Fred’s accounts give me the impression that he’s a young man in a protected situation that gives him enough disposable income to fund his pursuits. He’s giving roughly half to his elderly mother – Ann Shepherd – for living at home. He has to look presentable for job as a Trade’s Clerk in the Rail Mill office at Brown Bayley & Dixon so spends about a quarter of his income on his appearance:
Which leaves the rest for extras, some of which he spends on his education, some he gives away (I don’t know what ‘club’ is yet, could be football) but the largest chunk after this is spent on “Excursions, Enter [entrance to attractions perhaps?], Games, Music etc”.
The National Archives currency converter says that £66 in 1880 would have been worth £3188.46 in 2005. It also says that back in 1880 this amount would buy you “200 x days craftsman wages in building trade” or 6 cows, or 2 horses. Not exactly measures of lifestyle I can easily visualise. So I am finding it tricky to work out either if Fred was being paid a living wage or if living at home, where everyone is making a contribution, he was just able to benefit more from his money than someone who is the head of their household and trying to make ends meet.
There are several places in Fred’s diary where he runs out of ink mid sentence and continues to write in pencil until the end of the week when he switches back to ink again. This looks for all the world like someone who gets the bottom of a bottle of ink and has to wait until payday to buy some more.
Later letters show that both he and his brother Arthur are rearing a pig each, and they have a little contest with each other as to who’s will weigh more upon slaughter. Leaping ahead a bit in this story to December 1881 when Fred is away in Middlesborough, Arthur writes him a very brief letter in which he says “Your pig only weighed 12 stone 2 lbs, Mr Marshall + our Lucy had it between them 6 stone each at 8/- per stone.” 16 shillings. That’s just over half a weeks wages for Fred. Not exactly a money spinner. However, generally the business of rearing pigs was a community activity and families and neighbours took turns in their timings of slaughter so that everyone could benefit. As the youngest lads in the family, it was quite likely it was traditionally Fred and Arthur’s job to feed the family pigs. Jane also mentions in a later letter their pig being slaughtered and that it weighed 19 stone. Probably getting a lot more scraps from the left-overs at a busy pub than poor old Fred’s pig back at home.
I don’t know what level of society in Sheffield in the 1880s where it was economically viable to raise a pig. You’ve got to be able to afford the piglets, and produce enough scraps to feed them. I’m assuming when households get to a certain level of income (and probably more importantly, class) you stop with the bother and the mess of a pig.
Based on all this (but clearly I need to do more research here) I think Fred’s family are not in poverty, probably nearly always have two shillings to rub together but not what anyone would consider well off.
Fred writes up his accounts for 1878 on the 3rd January 1879 and all he writes next to the analysis is “Worked out the result of 1878 expenditure. Great room for improvement especially in No.s 2. 3. 5. 10. 12.” So Fred feels that he could economise in Clothes (2) Excursions (3) Books, papers and music (5) Drink and refreshment (10) and smoking (12). Given that he can list all this, he obviously had a note book somewhere for recording everything he spent. We don’t have any accounts for 1880 to see if he was successful.
Fred’s entries for the first three days of January 1879 are by far the longest entries he writes, taking up several pages and include lists of resolutions, a passage on personal “stocktaking”, and several tables reviewing his work attendance, study, and a breakdown of his expenditure. (I’ll split this into two posts, or it will get very long, and take a look at what he was spending his money on next time.) It’s a beautiful window into how Fred sees himself, and the hyper-focus on self-improvement seems almost overwhelming. I think Fred tried very hard to be ‘a good boy’.
After quoting a verse from Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘Ring Out Wild Bells’ (who was the Poet Laureate at the time) Fred writes: “This is the day in which (figuratively) speaking people “turn over new leaves “, and I conform to the general custom, not because it is a general custom, but because I firmly believe it to be a means of good. For instance, if a person is of a ruminating turn of mind, he or she may, on the last day of the old year look back through the past; perhaps with regret for the lost opportunities, time wasted, and it may be with pleasure for some things that may have been done or said, then from the past examine the present, physically, morally, intellectually, socially, + financially.
Then from the present look forward to the future, perhaps making good resolutions for the future observance and guidance, and confirming old ones, I will endeavour to carry out this plan.”
