Still on holiday, Fred turns fashion commentator just for Jane.

Still on holiday, Fred turns fashion commentator just for Jane.

“Bridlington Quay
August 14/79

My Darling Janie,

   I think I left off in my last with our arrival at Bridlington. After tea we went where everybody else goes that is, to the Sea–wall Parade. I can’t describe the agony that I suffered in walking on that parade. Everybody walks so slow, without bending their backs, or knocking their arms about. It was dreadful!

   I was considerably startled when I had walked round several times – to find that two out of every three had a kind of overskirt something like a great pinafore they look like so many full-grown babies. I hope I shall not have the doubtful pleasure of seeing you in one or I shall certainly protest against it. I then turned my attention to the coal-scuttles which are very useful articles in doors but rather out of place outside. There are several shapes or they are worn differently, I don’t know which. It is rather amusing to see some of the wearers of these kitchen utensils, they seem to have an idea that by some unaccountable means they look so modest in them and so aid that impression by folding their hands one over the other and looking down as though they were ashamed of themselves. Another fashion in hats is the Zulu which is worn both by males and females. The males that wear them are the lower five, the females the upper ten. There is great scope for originality in the shape of them. (When you buy them there is no shape at all) some of them have turned them up in front, others at the back, others at the right side, others at the left, others again have them obliquely or cornerwise; everyone follows her own suit well; but in every case that turned up part is covered with cardinal and cardinal bow at the back. Just fancy yourself in a hat as big as Amy Johnson’s Gainsborough but composed of the coarsest straw (quite brown) and a cardinal bow as to trimming. Would it suit? Kelsey proposed that all four of us should speculate in one each to astonish the natives, but I objected on the ground that it was scarcely my style.

   Our fourth chum is a young fellow from Zion chapel Attercliffe, with a little more than the usual dissenters quantity of gas which he very beneficently illuminates us with, and for which we are truly grateful.

   – I don’t know whether these minute details bore you, if so, I hope you will not forget to tell me so, in your next. However I will give them about your own sex which must be more interesting than anything else, besides you suggested that I should take note of the fashions for you, so here goes.

   I have noticed that the Cardinal is muchly used. I had no idea that red would contrast well with this many colours. No matter what colour the dress is, that is sure to be some red about it. Dark blue and red seems to look best, when mixing judiciously, and the prevailing mixture is blue dress as foundation with a very broad kind of sash across the front of the skirt read, also red belt, and broad bands round the rest of the same colour, and some few with red colours of the fishwife (I think you call it) pattern.

   The next favourite is a skirt of red with a dress of any other colour cut the thus: Fred's skirt drawings
   This is very effective and looks remarkably well. The nicest kind of dress tho’ (in my idea) are the white ones which look so cool it does one rather good to see them, it refreshes one almost as much as a bottle of ginger ale, which by the way is 6d for a small bottle, rather a profitable investment! The lady is here have an absurd fashion of carrying a small walking sticks. Rather manly is it not? If you care to carry one I’ve bought one which has not a silver top to it, as some of them have.

   Now for myself if that would interest you. On Monday night we did nothing but promenade. Everyone promenades here, so I am compelled to follow suit though I cannot say that I enjoyed it. In fact I thought it was dreadfully slow.

   Tuesday, first thing I had a swim, then after breakfast we went out in a boat about 4 miles in fact we considered due to our honour to go farther than anybody else. The weather was grand, very hot, very clear. Not a cloud disturbed the calm serenity of the Italian sky. (Don’t you call that a bit of poetic writing).

   After dinner we went to Flamboro’, partly on the cliffs and partly through the woods. This is a beautiful walk but it lacked one thing and that was yourself. I should have enjoyed it more had I been with you, or rather you with me.

   We intended doing the Lighthouse but unfortunately for the Lighthouse we fell a-dry and turned into the Ship-In for tea. There was a bagatelle board here which occupied our attention until it was too late for the Lighthouse so we shall have to do that another day. When coming back we turned in at the Skating Rink where I had to go through the painful operation of learning afresh. I saw Dick Brook here.

