Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

Birmingham & the Midlands

& the Death of the KING.

Mr. Alston did not linger for long in London, as the first letter of this journey is dated 22nd June — only 12 days after his last letter from Bristol. This letter is postmarked Birmingham in red 22 JU 1830, and bears a receiving stamp of London morning duty 23 JU 1830. The charge mark in manuscript 9 is correct for the distance and weight.


Dear Thos,

You will pay particular attention to that order of Toney's, the pink gingham at 16d is a Manchester make and Scotch width, a very deep pink. It is for a particular customer so you must endeavour if possible to get his order sent off by return of coach — the pink gingham at 16d must be a very deep pink and they are selling regularly at 16d. The buff pattn sent he gets from Oughton of Manchester, it must be exact to pattern and not cost more than 11d. I find that there is a mistake in the prices of the 34 in plain black band, it is marked at 34/6 and the 36 in at 36/6. Sturges never gives more than 26/- for a quality as good as ours, he showed me the make.

I shan't get done here till tomorrow, when I shall go to Warwick, you had better send me some more habit shirts to The Woolpack to meet me there and some more cuffs. There are a few of the habit shirts you sent me yesterday you have not given the prices of them. Have sold some of them at 7/- as you will see by the sales. You will perceive I have sold the most of them — I don't think I will get to Coventry before Saturday, as Friday is market day and as I shall have to go to Byefield for Bonham's money.

I made a mistake in the statement of trim'g — I forgot to take in them you sent me, but I think it is only about 20 ps more.

I have not seen Mr Fulford yet, will see him perhaps tonight — called on Houghton and Roberts, did not want anything — Horton of Shrewsbury paid — Toney paid. I am glad to heard that you are doing something.

Yrs Truly J. Alston

P.S. Toney is anxious to get that Gingham into this half years acct of his customers, so try and get it off by the return of the Emerald.

The details of the orders he obtained are shown on the letter with the notation

'Per the Emerald Coach X Keys'


Many of these letters sent from Birmingham and the midlands request that the goods be despatched by Emeralds Coach, indicating that it must have been a reliable and economic method of despatching freight. From the wording of the letters it seems that it may even have been a daily service.


The next letter, a second letter from the same town, dated the next day has been rushed off to give vital information to Thomas. The details given explain the restrictions under which the Coach companies had to operate at that time, and are another example of actual historical information being available through such correspondence as this.

The letter is dated and postmarked Birmingham JU 23 1830, London morning duty datestamp of 24 June 1830 and there are two manuscript charge marks — the correct charge of 9d, but also an inexplicable 3/3d

Dear Thos,

I have just been making enquiries about Sturges and find that he is BAD, If you have not sent off the goods ordered DO NOT SEND THEM but forward the invoice to him requesting the remittance of the amount and the goods will be forwarded immediately.

If you have, send off the goods per Emerald as ordered I have been to the coach office and requested them to detain the parcel till they get orders from you, either to deliver or to return them — so that if you have sent off the parcel, write a letter to

Mr Radenhurst Neilson Hotel, Birmingham, requesting him to return the parcel as addressed, to your address, both of which I have given him.

If you have sent off the goods, you will require to send him the invoice requesting the remittance and saying that on receipt of the money you will forward the goods but on no other account to send them. If you do not send the invoice to him he will be calling at the office enquiring if there is a parcel for him, but by sending him the invoice, stating as above, he will not think the goods have been sent off — for the people at the office are bound to deliver every parcel according to the direction and if they do not do so they are liable — You better pay the letter

I shall leave this for Warwick tomorrow morning.

Yrs truly, J. Alston

He then adds this comment — but does not say who 'he' is, presumably Mr. Sturges.

He has given me a Bill for the amount here, at 2 months £8.10/-. Rogers paid £4.4/-.

This is evidently a 'panic' letter, to try to forestall a bad debt, even going so far as to suggest that Thomas Alston pre-pay the postage on the letter he is to send to Mr Sturges. There are no orders on this letter.


The next letter is a long one, dated Leicester June 26, three days after the one from Birmingham. The postmark is in red but a poor strike of 27 JU 1830. The other postal markings are a London Morning Duty receiving stamp dated 28 JU 1830 and a correct charge mark of 2/3 (3 x 9d) remittance enclosed.

