Unthank, Norwich

Letters from the Past

Mr. Barker of Shipdham, Norfolk
to C.W. Unthank, Norwich, Norfolk, 1835


Eunice Shanahan

This letter was interesting to me because of the reference to the letters being "too late". It was written by Mr Barker of Shipdham to C. W. Unthank Esq Solicitor in Queen Street Norwich, and has only two postal markings. The first is the town name stamp where the letter was lodged SHIPDHAM and the second is the cost of the postage ‘7’ = seven pence.


We had never heard of this place, and it does not appear in the reference book by Alan W. Robertson, ‘Great Britain Post Roads Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839’ but it is in our Readers Digest atlas of Great Britain, illustrated here. The reference in that atlas notes that the name is from Anglo Saxon and means estate with a sheep fold,

The letter begins

Shipdham Decr 7, 1835
My Dear Sir
At length I send you the deeds duly executed (and attested) by R.Pillans and I.R. Barker. I took the earliest opportunity of sending them to R.P. who returned them in a day or two, but on looking at them before they were sent to I.R.B. I found that the Witness had omitted to put his attestation to the Lease for a year, which rendered a further delay unavoidable.

I have a letter from Robt Copeman dated the 2nd inst from your office, requesting an answer by return of Post. It appears however not to have been put into your post office till the 3rd, and then to have been too late, so that I did not get it till Saturday the 5th.

I mention this circumstance because nearly half the letters I receive from you are stamped "too late" and consequently do not arrive so soon by a day as they should do, which might be the occasion of much inconvenience.

I send the parcel this day by Clarke our Carriers, at whose quarters (+) you will make enquiries if it is not received before you get this.

I am My Dr Sr
Yours faithfully
R. Barker
(+) Wheat Sheaf Bethel St

The reference to the "too late" post marks attracted me, as I have a special interest in these and have a section on our website with information and examples of the different styles used over the years. This link Too Late will take you to that section.

We have been collecting and researching old letters for not far off 50 years, and nowadays it is so much easier. For this letter, I did an internet search and found information and/or images about all of these people and places in 15 minutes.

1) the addressee of the letter, Clement William Unthank of Intwood, where he apparently owned all the Parish of that name. 2) Shipdham, the largest village in Norfolk which has a really good website, including a Notice board to advise of parish events. See (*) below.

3) Queen St Norwich, which is still there, and runs off King Street into Chapel Street.

4) The Wheat Sheaf Hotel at 14 Bethel Street, Norwich which was a really ancient public house/hotel, but finally demolished in 1936.

This is a copy of an old 1938 pic of Norwich showing the old Wheatsheaf pub stables sign still showing painted on the wall, long closed at that time.It was forwarded to me by a very helpful member of the Shipdham History Group. (*) I sent an e-mail to this website http://www.shipdham.org and received a reply almost immediately, asking for a scan of the contents so that they could confirm the details of Mr Barker the writer of the letter.

They replied the next day advising that
As I suspected, your Mr. Barker is well known to me and was in fact the Rector of Shipdham at the time! He was Rector from 1826 to his death in 1850.The Reverend Benjamin Barker was a man of considerable property, born in 1778, died 1850. I recognised his signature from the letter but was most surprised that he omitted his title of 'Rev.' but perhaps this was a way of distancing himself from public house premises. Also attached is a picture of his home, Shipdham Rectory, and his gravestone in Shipdham churchyard .


Shipdham Rectory

The gravestone has weathered over the years, so that in this photo the lettering has been covered to a great extent with moss, but the History group kindly sent the transcription

Benjamin & Benjamin Barker (Junr)
In Memory Of
The Rev. Benjamin Barker
rector Of This Parish
Died January 20th 1850
Aged 72 Years
And To
The Rev. Benjamin Barker Jnr
Eldest Son
Of the Above Named
Rev. Benjamin Barker
Died December .. 1849
All Saints

It is so amazing to us, as it used to take about 3 weeks to get information to and from Britain, always assuming we could find the addresses of the Records offices.

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