This letter was written on August 3rd 1832. It was addressed to Messrs J Cockburn & Campbell 32 St Andrews Square, Edinburgh N.B.These initials stood for North Britain, and this was how a lot of mail was addressed coming from England and going north to Scotland at that time.
It has four postal markings1) a Warwick date stamp of Aug 3 1832
2) TOO LATE stamp applied in Warwick to show it had missed that day’s mail to Edinburgh.
3) a receiving evening date stamp from Edinburgh of Aug 6 1832
4) the charge in manuscript, 1/1-1/2 (one shilling, one penny and the Additional halfpenny Scottish mail tax). This charge would have been put on in Edinburgh so that the cost would be recovered from Cockburn & Campbell before they delivered the letter.
So now to the transcription of the letter.
College Warwick Aug 3rd 1832
Please to send me two dozen of Sercial in Pints & two doz of Lisbon. Having mislaid your last letter
I have to request you to write the amount of the Wine before sent together with that of the present order.
I am Sirs,
Your very obedt. Servt.
The letter is written on very thick cream paper with a good watermark of an elongated crown, no initials, no date This is the type of crown watermark used by paper producers on page size Imperial and also Demy.
This is the kind of fascinating letter which leads to all kinds of questions.
Is/was there a College in Warwick now or in 1832?
I contacted the Country Records Office in Warwick and received the following reply:-
23rd October 1998
As regards the College in Warwick, this is a reference to the grammar school which was founded after the dissolution of St Mary's College in 1545 and was housed from about 1700 until 1879 in the former residence of the vicars choral of the college. The school still exists as Warwick School (a minor public school), and is situated on the Myton Road in Warwick.
What position did George Innes hold ?
George Innes was head master of the school from 1792 until his death at the age of 82 in 1842.
So he was 72 when he wrote for this order from Edinburgh, not surprising then that he had forgotten the last order!
What were the two products that he ordered?
Now, this proved to be very interesting. they were both wine, and the internet search provided images of the first the ‘Sercial ’
The Wikipedia entry shows that it is a fortified wine known originally from Madeira.
Sercial Grape (Vitis) Color of berry skin, blanc
This image shows bottles which look dusty enough to have been ordered by George Innes in 1832
Species Vitis vinifera Origin, Portugal
Sercial is the name of a white grape grown in Portugal, especially on the island of Madeira. It has given its name to the dryest of the four classic varieties of Madeira fortified wine.
The grape is grown in diminishing quantities at the southern end of the island. After phylloxera devastated Madeira’s vineyards, the grape became more common on the mainland. Its late ripening allows it to retain its characteristic acidity.
The second item, the Lisbon, was a port wine.
Were Cockburn & Campbell well known wine merchants at the time?
Well, yes they were, they were founded in 1831 and the company published two books on their history. Unfortunately, the company was dissolved voluntarily in January 2019, having been in business for almost a century. As we have had this letter since 1998, we should have sorted it out sooner, as they may well have liked to see an actual letter addressed to their business only a year after it had been founded. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.