Chapter Four

Chapter Four
Business Upset

A Map of London in 1828
Printed for Allen's History of London. The big block highlighted in the middle is the General Post Office in St. Martins Le Grand, near St. Paul's Cathedral.

Note: Watling Street had a Receiving house of the London Twopenny Post from 1793 until 1804, when it was closed and not re-opened until 1849. However, at this time (1828-1833) the mail would have been handled by the General Post Office. To deliver these letters to Goodall and Alston, the letter Carriers would have only had to leave the building, cross Cheapside, walk down Old Change, and turn into Watling Street.


The next letter is a complete surprise. It is dated Glasgow 11th January, 1830. The postmarks are a black Glasgow datestamp 11 JA 1830, a Black Additional ½d handstamp applied in Glasgow — (Type 11A Fig 66 in Hodgson & Sedgewick reference book), manuscript 1/2 (the correct rate for Glasgow to London), and finally a red morning duty datestamp applied in London, showing the arrival date of JA 14 1830.

The letter was written in two parts, one by John Alston, Thomas's father, and the second part by his brother William. The father writes in an original way, using phonetic spelling in many cases, and also using Scottish or Gaelic words, which I have copied as he has written them.

"Dear Thomas,

I have to acknowledge yours of the 8th and I am truly at a loss what to think of all its contents. This of Goodals is what always distressed me. I was afraid of it and it was what brought me up to London, and when I consented to give him the £100 it was that he was to give you it all and when he refused that he should have been made to feel the effects of it for as he was behind, he would have eather to have paid up what he was behind and brought in more, or made him bankrupt, but now as it has not been so, what is to be done for the best.

(Note : this sounds as if Michael Goodall has skipped off with the funds, and owing money to the Alston's. This is quite unexpected, as in all the letters to date he has been meticulous in entering all the amounts he has collected and transmitted back to the office in London.)

The letter continues ....

I was in hopes from what you stated that you was to have got that person to travell for you that you mentioned, that was recommended by your neighbour above you.,

(Note : this reference to 'the neighbour above you' — According to the letter from the Archivist, the street directory shows that this could be either Johnson and Bulmer, at No. 95 who were also Scotch Warehousemen, or Richard Davies at No. 96, who was a Scotch Linen Warehouseman.)

but it would seem you intend to make trayal of Anthona — are you sure he will answer. Has he curage suficient to go through and to resist the wyles of your oponents for depend upon it, Mr. G will do all he can aganst you, I should have liked to hear from you that you have got that person or some other likely to have answered you — It would have been wise, If Mr G had given you up agreeable to promise, then Anthona had only to have gone over the ground without oposition, but now it is otherwise. I think you should see and get a steady man yet — and if so I have no feers. Mind you, your health from this is to be severely tried, by the way and if you are lade up who is to carry on the consern — Uncle Tom agrees with meif you do not get this at present, I feer you will have to do it when probably too late.

I most ernestly intrate you to mind and consider well what you are about. If the person you get does not sute you, then you could send out Anthona with him the next journey and by this way you would have brought him on. If your own health had permitted it, it would have been best for you to have taken the journey first yourself — but this I consider out of the question. But if you can get a steady man to travell for you with the extention you all would have made, I have no doubt but you will succeed

The money was sent you and you will have received it before this, as you was inform of it by Wm's letter on Wednesday night, which you would receive on Saturday morning. The patterns will be sent you by H Brown to (two) parcels which they have tomorrow or next day.

You do not mention whether the gingham was to be dressed or plain, nor how folded, nor what tickets. As they are ready, mention this in cause

Wishing you and John many happy new years and that God my direct your way at this time and bring all to a happy conclusion.

With best wishes to Mr and Mrs Carfax and all the ladys, and other friends,

Believe me, Dear Thos, your affectionat father,

John Alston.

P.S. We intend removing our dwelling next week — if all well.

His brother William then add his comments to the letter.


My Dear Thomas,

Your letter today has greaved me very much, its a shamefull trick of Goodall, I fear much your arrangement at present will not suit your purpose so well and am quite of the opinion of father that you will be much better to get a person that understands the nature of a journey, he will be better able to meet him in the battle.

I am afraid your health is rather worse than better, are you quite free from the complaint you had when down with us in Summer or is it your stomach that is troubling you — accompanied with the anxiety of mind on the present reason. You must be sure not to let it take too much toll of your mind, as you are quite aware you are naturally of a weak constitution and if you let these things pray to much on you, you will be apt to undermine your health altogether.

