to concentrate on his ministry.

Rev John Jukes relinquished his school in Yeovil at the end of 1835, probably to concentrate on his ministry. Sherbourne & Yeovil Mercury, 19 October 1835

Rev John Jukes relinquished his school in Yeovil at the end of 1835.  Sherbourne & Yeovil Mercury, 19 October 1835.

Susanah mentions that on the first day of 1837 there were two sermons preached and 30 pounds collected “on behalf of the Jews”. When I first read this journal entry I wondered if the sermons and donations were in aid of Jews that were persecuted and displaced from their homelands in Europe. Not so.

It appears from this advert in the Sherbourne & Yeovil Mercury, the Christian congregation were on a mission of conversion rather than of aid or charity. The meeting of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews was held at the Mermaid Inn and Mr EWALD and Mr DAVIS were in attendance.

A notice for a meeting similar to the one Susanah mentions in her Journal. Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 26 December 1836.

A newspaper notice for the meeting Susanah Wellington mentions in her journal. Sherborne & Yeovil Mercury, 26 December 1836.

This 1839 painting of High Street, Yeovil by Henry Burn (1807–1884) shows the Mermaid Inn archway and large overhanging sign on the left. The building on the other side of the street is a “Chemist, Grocer, Druggist” shop.

This 1839 painting of High Street, Yeovil by Henry Burn (1807–1884) shows the Mermaid Inn archway and large overhanging sign on the left.

After the family returned home from their meeting, they found “quite a large party from Martock” in their dining room. Not much to go on here but they were most likely cousins – John WELLINGTON (1774-1845) and his wife Ann MARTIN (1774-1852) and their children. John WELLINGTON was a chemist and the elder brother of George WELLINGTON, chemist of Yeovil – Susanah’s father.

Sofia VINING was the youngest sister of James Tally VINING who was married to Mary Webb WELLINGTON. Sofia/Sophia VINING (1824-1848) was 12 years old, around the same age as Susanah’s sister Rosa WELLINGTON (1823-1889).

It has taken me quite a long time to research and identify all the players in this journal entry, but it is amazing the resources now available online at the British Newspaper Archives.

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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. British Newspaper Archives

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frederick george noble wellington

This post is follow-up research on Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887), Chemist of South Petherton. You may like to read some of my earlier posts:

Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). Chemist of South Petherton, Somerset, England

Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). Chemist of South Petherton, Somerset, England

As Susanah WELLINGTON notes in her journal, her younger brother Frederick went to boarding school at Sherborne in July 1836, a few months before his 12th birthday.

Frederick was 15 years old when he left school in 1839 and went to work as a chemist’s apprentice. Frederick took over the chemist business in St. James Street, South Petherton after his half-brother William Edwards WELLINGTON‘s death in 1850.

Frederick married Mary ADAMS in 1850 and he became an active and valued member of the South Petherton community. He sat on many parish committees and was a churchwarden for many years.

I made contact with Liz Randall of the South Petherton Local History Group which holds the archive of White’s pharmacy and general store. Liz was very helpful and sent me a copy of a bill of sale which dates back to the 1880s then Frederick WELLINGTON owned the business.

The old stationery appears to have been reused as scrap paper or as a sales journal by the White family in September 1918, during WWI, when paper was scarce in England.

Invoice stationery of FGN Wellington, Chemist of South Petherton between 1850 and 1887.

Bill of Sale header of FGN Wellington, Pharmaceutical Chemist of South Petherton between 1850 and 1887. [photo source South Petherton Local History Group]

Frederick WELLINGTON sold the business to William Charles WHITE in late 1886 or early 1887. I found a news article dated April 1887 which mentioned Frederick had recently left South Petherton so they held an election for a new churchwarden.

News report from the South Petherton Church vestry meeting notes that Frederick Welligntong had recently left town. [Western Gazette, 22 April 1887]

News report from the South Petherton Church vestry meeting notes that Frederick Wellignton had recently left the town. [Western Gazette, 22 April 1887]

Declining health may have been the reason Frederick retired and sold the business. The Western Gazette reported the sudden death of FGN Wellington on Wednesday 25 May 1887 at the age of 62, in Bristol.

Notice of the sudden death of Frederick GN Wellington in Bristol. [Western Gazette, 27 May 1887]

Notice of the sudden death of Frederick GN Wellington in Bristol. [Western Gazette, 27 May 1887]

The following article is a very detailed account of the funeral of Mr WELLINGTON in South Petherton. It appears he was very well respected and much loved by the people of the town. Among the family mourners were his children: Louisa Mary WELLINGTON (1851); Rev George WELLINGTON (1852), Assistant Curate of Whitechurch Canonicorum, Dorset; and Frederick WELLINGTON (1857), Chemist of Taunton, Somerset.