Fred is definitely coming across as a person of “a ruminating turn of mind” which I can see is both a wonderful strength because it seems to be his foundation of soaking up every learning opportunity, and something of a weakness because it causes him much worry. (I wonder if I have inherited this set of particular chunk of DNA)
Fred then has “A brief retrospect of the past” in which he mentions his regret in courting a Miss Clara Beck of Worksop who never spoke to him after he sent her a valentine, and that he attended the Sheffield Church of England Institute to study Mathematics. He doesn’t touch on the subject of Janie at all, but dives straight into: “Now for the present (this would be called in commerce, stocktaking.) (a) Physically. Height 5’.9”. Best of health. Weight 10 stone 13 lbs. Can play Cricket, Football, swim, skate, row. etc. Chest measurement [space left but not filled in] (b) Morally. Never swear, or have any intercourse with women. (c) Intellectually. Above average. I have fair knowledge of Arithmetic, Algebra (as far as equations), Shorthand (Correspondence style) Grammar (cannot parse or analyse) Euclid ([up] to Propositions of 1st book). (d) Socially. Lower class. Have a good many acquaintances, but few friends. Reckoned good conversational powers. A lot of information, but it is not classified, and not very ready. Trade Clerk, doing Rail Mill work, at Messrs Brown, Bayley and Dixon’s, Attercliffe. Financially. Not very prosperous. Ready money 5/11 in Post office 2/5. Total total 8/4. 25/- per week salary 14/- per week board.”
The average height of a man in the UK in the 1870’s was 5’5” so Fred was tall by the standards of the day. I need to do more research but his study appears to be heading into higher education territory. ‘Euclid’s Elements’ was still used at a textbook for teaching mathematics and geometry well into the first half of 20th century. This page on wikisource rather pleasingly features the beginning of Propositions – which is the point Fred had reached in 1879. At the time all university students were expected to have an understanding of at least part of ‘Elements’. While Fred didn’t go to university – it would have been difficult to get there from his starting point – it looks like he is endeavouring to educate himself to that level.
My heart aches a little for Fred, he seems to be trying to be fair but humble in his description of himself. He’s proud of his achievements but from this and future letters, I get the feeling he feels his class and lack of opportunities – but it also drives him to push himself. I want to find out more about the educational establishments in Sheffield at the time where men like Fred could continue to study after leaving school. As to his conversational powers and friendships, I get the impression that while Fred may have lacked confidence here, people liked having him around and sought him out despite an element of natural shyness.
In the next section Fred sets out his plans: “Now as to the future. I make the following resolutions, which with the help of God I intend to keep.
1. That I get up every morning at 5.0am, and I go to bed at 10pm, and be at work at 9am. 2. That I practice the utmost economy of time and money. 3. That I never swear, or use bad language of any kind, nor lose my temper on any pretext whatever. 4. That I will not read over meals, and not eat too much at meals, nor have more than three meals a day. 5. To endeavour to get complete control over myself. 6. That I will read as few novels as possible, but rather incline to Biography. 7. That I get as much study as possible, I propose to carry out the following plan.
8. That I refrain from speaking ill of anyone. 9. That I get as much muscular exercise as possible, having due regard to Res 7. 10. That I will be at church on Sunday morning not later than 10:30 AM, not 6:30 PM. 11. That I endeavour to learn something. 12. To enter up every day particulars of the previous day’s Events and Expenditure. The result of the system of taking account of the time that I get up, get to work, go to bed; is as follows, a. b. + c. being the several times, mins late.
I did not commence very well this year as it was 7’.40” this morning when I got up and 11.45 when I went to bed. Had a long walk with Janie in the evening from 8.0 to 10.15, 2’1/4 hours of bliss.”
Fred’s plan to get up at 5am every morning, when he’s not risen before 6am for the last 3 years seems a little ambitious. However the fact that he’s kept records of his getting up and going to bed times and worked out his average lateness for the last 3 years seems, well, obsessive. It’s revealing but I’m not entirely sure of what – a need for control? A methodical approach to everything? The timetable is carefully drawn up – for a private diary – I get the impression he rather enjoyed ruling it out in red pen and working out a key and planning it out so carefully. I can almost hear him humming.
