Letters from the Past
“A personal and very chatty letter of 1774
to Miss Spiedell in Uxbridge Common”.


Eunice Shanahan


This letter of 1774 is addressed to Miss Spiedell at Jacob Lerouox Esqr Uxbridge Common, Middlesex.
It has two postal markings. A manuscript ‘2’ for the postal charge (at that time more than one stage, not more than two stages), and a partly struck Bishop mark with OC for the month of October at the bottom, but no sign of a number for the date in the top half of the circle. There are no Receiving Office or Forwarding office name stamps, and without a signature or an address, it is impossible to guess where it originated.

The paper is cream, heavy woven and has a watermark on each side, Britannia in an Oval on the one side and a Crown above the letters GR on the other side, but no date. The letter itself is very fragile, and split in places, but as it is more than 200 years old that is not surprising. The letter covers three pages and the language used is astonishing for the 18th century. There is a notation on the front by a different hand a comment written sideways to the address “2d relative to 1/6…”. and Sept 1774,

It really is too fragile to open up to put into a scanner, so the other images were photographed with a camera, and the colour is not accurate.

The letter has little punctuation, has many words with a capital letter, and in the words which contain a double S the first letter shows a ‘long S’ e.g. addrefs for address etc. I find the language amazing for something written almost 250 years ago, as it shows a sense of humour, and the style of writing is so different from modern text or phone messages. It begins with no salutation, just straight into the content, with a remark that refers to the 2d postage which Miss Spiedell, (or more likely Jacob Leroux) would have had to pay to receive it.

Dive into your pocket my Spiedell for the other two pence, I am sure that you will with Pleasure to be informed that your Favourite is not only Guiltlefs, but is become in my opinion every (sic – appears to be missing a word) that I could wish him to be. It is impofsible to remain quite insensible to such merit & I know that your Generous Heart will rejoice to find that he is probably no longer to be made unnecefsarily unhappy that I should probably not incur the Title.

How I anticipate your Conjectures! For by this you will believe that the white slippers will be just in time but I must now be methodical in my relation, for I am sure that you are dying to know whether he was Ill, or what could be the matter. ’twas thus, On Friday morng I bounced away with great Indignation in my steps, to Mr T’s and sat myself in their Parlour, without knowing much what I expected or intended, but I suppose that I expected to see my (infido?) and in five minutes in he walked with all the appearance of Goodnefs and composure in his countenance and Pray Ma’am give me credit for my good behaviour, for I did not testify my Displeasure. In five minutes we were alone, and he continued to play with the Pen he had been mending, and to finish the sentence he was upon. I found by his.... … This was the end of page one, he turned overthe page and continued

Manner that he was innocent, so condescended to say “Pray was you particularly Engaged yesterday morning” “No just the reverse, for I spent my time miserably with People that I did not care for because I had not the liberty of being where I wished.”

The next paragraph is a surprise, as it is a complaint against the Post Office, and this is unusual in our experience of these old letters, as the postal system was known and respected as being so reliable.

Now I shall leave to your inventive imagination, to suppose what pafsed upon an explanation of the affair, and only tell you how the mistake happened. If you remember I mentioned on Sunday that I thought fit to consult Mr T about the Law affairs in consequence of which it was determined that I should grant my Fido an Interview on Thursday which Mr T’s has to signify to him by Letter, if he could not meet him. A Letter was sent to the General, Friday, time enough to arrive, but never did. So there is great vengeance proposing for the Post Office.

Our conversation as you may imagine was not final, but seems to portend one that will be so shortly, for he made his affairs appear so highly satisfactorily that Fate, Prudence and everything (but my regard for the Peace of my poor friend Mr B) seems to declare that I must determine in his favour. He is Daily in Expectation of some necessary papers from Inland (?Ireland?) which will be productive of some Decisive Plan which I imagine will be for me to enter into an engagement to be faithful whilst he goes to take posefsion: for till that is accomplished I think it would be highly imprudent to marry. I was with our Dr Friend in St. M L. & she is almost of that opinion, & I do assure you that I should not determine without the sanction of her & my amiable namesake, so pray get on your Considering Cap, for he threatens me with being very unruly. I admire his art paying his court in St. N.

You have been informed of the tete– a – tete I find. I am ashamed to be such an Egotist, but I think I should do injury to our friendship were I not to believe that you interest yourself in all my concerns, indeed, I think I should be ungrateful did I not believe it. And in justice to the Innocent I think this account was necessary.

If I am left a little Bewitched I intend to be very scrupulous & not go flirting about to Assemblies, but I may learn to Ope di because in France they are great Dancers. I have writ much in a short time & now hear the Bellman. Pray let me know when you come to town & believe me
My dear friend, with the greatest sincerity
Yr affectionate
Saturday 10 Oclock

Notes : First, the reference to the Bellman: this was the man employed by the Post Office whose job it was to walk the streets within the area to ring a bell to collect any letters to go back to the Post Office branch for processing and delivery. I could find no reference to a Receiving office in Uxbridge, or in Hillingdon, yet the letter has the 2d post charge so it must have been transmitted by the Post Office.

Second, I could not find anything about the addressee of this letter Miss Spiedell,

Third I did find out about Jacob Leroux who was an architect in the 1770s and in 1774 according to our letter, he was living in Uxbridge Common, Middlesex. The information from Wikipedia is that he made his name chiefly through projects in Southampton but also in London. He was responsible for the York Buildings and the Polygon, a 12–sided arrangement of houses and public buildings designed for Clive of India which aimed to rival the Royal Crescent at Bath. Leroux is believed to have been a pupil to the designer of the East India Company buildings in London. Among his projects in London was the Prospect Place terrace of houses along the frontage to Old Brompton Road in Chelsea now demolished.

Fourth I was interested to check the information about Uxbridge, as I had relatives who lived there in the 1950s, and at that time I had no interest whatever in the history of the place. I found out from Wikipedia that it is amazingly old.

Uxbridge is 15.4 miles (24.8 km) west-northwest of Charing Cross, now part of Greater London. It has a long history, with records from about 700 BC in the Bronze Age.

The name of the town is derived from “Wixan’s Bridge”, which was sited near the bottom of Oxford Road where a modern road bridge now stands, beside the Swan and Bottle public house. The Wixan were a 7th-century Saxon tribe from Lincolnshire who also began to settle in what became Middlesex. Anglo-Saxons began to settle and farm in the area of Uxbridge in the 5th century, clearing dense woodland. It is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1066 but appears in records from 1107 as Woxbrigge. St Margaret’s Church was built about 1166.

The Parliamentary Army garrisoned the town upon the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 and established their headquarters there in June 1647 on a line from Staines to Watford, although the king passed through Uxbridge in April 1646, resting at the Red Lion public house for several hours. Charles I met with representatives of Parliament at the Crown Inn in Uxbridge in 1645, but negotiations for the end of hostilities were unsuccessful due in part to the king's stubborn attitude. The town had been chosen as it was located between the Royal headquarters at Oxford and the Parliamentary stronghold of London.

Harman’s Brewery was established in Uxbridge by George Harman in 1763. There has been a market building there since 1561, but it was replaced with a covered market built in 1788, not long after this letter was written.

This must have been a time of development because in 1794 about 20 years after this letter was written the Grand Junction Canal opened linking Uxbridge with Birmingham and the River Thames at Brentford. By 1800 Uxbridge had become one of the most important market towns in Middlesex, helped by its status as the first stopping point for stagecoaches travelling from London to Oxford. For about 200 years most of London's flour was produced in the Uxbridge area.

References: "Great Britain Post roads Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839" Alan W Robertson

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