Did Janie actually propose?

Did Janie actually propose?

Suddenly we have news from Oxford, an encounter with Victorian celebrity and a suspicion that Janie might have popped the question.

1880 is a fragmented year to put together in Fred and Jane’s story as Fred’s diary eventually sputters out and there are few letters from this year. In the world at large, Disraeli was Prime Minister until Gladstone defeated him in the April election. Electric light was continuing its advance in to public spaces but life expectancy was still only half that of what it is now.

February 1880 Fred gave Jane the traditional gift of a pair of gloves on Valentine’s day and she gave to him a Valentine and a pen. Fascinatingly, on 29th of February, the discussion of marriage pops up:

“February 29. Sunday. Had a very serious talk with J about my affairs. Told her that at present I had only 28/- per week and that I expected I should be 25 years old before I could comfortably marry her. She said she would gladly wait for me.”

When I first noticed the date I suddenly wondered if Janie had popped the question. Or perhaps if not a full blown proposal, maybe the date emboldened her to go fishing for Fred’s intentions? Fred is 21 and Jane has just declared a willingness to wait for Fred for four years. Is this an engagement? Or is it what used to be known as ‘an understanding’? Whatever it this is, by this time Janie and Fred are obviously serious about each other. It is also a far better Valentine’s season than the one they had last year. I have to say though, I am loving Jane so much, even though I don’t have much of her writing for the first couple of years of their courtship. Her actions speak volumes and as much as the times allow, she is trying to be the architect of her own future. She sees something in Fred she belives is worth nurturing.

However with Fred wondering exactly how much he can expect for himself and his future with Janie, the very next day, he what had what must have been an encouraging encounter.

Fred paid close attention to technological and social advances – often going to lectures and public events. On the 1st of March 1880 he went to see Samuel Plimsoll ‘The Sailor’s Friend’ speak at the Cutler’s Hall in Sheffield. Plimsoll was the inventor and political advocate of the famous ’Plimsoll Line’ that prevented dangerous overloading of ships and boats and his activism must have potentially saved many hundreds of lives.

Samuel Plimsoll
Samuel Plimsoll

He was a local boy ‘made good’ and a shining example of a self-educated man – who had gone to morning and evening classes at the People’s College in Sheffield, before going on to be a clerk, an inventor, a millionaire, philanthropist, and eventually an MP. He was everything good about a modern Victorian gentleman celebrity.

(If you want to know more about Samuel Plimsoll, here is a transcript of a fascinating podcast about him: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/podcasts/transcripts/plimsoll_sensation.aspx)

Looking back over what I know so far of Fred’s life I think he must have had real ambition. The events that were to set him on a loftier path (and eventually give him the means to marry Janie) were still more than a year away but I wonder how much Fred was inspired and encouraged by man like Samuel Plimsoll. He must have seen something himself in Plimsoll’s beginnings – taking advantage of adult education, the very education that Plimsoll himself had undertaken.

Annoyingly, I think for Fred, one of his friends had landed a scholarship to Culham College, in Abingdon, not far from Oxford, to train as a School Master. Culham College Fred Johnson was one of Fred’s adult education friends and at that time it seems they were fairly close. He was the younger brother of Fred and Janie’s mutual friend Annie Johnson (who had acted as a go-between in the ostentatious swapping of likenesses the previous September). Of the sparse numbers of letters I have for 1880, the lion’s share are actually Johnson’s letters to Fred during term time. I’m sure that to begin with Fred would have been delighted that Johnson’s hard work had paid off, but Johnson’s letters to Fred have an edge to them that I really don’t like. It’s almost as if he’s rubbing Fred’s nose in it a bit.

Here is the full transcript of Fred Johnson’s letter of 8th March 1880. His description and evident relish in the bullying of fellow students is difficult to read. Also his judgement of his peers back home is rather harsh and smacks a little of privilege. I don’t know how much more privilege a grocer’s son would have compared to most of the steel factory ‘fodder’ back in Attercliffe but I don’t think Johnson has been much acquainted with working to exhaustion. In all of our Fred’s letters, the only times he is critical and judgemental of others is if the person or people in question are unfair, impolite or unkind. I just can’t imagine Fred approving of Johnson’s attitudes. You read for yourself, and tell me what you think – I’d be fascinated to know if I am finding there to be some toxic edge to Johnson or if I am just letting the values of the times cloud my own judgement.