   Wednesday. The sea was very rough so we were compelled to stay in the harbour with our boat. I have got three blisters on each hand which cause me much inconvenience. I have also been much put about over my shirt buttons which will persist in coming off, no doubt owing to the amount of uncounted strain put on them. In the afternoon it rained so we spent it in the George Inn, a thing I didn’t care for, but which was much mitigated by the daughter (who comes from Sheffield) playing me several of my favourite pieces on the piano. Are you jealous?

   In the evening it poured down with rain, so we got a stock of Sherry, lemonade, cigars, cards etc and invited Kelsey and the other and had a very enjoyable evening in our sitting room which is a very nice one.

   Thursday. I had a swim before breakfast towards the coast of Flanders but turned back before getting there. After breakfast I did nothing but read the paper on the parade. In the afternoon we had another row almost out of sight of land. In the evening we did nothing about smoke cigarettes on the parade.

  We have got most comfortable lodgings. The sitting room – well furnished – all to ourselves. They board us here and I have not the least idea what the figure will be. Something high considering the quantity of beef, mutton, puddings, pies etc consumed. On Tuesday I carved a leg of mutton for the first time. In fact I am in constant practice in the carving department, and shall soon be an expert.

   I think we are all remarkably good here, if you take the proverb about “a little leaven leavening the whole lump” for there is sufficient leaven in the shape of parsons to leaven three times the number. It is rather slow here. No theatre, no dancing, no anything. I should be perfectly happy if you were here, Janie my darling for I miss you very much and will do more I am afraid on Sunday. However you must write me a long letter then about yourself and anything else you think will interest me, in doing so you will be favouring your
   True Lover + your
   Dearest Fred.

PS I have numbered the pages to prevent misunderstanding. F.

Jane replied on August 17th.

Picture source: Blankenerge Beach, Belgium.

Scandal threatens the Warburtons

Scandal threatens the Warburtons

To understand the following newpaper report you need to remember that John George Herrod is the missing husband of Jane’s sister Emma – who I introduced in a previous post:

From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph 14th August 1879:


   Yesterday, at the Southport Petty Sessions, a well-dressed young man named John George Herrod, alias Arthur Walton, was brought up in custody on the charge of stealing from the Shakespeare Hotel, Southport, in December last, three gold watches, three gold chains, one gold necklet attached to a gold locket, the property of the proprietress and her daughter, Mrs. and Miss Kershaw. To the chains were attached several gold pendants. The prisoner for sometime past has been residing in the town, and his general quiet and gentlemanly demeanour had given him access to rooms in several of the hotels which the public were not allowed to enter. During the hearing of the case it transpired that the prisoner belonged to Sheffield, that he was a joiner, and a married man with a family, the latter residing in Sheffield with their mother. He had been courting a young woman in Southport, and one of the watches he gave to her as a present, and thus the theft was brought home to him. This young woman having just given birth to a child the case could not be proceeded with, and the prisoner had nothing to say against a remand. He had circulated in the town the rumour that he had a income of about £6 a week. It is thought that other charges of hotel robberies in Southport will be brought against him.”

I don’t know if the Warburtons took the Sheffield Telegraph. But someone in Handsworth will have done, and no doubt arrived on their doorstep with a heavy heart and bad tidings. The family must have been in uproar that day.

Poor Emma.

Shef daily tel 14 08


The earliest surviving letter of Jane’s

The earliest surviving letter of Jane’s

Aug 13/79

My dearest Fred

   I am happy to hear of your safe arrival at Bridlington and sorry you were so unfortunate as to go by the wrong route, it would be a slight disappointment for you not to seeing York. I went up to my brother’s after I left you love to cheer my drooping spirits. I had a bad headache so I went to sleep in the afternoon. After tea sister Polly and I went down in the town to have a shop window gaze. I bought a new hat. I hope you will like it it is not any bigger than a large sized coal scuttle.

   Yesterday brother Jack, Pem and I went to Clay Cross Flower Show it is considered the best show roundabout here. They had a very good brass band there, unfortunately they did not torment me with “Silver threads” or I’m sure I should have gone bald in a few minutes. If they torment you again love I should advise you to get some of Mrs Allen’s hair restorer and rub it on your hair nightly. We arrived home at 11. Admire the picture of myself fighting to get in the train [above] the plants were splendid and also the fruit

I should have enjoyed it so much better if you had been there too. I can’t write any more tonight it is past time.

