Letters  from the Past

“Mrs Col. Macpherson
Portland Square, Plymouth, 1835 ”.

This is the last of the letters we have concerning the Macpherson family, and it has given us an insight into the lives and travels of a group of people including The Army man Duncan Macpherson of the 78th Foot Regiment in Scotland. It is addressed to Mrs Col. Macpherson 2, Portland square, Plymouth Devon and the postal markings are a Stafford CDS MA 12 1835, where it was lodged and the charge mark is 1/- , the cost of sending a single letter over a distance of between 230 and 300 miles.

It is very long letter, closely written and crossed on three of the pages and on the ‘wings’. As I started transcribing, it tells a marvellous travel story, and she is obviously a very good correspondent. However, it becomes obvious that Miss Janet McGilleveray has written it over a period of time, so it is hard to know which section follows which. But in the third page she has this sentence
“My next will contain a further account of my journey” , so I think that sentence is the key to the letter, to explain the outline of the different sections. Some of the words have proved impossible to decipher for one reason or another, and in that case I have put either a suggestion or a query in brackets.

Miss Janet McGilleveray has left Plymouth to take up a post teaching the children of Mr Wyatt who is a lawyer, living in Lichfield, Stafford,and who is the political agent for Lord Lichfield. She wants the Colonel’s wife to know every bit of news about her journey and how her new life has begun.

For her to have reached Lichfield from Plymouth involved three different mail coaches, and included a sidetrack, which she thought would be an economical idea, but which turned out to be a big mistake. It begins :-

At Harvey Wyatt’s Esquire Acton Hill, near Stafford.

My very dear Mrs Macpherson is I know expecting a letter from me which she ought to have had before this.

Soon after we left Exeter we took up a lady who I found a very agreeable companion as far as we travelled together. She has had lodgings in the house held by Bampfylde Carew the King of the Beggars.


This is a reference to Bampfylde Carew the King of the Beggars, and this is an extract of information from Wikipedia.

Bampfylde Moore Carew (1693–1759) was an English rogue, vagabond and impostor, who claimed to be King of the Beggars. He was the son of Reverend Theodore Carew, rector of Bickleigh. The Carews were a well-established Devonshire family. Although they had a reputation for adventurousness, Bampfylde Moore Carew took this to extremes, if his picaresque memoirs are to be believed. Little is known about his life beyond these, in which he is described on the title-page as ‘the Noted Devonshire Stroller and Dogstealer’.

The Life and Adventures of Bampfylde Moore Carew was first published in 1745 and continued to be a best seller throughout the next hundred years in numerous editions as books and chapbooks. He became a nationally known character, appealing to a provincial audience. One edition of his life was printed in Hull in 1785.


The letter continues

She lived for many years in India & will return in August or September. At 12 oclock two of the outside passengers became my companions for 3 hours, one a half tipsy man who was going to Birmingham. He was so troublesome, repeatedly offering me a drink from his Brandy bottle.

He asked me which of the gents on the seats was my husband! As I said I cannot tell whether he is in front or at the back of the Coach
“Pray, Madam, have you your Baby with you?”
He was my tormentor to Birmingham. I was so surly to him. We arrived at Bristol at ½ past 6 Thursday morning, started for Birmingham at 7. Breakfast at Newport, 17 miles from Bristol, arrived at Birmingham at ½ past 6 evening. You never saw a more deplorable creature than I was when I arrived at Barton on Friday morning. I had not had a good wash since I left Plymouth – every feature was swollen and my lips were such a sight washing is very much more expensive than at Plymouth.

She then continues the story of her journey, which in retrospect may have seemed exciting, but at the time it was frightening.

You will perhaps be surprised to hear that I was only one night on my journey being (provided?) by a very agreeable companion from Bristol to Gloucester. To proceed from Birmingham to Barton that night - in that it was only an hours ride, which plan I accordingly adopted willing to save a few shillings if I could, I arrived at Birmingham at ½ past 6 o’clock and took my place in the Coach for Lichfield, which proved to be the 8 o’clock Mail. My Bristol friend had vanished since. Barton is 26 miles from Birmingham!! and owing to an accident which had nearly occurred we were detained some time on the road.