(Annotations are my attempt at working Johnson’s shortcuts into sense)

“Culham College
March 8/80

Dear Fred
You were a long time answering my letter when reply did come was very welcome. I have not time to write such long epistles so hope you will not cut yours short if I only happen to send 4 sides.

Tell Ted if you happen to see him that I will try and write him during the coming week.

I do wish you had won [the game]. Arthur wrote and told me J Beardshaw had played better than ever had done before. Should have liked to have seen the Glasgow match it would be exciting. I thought Gregory had fallen off a good deal when we played Hallam. I expect by next year we shall be having you in some of the matches at least I hope so.

It is time another secretary was elected I think it will be a shame to let the club go on as it is doing. Hope will not come to the same end as the Cricket C.

Yesterday we played the best match we have had, the fellows played splendidly they came from a place close to Oxford. One fellow in particular could run, it was a treat. I had to go in goal. 1/2 time nearly had my nasal organ broken and muscle of calf kicked under my knee. Oh! it was scrupulous – limping out like a lame dog

Two juniors played in the match and a fellow from Manchester when we went into lecture room they did cheer and clap. I think our own glories .

“Sorry for you” favourite expression here. I have not grown quite homesick yet though I should like to come over at Easter very much but it is so far – takes two days travelling.

(Have been rather sick the other kind of sickness you refer to)

The fellows here taking them all together are proper, but there are two or three “cads” among them. They do get sat on properly by juniors and seniors. If a fellow goes too far they “rights” him. i.e. they get caps or cushions and let go into the fellow, ’tis a treat the fellow gets his head really knocked up.

There is a Londoner in our dormitory, he does get sat on properly. They rights them upstairs with knotted towels dipped in water.

The fellow that I have principally dropped in with is a proper little chap, (not chums yet). Rigley told me about him before I came so we managed an apology for an introduction. They call him Tom Wacham.

I don’t think that we shall ever forget each other, I think we know each other too well to separate. I do wish you were here old fellow it would be proper!

It seems the fellows in [Attercliffe] still have their two aims in life, “work + sleep” – they are a lot of consummate duffers they seem quite unable to realise that Mr H’s splendid lessons will do them any good. I don’t think, nay, I am sure that all the fellows who do attend don’t take much interest in the class or they would invite and bring others, but it is the same with everything they do, they make any number of promises but as for keeping them Why! such an idea scarcely seems to take their heads. They have not much real honour in them I think.

It would be a blessing if there could be a change I think in [Attercliffe]. If Mr Dawson can succeed why can’t Mr unmentionable.

I think you are one of the luckiest fellows in creation, you seem to be able to see J at any time. I wish I could only see another J. Thank (kiss) her kindly for remembering me. Don’t forget what Shakespeare says “the course of true love never did run smooth” so mind you are always on the look out for those little clouds which seem to come in everybody’s life. I hope however that these silvery – lined ones may never be broken for you both. I think you have found what these fellows often talk of your “flame of flames” Eh!

I hear every (once only) week from J– every Wednesday morning. She is coming over (I mean home) at Easter. We have todays recess but shall not go home it is not worth the trouble I think, and another thing ’tis a rather expensive journey. During Easter week I hope to see all the beauties of this neighbourhood, as yet country is too flooded to go far. The Thames has overflowed its banks and country underwater for miles. Have seen the Oxford crew they are a fine set of fellows. They almost make the boat fly. Went to Oxford last week. The buildings are grand college after college it seems to be all colleges.

I have not time to tell you anything I saw so must defer until some future occasion. This is the fifth time I have sat down to finish this letter. I first fancy that grand Association formed, the importance of its separate members, a second Pickswickian Club Eh! Everything made a note of + sent up to the representative.

The certificate list came out last week our Coll has only done poorly.

Second Year 16 First Class, 23 Second, 1 Third
First Year 12 “ “ , 21 “ , 5 “ .

Will Stones has got a first. Remember me to Arthur + mother also T Hughes.
Thanking you kindly for your good wishes hoping you are quite well
Your sincere friend

F Johnson letter example

Picture credits:

Header image: Valentine’s Card circa 1860-1880 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Card;_valentine_card_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Samuel Plimsoll: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Plimsoll#/media/File:Samuel_Plimsoll.jpg

Culham College. A teacher training college established in 1852 by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford. The Gothic Revival architect Joseph Clarke designed its buildings, and Sherwood and Pevsner described them as “institutional Victorian Gothic at its grimmest” http://www.culhamcollege.co.uk/history-of-the-college


When great great grandfather Fred beat Aston Villa

When great great grandfather Fred beat Aston Villa

Fred’s sporty genes have not made it down the family tree to me but I am finding the history of pre-league football oddly compelling. Footballs and cricket feature largely in Fred’s life but I don’t think I realised quite how much until this latest episode. Fred mentions that he “Played at football Attercliffe v Surrey” on 29th November 1879 which later he later refers to as the ‘cup tie’. This turns out to be part of the season for the 1879/80 Sheffield Football Association Challenge Cup (most of the matches have been recorded here).