1887-06-03_Western Flying Post_Wellington FGN_Funeral

Account of the funeral of Frederick George Noble Wellington held in South Petherton on Saturday 28 May 1887. [Western Flying Post, 3 June, 1887]

The report mentions that Frederick was buried in the grounds at the north-east side of the chapel, close to his wife Mary who died 6 June 1884. Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON has a memorial in one of the beautiful stained glass windows of South Petherton Church, Somerset, England.

Thank you to Liz Randall and the South Petherton Local History Group for the wonderful work you are doing to bring the history and heritage of your town to life.

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Sources: http://www.southpethertoninformation.org.ukSouth Petherton Local History GroupBritish Newspaper ArchiveWellingtonia, The History of the Wellington Family, by John Evelyn; GRO Indexes and documents, Pigot’s Directories of Somerset and Dorset 1830 to 1885.

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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TO THE PUBLIC

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-comparison-Epsom-Salts

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.

susanah’s journal – yeovil 1835

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.

Susanah's beautifully neat copperplate writing is still readable after 180 years.

Susanah’s beautifully neat copperplate writing is still readable after 180 years.

We left the house at the shop early in September 1835 which was the same summer as I left school and commenced teaching.

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Susanah turned sixteen in the summer of 1835, she had finished her schooling and began teaching music lessons in Yeovil with her sister Jane. They taught the pianoforte and most likely music composition, harmony and voice accompaniment.

1835_paris_couture

The latest fashions for young ladies in 1835.

Pigot’s Trade Directory of Somerset 1830 lists George WELLINGTON, – Chymist and Druggist, Borough, Yeovil. Susanah’s father had a chemist shop in the Borough, which was in the centre of the market town. The family must have lived in the second and third storeys above the shop.

A pencil sketch from about 1810 of the Borough, Yeovil showing the Market House and Shambles. The artist is standing roughly where King George Street meets High Street today. Above the sign of the Greyhound Inn on the right can be seen a sign for a Grocer, Chemist, Druggist.

A pencil sketch from about 1810 of the Borough, Yeovil by G E Madeley, shows the Shambles on the left and the Market House to the right. George Wellington’s ‘Chymist and Druggist’ shop was situated in the Medical Hall visible behind the old Market House and the sign of the Greyhound Inn on the far right.

Susanah doesn’t tell us where in Yeovil the family moved to in 1835. They probably relocated to a larger house to accommodate their growing family.

Between 1835 and 1845 George WELLINGTON was expanding his business. He was in partnership with his eldest son, George Edwards WELLINGTON, and they opened a second shop in Glastonbury in about 1838. The General Directory for the County of Somerset 1840 lists George WELLINGTON & Son, Chemists & Druggists and also Grocers & Dealers in Sundries, with businesses in High Street, Glastonbury and the Borough, Yeovil.

High Street,Yeovil, Somerset - showing the Mermaid Inn and Fleur-de-Lys Hotels - 1839 by Henry Burn. On the far right is a Chemist, Grocer, Druggist shop.

This 1839 painting of High Street, Yeovil by Henry Burn (1807–1884) shows the Mermaid Inn archway and large overhanging sign on the left. The building on the other side of the street is Granger’s chemist and druggist shop.

The Wellington family relocated to Glastonbury for a few years in the late 1830s. Susanah developed consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) and died there in June 1838.

The 1841 UK Census records the Wellington family living back in High Street, Yeovil. The household listed George WELLINGTON with six of his children – Jane, Fanny, Rosa, Lucy, Rebecca and Ellen. His wife Elizabeth was vacationing in Weymouth with her ladies maid, and his youngest son Frederick was away at boarding school. Also listed in the household were staff and servants – a druggist’s apprentice, three young shop hands and a ten year old female servant.

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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. Pigot’s Directory – Somersetshire 1830; General Directory for the County of Somerset 1840; UK Census OnlineThe History of Yeovil’s Pubs by Bob Osborn.

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 – 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.

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.

TRADE_Apothecary_01

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.

susanah’s journal – letter to miss lyndall

An extract from the journal of Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset.

SW_Letter_Lyndall1

The copy of a letter which I wrote to congratulate Miss Lyndall on her marriage, she married Mr E Whitby, she was married of a Shrove Tuesday the 19th of February 1833, she went to Bath for the wedding excursion.

Yeovil Feby 23rd 1833

My dear Friend I received the news of your marriage with great delight, and I hope that the sincerity with which I wish your happiness may excuse the liberty I take in writing to congratulate you on your altered situation. Mrs Eason very kindly gave us a half holiday on Tuesday and we went for a walk with the boarders to the grotto at Barwick and also about the grounds. Miss Waugh and Miss Fryer were very much pleased as they had never seen it before. Please to present my kind respects to Mr Whitby and accepting yourself the sincere love of Your affectionate friend S Wellington

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In my last post from susanah’s journal – token of affection, I wrote about Susanah’s interest in the sentiments expressed in the note her sister Jane received from an ‘affectionate friend’. The very next entry in the notebook is a letter Susanah had occasion to send to one of her own friends, and it appears she may have drawn on Jane’s correspondance for some writing tips.