A very tipsy man on one side of me was rolling off the Coach. The Coachman turned around to save him, the horses going at full speed, turned a corner rather too quickly we were within an ace of being upset, and if so, more than one life would in all probability have been lost as we should have been dashed against a very high Brick wall. The traces broke. The Guard and Coachman got down and were some time before they could recover the horses to enable us to proceed &emdash; so that we did not reach Barton town till after midnight. Only fancy not an Inn near where I could sleep.

After some moments conference the Coachman or Guard knocked at a door and asked the old woman if she could give a nights lodging. “No” she said “I am quiet full ”. This she repeated 3 times and she was the most frightful looking creature I ever saw, gaping incessantly for she had been in bed for two hours. I was obliged to ask the meaning of her words, I really felt frightened at her appearance, and nothing could I get from her but “quiet full”. I offered her 2 shillings if she would let me remain in her parlour or if she would send a guide with me to the Wyatts (the old Gentleman). She had no messenger &emdash; that it was nearly a mile from her house.

The next paragraph shows what trouble she had just to get her sleep for the night, and it resulted in embarrassment for her, but not the landlady.

Well I coaxed the old body to make up a fire in her kitchen, but not an inch of candle would she allow me and her questions were not a few as to who I was &c &c. I placed 4 chairs together and laid me down and in a moment I was sound asleep and did not wake till 8 o’clock the next morning when I found the old dame very busy at Breakfast and several persons in the room watching me, the old Dame giving them an account of the “Stranger”.

When I did wake all were eager to render me assistance. I had the cramp in every limb, one rubbing my feet and another my hands. As soon as I could walk I set off for Mr Wyatt’s where I was most kindly received, Miss Holland was foremost. A comfortable and warm bed was instantly made up for me. Old Mrs Wyatt who is very deaf, so much so as to be obliged to use a Trumpet, was ransacking her brain what would do me good, my feet must be put in warm water, and bed must be warmed and I was to be well dosed with Brandy, however that I positively refused, preferring tea.

At this point she has reached her destination at the house of Mr and Mrs Wyatt, so the next few paragraphs are devoted to her comments about her new situation

At 5 o’clock I got up and was introduced to Mr Harvey Wyatt with whose manner and appearance I was much struck.

Mrs H.W. was very pretty and much younger than I fancied her to be, she is only 33, her (manner?) is very pleasing, she often reminds me of Dear Mrs Brenser. There are 4 children, Jemima Frances 9 years old, Arthur Harvey 7, Bertha 2 and Robert 3 months, a very great beauty. My two pupils are very nice children but backward in their education. I assure you my dear good Mrs Macpherson I feel very grateful to that Great Being who has raised me up so many kind & good friends and placed me in this comfortable home. Mrs Harvey Wyatt & Miss Holland are most attentive & seem to consider my comforts in every way which continually brings to my remembrance the amiable & good friends at Plymouth.

We remained at Barton till Friday when we came here. The ride from Barton is most beautiful, a distance of 20 miles. We passed Wolseley Hall, the seat of Sir Richard Wolseley, Kings Bromley Hall & three or 4 other noblemen’s Halls. We drove around Lord Litchfields Shugborough Hall & Park, .

Mr H Wyatt keeps a phaeton & gig. He is by profession a Lawyer and Agent to Lord Litchfield of whom he rents this large Farm, there are 30 milking cows!!, between 6 & 700 sheep & animals of all descriptions. Acton Hill is quite infested with Wild Rabbits & Hares, it is no uncommon thing for the Rabbit Catcher to bring in sixteen dozen in one day, they destroy all the flowers. Last evening two hares took shelter at the Hall door, & rabbits by dozens in the flowerbeds, we tapped on the windows, but they were too bold to mind us until we opened the window. How delighted Herbert would be with this pretty place, there is so much to amuse a child. I went yesterday to see a sheep shearing.

I have a very pretty and comfortable bedroom to myself with every possible accommodation, a large chest of drawers beside a wardrobe, adjoining is the schoolroom equally comfortable. My only wish is that I could move Portland Sq & the dear Dr & his family to this neighbourhood. I forgot (to mention?) Mrs H.W’s voice is so like dear Mrs Brenser’s it quite startled me at first.