When Fred and his mates were playing, professional football as we understand it now didn’t yet exist. However this was starting to change:
   “Between 1875  and  1885  almost  every  football  club  in  Britain  was  embraced  by  a  local
association, some of which conducted fiercely contested cup competitions. […]the oldest of these was the Sheffield Association, an organisation  that  was  very  highly  developed,  including, from  1873,  the  Sheffield Football Accident Fund, an insurance scheme for contracting players.
From the middle  of  the  1870s  the  Sheffield  Association  consisted  of  between  thirty  and forty  subscribing  clubs  and  a  membership  numbering  as  many  as  5,000  players. Naturally, the  revenue  generated  by  such  numbers  was  sufficient  to  enable  the Sheffield  Association to  purchase  a  fifty  guinea  trophy  in  1876  and  establish a  challenge  cup  competition.”

From ‘Football: The First Hundred Years’ by Adrian Harvey

The Attercliffians got through to the quarter finals that year after beating Talbot 2-1 on a very cold night despite being a man down at half time. The match was recorded in both the Sheffield Independent and the Sheffield Daily Telegraph (below) although frustratingly Fred has been incorrectly recorded as ‘J’ and not ‘F’ Shepherd:

Attercliffe v Talbot dec 1879 Shef Daily Tel
The match against Heeley on the 13th of December and Fred mentions it in an early letter to Jane, and moans about having to go all the way to Meersbrooke Park and that he’s not sure if he’s been selected to play yet. But he also sounds disgruntled by a possibly fatal lack of kissing:
   “Supposing I see you tomorrow night that will only make twice this week, instead of four times as it is usually, you will see a dejection in my appearance corresponding to the number of times but I haven’t seen you, rather kissed you, and seeing that your kisses are as life to me (poetical?) It stands to reason that I am half-dead

Fred records the events of the 13th of December as “Saturday, December 13. Cup tie Attercliffe v Heeley. Heeley won 2 to 0. Afterwards went to Circus with J.”

We have more detail about the football than any restorative kissing due to the account in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph:
Heeley V Attercliffe December 1879
Attercliffe (and Fred) also went on to lose a match 0 – 2 to Stavely (the eventual Cup Tie winners) on 20th December and Fred’s footballing exploits for 1879 were looking rather glum. However, the club managed to recover glory before the year was out as they took part in a traditional Boxing Day match and headed off to Birmingham to play Aston Villa.

I’ve looked in newspaper archives and search online and the only record I have (so far) of this match is Fred’s own diary record: “Friday, December 26. Went to Birmingham to play at football Attercliffe V Aston Villa. We won 4 goals to 1. Got home at 2.0 am on Saturday.”

I have found a photo of that seasons team for Aston Villa and it’s rather lovely to know that it was perhaps some of these chaps that Fred and his team played:
Aston Villa 1880

Picture Credits:
Association Football Match – Scanned from Athletics and football – published by Shearman, Montague, London, 1887

Aston Villa 1880 http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/Aston_Villa/Aston_Villa.htm

A young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of more than love

A young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of more than love

So I now know is what was concealed in the shorthand written by my great great-grandfather Fred in his diary of 1879. I owe a debt of thanks to Margaret Robertson, who I was introduced to via Facebook, and who kindly spent a lot of her free time going through and deciphering my great great Grandfather’s  archaic shorthand.

Fred was studying Pitman shorthand at the Sheffield Church of England Educational Institute. His diary up until now has been in longhand with the odd shorthand line here and there. However using shorthand for whole diary entries is new and as it turns out, to add a level of security so that Fred can talk about intimacies with Jane. I feel a little guilty that his careful effort only kept prying eyes out for 136 years but at the same time, my research into Fred and Jane is also rewriting my understanding of Victorian courtship – lover’s lanes are well in use.