SW_Letter_Lyndall2

Yeovil parish records show Miss Hannah LYNDALL married Mr Elias WHITBY Jr on 19 February 1833. Hannah was twenty-five years old and Elias was married on his twenty-third birthday.

The Whitby family worshipped in the newly built Baptist Church in South Street, and Elias WHITBY the elder was a Deacon of the church for sixty-four years. He and his son were successful glove manufacturers and wool dealers in Yeovil.

The WELLINGTONs and the WHITBYs most likely had a similar social standing. Susanah’s father George WELLINGTON was the portreeve and then a burgess of the Yeovil Union, from 1813 until his death in 1847. The Union was the “old corporation” that governed the market town and Elias WHITBY Jr was the clerk of the Union during the 1840s and early 1850s.

Yeovil was made a municipal borough in 1853 by Act of Parliament and Royal Assent, and Elias WHITBY was elected Mayor of Yeovil between 1862-1864 and again for 1872-1873. Hannah and Elias’ son Elias Lyndall WHITBY was also Mayor of Yeovil 1878-1879.

The latest fashion for 1833 [Wikimedia Commons: University of Washington fashion plate collection]

The latest fashion evening and day wear for 1833 [Wikimedia Commons: University of Washington fashion plate collection]

Hannah LYNDALL was eleven years older than Susanah WELLINGTON who was only thirteen and a half when she wrote to congratulate her friend on her marriage. I have found that Hannah was born in London and her family came from Yorkshire. It appears she had no family in Yeovil until her marriage. Maybe Hannah had been a teacher at Mrs Eason’s School which Susanah and Jane attended.

After Susanah congratulates Hannah on her ‘altered situation’ she goes on to tell her that Mrs Eason allowed the students a half-holiday on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Tuesday), the day preceding Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent. The students and boarders spent the afternoon on a long walk to see the local curiosities at Barwick, a village lying about 3 kms (1.8 miles) to the south of Yeovil.

Barwick House is famous for the four follies and the grotto within its parkland. It’s thought the odd garden features were built between 1770–1790, possibly by unemployed farm labourers on the estate.

Three Follies: Jack The Treacle Eater, Messiter's Cone and The Fish Tower, at Barwick Park near Yeovil, Somerset [photos by Rupert Fleetingly, Jeff Tomlinson and Andy Jenkins Wikimedia Commons]

Barwick follies – Jack The Treacle Eater, Messiter’s Cone and the Fish Tower near Yeovil, Somerset [photos by Rupert Fleetingly, Jeff Tomlinson and Andy Jenkins – Wikimedia Commons]

Of the four follies, none is more odd than the tiny tower on top of a jagged rocky arch which is called Jack The Treacle Eater. It is named after a famous local runner who trained on a diet of treacle. Jack needed the glucose rush to keep up his stamina on his 110-mile sprint to London to deliver mail for the Messiter family, who owned Barwick House. The figure on top of the tower is supposedly the running figure of Jack The Treacle Eater. It looks to me like a classical statue of the Greek messenger god Hermes or his Roman counterpart Mercury.

Barwick_Jack_The_Treacle_Eater

Jack the Treacle Eater, one of the odd follies at Barwick [photo by David Ward – Wikimedia Commons]

A grotto at the western end of the lake contains three subterranean chambers. The circular domed chamber contains a pool with a path around it, there are niches which hold Greek statues and at the top of the dome is an oculus which radiates beams of light. The follies and grotto are now owned by South Somerset District Council, who snapped them all up for just £5 when the estate was sold in the early 1990s. After major restoration work, Barwick and its follies are again a popular attraction with ramblers and tourists.

Barwick_Grotto_Watercolour

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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; From Portreeve to Mayor: the growth of Yeovil 1750-1854 by L C Hayward; www.yeoviltown.comwww.oldukphotos.com; Britain’s Top 10 Follies.

susanah’s journal – token of affection

An extract from the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire. Her sister Jane kept the journal after Susanah died and brought it with her when she emigrated to Australia.

Transcript of a note to Susanah's sister Jane, from an affectionate friend.

LETTERS_p64&65_EXT1

Copy of a note addressed to my sister Jane, by a friend
with a token of affection.

Accept my very dear friend this small token of affection from one who sincerely loves and esteems you.

Would it were more worthy of your acceptance but it may sometimes remind you of  your sincerely attached and affectionate friend.

