Burning with the power of 8000 candles…

Burning with the power of 8000 candles…

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.