   Only that I love you as much as ever and of course that is of no consequence I hope to remain your darling forever
 PS I am rather bothered about the stops and grammar   ”

1879 08 13 JW to FS 1 of 2

This is the earliest letter of Jane’s that has survived.
“Sister Polly” is Jane’s sister-in-law Mary, married to Jane’s eldest brother William.
“Jack” is her brother John and “Pem” is Jane’s older sister Emma. This family seems to have had the habit of not actually calling anyone by their given name and using nicknames most of the time. It’s wonderful to finally hear Jane’s voice for the first time in Fred + Jane’s story. We get a first glimpse of her fabulous sense of humour here too.

Mrs. Allen’s Hair Restorer – was a proprietary brand of hair ointment which contained the dubious concotion of “sulphur, acetate of lead, glycerin, and flavored water”.

Fred replies 14th August 1879.

Fred goes to Bridlington (and seems to channel Jerome K Jerome)

Fred goes to Bridlington (and seems to channel Jerome K Jerome)

For this next couple of weeks I am ‘handing over’ this blog to Fred and Jane and the events of the last two weeks of August 1879. I’ve also included Fred’s not-a-playlist at the bottom of the post:

“Bridlington August 12th/79
C/o Mr Severs. 7 King Street

My Darling Janie,

   We arrived, or arove here at 5:50 yesterday. We were rather unfortunate, as we wanted to go via York. There are only two routes and we got the wrong one. Tommy got the wrong tickets! Moral, never let anyone get your ticket for you in future my dear. We were alright until we got to Doncaster, and then just as we were going to get in the York train the porter stopped us and we had to wait an hour for the train to Hull. We tried to “square” the guard to let us go, but neither “love nor money” would avail. I didn’t try the love but I did try the money, he says “we can’na dew it.”

   Confound it! There’s a band just this minute playing “Silver threads” under the window, I wish they take them somewhere else. Where was I? And Doncaster one hour! 60 minutes!! 360 [sic] seconds!!! Prodigious!!! The band is playing “Where art thou beam of light?” I should suggest to them that it is in the next street or anywhere out of ours. It’s impossible to properly appreciate good music(!) and write at the same time. They’re playing another very pathetic melody just now with a tremendous bass too – I’m not quite sure that I’ve spelt tremendous w/right. Will you please kindly be good enough to look in the dictionary for me. I almost made a mess of right too. How can a fellow spell correctly with a band playing! There now they’re gone. What a relief!

   At Doncaster we were in a position to thoroughly appreciate your thoughtfulness for which thoughtfulness – or rather strawberries – I shall amply rewarded you when I get back.

   Those fisherman got out at Conisbro’ currently the carriage did not smell so strongly of bread and cheese as it did at first.

   From Doncaster to Hull is most miserable ride, the country being dreadfully flat. There is one redeeming feature and that is a station called “Brough”, the next or next but one to Hull. Confound it! There’s the band again! I should like to stop the hole they blow down with a potato. They’re going into Sankey’s “Look ever to Jesus” I earnestly wish they would – in another street.

   Was talking about Brough, it is the prettiest station I have ever seen, the station house is completely covered with ivy and inside the station is one mass of evergreens, geraniums, fuchsias etc it looks really beautiful. The band is playing a little more of “Silver threads” I shall be completely bald before I get back. There now they’re playing “sweet spirit hear my prayer” they ought to play “Grandfather’s Clock” and then expire.

   When we got to Hull we had 35 minutes to wait. Another luxury! And we had to sit “hands on knees” from Hull to Bridlington the train was so crowded. The fine weather is fetching them out I almost learned how to knit stockings by watching a lady knit them, they were bronze green how is that for being the fashion now? The band is playing “Vital Spark” of which there won’t be a particle left in me soon. I have got the orthodox eight pages full so must give over I shall have to teach you phonography [shorthand] then I shall be able to get more in I’ve hardly started. I remain your devoted lover. Fred.

   I had to give an over in the last sheet but it seems so abrupt that I was compelled to give you a little more agony. I can’t write much more because Kelsey and another young fellow from Attercliffe are waiting outside. I was going to give you a graphic sketch of the promenade etc but must leave that until the next letter. I also intended saying something that I should have said before now, had I been with you, and that is, how dearly I love you. Darling there’s nobody here fit to look at you, in my estimation although it would be much easier to put it in shorthand thus for example “Janie my darling, I love you dearly” would go in half the space.

