We continue our travels with William Porden, beginning in Hull on 1 June 1795, where his diary (archive ref. D3311/4/4) records that he is in his town of birth, Hull:
I found my mother tho’ very infirm yet chearful and happy. She now approaches her 80th year.
I amused myself at my leisure in ranging over the scenes of my boyish days, where every stone and every tree appeared as an old acquaintance and strongly interested my heart. For this reason a visit to Hull is never a visit of chearfulness. There are too many objects to awaken by feelings and to induce a comparison of the present with the past, and my emotions are too strong to admit of any sensation of Gaity.
On 4 June he set off in the stage coach to Lincoln…
My companions in the stage were a young Lieut of the Navy & a farmer & his mother, [and] a venerable old officer in the army whose name and rank I did not learn. He had been a General Officer in the East India Service but as he did not name his rank in the line I conjectured that he held a much lower rank now. He was upward of seventy, tall, strong and healthy, had a last few of his teeth and was good tempered and cheerful. I conjectured that he had been at Hull to seek out a habitation for himself and family which consisted of a Wife and Daughter to which place he was attracted by an idea of living cheaper there than elsewhere which I believe to be the case. He had lost the fire of Youth and had nothing of military insolence.
The ‘venerable old army officer’ relates a story about what happened between the sailors and the ladies of the town when his ship arrived at Portsmouth which is a bit too racy to relate on this blog (you’ll have to read the diary for yourself for that).
William Porden quite often seems to encounter sailors on his travels. On his previous journey to Newark in 1794, he is joined by two merchant seamen, whom he describes as ‘displaying the true sailors character – Rough, cheerful, careless, eating hearty, drinking hard, and at home every where.’ The officers of the Navy whom Mr Porden meets on his various stage coach journeys are somewhat better behaved than the sailors in the Portsmouth story, but make hit and miss companions. On this occasion:
The Naval Officer was a stout healthy looking man, but though he had been in many countries to Asia, Italy &c and spoke of Naples, Rome, Smyrna & other places yet he was so illiterate, and so little knowledge out of his profession and perhaps so little of imagination or Understanding that I could derive neither information or pleasure from his conversation. We were joined by a sprightly Woman at Spittle. As the young sailor rode with his face towards the Horses I gently hinted to him that possibly the Lady might prefer that seat; but he was not galant enough to resign it.
They stayed overnight in Lincoln and then took up a new passenger, a child with a sad story:
June 5 this morning we left Lincoln having parted with our farmers and taken up a beautiful Girl of 12 years going from school to visit her parents and sister at Sleaford. She was in high spirits and enjoyed the idea of the Romp she should have when she got home; but at Sleaford she learn’d with sorrow that her hopes would be disappointed as she had arrived only time enough to take her last leave of her dying mother. Whether she had been sent for or had left her school of course at the vacation for the holidays I know not; but if her friends had sent for her at the request of her sick mother they had acted most inconsiderately and cruelly in not making her acquainted with her mother’s danger; Also in raising high hopes of pleasure only to plunge the child into the greater misery.
I’m possibly slightly obsessed with identifying Mr Porden’s travelling companions, but I suspect that, if the girl’s mother did indeed die, a diligent search of the parish registers for Sleaford and environs for June-July 1794 should reveal a suitable burial which could then be used to find the baptism of a daughter about 12 years before. If anyone frequents Lincolnshire Archives and wants to do a search then please do let me know what you find.