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 []

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. [].

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.

susanah’s journal – letter to miss lyndall

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


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.


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.


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.


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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;; Britain’s Top 10 Follies.

susanah’s journal – manners and morals

An extract from the journal of Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset. Susanah was 12 years old when she transcribed the following letter into her notebook.

Letter to Miss Linten, from a teacher, dated Yeovil 1st March 1832.

Letter to Miss Lintern, from a teacher, dated Yeovil 1st March 1832.

The copy of the letter to Miss Lintern which is incomplete and unsigned.

Yeovil March 1st 1832

My dear Miss Lintern

Very gladly do I improve the opportunity you afford me of assuring you that I am pleased with your efforts and that I applaud your diligence. It is true that your advancement on the whole is not so rapid as I could wish and I hope you will understand that I allude to the goodness of your designs and not to the completeness of their execution.

You express your thanks for the pleasure you derive from your Scripture Lessons and while my heart is affected by your gratitude, I entreat you to cherish the emotion for it is an expression of that love which ought to burn mutually in our bosoms, even though we do no more than our duty to do. Never will the Teacher and the Pupil succeed in their respective offices while the one is unkind and the other disrespectful.

You will not, I apprehend, convict me of the first and of the last I have but little accusation to bring against some of your schoolfellows and none against you. And do be assured my dear for your Comfort, that while intellectual eminence is in some respects highly desirable, yet moral attainments are far more so. By these I mean the improvement of the heart, by those the expansion of the understanding.

I do not suggest these observations in order to lessen your ardour for learning; on the contrary, I would have you strive to the utmost of your capacity. But I wish to hold before you in a prominent manner the following important maxim: Acquire that you may communicate; or in plainer language, you should get good in order . . .  [incomplete and unsigned]

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


You should get good in order . . . to what? Does anyone have the answer to this important lesson?

I wonder why Susanah did not complete her transcript of this letter? I think we can safely say it was written by her scripture teacher, Charlotte Bowles, as she provides a lesson on morals and manners to Miss Lintern and her fellow students at Mrs Eason’s School in Yeovil.

An English School Reader printed in Grantham in 1827 – Reading Made Easy; being a collection of lessons out of Psalms, New Testament, &c. &c.

An English School Reader printed in Grantham in 1827 – Reading Made Easy; being a collection of lessons out of the Psalms, New Testament, &c. &c. [click on image to enlarge]

The above school text book, printed in Grantham Lincolnshire in 1827, is more than likely the sort of reading material available to the students in Mrs Eason’s School. Useful moral lessons on manners in words of one, two and three syllables.

You can read more of the moral character of Charlotte Bowles in her previous two letters – light of the lord and dictionaries and dominoes.

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. Reading Made Easy copied with permission from Grantham Library.

susanah’s journal – dictionaries and dominoes

An extract from the journal of Miss Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset. Susanah attended Mrs Eason’s School in Yeovil, she was 12 years old when she transcribed this letter into her notebook.

Letter from Charlotte Bowles to Miss Allen, dated Yeovil 14 February 1832.

Letter from Charlotte Bowles to Miss Allen, dated 14 February 1832.

The transcript of a letter from Charlotte Bowles (possibly a head teacher) in reply to a letter from one of her pupils, Miss Allen.

Yeovil Feby 14 1832

My dear Miss Allen

You have pleased me highly in the attention you have bestowed on my little note and in the endeavour you have made to comply with my requests.

It is true that I invited you to this recent effort merely with a view to your own improvement and it may therefore seem natural in you to have obeyed my injunction.

But how often are children unwilling to advance their own welfare! When study gives them trouble they grow impatient and seem to be regardless of the curse of ignorance while they are deceived by the pleasure of sloth.

If you want an illustration, I will give you a case in point. When you meet with a sentence or even a word that you cannot understand you immediately apply to your teacher for an explanation. You hear, and for a moment remember but in a day or two afterward the word and its meaning are both forgotten.