   I really haven’t time to write any more Tommy’s impatient. Believe me I wish you were here it would be a great deal better. I hope you will write back as early as possible and oblige.

   Your devoted but disconsolate lover

Jane replied the following day.

Fred’s ‘Not a playlist’:
Silver Threads Amoung The Gold:
(I can see why it annoyed Fred)
Yeild Not To Temptation (Look ever to Jesus)
Sweet Spirit Hear My Prayer:
Grandfather’s Clock
Vital Spark of Heavenly Fame

Picture source: Bridlington, the parade (i.e., promenade) c. 1895. Print no. “10368”.; Title from the Detroit Publishing Co., Catalogue J-foreign section, Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Publishing Company, 1905.; Forms part of: Views of England in the Photochrom print collection.


Vlog – finding Fred in Attercliffe and Darnall

After I visited Handsworth which I wrote about in a post called Becoming Jane, I also visited Attercliffe and Darnall to try and track down some of Fred’s haunts. With my cousin’s help we managed to track down the remains of Christ Church, Attercliffe, The Wellington in Darnall, and Fred’s house on a street formally known as Freedom Hill.

This June I ended up on a surprise trip to Sheffield. Most of the three weeks I stayed were spent in the library and in the archives doing research but some of that time was spent in visiting different locations around the city. The reason I had come to Sheffield was because I had recently inherited the love letters of my great great grandparents, Jane Warburton and Fred Shepherd, which were written over 135 years ago. When I started to read these letters, I found myself not only drawn in by my personally family connection but by the story that started to unfold in front of my eyes as I carefully unfolded each fragile letter in turn. In the sepia stained pages, filled with beautiful copper plate writing I found out about their daily lives, the dramas, the bereavements, the love, and the hopes and dreams that they nurtured together as they planned their future.

One of the places I wanted to find were the remains of Christ Church, Attercliffe, where several family members were buried but also where Fred sung in church – a moment of which he vividly brought to life when he wrote about on a particular New Years when he sang hymns with his friends.
“Tuesday, December 31 1878. 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.”

Most of the church was lost in the Second World war but my cousin and I found the remaining wall and I found myself patting the wall in wonder, my imagination straining to hear the faint singing of hymns in a bell tower long gone.

After this we carried on into Darnall, where much has changed since my Fred and Jane’s day. The steel mills are gone and much of it has been rebuilt. The other two things on my list to find were The Wellington pub, once owned by Jane’s aunt – where Jane often helped out, and Fred’s family home where he lived with his parents and siblings.

We found The Wellington which was literally shrouded – with scaffolding and safety netting – it looked like it had been recently sold and was undergoing massive reconstruction. The back yard where once had been an orchard with pear trees was a barren plot and all that was growing were these poppies. On this busy road and with the destruction and chaos it was impossible to imagine former family members here, or to think of Fred popping in on his way home from work in the hope that Janie was visiting her aunt.

So on we went to find Fred’s house on Freedom Hill – which has a different name now. The family had originally lived at number 34 but that had obviously been pulled down and rebuilt. In the 1870s they had moved to the top of the hill when Fred’s father, Alfred bought number 94. And there it was, although now painted cream, a tiny red bricked terraced house with a passage and a tiny yard. With respect to it being a private home I discreetly patted the gatepost that Fred would have walked past every day he went to work. I could almost see him jauntily marching down the hill. I found myself welling up with tears as I finally felt a connection with Fred, my great great grandfather.

Now that I’ve visited the places they knew, when I read Fred and Jane’s letters they are suddenly filled with far more detail – I can place their experiences in the geography they knew. All their many walks from Darnall up to Handsworth – that was a good two miles – a long walk when you are on your own but far too short a journey when you are in love. All journeys are too short when you are in love – and Fred and Jane’s journey was no different – they were married for only 12 years before Fred was taken by tuberculosis at the far too young age of 35. Jane treasured their love letters for the rest of her life and before she died she gave them to her daughter Edith, who gave them to her daughter Mary, who in turn gave them to her daughter – my mother –  Jeannie.

