Just before Christmas I flicked through a couple of diaries written in the period 1793-1820. I love reading diaries and letters. Through them, I feel like I know the people who wrote them; they become familiar friends and their world, even if 200 years old, seems as real as our own.
I thought I would share some of the diary entries in this blog, partly just because I like them (a good enough reason in itself – that’s partly what this blog is for), but also because their author, William Porden, is a Hull man and so we can do our bit to celebrate Hull’s status as City of Culture 2017.
So firstly, a quick explanation about the man himself. In his first diary and commonplace book, he notes family events, but interestingly, it looks as if he didn’t know the date of his own birth. He records himself thus:
W Porden son of Thomas & Hannah Porden of Kingston upon Hull was Baptised January the 29th 1755 as St Mary’s Church and it is supposed his Birth was sometime in December preceding.
An eminent architect of his day, he lived in London and his most famous surviving building is the riding school and stables at the Brighton Pavilion, built 1803-1808, which is now the Brighton Dome Concert Hall.
If you’re wondering why on earth his papers are held at Derbyshire Record Office, it’s because William Porden’s daughter, Eleanor Anne Porden (1795-1825), was the first wife of Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), who famously led a disastrous voyage of Arctic exploration along the Northwest Passage in 1845 (you’ll find more blog posts about this here). Their daughter, Eleanor Isabella Franklin, married into the Gell family of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire, and so her mother’s and maternal grandfather’s papers came with her into the family and now form part of our Gell collection D3311 – it all makes sense in a way!
William Porden didn’t use his diaries to record his everyday life, but begins his diary in May 1793:
If every man would treasure the Observation, which he makes in his Journey through life and Register the remarks of others he would soon collect an abundance of knowledge and preserve the means of amusing many a future hour. I have often made this remark and I have often resolved to put the matter in execution nay I have frequently begun to do so; but idleness and want of perseverance has rendered it of little effect. I again resolve to do so and I now again begin to register what has occurred during a Journey of three or four days. I dare not flatter myself that I shall be more steady than I have been – but I will try – Whatever may be the end I shall consider all that is got as gain.
I confess to also being guilty of occasional idleness and want of perseverance in my blog posts, and may also not be more steady than I have been – but I, too, will try. In the next post, we journey with Mr Porden on the London to Guildford stage…