Now I would advise you never to enquire of anyone the explanation of a single term that is not clear to your apprehension, but refer at once to the dictionary and possess yourself fully of what you wish to comprehend, then look again to the volume or the page in which your difficulty began and you will generally find that the sentence which seemed cloudy and obscure is now as clear as noonday.

For this reason I must beg you to read my communications attentively nor would I have you shrink from examining Johnson, though it may impede your perusal and lessen your pleasure. To guess at the meaning as you hear or perceive it to be used by another is to forfeit your own command of that word when it might be of use to you if it lay within your reach.

You may receive it as a truth, my dear that what money is to the affluent, that language is to society. It will take you where you please and purchase for you whatever you want. How necessary then is it for a Christian to enjoy this intellectual wealth that he may dispense it for the benefit of his fellow man!

You will observe the truth of these remarks when you are placed by friends in a delicate situation as for instance when you are invited to join in a game at cards and yet you feel reluctant on account of your principles. And since you ask my counsel in this affair, I will give it you freely. Games of chance, as they are called, ought to be prohibited by every cultivated mind apart from the requisition of piety for in such recreation there is no exercise for the intellect any more than for the heart.

Now in the game of dominoes there is a little arithmetic needed, but this is all. And in the game of Whist a great deal of skill is required in order to play with success. But viewed in a more extensive latitude, cards and dominoes are games of chance. I should therefore abstain from them on the grounds of my rationality no less than my religion. But even if I could prove them to be innocent, when looked upon merely as pastimes yet I should account them criminal if they were regarded as a sign of conformity to the world.

If by my playing at cards with the irreligious they will reckon me one of their number, I will not touch a card while the world stands. Then again it should be asked Who are they that invite you to play at cards?

If they be ungodly, I have told you why I would not join them and if they be professors of religion, I am afraid they do not live beneath its power or else they would learn to deny themselves and abstain from the very appearance of evil. If you [find] these reasons satisfactory, you can offer them the next time you are solicited to play at cards.

I have suffered this subject to engross my time till the last moment of it is nearly expended, else I would notice your request concerning the tuition of Sabbath Scholars, but I shall find an opportunity for this another day. You will be so good as to let the other young ladies read my observations on language and assure them as well as yourself that I am their sincere friend and yours

Charlotte Bowles

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A week earlier Charlotte BOWLES wrote her first letter to her students. She encouraged them to enlighten themselves by asking questions and invited them to write to her. It appears she may have been inundated by correspondence from the girls looking to her to provide the answers to all their questions.

She thanks Miss ALLEN for confiding in her, and is very encouraging. But, I get the feeling Charlotte BOWLES is mildly disappointed that the girls are asking her for explanations on subjects they could find the answers to themselves, if they only read their textbooks.

She strongly suggests Miss ALLEN should consult Dr Johnson’s Dictionary in order to seek clarification on unknown words, so that, “the sentence which seemed cloudy and obscure is now as clear as noonday”.

Dr Samuel JOHNSON (1709-84) was an English poet, essayist, editor and lexicographer. Dissatisfied with works of the period, a group of London booksellers contracted Samuel Johnson to compile a dictionary. Johnson spent nine years working on it, virtually single-handed, and his Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755. It had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship.” Johnson’s was viewed as the pre-eminent dictionary for libraries, schools and colleges throughout Britain and the Empire, until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 170 years later.


Title page of Dr Samuel Johnson’s dictionary beside an image of the man himself pulling a book’s cover back and concentrating intently on its words – from a 1775 portrait by Joshua Reynolds.

Charlotte BOWLES shares wise words with her student when she says, “what money is to the affluent, language is to society”. It will take you where you please and purchase for you whatever you want.

The teacher then continues her letter with a moral lesson on the subject of games of chance. She definitely frowns upon card games. Even the popular parlour game of Whist is too much of a corruption and she will never play it. She does concede that the game of Dominoes has a small educational value as “there is a little arithmetic needed”.

games of change

Various games of chance not deemed suitable for pious young ladies in the 1830s.