Fred’s resolutions feel like a perfectionist’s straightjacket to me but I don’t know how much this was to do with the expectations of young men at the time and how much to do with Fred’s own personality. I will come back and edit this post when I find out more from later letters.
Other things that struck me, I suspect that No. 5 may be about masturbation, that novels are another guilty pleasure, and that Fred has actually a pretty nice life for a young man of that class – he has a job that gives him enough disposable income and enough free time to pursue his studies and sports, which must have been relatively rare in Attercliffe/Darnall at the time.
These are obviously my first impressions of Fred from this diary entry and I’d be fascinated to find out what other people think we can tell about Fred – do please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Trying to work out just how much (and why) the early days of Janie and Fred’s relationship were blighted by the disapproval of Janie’s family, the Warburtons, is tricky when the only lens I’ve got for this time are the sporadic entries from Fred’s diary. Fred is feeling that his shortcomings in the eyes of Mrs Warbuton (whatever they were) are insurmountable and it seems to be Janie that is holding fast to the idea of being with Fred. It’s frustrating to have so little of her voice as this point but she’s coming across to me as knowing what she wants – which is Fred, and strong willed to the point of crossing her mother:
“Thursday December 19th. Told Janie that the future was so unsatisfactory that I thought it would be advisable to part. She said we had better not. So we agreed to think about it. Sunday Decr 22. Had another interview with Janie, when it came out that her mother offered serious objections, which she thought might be got over in time. A desperate bit of kissing etc ensued we thought it was going to be the last.”
I’m now wondering what the “etc” meant. More than kissing clearly.
Fred then throws himself into the Christmas season and the following entries provide a tantalising portrait of Christmas activities in a working class community in Sheffield. There is plenty of ‘bumping’ into Janie too.
“Monday. December 23rd. Went to the [Sheffield] Albert Hall to hear Mendelssohn’s Elijah. [Charles] Santley as Elijah. Wednesday. December 25. Christmas Day. Went to church in the morning, in the afternoon walked round Tinsley, Brinkworth, Catcliffe + Handsworth. Evening, saw Janie again, had an understanding with her, that I was to see her once a week. Thursday, December 26. Had half day holiday. Tom Hughes and I went to O’Donnell’s to tea, played at cards until 10 PM, I would not play for money but lost all my nuts. Friday, December 27. Went to the entertainment after the Social tea at Darnall school. Saw Janie there. Saturday, December 28. Went to see the ventriloquist (Maccabe) at the Albert Hall, Sheffield. Sunday 29th December. Went to church in the morning, in the afternoon to my brother Walter’s to dinner and tea, night to see Janie. Monday, December 30. Went with Janie and Miss Bray to the entertainment at our school. Tuesday, December 31. Went to the children’s tea at Attercliffe, afterwards there was a “Magic Lantern”, after that Betsy Panton and myself, Will Meays and Miss Hopkinson, went on the top of our church steeple. Splendid view! could see all around. Coming down we had “Days and moments”, and “Now the day is over” in the bell chamber. Enjoyed ourselves immensely. Proper girls to go at that time after 9.0 pm.”
Fred’s New Year’s eve sounds rather lovely including rounding it off with a bit of a sing. I’ve found out that Fred was a baritone and singing and music feature a lot in his writing and letters. I have spent several fascinating hours finding out about Charles Santley – the most eminent opera singer in the UK at that time, Frederic Maccabe, who wrote an important book on ventriloquism, watching videos about Magic Lanterns and finding recordings of some of the music mentioned. Listening to a crackly recording of Santley’s voice and knowing that my great great grandfather listened to him makes me feel a sudden unexpected connection.
Below are some links to Youtube videos of some of the music I’ve found. I can almost see Fred in the bell chamber of the church in Attercliffe, contentedly singing “Now the Day is Over” with his friends.
Magic Lantern Image source: http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/christmascards “The Best Wishes of the Season to You (c.1885) Christmas card produced by A.L & Co. The illustration features a magic lantern show, which was a very popular form of entertainment in the days before cinema. Location: Francis Parker Scrapbook. Parker Collection. Early and Fine Printing Collection Item Number 698218”
Following the somber events of early October, Fred + Janie resume seeing each other and I have one short letter from Fred who pleads to see Janie again from the time around the death of his father. There is an initial discussion about the different trains he tried to ‘accidentally’ meet her from and this confused me at first until reading some of the later letters it became clear that one of the ways they contrived to see each other, was to let each other know about their train journeys to and from town and ‘just happen’ to be at the station when the train got in.