I feel as if this love that Fred and Jane shared is somehow still alive even though they are long gone, and their love story is demanding to be told.

Which is why I’m sharing it with you.

The sad story of Emma Warburton (Part One)

The sad story of Emma Warburton (Part One)

Content warning: this post mentions domestic violence.

At some point in either 1876 or 1877 my great great grandmother, Jane Warburton, at 16 years old would have discovered that marriages were not always happy, in fact they could be ruinous, particularly for a woman.

I promised in my Becoming Jane post that Emma, Jane’s older sister, deserved to have her own story told. I wanted to post about this now as in the chronology we are coming up to August 1879 and in the middle of Jane and Fred’s story, something unexpected happened to Emma and I felt it was time to give you some of her back story – tragic as it is.

Emma married John George Herrod in October of 1870. She was 18 years old and three months pregnant. Herrod, from Nottinghamshire, was the son of a farmer and had come to Handsworth to find work as a joiner. Given that Emma’s father was as a joiner before he became a maltster and publican, and her brother William still worked as a joiner, in a small village like Handsworth, their paths would have crossed soon enough.

Herrod was a smooth talker and a bit of a charmer. We don’t know if he had already asked Emma to marry him, but events later in his life suggest that he had form and wasn’t above promising marriage to take advantage of a young woman. I’m inferring Emma’s attitude to sex from Jane’s later behaviour, that before marriage it was ok-ish as long as a promise of marriage had been made. However their relationship came about, the marriage was speedily arranged and their first child, Maurice, was born in the following March.

The 1871 census records them all living with Emma’s parents in the Cross Keys at Handsworth but later Herrod was earning enough to set up home. For a time things went well; Edith Lillian (known in the family as Lucy) was born in the early summer of 1872 and then another son, Arthur James, arrived in 1874.

A couple of years later, Jane would have gone on one of her many visits to her older sister Emma, perhaps to assist with the dress making, or to help with the children – who she loved dearly.  Upon walking through the door, Jane would have found the house in some disarray, her little nephews and niece subdued, and her sister having suffered a severe blow to the head that had given her two great bruised eyes. If Jane hadn’t known things were bad before, she did now. The assailant was Emma’s husband, John George Herrod.

We don’t know if Herrod was at home when Jane found her sister in that condition. Did Jane rage at him, tell him to leave them so she could care for Emma. Or was she terrified, for Emma, for the children, for herself? Did she run to get William, their dependable older bother? Was it then that Emma told Jane about all the attacks? About being punched in the back for not getting dinner ready. About being beaten viciously with a stick after asking why he was late home. Or did Jane and her family already know and this was the latest trauma in a marriage that had turned far more than sour.

Some unknown time after arrival of little Arthur, John George Herrod became a heavy drinker and developed a gambling habit. It also seemed to be a contributory factor in him losing his job. It’s impossible to know if he had been in the habit of being cruel to his wife or if it came on insidiously and then grew in savagery during this period.

By 1877 John George Herrod’s gambling was so out of hand that an ‘execution’ was put on the house and all the furniture was sold. On the day the furniture went, so did he. He packed up all his clothes and left, without letting Emma or anyone else know where he was going or if he was ever coming back. The sale was most likely handled by William, while Emma stayed away from such a painful occasion. And it probably fell to Jane to take care of the children and distract them from all the unpleasant practicalities. Emma, presumably in some distress, with a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a 3 year old, moved back into the family home – the Cross Keys, back to the safety of her mother and father – Maria and James Warburton, but also back to sharing a home with her sister Jane and her other brother, also called John. As much as I want to imagine William and brother John, perhaps taking Herrod to one side for a quiet ‘chat’ I can’t possibly know if they ever did. But given Herrod’s disappearing act, I should imagine it was in part to avoid a possible confrontation with the Warburtons heading his way.

For Emma she must have felt relief but also great sadness and possibly even shame. It was a local scandal and by the standards of the day – while she would have been viewed with some sympathy, tongues would have wagged. Domestic violence today still carries with it a significant amount of victim blaming but it was much worse then. Being permitted to discipline your wife with a ’stick no thicker than your thumb’ was a myth, but it was believed by many at the time to be legal.