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Before there were Hallmark cards, Interflora and store-bought boxes of chocolate, people put a lot more time and effort into their letters and tokens of affection.

Susanah took the time to transcribe this note (hopefully with Jane’s permission), but frustratingly for us she does not mention the name of Jane’s friend, or what the token of affection was. Susanah appears to be more interested in the wording in the note and the sentiments expressed. She wanted to remember them for a time to come when she had occasion to sent a token of affection to someone she “sincerely loved and esteemed”.

Jane and Susanah were very close, only a year separated them in age. Jane was born on 6 July 1818, Susanah on 20 August 1819.

We can assume by it’s page position within the journal this note was transcribed late in 1832. Jane would have been fourteen years old, so the token of affection and note were most likely from a female friend and not from a young man.

Still, I wonder who was Jane’s “sincerely attached and affectionate friend”, and what was the token of affection Jane received.

Was it a small book of poetry – possibly by Byron, Keats, Shelley or Wordsworth who were all popular romantic poets of the time?

Four Poets

Could it have been a piece of jewellery – maybe a small brooch, or a hair comb?

Brooches

It may have been embroidery or hand sewing like a pin cushion, a bookmark, a handkerchief or a small drawstring purse.

Embroidered silk satin purse appliquéd with silk muslin, made in Britain 1830-1840. V&A Museum collection.

Embroidered silk satin purse appliquéd with silk muslin, made in Britain 1830-1840. V&A Museum collection.

Or, it may have been a small water-colour drawing or a cut-out silhouette portrait which were popular pastimes amongst young ladies at the time. The silhouette portraits below are of Jane and Susanah’s younger sisters, Lucy and Rebecca WELLINGTON.

Silhouette portraits of Lucy and Rebecca Wellington, the likenesses are hand cut from black paper with small scissors and then highlighted with grey or white paint and framed.

Silhouette portraits of Lucy and Rebecca Wellington. The likenesses are hand cut from black paper with small scissors, then highlighted with grey or white paint and framed.

Alas, we will never know the identity of Jane’s friend or her gift; as Susanah clearly wrote her journal for herself and never imagined someone would be interested in her notes 180 years later.

Susanah WELLINGTON died of consumption (tuberculosis) on 6 June 1838 at the age of eighteen years and 10 months.

Jane Penelope WELLINGTON married William Henry SUTTON on 23 December 1842 in Glastonbury when she was twenty-four years old. I hope William Henry sent Jane love letters and heart-felt tokens of his affection while he was courting her.

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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.  V&A Museum collection. History of Silhouettes PaperPortraits.com.

susanah’s journal – resolutions of bishop beveridge

An extract from the journal of Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire. Her diary includes school and scripture lessons, copies of letters and a record of the last few years of her life.

LESSONS_Bishop Beveridge_EXT

Resolutions of Bishop Beveridge.

1.  I am resolved by the grace of God never to speak much lest I often speak too much, and not to speak at all, rather than to no purpose.

2.  Always to make my tongue and heart go together so as never to speak with the one what I do not think in the other.

3.  To speak of other men’s sins only before their faces, and of their virtues only behind their backs.

4.  To do everything in obedience to the will of God.

5.  To do everything with prudence & discretion as well as with zeal and affection.

6.  Never to set my hand, my head or my heart about anything but what I verily believe is good in itself and must be esteemed so by God.

7.  To do all things for the glory of God.

8.  To mingle such recreation with my business, as to further my business by my recreation.

9.  I am resolved if possible to redeem my time past by using a double diligence for the future, & to employ and improve all the gifts and endowments both body and mind to the glory and service of my great Creator.

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Bishop_William_Beveridge_(6464933159)William BEVERIDGE (1637-1708), of St John’s College, Cambridge, was Archdeacon of Colchester for twenty years before being consecrated as Bishop of St Asaph in 1704. The diocese of St Asaph covers the counties of Conwy, Flintshire, Wexham as well as parts of Gwynedd and Powys in northern Wales.

The chronology and the history of the early Church were two of Bishop Beveridge’s  pursuits. His theology work found favour with the Church of England and many non-conformist Protestant denominations, most especially the Wesleyans. In his day he was styled ‘the great reviver and restorer of primitive piety’, as many of his sermons and writings dealt with the ‘back-to-basics’ teachings of the early Church.

The nine resolutions quoted in Susanah’s journal are the opening statements of some of his resolutions that are expanded in more detail in the original text. Significantly, they are extracted from Resolutions on WORD and ACTION.

Even if you are not religious these are credible words to live by. Replace the word ‘God’ with ‘Good’ in the above resolutions and they still hold true.

A more detailed account of Bishop Beveridge’s Thoughts of Religion and Resolutions can be seen at Wesley Center Online.

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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.