But that seems to be her only concession, as she advises Miss ALLEN to stick to her principles and abstain from this kind of recreation on the grounds of rationality and religion. Who, in this day and age, imagines a game of Dominoes could be responsible for the corruption of respectable young ladies? Could it really be the “slippery slope” that sends them into a life of vice and gambling?

I can’t imagine it would, in fact I’m of the belief that card games and board games can aid in the education of children. Life isn’t always fair, and games of chance help teach an important lesson. In an age of instant gratification, with parents that over-indulge their children and prize ribbons for all, it can be a real shock to the emotional state of a young adult when they find things do not go their way. They just don’t know how to cope.


Is there a reason a young woman in a short skirt, high heels and with a fascinator stuck on her head spends a boozy day at the Spring Racing Carnival? Maybe it’s because she loved to play the board game ‘Steeplechase’ as a child.

Playing a game of Monopoly or Risk can be very frustrating. When you have been leading all the way, and you have victory snatched away at the very end because of an unlucky roll of the dice, you feel like tipping the board on the floor and stamping your feet. Life is like that, and kids need to learn to lose graciously, and then develop strategies so they are better prepared the next time they play.

I am sure that Miss ALLEN, Susanah WELLINGTON and the other young ladies growing up in the 1830s did not need games of chance to teach them that life was not all springtime and country dances. They would have seen the reality of life and death on a daily basis. Holding on to their belief in God, following a pious life and educating themselves would have given them comfort and enjoyment. But surely a game of Dominoes every once in a while would not harm the soul.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, Hastings family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyJournal transcription by Terry HASTINGS.

susanah’s journal – light of the lord

An extract from the journal of Miss Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset. Susanah attended Mrs Eason’s School in Yeovil, she was 12 years old when she transcribed the following letter into her notebook.

Letter from Charlotte Bowles to her students, dated Yeovil 7 February 1832.

Letter from Charlotte Bowles to her students, dated Yeovil 7 February 1832.

The transcript of a letter from Charlotte BOWLES (possibly a head teacher or a scripture teacher) to the young students in her charge.

Yeovil Feb 7th 1832

My dear children

I wish to remove from your minds all embarrassment and reserve that we may derive both pleasure and benefit from our intercourse though it is but newly established. You are aware that my wish is to improve your understandings and to extend your knowledge but this cannot be done merely by the communication of my thoughts. I also need access to yours.

Be as candid then as you please when you dictate your letters for my perusal; ask any questions which you think important and I will endeavour to furnish you with a reply.

And you must not be surprised, if in my turn, I make a few enquiries now and then because by this means I shall readily obtain an insight into the stores of your information and into the readiness with which you can discriminate and apply. Do you think you comprehend me? If not, I will try to be a little plainer.

If you remember that the other day you were reading me that part of Exodus in which Aaron was commanded to light the lights in the tabernacle. You recollect too that I told you I apprehended these lights to be symbols of Him who is always and especially present where His honour dwelleth, and as God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all, so, in the holy places the shades of night were not suffered to seek because the scripture makes the following enquiry: What communion hath light with darkness?

Though this was the information which you had previously received, perhaps you can recall it to your minds that it was in the following way: If God be always in His house ready to meet us, should we not be desirous to meet Him? And should we not prove the sincerity of our desire by an early attendance, whenever the doors of the temple are opened for our admission?

Now I hope this rehearsal of your lesson will illustrate my meaning with respect to the application of your knowledge.

I shall be very glad of your several answers to this short communication and till then, believe my dear children that I am

Your sincere friend
Charlotte Bowles

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This is the first entry in Susanah’s journal. She may have received the small red leather notebook as a gift for Christmas 1831 and used it to record important lessons when she began school in the new year.

We can speculate that Charlotte BOWLES had only recently been appointed to teach at Mrs Eason’s School, as she wrote that her ‘intercourse’ or communication with her students was ‘but newly established’. Either the teacher was new to the school or the students were new to the teacher. Possibly Susanah was one of the new girls in the junior class eager to learn her lessons.

