Brighton to Minehead, 1838

Letters from the past
"No seat, No fire.."
Brighton to Minehead, 1838
by
Eunice Shanahan

This letter is addressed to the Revd Thos Richards, Alcombe near Minehead Somerset, and was written by two people, first G. H. Goodman, and then by James Richards. It is written on black-edged paper, signifying a 'mourning' letter, and the contents of the letter shows why.

There are 4 postal markings,

outside of letter

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1a) a partly struck BRIGHTON date stamp,
1b)a London receiving stamp morning duty EX 22 DE 22 1838. Incoming mail usually had the morning duty stamp, which was identified by the year being in a straight line. Mails travelled overnight from all over Britain, and it must have been bedlam at the General Post Office, as mail coach after mail coach arrived with bags of mail to be sorted, stamped and distributed.
There are two charge marks, one crossed out and replaced. The manuscript markings are often a puzzle, firstly to read what they have written and then to work out why the charges have been altered.

In this case, the distances involved are 58 Brighton to London
1c) 8 pence ; and 162 London to Minehead, so the two together should be 220 miles
1d) 11 pence , which would have to be paid by the addressee. The erased figure looks as though it could be a 10, which would be incorrect, so the London postal clerk would have amended that to 11.
The black-edged sheets of paper — and later envelopes as well — were produced by the paper makers and could be bought at stationers shops. These papers are still being produced, although I have not seen any in use for a good many years. This particular letter was written on paper produced by J WHATMAN dated 1836, a large paper mill in Maidstone, Kent, which is still producing paper products to this day.
So now to the first part of the letter

inside of letter

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which shows that life does not change much — it is always a bad time if you have to sell something in a hurry.
" 2 New Steine St, Brighton 21 Decr 1838
Dear Sir,
The reason you have not received a letter sooner is wishing to save you postage until Miss Richards could inform you she had finally settled all. altho' every exertion has been made to get the best price she could not obtain more than £40 for the whole as it is the very worst time in the year to sell such articles in Brighton, & the party did not seem at all anxious to take it even at this price, she was obliged to pay the rent up to Xmas for although there ought to have been some trifling deduction the Landlord would not settle without & unless he was settled amicably with, the Broker would not buy the things at any price. The reason the probate has not been sent to Messrs Tanners is, it was necessary to forward it to the Agents in London to get the half pay up to Mr Richard's death allowed & as soon as they have done with it they will forward it to Bristol."
From the next paragraphs, it is obvious that this young widow has friends who are working on her behalf to sort out the financial affairs — selling the furniture has not brought in much money. Medical bills are also more expense.

"Coll. Trickey has very much interested himself to get an allowance from the compassionate fund & has succeeded in getting an allowance of £5 a year for the five youngest children.
Miss Richards had £30 to pay for each, consequently had only £10 balance. Mr Richards funeral bill including a small portion of mourning amounts to £30, all but a fraction this of course she could not pay, not having sufficient money.
She is at present stopping with us, she has been here going on three weeks, & having taken a severe cold which brought on inflammation she was obliged to have medical advice but is now much better.
Having been to London on Business called on Mrs Livermore & saw Mary Ann who was also very ill & under the Doctor.
Previous to Miss Richards leaving I will make up the Accounts for her.
I am happy to hear Mrs Richards is so much better and that the children are all well & remain
Dear Sir, yours most respectfully
G. R. Goodman"
A Tasmanian friend followed up some of my queries and has found that this Mr Goodman is entered in the 1841 census as being a solicitor and attorney; that the addressee was the local vicar in Alcombe from 1834.

The writing then changes and the letter is written from a new address

inside of letter

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"Brighton, 109 St James Street 21 Dec 1838"
I think this is written by the eldest son, who is now at work, and has a few complaints to relate to his uncle.

"My dear Uncle
I should have written to you before this but waited untill you were settled. I like Mr Paine very much & the Business, but the only objection I have there is no Fire in the Shop, which is so very cold at this Time of the Year. I have not a place to sit down in except the Shop, and altho' Mr P has got a Sitting Room up stairs, I might when at leisure go and sit down and Improve myself. I thought it necessary to name this to you as others have got one. We all dine with Mrs Lambe on Christmas day as it is her wish, they send their love to Tommy & Fred. It gives us great pleasure to find that Fred is so well & happy. Wish all our kind love to you all & Glad to find Grandmamma is better.
I remain, My dear Uncle
Your affectionate Nephew
James Richards"


On the outside wing of the letter is this postscript :see Fig. 1 again
"P.S. Thomas Higg Richards, born 4th Jany 1829, Christened by the Revd Mr Bracken 4th March 1829,
Frederick Augustus Gibbs Richards born 7th June 1835, Christened by the Revd Mr Yard 5th Augst 1835."
I cannot imagine why he would have put these details on the letter, as it seems to be the information about the younger children born to Mr and Mrs Richards, and James mentions these two in his letter. Perhaps it was necessary proof for the allowances being sought by Coll. Trickey. It does sound from the first part of this letter, as though this poor widow was going to have a tough time with a young family and no income. Perhaps young James would have had to become the breadwinner.

From further researches my Tasmanian friend has found :-
a) that in the 1841 census the addressee the Revd Richards was living with his mother, and a 5 year old Frederick Richards. This seems likely to be one of the young brothers mentioned here.
b) that Mr Paine (for whom young James was working when he wrote this letter), was a chemist, and over the next 30 years, young James moved up to being a druggists assistant, then he married the landlady's daughter and eventually became a chemist himself with his own shop, and he died in the late 1890s. The entry in the 1901 census shows his widow to be living on her own means. So after a hard start with no fire and no chair James Richards had a successful life.


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