Sibton House, Yoxford

Letters from the Past

Sibton Park, Yoxford to Colchester, 1834

This month's letter is another of those chatty family letters, which throw a light on life in the previous centuries. It was written by a son living at Sibton Hall to his mother in Colchester. It has only two postal markings, the undated circular YOXFORD (a post office which has an annual income of less than £ 1000) and the manuscript charge mark of ‘ 7 ’ indicating a single letter carried over a distance of between 30 and 50 miles. Yoxford was 93 miles from London and Colchester 51, so the difference was 42 miles. The paper is a good quality cream, but has no watermark. The address panel (Fig.1) appears to be : Mrs. Errington, The Casnid, Colchester Essex. The ‘7 ’ charge has been written through the address, which makes it difficult to be sure. Above this address are the initials T.R.E., which appear to be the initials of the sender. Maybe be wanted his mother to know who had written the letter, so that she knew she could pay the 7d to receive it!

I was unable to trace any place in Colchester called The Casnid, and wondered if it might have been demolished.

However, I contacted the Essex County Records Office and Catherine Newley Assistant Curator of Community History Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service very kindly looked in their records and e-mailed me the result

quote

I went on the Essex Record Office's online catalogue (http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk/Default.asp) and searched for "errington".

The following record came up: D/DEl T416

“ Deeds of capital message in Lexden Road called the Casina and adjacent cottage ”

Capital message is just a legal way of referring to a manor house. So the mystery is solved!

I hope that helps. It's always nice when I can solve an enquiry!

unquote

I was very pleased with this, and sent a photocopy of our letter for their records.

I had better luck myself with the address of the writer. Not only is there a website for this place ‘ Sibton Park ’, but I have friends in that part of England who very kindly went there and took photos for me. (fig.2)

Sibton

Now to the letter, which begins with his concern for his mother’s health, and then continues about his wife’s health. (Fig.3)
“ Sibton Park Jan 10 1834

My dearest Mother
You wish to have some account dear Fanny ’s health, and had she herself been well enough she would have given you a line and would have explained her case better than I can; particularly as I have only a few moments to do it in. Let me however first say how concerned I am to hear that you are again worse, as I had flattered myself from the account you gave of yourself in your affectionate letter to me that, you were gaining ground; this weather is a great draw back to invalids, and I trust a change may effect you for the better.

Fanny has had within this week a return of the inflammation of stomach wh. Formerly two years ago, attacked her, and has been suffering much in consequence. Dr. Wilson who has been attending her twice a day, pronounces her to be gradually mending, though he says she will be thrown back most considerably by this attack — She does not keep her bed and her spirits are tolerably good. She is much pulled down and looks very poorly. The children have been ill from the water pox – but are doing well. ”

(Note: I had not heard of the ‘ water pox ’, but have since found out that it is a form of Chicken Pox or Varicella).

He then continues with local information, including a comment about oysters, which shows that they had been sent, obviously by carrier, presumably from Colchester. He finishes with affectionate greetings to everyone.

“ Ambrose and Hodgson left us last Saturday. I go tomorrow & Blunt next day or Monday. I shd like to see Hal, on his return to Sibton.

The Oysters were excellent & Robt begs to thank my Father who I am glad to hear is all right again.

Eliza quite well and good – Best love from all to my Father & Fred & Hal, and trusting my dearest mother that you may be gaining ground.

I am, your very affect son,
T R Errington. ”

Another of the photos sent by my friends was of the Yoxford Post Office, (Fig. 4),

Yoxford Post Office

and also the local inn (Fig.5) which is a very attractive old building, showing the gateway through which the coaches would enter the premises.

Yoxford Inn


When they went there they found that Sibton is a small rural village that has almost been submerged into Peasenhall, famous for supplying the Queen Mother with bacon and ham, and the infamous Red Barn murder.

They were able to contact the present-day owners of Sibton Hall, and gave them a copy of this letter for their records. The owners found it most interesting, and gave me the following information – including a comment about the Aussies sporting prowess.


“Thank you for your letter. I don ‘t have any details of that family and they are not as far as I can recall, mentioned on the transfer documents when my great-great-great-grandfather bought Sibton Park in 1840. The letter is dated 1834 so they predated our time here but they may also of course have lived in one of the houses or cottages that were part of the estate at that time. There were about 60 of these at the time we purchased the property.

It is interesting how these things turn up from time to time. I had a letter recently from an Australian who lives I think in Sale, Victoria, who had come across some photos and a letter from here mailed in the 1870's. It turned out to have come from the neighbouring estate, Sibton Abbey.

Perhaps the Australians are getting serious about their roots instead of just mocking our sports teams. ”


I had not heard of the Red Barn murder, but found out that the story as reported in Gill Elliott's "Hidden Suffolk" was rather sad. In June 1902 Rose Harsent a maid at Providence House, who was pregnant, was brutally murdered in the Red Barn. The finger of suspicion fell on William Gardiner, a married man, father of six children, and a member of the Primitive Methodist church, as was the late Rose. He was arrested at his house less than 200 yards from the scene. An inquest was held at the Swan Inn; an adjourned hearing took place at the assembly room and he was committed to trial at Ipswich where H.F.Dickens, son of the famous author, was one of the prosecution team. The police bungled their investigation, witnesses were shown to be unreliable and the jury acquitted Gardiner. At the anniversary of her death the skies are said to darken. Rose was buried in the churchyard close to the path to the church door, although the author was unable to find the grave.

The research for each of my letters always seems to lead me to some new interesting facts. It is not possible for me to be bored with postal history.

This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.

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