Susanah and her family were devout Christians, they lived very near the parish church of St John. Susanah wrote that she attended sermons at the church and various other Christian meetings within Yeovil. Scripture lessons formed a large part of the teaching curriculum in schools in the 19th century.

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, Yeovil. A church has existed on the site since at least the 10th century. It was rebuilt in the years 1380-1400. Its large arched windows let in so much light it was called ‘The Lantern of the West’.

Charlotte BOWLES appears to have been an enthusiastic teacher and keen to engage the minds of her pupils by encouraging them to enlighten themselves. She invited them to ask questions so as to advance their journey from the darkness of ignorance.

A quote from the former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston CHURCHILL is very apt:

‘If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it’.

Do you think that Charlotte BOWLES, as a teacher, would be pleased her lessons are still being read 181 years after they were first written?

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, Hastings family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydneyJournal transcription by Terry HASTINGS.

susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney

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

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

The notebook of Susanah WELLINGTON began as a diary and record of lessons kept in the early nineteenth century by a twelve-year-old girl from Yeovil, Somersetshire. The first page identifies the volume’s original owner with the name ‘Miss Susanah Wellington’ in Susanah’s neat copperplate, while the accompanying date ‘February 5th. 1832’ determines a probable beginning of the entries. The subsequent fifty-one pages are a miscellany of transcribed letters, family chronology, notes of lessons and even ‘a very nice Receipt for Rock Cakes given me by Elizabeth Neal, March 16th. 1837.’

When turned upside down and reversed, the book begins again from the back as a personal diary and family record. For reasons that will become obvious, Susanah did not write the diary’s last paragraph.

Susanah included a list of her family births, deaths and marriages in her journal.

Susanah included a list of her family’s births, deaths and marriages in her journal.

Throughout the 180 years since the notebook was first inscribed, additions in various hands have recorded family births, deaths and marriages. However, the primary interest is the extensive entries between 1832-1839. As records of middle-class life in Georgian England they are far from comprehensive but can best be described as honest, charming, and often sad fragments.

The language and tone of the diary conjures up thoughts of the novels of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. There are references to teachers and school days which remind us of the boarding school in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. There is a walk home from a country manor house in the cold and wet which illustrates the very real danger to a young lady’s health, as suffered by the eldest Miss Bennett in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and to a greater degree by Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility.

There are journeys in coaches to stay with aunts and uncles in London; holidays to the coast and spa towns of Weymouth, Bath and Bristol; and church sermons, charity and large parties of visitors for Christmas dinner.

Susanah WELLINGTON was the second daughter of Yeovil ‘Chymist & Druggist’ George WELLINGTON and his second wife Elizabeth SAMPSON (SAMSON). Susanah and her family were Christians. They attended the parish church each Sunday and many of her diary entries reinforce Susanah’s belief that good deeds and words in this short life would be her salvation when she met her God in heaven. Susanah died of consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) on 6 June 1838 at Glastonbury, aged eighteen years and ten months.

The notebook was inherited by Susanah’s elder sister Jane Penelope WELLINGTON. Jane married William Henry SUTTON a schoolmaster from Devon in 1842. With their six children, they emigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1854. This is apparently the way the journal arrived in Australia and it has now survived in the family for 180 years.

Australian families who can trace their ancestry to Jane Penelope WELLINGTON and William Henry SUTTON will find the information in the journal invaluable. Descendants include people with surnames of BUCK, CUNEO, HASTINGS, PICKERING, SUTTON and TAYLOR.

Susanah Wellington's little red journal.

Susanah Wellington’s little red journal.

 A note on provenance:

The notebook is a small (15 x 9.5 cm) volume with a scratched red leather cover. It was repaired in May 1995 because part of the spine had lifted and the original stitching no longer held pages intact.