The rest of the letter is asking questions about the family and friends she has left behind, and why it has taken so long for her letter to be put into the post at Stafford.

I think I must have tried your patience, but I must not conclude without thanking Dearest Margaret, Lucy & my little friend Herbert for their letters. Tell Margt with my affectionate love that I hope her hints will not be lost to me, she is always so desiring to do me good. How is Alex cold, I hope well by this time. I was very sorry I did not wish Eneas & Herbert good bye, also Honor. Tell Eneas I hope he has rubbed off some of the rust off his (?) now.

Mrs Coleman is visiting at No.2 for they were really in sad want of a little good English alias British Polish.I have not been (warm) since my arrival at Acton Hill, it stands so high. I am sitting close to a roasting fire in the school room & I am still cold. Give my love to dear little Miss Tod & tell her my things came very nicely except for the front of my velvet Bonnet & pray do not forget to tell the dear Doctor & Mrs Cookson how happy I am you know they will be anxious of my coming here. Herbert informs me in his letter that the Major had some idea of visiting Plymouth, is it to fetch Aunt Sarah? When is Miss Walker to be married? I hope to hear of it very soon ! Of course you have heard from my good friend Miss Kennedy, how is she, what are her plans? Has dear Mary sailed? I long to hear all about her.

This next part is on the left side of the address, and I am not sure where it belongs.

We are 3 miles from Stafford. My letters must wait till there is an opportunity of sending them which will not be before Friday or Saturday, I believe. I went to Barton Church on Sunday & heard Revd Mr Gisborne, a very learned good man, the author of the sermons The Duties of Man and The Duties of Woman etc etc on the (?) James Cooper whose father published some sermons & other theological works. I wish I could get a frank that I might write a few more lines to Margt. I hope soon to receive my other trunks & that they be better corded than these I brought with me. I forgot to ask Alex what I was to pay the man for moving the trunks. Mr H. W, is the shortest man I know, such a little (piece of gravity?), it seemed impossible to make him laugh. He dines at Lord Lichfield’s today, very busy canvassing for his Lordship who is a Whig.

This next piece is crossed but does not run on to the last, but I think belongs somewhere else , and is obviously the end of the letter.

How are all at No.1 accessible sort, very handy to know. My best love to Margt, Lucy, Eneas , Alex & Herbert & to Miss Kennedy, & accept a large portion yourself, my very dear Mrs Macpherson and believe me ever to be your very grateful affectionate cousin

Janet Mae Gilleveray.

The letter ends on this page but continues on the outside of the letter on the ‘wings’ with more crossed writing. But I think it belongs somewhere else From reading right to the end, I think she could not get a frank for another letter, so she started again with more information about the journey, but crossed over what she had already written, adding more details of her journey

Pray pray write soon for it seems an age since I saw you. If I had you here I could make you laugh with my adventures. I forgot to tell you that woman’s house where I slept is by no means respectable. My next will contain a further account of my journey.

God bless you all.


There is information on the internet about the places she mentions as having visited, and about Lord Lichfield.

Quote
Thomas William Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield PC (20 October 1795 to 18 March 1854), previously known as The Viscount Anson from 1818 to 1831, was a British Whig politician from the Anson family. He served under Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne as Master of the Buckhounds between 1830 and 1834 and under Melbourne, Postmaster General between 1835 and 1841. His gambling and lavish entertaining got him heavily into debt and he was forced to sell off the entire contents of his Shugborough Hall estate. Unquote
So it looks as if Janet McGilleveray may have been to see this before it was all sold off!
Also, as the Earl of Lichfield was actually Postmaster General at this time,(and he was her employer’s employer) the writer of this letter should not have been trying to defraud the postal system by obtaining a frank for her letter, as she herself would not have been entitled to Free postage.

Surprisingly, although there is information about practically all the people and places in the letter, I can find no information about Harvey Wyatt who was the Agent for Lord Lichfield in his political life as a Whig Member of Parliament, and a local solicitor.


For the first letter in this series, 1812 click here

For the second letter in this series, 1831 click here

For the third letter in this series, 1831 click here

For the fourth letter in this series, 1834 click here

For the fifth letter in this series, 1834 click here

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