(Note:- I have received information that there is an entry in W.M. West's book for Thomas Bache who was a general carrier,of Bishop St Office, Leicester Ros, Coventry listed under Canal Carriers to London, Liverpool, Manchester, and all the intermediate places, Thomas Bache, Ralph Henry Alcock, and William Newark, all from Coventry Wharf. — see bibliography. Also that as of November 1999 those streets are still there. Cheaping is from the old English word ceping, meaning market.)

Leicester 26 June 1830

Dear Thos.

Enclosed is cash and bills £64/2/-, Perrin has left Coventry and is now at a place near Worcester called Pershore, and I understand from a Gent to whom I was referred to know where he had gone, that there is no danger but we will get the money, so that you will write to him requesting the remittance £17/9/8. The address is Mr W Perrin, Draper, Pershore Nr Worcester. It is a concern which I understand he had before.

I called on Meigh and he would not give me cash for neither of the accts, he says GOODALL made the agreement that he was always to have a bill at 2 mos or 3 mos that it was all the same so I just had to draw a bill at 2 mos for the £28/9/-. I think we will be just as well to cut him, I shall tell you more about him when I get home.

I have not been to Byefield — after some enquiries I made about conveyances to it, I found that it is an out of the way place and no conveyance to it, it being a crossroad and between coaching and hiring a horse to go over to it, it would have cost a deal of money, and I was informed that there is a great Fair in the neighbourhood of Northampton and that there was 10-1 chance I should not get him, so I just thought it was as well not to go there.

Mallory wished me as an obligation to draw the bill at 3 mos, which I did. You will send him a pair or two Nankeen as a sample, he gets his from Jackson, pays 3/6 — he wants a lower price 2/6.

The Habit shirts are too coarse for Miss Tarn. I shall want some more cuffs sent me to the Kings Head Derby to meet me on Tuesday, I expect to get there that night, cuffs from 2/9 up, some Jact (jaconet) if you have them. I only came here tonight, have not been round yet — expect to be in Sheffield Wednesday or Thursday — if anything, to the Angel, Nottingham, Friday White Lyon.

Mr Fisher of Bells and Fisher of Birmingham will probably call and one of the gents of Seal and Jackson of Coventry, a very pleasant gent will perhaps call in a week or so and look at the habit shirts. I said we would be happy to send him an asst down on appro with which he seemed quite pleased.

Yrs Truly J. Alston


He then lists the sales/orders with comments :

Wm Browett, Coventry per Bache's Boat — (Note: see above reference to transport by canal, rather than by road)

Be particular that this order be done exactly to pattern ordered, if possible, as he is a most curious mortal to do with, but as good as the Bank. If we do this well, will do more again.

There is a gent, the name of Creighton in the room, he is from a Glasgow house but I do not know the house he is travelling for — there are some of the Glasgow houses getting themselves sadly into disgrace by their not executing their orders to patterns and being so long of sending them sometimes 5 or 6 weeks before the goods come.

He then adds another footnote, he has found out more information :-

Creighton is from McLarens.

He ends the letter with a request —

You better send me some more of the plain square collars to Derby, I think they will be wanted since the King is dead.


The astonishing thing about this is the King George IV died the day this letter was written 26th June, 1830. HOW DID THEY KNOW THE SAME DAY? The information would have been in the newspapers which came with the mail coaches. The mailcoaches were used to distribute news of national importance — usually victories or defeats in the various wars being waged all over Europe.

The nightly departure of the mailcoaches from the General Post Office was a recognised sight of London, and when any special event was announced, the horses and coaches were decorated appropriately. For the death of the King, the horses probably would have been wearing black plumes, and the coach guards black ribands found the brims of their hats etc. If this is true, why was there so much conjecture, and previous reports of the King's death at Bath and Bristol in the preceding weeks. However, this letter was postmarked the 27th, so he may have added the postscript the following morning before posting the letter.

George IV 1820 — 1830

from English Coinage

Epitaph for King George IV

When King George IV died on 26th June, 1830, his death was generally held to have been brought about by his evil living and was hailed with relief.