Some leaves appear to have been torn out over the years. However, this has not destroyed the continuity of the letters or diary narrative. Sections of the old handwriting are faint, particularly on the first few pages, but the text is generally easy to follow.

The notebook was first owned by Susanah, and then by her elder sister Jane Penelope WELLINGTON. Jane’s daughter Rosa SUTTON became the next owner. She in turn, passed it to her daughters Winifred, Penelope and Gertrude PICKERING. The three sisters never married and in their later years they gave the notebook to cousins from the HASTINGS branch who are custodians of the notebook today.

The HASTINGS family are happy for extracts of Susanah’s journal to be published on our family history website. We hope you enjoy this little treasure.

If you subscribe to the Branches of Our Family website you will receive email updates when we publish extracts from Susanah’s journal as well as other family history articles.

Sources: Wellingtonia, The History of the Wellington Family, by John Evelyn; Death Certificate of Susanah Wellington, Pigot’s Directories of Somerset 1830 to 1840. I am especially grateful to Terry HASTINGS for his generosity in sharing Susanah’s journal with me. Terry has done a terrific job in transcribing the entries in the notebook and has provided his knowledge and insights into the life and times of Georgian England.

the teachers

During the early 1800s there were few national public schools, children were either taught at home or attended a school run by the town council or parish church. Boys from upper-middle class families would be taught by governesses alongside their sisters until they reached the age of 10 or 12 and then would often be packed off to boarding school and college to complete their education, or apprenticed as a clerk to a solicitor or similar profession. Less wealthy families endeavored to secure an apprenticeship in a trade for their sons and daughters. Most girls would not have the opportunity to enter into higher education, some attended private finishing schools in order to learn the social skills and artistic graces required to attract a husband of means.

William SUTTON and Susan MAY were married in 1806 at Exeter, Devon. They were both teachers, and during the early 1800s they lived at ‘Cadhay’ an historic Tudor manor house and estate in the parish of Ottery St Mary, Devon. William was the school master and music master at Cadhay school. By 1830 they had moved to Taunton, Devon and in Pigot’s Directory 1830, Susan SUTTON is listed running a ladies boarding academy in High Street, Taunton. They also had a boarding school at their house in Cannon Street where William SUTTON was school master. Susan MAY died about 1835 in Taunton. On census night 1841 the SUTTON family is living at Cannon Street – William SUTTON, age 60, school master; his son William Henry, age 30, school master; daughter Eliza Susan, age 25; also two servants and several pupils. William SUTTON died in October 1841 of consumption.

His daughter Eliza Susan SUTTON is found in the 1851 Census as governess to the family of Mr James CULVERNELL, a farmer employing 37 labourers at Clavelshay, North Petherton, Somerset. Ten years later she is governess to the five children of Mr Charles FORTER, attorney and solicitor of Stoke Road, North Curry, Taunton. In 1871 Eliza Susan is a governess and schoolmistress to about eight or nine children of the HOLE families at Harwood House, Timberscombe, Somerset. She died in 1873 in Bridgwater, aged 60 years.

William Henry SUTTON was the eldest child of William SUTTON and Susan MAY. He married Jane Penelope WELLINGTON in December 1842, in Glastonbury, Somerset. For the first three years after their marriage they lived in Melcombe Regis, Weymouth, Dorset where William Henry is recorded on his children’s birth certificates and baptisms as a school master.

Between 1846 and 1851 William Henry’s occupation is recorded as ‘Land Surveyor’ and the family was living at ‘Bathers’ 13 East Street, Broadway, Somerset. From the late 1700s, there was a boom in developing the country’s network of transport and communications, and many surveyors were employed in making maps, plans and surveys for the new roads, canals and railways. There was regular employment and good money to be made by men who had the mathematics and cartography skills to draw an accurate tithe map.

In 1852 Slaters Directory of Somersetshire lists Mr Wm Henry SUTTON as school master of ‘Legers’ a private boarding school in Wiveliscombe, Somerset.