I confess, after getting so fond of Fred – who is so funny, kind and conscientious – I am a little disappointed to discover that he is a man of his time with the expected attitudes towards women, their sexuality and their interests. However to watch him wrestling with his own preconceptions and the actually reality of a living breathing woman who he clearly adores is fascinating. I know that Jane, just by her own goddamn breathing is going to educate Fred and confound his expectations. And if the culture that has been handed down to me from her, via the three women between us, has survived relatively undiluted, I imagine she’ll have had no patience with any restrictions that didn’t suit her.

Below is most of the shorthand transcript. ‘__’ denotes a word that has been difficult to decipher. Words in brackets denote the most likely word.

“Tuesday, October 28
Went to H. Saw Jane at Darnall we had a very nice walk but rather uncomfortable on account of a conversation similar to Sunday nights thus: She said that Miss Gibbons at Darnall holy went into her young man’s room (for/after) (dressed/dressing).
I said that she ought not to talk about such things. I also said that I was of the opinion that people never did anything before marriage but that I was gradually losing that opinion. From her manner I thought that she would not take much persuading to do the same thing between us, so I said that I hoped we should never have anything of the same (opinion). Afterwards I questioned her about her former admirers thinking that I should find out whether they had taken liberties with her. I didn’t find out. I didn’t ask her point blank, but nothing today, so another time.

Wed Oct 29th
I am very uncomfortable today owing to our conversation last night. Though no doubt like for us both to be a little sensual, it is not very nice to think of one’s wife as being too fond of it.
5.00 pm  I almost feel inclined to go up tonight although it is not my night, I may see her and that will perhaps ease me a little.

Thursday Oct 30th
I went up to Handsworth last night as I thought I should but didn’t say anything about the subject mentioned before. Janie was so nice that I couldn’t say anything to her. I met her coming down the street. She said she thought that I should come up so went to meet me. I promised to go up tonight to see her. I also promised to bring up the Organist and the (Choir) which I intend taking next year.

Friday Oct 31st
Went up to Handsworth last night. I saw Janie just through the hotel bar exactly at 7.30.
We went down Grange Lane where we met Miss__ and Mr__  They did not seem to be getting on very well together. I thought Miss__ looked rather sulky and low. She always seems so bitter against the parson. Speaking of parsons, I told Janie the story about Dr Gates son at Bradfield who was going to see the (beggars/boxers) fight. And all young (Houseman) said was, he was tired of preaching to such a lot of soft (Devils).
Janie was rather amused but at the time I hoped she would not be, as I think women ought not to take any interest in such matters.
We had a very nice walk down Woodhouse Mill and then of course we had to have the usual swooning and kissing until my trousers almost burst. I am afraid Janie will feel something some night it gets so strong. My love for her until now has been very __ but now it’s like a raging fire. I don’t know what to do with myself seriously. I sincerely hope that passion will not carry us too far some night as from her manner I think she is as passionate as myself. I couldn’t get married even if I wanted.

Sat Nov 1st
Played at football with St Judes__ rising star for the new season cup. We lost. It was a most disreputable match both on account of the foul play and also the foul language.

Sunday Nov 2nd
Went to Darnall church with Janie in the evening. And afterwards went for a walk but didn’t get on so well as I should have liked as I thought she didn’t want to see me before Thursday and I wanted to see her on Monday. At last I persuaded her to see me on Monday night when I expect we shall be alright.

Monday Nov 3rd
As I was going home to dinner I met Janie who was going to Rotherham, it being the Fair there. I saw her after by the train and promised to fetch her. I went down by the 6.40 to Rotherham to fetch Janie and came back by the 7.10. I never went out of the station. Afterwards went up to Handsworth with her. We had a very enjoyable walk. I am to go up on Thursday night.”

Image Credit: The Kiss Stealer by Edmund H. Garrett (1853-1929)

Shorthand from 136 years ago – need a hand, short or otherwise.

Shorthand from 136 years ago – need a hand, short or otherwise.

Edit 14:30 17th January 2017: I have been overwhelmed with the kindness of others. After lots of sharing around on facebook and twitter, I now have an almost complete transcription – and it’s fascinating. I will be blogging it very shortly! Thank you to everyone (and their mums) for doing this. You have been lovely! [end edit]

Dear Internet – the  adventures of Fred and Janie have hit bit of a stumbling block as I don’t read shorthand. Can you or anyone you know read these three pages from my ggGrandfather’s 1879 diary? Would you be willing to let me know what they say? I believe them to be of an intimate nature – I suspect some of it might talking about sex before marriage, so be warned. Please debate in the comments, send me a contact form or tell me on the facebook page or email me at ingridbh (at) mydarlingjanie (dot) uk. (My mother was going to translate these for me but she is currently waiting for cateract surgery and can’t see the lines on the page – I understand that where a character appears on a line is important to meaning). I’d be more than grateful for any help.