After the discussion about Sheffield timetable logistics Fred decided to restart the letter:
“I suppose I ought to have started in a different manner, such as,
“Angelic Janey, could you so far forget yourself as to honour a poor misguided but devoted admirer a distant glimpse of your entrancing and soul inspiring person on the 6th day of this week commonly called Friday, or on the 11th day of the month of October inconvenience yourself in any way as it will be a walk if I do not see you. Until then I remain your – I do not know what to call myself in relation to you except that I am ‘myself’,
that most important person
Fred – ever the practical romantic: “as it will be a walk if I do not see you”. I do love how he sends himself up too.
Frustratingly after this the rest of 1878 goes dark, no letters and no diary entries until the Christmas season and the New Year where Fred starts to write his diary in real time, rather than retrospectively.
However while I have an information black-out for the rest of October & November 1878, things were literally brightening up in Sheffield and the rest of the UK. This was the time the advent of electricity in public spaces blazed its way in to Janie and Fred’s (and everyone else’s) lives.
The world’s first floodlit football match
Set up as a joint venture by electrical companies and football clubs, with the idea of both increasing football attendance and to prove the potential of electric lighting in the public arena, it was on the 14th of October in 1878 in Bramall Lane where they staged a unique event – the world’s first ever floodlit football match.
From The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent: “Football by the Electric Light. — The interest arouse by the application of the electric light to social uses was strikingly apparent at Sheffield on Wednesday night, when nearly 30,000 people gathered at the Brammall[sic] lane Grounds to witness football match by means of the electric light. The match which was played by two teams belonging to the Sheffield Football Association commenced at half-past seven o’clock. The electric light was thrown on the ground from four lamps thirty feet from the ground, and the rays, which were of great brilliancy, lighted nearly the whole of the ground, and the players could be seen almost as clearly as at noonday. When the light was turned on the crowd cheered loudly, and then watched the game with great interest. Some amusement was caused by the brilliancy of the light, which dazzled the players somewhat and caused some strange blunders. Behind each goal was placed a portable engine, each of which drove two dynamo-electric machines, one for each light. The illuminating power was equal to 8000 standard candles, and the cost per hour for each light was 3 1/2 d.”
The Sheffeld Telegraph reporting the event wrote, “There was an overwhelming interest in the experiment, and excursionists arrived in large numbers from distant grounds. Between six and seven o’clock, it seemed as if all Sheffield was heading for Bramall Lane. The streets were thronged from all directions. At the game curiosity conquered customary courtesy[*], and the few who were really interested in the play were obliged to give way to the many who had eyes only for the new lights. Many of the ladies, once within the rays, shot up umbrellas as they would parasols to shield them from the sun at mid-day!”
Fred was a keen footballer, playing at different times for Attercliffe and Darnall, and was in demand by the different captains for the Cup-Tie the following year. There is no doubt in my mind that he would be been completely aware of this event, clearly the whole of Sheffield was – and beyond – but I wonder if he was actually there. I’m certain several of his friends would have made sure they were there – they were part of the Sheffield footballing world.
[*] It would be intriguing to think that “curiosity conquered customary courtesy” for Fred also but his father had been buried less than a week before and I don’t know how much mourning Fred was observing. It was unseemly to attend social events for months after the death of a parent, and I feel rather sad at the idea of Fred missing out on such a treat. As he was recording his diary retrospectively for that period, an eyewitness account of a floodlit Bramall Lane would surely have been worth a mention? Two years later when he sees the Blackpool Illuminations (first switched on in 1879 – perhaps conceived of because of the Bramall Lane event) he is very impressed with them in his letter to Janie. Knowing what I know of Fred – in terms of his character – I think that with deep deep regret, he would have stayed at home. But I’m sure he lapped up every detail from everyone he knew who did go.
In later letters Janie + Fred both mention fiddling with the gas for more light while writing – electricity not being part of their domestic sphere. However on the 14th of October they would have known, beyond any doubt, that their world was changing forever.