Trusting that God will deliver you out of your perplexity, I am yours etc, W.C.Alston

He then adds a note :-

P.S. Will send voucher to you for I. Taras money with your patterns etc. Please let me know how the ginghams are to be dressed, you mentioned you wanted some particularly tucked to the front of these. W.C.A

The contents of the letter are tantalisingly insufficient to explain exactly what happened at the end of 1830, but it does throw some light on the information given to me by the Archivist about the entries in the London Post Office Directory.He advised me that in the1830 London Post Office Directory Messrs Goodall & Alston are listed at 97 Watling Street, but in the 1831 directory only T.S. Alston is listed at that address, this letter seems to explain why the listing was altered.


The Fourth journey — January 1830

As a result of Mr Goodal's defection, the next journey was undertaken by A.Knight — despite John Alston's doubts about his capabilities. From his letter, Mr Knight has obviously had a tough time.

click for detail

The map shows where he travelled :-probable route based on contents of letter LONDON — WORCESTER via Oxford — SHREWSBURY via Ludlow- BIRMINGHAM via Wolverhampton — WARWICK — COVENTRY — LEICESTER — DERBY — SHEFFIELD via Chesterfield — NOTTINGHAM, & finally back to LONDON possibly via Oakham & Bedford, which appears the most direct route. Total distance, about 500 miles, and at the worst time of the year from the point of view of the weather. He went to Worcester, (117 miles from London) where he visited Bennet & Son on the 26th, then Mrs G Humphreys on the 27th. From there he went to Shrewsbury (154 miles) where he did business with Pritchard and Lloyd, then on to Birmingham where he wrote his letter, headed Birmingham, 31st January, 1830.

The map is adapted from a reproduction print in Alan Robertson's book Great Britain Post Roads, Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839 — see Bibliography.

The postal markings on the letter are a red Birmingham datestamp JA 31 1830, manuscript 9d (the correct rate for the distance Birmingham to London). It also has an inexplicable manuscript charge mark of 1/11½d

Dear Sir,

I recd your letter of 30th today and would not write if you had not desired me. I arrived here last night. I did not leave Shrewsbury till yesterday at noon. I did not think it worth while to stop at Wolverhampton I was kept at Shrewsbury longer than I expected on account of P & L, they were uncommonly friendly and Mr Loyd desired me to present his compliments to you. He admired the cuffs especially those without the frills. He seemed much pleased with the trimgs — those he took were principally good, showy things, such as turns last. B. Baly had picked out a nice little bit but his wife spoiled it for she would not let him take them because they had veining. He is friendly and said he would be sure to call when in town, which would be shortly. P & L prefer trimgs with veining.

At Shrewsbury I called on Wm Andrews, Bright & Witton, Hanmer & Gittings, Jones & Davies, Jas. Sayer, Chas. Vaughan, all prime but the weather is so bad and so intensely cold that muslins are quite out of the question. Trade is so bad that some of the travellers say they will go home, it is particularly disheartening to me, I have done the best I could, but cannot get orders, I have not been around here yet, but I am told that things are very bad here also. I am very thankful that P & L bought what they did — I had (except them) finished Shrewsbury and done nothing, and I was so cast down that one morning I could scarcely take any breakfast.

You are aware that there is very few accounts opened in any of the places I have yet visited, and to open new ones is next to impossible, however I shall do the best in my power. The people seem to have set their faces against collars in the meantime, P & L said they had by far too many. The most of the Shrewsbury people are taking stock previous to coming to Town. The most of them are in the fine trade. T.S. Cooper has not got in his Christmas acct as yet, is very thankful for the time which you have given him and will remit with an order. Do not send the order. Horton is an old man and will be up in town shortly and call to pay by the time it is due. He is Good. Should like to have more cuffs. I do not recollect of anything more that I have to say.

I remain, your mo. Obt. svt.
A. Knight

On the back of the letter he lists details of orders and accounts paid , from the customers in Worcester and Shrewsbury, and the names of the Inns where he will be staying on his journey :-

Woolpack, Warwick
Castle, Coventry
3 Crowns, Leicester
Kings Head, Loughborough
Red Lion, Derby (The old Gent told me the landlord wd give me the names of the people there,)
Angel, Sheffield,
Hotel Nottingham.

There are no other letters from A. Knight, so it seems he was not a success as a traveller.

Chapter Five

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