At home at least, her mother, Maria Warburton, treated Emma with a huge amount of tenderness and concern. However in years to come, as Emma developed her own problem with drink – no doubt as some kind of self-medication – this care from Maria became a kind of enabling and Emma’s victimhood became entrenched within the family dynamic. Dependent on her father, with no way of making her own way in the world and unable to remarry, no doubt Emma felt trapped and helpless.

I grew up hearing from my mother the family stories of Aunt Emma; how she was a drunk, how the family believed it was due to the sight of the gravestones out of her bedroom window that had driven her to the consolation of the bottle. While I was first reading the letters and coming across accounts of Emma’s intoxicated behaviour I found it funny and a little salacious. Now that I have recently found out exactly what happened to Emma, I realise she was more sinned against than sinner. Emma often in lashed out with a sharp tongue – I think everyone got the benefit of Emma’s opinions but it was Jane that was nearest and so she bore the brunt, and the rest of the family let Emma get away with that because of what had happened. Poor Jane. Poor Emma.

I think I now also see that the Warburtons’ concern about Fred courting Jane, was not just about snobbery, it was also in part protectiveness. Emma had fallen for someone outside their ‘set’ and it had gone wrong in the worst possible way. They were understandably keen that Jane would not meet a similar fate.

In 1878 the UK Matrimonial Causes Act made it possible for women in the UK to seek legal separation from an abusive husband, however this would have given Emma little comfort given that she had no idea where John George Herrod was.

Image source: James Collinson – Answering the Emigrant’s Letter

The Spring, clad all in gladness, Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness

The Spring, clad all in gladness, Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness

In the last post I wished I could have known more about the “Dramatic Entertainment” that Fred had persuaded Janie to come to at the end of February 1879. I was delighted to have that wish granted during some searching through the British Newspaper Archive, I actually found a write up of that event in the Sheffield Independent on the 26th of February 1879:
“Attercliffe Parish Church. — Last evening, a dramatic entertainment was given in the Church schools, Lord street, Attercliffe, by some of the members of the Mutual Improvement Society, in the presence of a large and appreciative audience. Mr Pinder (vice president) occupied the chair. The first part of the entertainment was a comedietta entitled “A Cup of Tea,” intended to show how petty jealousies, like “great events, from little causes spring.” The character of Sir Charles Seymour, the head of the house, a ”man about town,” was well delineated by Mr. John Meays, and Mrs. Gill (who, in the absence of Miss Johnson, was entrusted with the part at the last moment) was most successful as Lady Clara Seymour, his loving spouse. Joseph, the footman, was entrusted to Mr. H. Meays. The character however, that was productive of the most amusement was that taken by Mr. Gent, viz., Scroggins, a gentleman who succeeded in mixing himself up in other people’s business. A similar piece, entitled “Family Jars,” provided a great amount of genuine fun. Mrs Gill, Miss Lucy Craven, and Messrs. John Meays, Hitchin, and Johnson were the dramatis personae.”

I’ve since found out that “Family Jars – a farce in one act” was written by dramatist Joseph Lunn and while I’ve not found an author for “A Cup of Tea” I have found a script (pdf). Online searches pull up newspaper reports of other amateur performances of both plays on either side of the atlantic during the late Victorian period.

Fred’s diary mentions Lucy Craven – who he walked out with for a short time the previous year, but remains part of his social circle. John Meays was clearly good friend, we have a couple of his letters and he is one of the witnesses who signed Fred and Jane’s wedding certificate when they eventually married in October 1882. The only John Meays I can find in that area at that time is a pawnbroker – who has a brother called Harry (the article mentions Mr H. Meays) and also an apprentice called Alfred Panton. Fred and Jane’s letters sometimes mention a Betsy Panton (probably a relation of Alfred) in the same breath as John Meays so I have to conclude that it’s the same person.

“Johnson” is Fred Johnson – part of the three ‘Fred, Fred & Ted’ group of which our Fred was one. A later entry about another evening of entertainment Fred mentions helping Johnson with fixing scenery so I am assuming that our Fred was usually part of the back stage crew.

Aside from social events, the Attercliffe Parish Church Mutual Improvement Association was chiefly about adult evening classes – adult education was undergoing a huge surge in interest at that time in Sheffield, and was part of the wider ‘knowledge revolution’ in the late nineteenth century¹. Fred, who seems to have had a brain like a sponge, forever demanding input, sized all the education opportunities he could, attending both his local Mutual Improvement Association and participating as one of the nearly 400 students at the Sheffield Church of England Educational Institute at that time².