As an epitaph the Duke of Wellington commented on King George IV :-

"He was the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy and good feelings, in short a medley of the most opposite qualities, with a great preponderance of good — that I ever saw in any character in my life"


Now that the King's death had been announced, business should start to improve for the Alston's, but the contents of the next letter show that this may not be the case.

It is postmarked Derby JU 29 1830, and was received in London the next morning, receiving the morning duty stamp for JU 30 1830 double-ring in red, and the correct manuscript charge rate 10.

Derby 29th June, 1830

Dear Thos,

I have yours this morn, you better write to the Landlord of The Craven Arms, Coventry, to return the parcel, I do not know his name, but just direct the letter to the Landlord of The Craven Arms, and it will go safe enough,

(Note: what faith in the Post Office !)

I don't think there will be much black sold, people are quite stocked with blk goods of every description, the travellers in both the cloth trade and the print trade are complaining that they can do no business and there is no use showing col'd goods, but I hope to do something with these patterns you have sent.

Goodall has been round in this direction about a week ago, he has been to Leicester, Loughbro and is gone on by Nottingham. I shall leave this tomorrow for Sheffield, (Angel Inn), Nottingham Thursday (White Lyon), Ashby Friday, and shall have to go back to Loughbro as I have come on here to save a whole day — I expect to be home on Saturday evg late, or Sunday morng, there are a number of coaches going through the day.

(Another reference to the coaching system — which was obviously used just like modern public transport systems)

The orders on the back page are for Thos. Rogers Leicester,Per Pickford's Van.

(Note: Pickford's was a transport company which used the slower waggons for movement of goods across the country. When I left England in the 1970's Pickfords was still going strong, but using heavy motorised vehicles.)

Jos. Ewbank, Loughbro' per Peveril coach, Blossoms Inn.

Try to get a good ps of Gros at 2/4 for Ewbank — could sell lots at 2/-.

I find they are making very good silks in Glasgow, I saw a very nice ps and cheap.

Rogers is a customer of J and C Rogers — do things well.

It is obvious that Mr Goodall the salesman previously employed by them is still competing with them for the trade, and using the same routes and presumably the same customers.


The final letter sent on this journey to the midlands is dated and postmarked Sheffield JY 1 1830 and London double-ring 3 JY 1830, both in red. There are 2 manuscript charge marks 1) 1/8 (correct) and 2) 3/2 — this is not an appropriate rate — the quadrupled rate would be 4x10d = 40d which is 3/4d not 3/2d, so this is another inexplicable charge mark. It is possible that the overall charge of all the letters to be delivered to Alston on that day totalled 3/2d, a reminder to the letter carrier as to how much he had to collect.

The letter includes a large order for Bennets of Derby, to be sent per Pettifors wagon

Turner & Shaw, Derby to be sent per Bruce, Swan, Lad Lane, and

John Butcher Sheffield, to be sent per coach, White Horse, Cripplegate.

Dear Thos

You will please pay particular attention to that order of Bennetts, he is an A1.

The pattern of stripe book sent is wanted for a particular customer who bot 4 ps to make curtains, and they require 1 ps more, it must be exact to pttn and quality — he got it of Lethem and Robertson — gave 8 or 8½ it is a very good quality — if you cannot get 6 ps send 1 ps or as many as you can get but it must be exact to pattn don't substitute any other pattn for it, as it is to go along with the others — if you cannot get it, write by post to let them know, so that they may acquaint their customer as she lives out of town, let the linens be nice clean goods.

I put in the low cuffs at cost price to T & S, I will require to push things now, had to put in these to Butcher at the cost price too, as he is getting them from Todds — enquire at Mairs about Greening (*) his partner is dead but I was told he was safe.

Goodall was here last Saturday — I leave this tonight for Nottingham, expect to be home Tuesday morng.

(*) It was formerly Frith and Greening.

Yrs truly, J. Alston,

He then adds another footnote

If you should require to write, address to The White Hart Leicester.


So the travelling Mr. J. Alston finishes another journey and makes his way back to London. This time he had been out from the 21st June and would probably have been back in London 3rd or 4th July, depending on whether he called on clients on the way.

Chapter Nine

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