On 19 November 1853, William Henry SUTTON, his wife Jane and their eight children, sailed from the port of London on the ‘Graham’ bound for Port Phillip and Sydney, Australia. Their 5-year-old daughter Eliza Susan died during the five month sea voyage. In the first few years in the colony they lived in the Wollongong area where William Henry worked as a school master, they then spent about two years in the new settlement of Purfleet, Manning River. The SUTTON family moved back to Sydney in 1860 when William Henry secured a job with the Great Southern Railway as station master at Petersham on an annual salary of £150 + £25 per annum in lieu of a house.

William Henry SUTTON was dismissed as Station Master in January 1868 under controversial circumstances involving a crash of a goods train and a passenger train between Petersham and Newtown stations. There was a coronial inquiry and a Supreme Court case which exonerated William of blame. He took the job of Writing Clerk, working 7 days a week, in the parcels office at Sydney Station at a pay cut of about £65 per annum. In 1868 William Henry and his wife were supporting six unmarried daughters and most likely their 18 year old son Fred. In April of the same year his eldest son William died of tuberculosis, and burdened with mounting debts William Henry filed for insolvency in October 1869. He continued to work in the parcels office until his death from cardiac arrest, aged 71 at his home at George Street, Waterloo, Sydney in August 1879.


Henrietta and Ada SUTTON were the youngest daughters of William Henry SUTTON and Jane Penelope WELLINGTON. They were both born in Australia and were home schooled by their father, mother and elder siblings. Neither of them married and they ran a small private school from their home ‘Merton’ 106 Station Street, Newtown, from the 1890s until the 1920s. Those in the family who recall the sisters in their old age, remember Henrietta (or aunt Ettie, as she was known) was a tall, thin woman and aunt Ada was short and round. One sister was quite deaf and rarely spoke, and the other evidently spoke enough for three people.

Frances Elizabeth and Rebecca WELLINGTON were two daughters of George WELLINGTON, a chemist of Yeovil, and his second wife Elizabeth SAMPSON. They were sisters of Jane Penelope WELLINGTON and aunts to Henrietta and Ada SUTTON. The two sisters became governesses and took up positions with families who could afford a live-in tutor for their children. A governess would have to be accomplished in many subjects in order to teach her young charges. The WELLINGTON sisters were most likely well-read, had a good grasp of mathematics, spoke french, would be able to draw, play an instrument, dance and sing.

From her signature inside a book, we know that Frances Elizabeth WELLINGTON spent some time living in Heidelberg, Germany, so she most likely spoke german. In 1851 she is the 28 year old governess to Rosanna GODWIN and her family of Blandford, Dorset. Frances’ half-sister Elizabeth was married to Simon GROVES, a chemist in Blandford Forum, so she had family close by. Frances does not appear to be in England on Census nights in 1861 and 1871 so perhaps she was living abroad with a family in Heidelberg during this time. In the 1881 Census she is either visiting or living with her sister Rosa and brother-in-law, Frederick HAYDEN, a chemist of Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Frances died in Bristol, England, aged 82, while living with her youngest sister Ellen, a retired draper.

In 1851 Rebecca WELLINGTON is working as the 16 year old governess in the houshold of Henry RICHARDS, farmer and land surveyor of Winterbourne, Kingston, Dorset. 10 years later she is the governess in the Reverend Walter ALFORD, the perpetual curate of Drayton and Muchelney, Langport, Somerset. In 1871 Rebecca, aged 37, is employed as the governess to the children of Joseph and Emma SYMES, a surgeon and medical superintendent of the Dorset County Mental Asylum, at Charminster. She is still employed in this position 10 years later in 1881. Rebecca died in Fordingbridge, in 1885, aged 52, most likely while living with her sister Rosa.

As a governess was usually single (I hate the word ‘spinster’), she relied heavily on savings she banked or put in an annuity fund to sustain her in her retirement. Many single women relied on their families to accommodate and support them between assignments and in their old age.

NEXT MONTH – The Rag Trade – Tailors and Drapers