“Tuesday Oct 28. Went to H (Handsworth). Saw Janie at Darnall we had a very nice walk but rather uncomfortable on account of a conversation similar to Sunday night’s thus…”shorthand-28101879shorthand-30101879shorthand-03111879


In which we admire smoking caps, royalty and take a trip to Chatsworth.

In which we admire smoking caps, royalty and take a trip to Chatsworth.

Peering into the past of 137 years ago, the windows on my Victorian Tardis are often fogged up. So it’s delightful when the picture clears after a bit of recorded history pops up in Fred’s diary and I can find lots of pictures to share with you. So here is an illustrated blog of my great great grandfather’s doings in the October of 1879.

After the gift of a smoking cap from Janie, Fred comes to the point where he decides he might be letting appearances slip: “Bought wood pipe to smoke out-of-doors as a clay pipe is not very respectable looking”. You’re not telling me that Fred wouldn’t have taken a quiet moment in front of a mirror to pose with his smoking cap and wood pipe like a proper gent? He might even have shown off the whole ensemble to Janie – which I imagine must have caused outbreaks admiration and hilarity in equal measure.


The pair of them are continuing to invent plausible excuses to ‘bump’ into each other and on one occasion, Jane, after visiting family in Woodhouse, instead of walking the 2 miles up the east side of the hill – on the brow of which is her home in Handsworth, gets on the train to Darnall to meet Fred so that he can escort her the 2 miles up the west side of the hill to Handsworth instead.

Fred, for one of his class, seems to be living a charmed life. He’s got a good job as a clerk at the steel works, he’s in love with his devoted girl, who he sees nearly every other day. He’s taking advantage of the adult education movement through his Mutual Improvement Society, and he has got just enough cash to go on excursions. He heads up to a Fine Art Exhibition in York with two of his work colleagues one Saturday which he thoroughly  enjoyed.

Another opportunity for having an outing turns up in the shape of the royal visit of Prince Leopold to Sheffield on the 18th of October 1879.

Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria.

Fred went up to see him arrive and joined the crowd at Sheffield station. Fred got to see him and decided “He is very nice looking”.

On Monday a local public holiday was declared on account of the royal visit and the opening of the new Firth College – which was the precursor to Sheffield University.

Firth College

“Monday, October 20. Prince Leopold opens Firth College today. And in consequence there is a general holiday. A party of us walked to Baslow. It rained a little all else it would have been pleasant. We got to see Chatsworth house. It was after 11 PM when I got home.”

I’ve just looked up on the map how long it takes to walk from Darnall to Chatsworth. 18.5 miles – approximately 5 hours each way. I found out that two different Omnibus companies ran a service to Baslow for two shillings and sixpence for the return journey. However Fred and his friends feel that their only option is to walk – which perhaps puts into context how much pressure there is on each shilling. By contrast Jane’s mother, Maria, when she was a young girl, took a similar trip with her just married sister and new brother-in-law to Chatsworth with family and friends – in carriages. I think this particular detail more than any other has shown me the contrast in social standing between Fred and Jane.

However a lowly clerk may look at a prince.


Picture credits:
Main Image: Detail from L’Annunciazione by Antonello Da Messina 1475

Smoking Cap
By MooSzyslak – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Firth College in Sheffield, opened in 1879 by Mark Firth.
John Taylor – The illustrated guide to Sheffield and the surrounding district

Photographie de Leopold Duc d’Albany

Chatsworth: This 19th century engraving is from “Morris’s Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen” the book was published 1880, the engraving would be earlier.

Swapping Selfies in Sheffield – Victorian Style

Swapping Selfies in Sheffield – Victorian Style

This is Fred and Janie. They look very serious don’t they? It’s wondrous and puzzling to be looking at the photographs of my great great grandparents. These two between them gave me an eighth of my DNA.

I have later photographs of them both which are frankly more flattering but these are among the earliest, and clearly have been taken in formal fashion — having to sit or stand with a fixed expression for the exposure. Some photographers at that time even had a little device on a tripod that was positioned at the back of your neck to hold your head still. Literally ram-rod straight.

They look so young! At the end of 1879 Fred was 20 and Jane was 19.

I thought I would share these now as there is a curious mention of swapping photographs in Fred’s diary. During September 1879 He pays one of his regular visits to his friends, brother and sister Fred and Annie Johnson. The official reason he visits is to borrow the current best seller ‘Helen’s Babies’ from Annie – but at the same time he delivers his likeness to her to give to Jane. Annie already has Jane’s likeness ready to give to him. Which she does and Fred records that he “was obliged”.