Reading that newspaper article slotted into place for me the people in Fred’s social life – It’s now clear to me that Fred’s friends are drawn mainly from his fellow students, although he also socialises with some of his colleagues from work as well.

Fred goes walking a lot with Fred Johnson, they seem to think nothing of doing huge loops of nearly 20 miles encompassing Canklow, Whiston, Ulley, Treeton, and back home to Darnall via Handsworth – the last stop obviously hoping to ‘bump’ into Jane. Fred J and Ted seem to be our Fred’s main confidants.

Over the course of March and April 1879 Fred joins Darnall Cricket Club and he starts dancing classes – sometimes partnering with Fred J’s sister Amy. Fred settles into a pattern of seeing Jane for a walk most Sunday evenings, and they seem to by getting quite close because they start to get “awfully spooney”[sic]. On Tuesday, April the 22nd, Fred writes, “Wrote a long letter to Ted – in the afternoon – telling him that I was in the point of making a confession of love to Janie. Went up with Janie in the evening made the confession referred to, received a reciprocative reply. She’s promised to be my good angel!”

Fred’s diary for the spring and early summer of 1879 is mostly full of having walks with Janie. Given that he can’t call for her without reminding the Warburtons – Jane’s family –  of his ‘unsuitability’, the pair of them must have had to arrange things with an element of subterfuge. Something that Fred seems to send up in the following letter:

“Darnall, April 30, 1879.

Dear Janie,

When I got home last night I found that Ted had returned and had been up to our house, ten minutes after I left, of course he failed to overtake me.
My brother Arthur saw him today (Wednesday) and he (Ted) told him that he should come up tomorrow evening at 7:30, if so I have not the least doubt that cricketing will have to stand over.
If you and Miss B, go to Sheffield, as you mentioned, it may possibly happen that you will return by the 7.20. if so there seems the faintest probability that D.V.W.P. Ted and myself may see that particular train arrive, although, as you are well aware it will be against my inclination. If you should not go to Sheffield, it may never – the – less, notwithstanding possibly happen that you may make an extraordinary effort to be travelling down the street about 8.0.
I am in a desperate hurry just now 7.0pm, also I should experience great pleasure in lengthening this note saying that it is so seldom that I write to you, but you can imagine it extended (ad-libitum) with the practical outpouring of an overburdened heart and also innumerable (buzzes). through which agony, I shall still remain, your disconsolate lover, (until tomorrow night)

I can not work out what ‘buzzes’ are – perhaps a way of describing having ‘butterflies’? But whatever it is, he’s crazy about Jane – and I love the way he’s using humour to deflect the deep feelings he clearly has.

A lot more walks in May and June follow, including “a most enjoyable day” at Roche Abbey (pictured above) which seems to have become a favourite place to visit for them. On one occasion Fred writes “Janie came to our church in the evening, we had a delightful walk home through the wood. It was beautifully clear, the moon was at full. It was splendid.”

July brings the village feasts and dancing and Fred’s dancing lessons pay off when he gets to dance with Janie at the Darnall Feast on the cricket field, and a few days later at a dance on the village green. Jane seems to have an irrepressible spirit and energy and Fred gets “considerably put out at her dancing with several other gentlemen.” But Jane is clearly just as besotted with Fred because when Fred misses going up to see Jane one evening due to feeling ill he not only “had to ask my friend Ted Watts to do duty” but the next day – “Had to see J. to quieten her as she was uneasy”.

After what is clearly the spring and summer that they fell in love with each other I was gratified to read that the Warburton’s might be thawing a tiny fraction because at the beginning of August, Fred writes, “Sunday, August 3. Went up in the evening. It rained so was invited by J inside. Went + spent a very enjoyable evening.”

Actually invited inside! Wonders will never cease…

Image source: Wikimedia Commons;  View of ruined transept at Roche Abbey Yorkshire by Cartwright 1807
1. Steel City Scholars, The Centenary History of the University of Sheffield. Helen Mathers.
2. Sheffield and Rotherham Red Book 1881