Some setting up has gone on here. Now Fred and Jane have already swapped photos before – back in February when they decided to split up for a while, it was a parting act – giving each other a keepsake. This time Fred and Jane have clearly arranged to go to the trouble of getting Annie Johnson to deliver their photographs. Is this a public signal that they are officially courting? They now have a witness that they have exchanged photos.

No letters exchanged from this stage of their courtship has survived, but Fred’s recollections for September in 1879 show that they saw plenty of each other, gave each other gifts, shared books, went to the theatre and on one occasion endured the same sermon twice. Once was bad enough even then it would seem.

   Sunday, September 14. Was out by 7 AM went for a walk. Went to Attercliffe church in the morning; in the afternoon went with Fred Johnson for a walk to Handsworth, saw J went in with her. There was no one in but her. Did not stay long. In the evening went with J, to Darnall church. There instead of Mr Littlewood the vicar, was our curate Mr Bowen preaching the preached, the very sermon that he preached at our church the previous Sunday evening. So had to make the best of it.

In his diary Fred reports instances but not the feelings behind them. Annie Johnson’s unwelcome remarks about his spending seem to be linked with the seriousness of his relationship with Jane – he’s obviously not wanting to rush things – however Fred is thinking about getting married to Jane. He’s had a conversation with his sister, possibly Louisa – as he had a good relationship with her – which has resulted in Louisa lending him a book to lend to Jane called ‘Love, Courtship & Marriage’. The preface of the book I’ve linked to includes a section for Young Men but it’s from the 1881 edition so I am imagining that previous editions were for the instruction of young ladies. What conversations have taken place where Fred feels this is an appropriate course of action? Whatever they were, we are now at a place in their relationship where they are making their courtship public and seeking the advice of his family.

Below are the last two weeks of September 1879 from Fred’s diary. I’m finding the perfunctory entries frustrating, I have this window on their world but the glass is misted over. In this period of 12 days Fred and Jane see each other on 10 of them. Events rather than the words point to two young people who are besotted with each other. And while it is hard to see Jane’s character through Fred’s eyes, their differences are rather marked. While Fred lends her stories and buys her prayer books, Jane herself goes in for flower shows, shopping and buys Fred a smoking cap. Which I find both hysterical and rather enchanting.

   Thursday, September 18. Ted was coming up for a walk but had the diarrhoea so did not turn up. Fred came up to show me that he had got a second class certificate in Scripture knowledge. We went for a walk. Saw J. Had a few words with her; she soon found out that I had been smoking. When we came back we overtook Annie Johnson and Lucy Craven, we went for a short way with them. Annie’s always talking about my spending my money instead of saving it, as though a fellow was going to get married straight off. Went to the baths swam 16 lengths = 73 x 16 = 1168 yards.

   Friday, September 19. Went with J, to the theatre to see “Our Boys”. She was highly amused. She did not go home to Handsworth, but stayed at Darnall.

   Saturday, September 20. Went for a walk in the woods in the afternoon, the keeper came and turned me out. In the evening saw J went up at 7:30 but had to wait until 8 for her. Lent her the book my sister lent me viz “Love, Courtship & Marriage”.

   Sunday, September 21. John Meays, John Henry Chambers, Robert Maltby + myself went to Treeton church when we got there we found it closed for repairs. Went to Brimsworth, called at the Angel, had some rum + milk (which I think does not agree with me for I had a headache in the evening). In the afternoon it rained so did not go out. Went to Handsworth Church in the evening. Had a walk with J afterwards.

   Monday, September 22. J. went to a flower show at Mosbo. Ted came up after tea, so we had a short walk and then I met J at the station by the 8:20. We had a walk. J had a severe headache.

   Tuesday September 23. Was working until 8 PM. Went up Handsworth. Saw J. Went to Woodhouse Mill with John Warburton. Saw J when we got back. J said she couldn’t see me tomorrow as agreed.

   Wednesday, September 24. Went to Sheffield at 6pm for lamp.

   Thursday, September 25. Went to H. Saw J. Had a walk with her. Took her “Dombey and Son” and also a prayer book and hymn book I had bought her.

   Friday, September 26. Went to the Mathematic class at Carbrook Board School. Teacher Mr Harbour.

   Saturday, September 27. Played at cricket and football in the afternoon. In the evening saw J. who was rather slow at first but afterwards livened up a bit.

   Sunday September 28. Went to church in the morning. It rained from 12.0 until 8pm so never went out until after 8, and then went to see J. Saw her.

   Monday, September 29. Saw J at Darnall, she had been to Sheffield with Janie Reckless. She gave me a smoking cap, a very nice one. We went through the little wood and rested on the two bridges.


Back to Sheffield, back to the steel works, and back to Janie…

Back to Sheffield, back to the steel works, and back to Janie…

After the lovely day when Jane came to visit Fred on his holidays at Bridlington, Fred sadly had to come home as “we could not stay any longer on account of the funds”.

While on holiday Fred wondered how long they might be staying as he noted the food was rather luxurious and must have been costing a lot but seemed neither to know or to be in any position of control. So I’ve always assumed that this was being paid for by his company. When I went to Sheffield Archives in June I was hoping to find some of the old Brown Bayley & Dixon steelworks paper work, uncover how they paid for staff holidays, perhaps even find some of it in Fred’s handwriting seeing as he was a clerk and was responsible for making up the wages. However none of the paperwork seems to have survived before the second incarnation of the company a couple of years later when they dropped Mr Dixon after liquidation and reformed as just Brown Bayley. It’s possible that all that has survived from that time are the few letterheads Fred purloined to use to write to Janie.

I did however find out more about that transition period of the works and how it directly impacted on Fred and Jane but that comes later in the summer of 1881.

So back to Fred’s diary and the (late) summer of 1879. The entries are short and the first is probably one of the more frustrating to read in terms of imparting minimum information. I’ve done a lot of reading around to fill in some of the colour so I’ve interjected with some of my findings and thoughts and towards the end, a moment of fantasy frankly:

   “Wednesday, August 27. Handsworth flower show. Saw Janie went for a short walk with her. Had a dance in the tent with Janie Reckless and Emma Hill.  It has been raining nearly all day consequently the flower show is a failure. Was almost assaulted coming home.”

So dances were held at flower shows, and dancing did not mitigate the failure of the show due to being rained out, Fred danced with Janie’s cousin (Janie Reckless) and another girl but not Jane herself? And the small matter of almost being assaulted coming home?! Was it a fumbled mugging? Did Fred cross the path of a drunken angry man?

   “Thursday, August 28. Went to a dancing at the Cross Keys.”

Presumably danced with Jane in her own home then?

“Saturday, August 30. Went to Sheffield with Tom Hughes and Kelsey. First tasted Australian ale. After 12 when I got back. Shall not go again with them.”

So I am assuming that Fred is blaming his work colleagues for encouraging him to stay out too late, rather than it being the fault of Australian ale. Is Australian ale actually lager?

   “Sunday, August 31 Went to church in the morning. In the afternoon went for a walk with J. And again with her in the evening.

   Monday, September 1. Saw Janie in the evening.

   Tuesday, September 2. Went with Willie Rennie and Harry Henderson round our works. They were much astonished.”

It was only after I went to the Sheffield Archives that I realised that Brown Bayley & Dixon had been in the vanguard of metallurgical development. The aforementioned Tommy Hughes was responsible for the quality of the steel on the foundry floor, and was able to judge by eye if the proportions were incorrect.  This was done by breaking up the pig iron and staring intently at the broken pieces. The foundry was insanely hot and the work was hard so the fact that Tommy Hughes, Kelsey and others liked their beer was perhaps unsurprising. There was a big culture of drinking in the steel works – with beer being drunk during shifts. It was one way to cope with the hellish work.

BB&D company managers C.B Holland and Arthur Cooper had developed a metallurgical technique based on one seen in Germany. They introduced this and other modifications to move towards commercial production of Bessmer Steel. The works site was vast and by the following year BB&D was making an average of 422 tons of basic steel in a week.

The noise and filth in the area due to the combined outputs of all the steel mills was famous. In 1874, John Murray wrote in his Handbook for Travellers in Yorkshire,
   “Sheffield, with the exception of Leeds, the largest and most important town in Yorkshire, is beyond all question the blackest, dirtiest, and least agreeable. It is indeed impossible to walk through the streets without suffering from the dense closes of smoke constantly pouring from great open furnaces in and around town”

Later J. B Priestly wrote “Sheffield, far below, looked like the interior of an active volcano…”

In the middle of this industrial revolution, my great great grandfather is diligently going on with his job, and self-educating himself to a university standard. I wonder how much Fred would observe his work mates like Tommy and Kelsey and realise that being able to access education had meant he’d escaped being foundry fodder.

   “Wednesday, September 3. Should have gone to Sheffield to pay my club money but had not any money so did not go. Went with Vincent John O’Donnell for a walk through Catcliffe, Treeton, Orgreave and Handsworth. The Moon shone splendidly. I did not see J, though should have liked.

   Thursday, September 4. Saw J in the evening at 7:30 to 10.

   Friday, September 5. Went to a meeting of our Mutual Improvement Society which was not well attended. John Meays refused to retain the Secretary’s office so I was chosen but declined and eventually the matter was left over.

   Saturday, September 6. Did not play at cricket in the afternoon but did some Arithmetic instead. In the evening went to see J. We went down Grange Lane – or ‘Spooner’s Road’ – and then towards Woodhouse across the fields, rested on a stile – in a style – about half an hour.
Went towards Woodhouse through the fields. Moralised a little on the bridges in the woods and then went towards Orgreave then Handsworth.”

“Rested on a stile – in a style” Smooching was definitely happening here…

   “Sunday, September 7. Got up at 6.0. Went to Catcliffe, Handsworth, Woodhouse, Richmond and then through the fields to Darnall, the sunshine shone magnificently. Then went to church after breakfast. After dinner went to see J. Took her to Carbrook to her relations, then went home. Went to Attercliffe church with her in the evening afterwards went to Handsworth with her. It seems that her former admirer Mr Walter Brooke is at their house, which causes me some uneasiness. Mr Parr, Miss Bray’s lover – Janie tells me – is at Bray’s today too, which proves that Warburton’s don’t consider me sufficiently eligible to invite me either to dinner or to tea; but perhaps in time I may overcome their dislike.

   Monday, September 8. Went to the baths at 6 PM. When I got home I found my sister Louisa and my sister-in-law Jane so went out at 9.0 for a walk. Saw Rennie, had a walk with him. He is going to the classes at Carbrook Board School.”

Fred would often visit Louisa so I’m assuming from this that he may not be particularly fond of his sister-in-law – but I’ve noticed when there is a houseful, Fred often makes himself scarce. On balance, he definately seems to prefer one-to-one company.

   “Tuesday, September 9. Went to see J, had a very enjoyable evening with her. Coming home met Rennie who lent me his books. One about Acoustics, Light and Heat and the other called “English Pictures – drawn with pen and pencil” a very good one.”

I’ve found an archived copy of Elements of Acoustics, Light and Heat by William Lees which I think was originally published in 1876, but other books about ‘Acoustics, Light and Heat’ (what is now called Physics) also existed at the time.

English Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil has also been archived and was published in 1879. It’s beautiful and I’m trying hard to push myself to understand that books like this would have been a really important way that my great great grandparents and people of the time would have got to know about their country.

“Wednesday, September 10. This being Doncaster St Leger day I had done at 5 PM so went to the baths, and afterwards did some Decimals and Proportion sums. I entered in a sweep but did not win anything.

Thursday, September 11. So J. in the evening. She has got a Zulu hat which I tried on. It just suits me! It rained a little so did not stay as long as usual. Although it rained we did not forget the stile.”

Mentioning that stile again eh? It’s after coming back from holiday that Fred first starts obliquely referring to his and Janie’s relationship getting a little more physical. I know from later notes in Fred’s diary and in the letters that these two do not restrict themselves to a bit of chaste kissing.


Anyway, despite Fred’s earlier dismissive opinion of Zulu hats, Jane evidently enjoys being fashionable and is rather persuasive where Fred is concerned. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that little exchange. If you’ll indulge me:

Janie: So I know you didn’t think much to them, but I tried one on in Sheffield and I rather liked it – everyone’s wearing one, I know – why not try it on Fred?
Fred: I don’t think I could possibly…
Janie: Oh go on Fred, here let me [puts the hat on Fred, adjusts it, stands back and admires her handy-work] Gosh Fred – it suits you, you know, I think you look rather dashing.
[Fred goes to look in the mirror, turns himself this way and that]
Fred: You know what my dear, I think you are right, I think I am rather dashing in this, I could win a fine young woman in this couldn’t I?
[Jane snatches it back off Fred’s head and puts it back on her own]
Janie: And I’m sure I could win a fine young man in it too….

Sadly, despite extensive digging around, I have not yet been able to work how what the heck a Zulu hat is.

Image source: Brown Bayley & Dixon advertisement 1876. From Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History. http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/File:Im1876POWor-Brown2.jpg