The Gratitude of First World War Prisoners to Margery Swanwick of Chesterfield

A post from catalogue volunteer, Roger.

The Record Office recently purchased several letters and postcards at an auction which illustrate aspects of humanitarian work during the First World War.

Margery Eleanor Swanwick (1880-1959) a resident of Whittington, Chesterfield was active both in providing parcels of food and other comforts to Allied soldiers imprisoned in Germany, and in supporting Belgian refugees accommodated in Chesterfield.  This post concerns her support of a number of prisoners of war.

Surviving documents include postcards and letters sent to Margery Swanwick.  The postcards, purposely printed by the German authorities, convey messages of thanks from four prisoners who received parcels.  There are also four letters from organisations involved in the despatch of parcels and one letter from the wife of a prisoner.

It is not clear from the documents how the four recipients of Margery Swanwick’s parcels were selected: the beneficiaries were not from Derbyshire.  The collection includes two postcards sent by William Marshall, a private in the Sherwood Foresters Regiment, whose expressions of thanks give no biographical details. 

There are six cards from William Leonard Gothard, also a private in the Sherwood Foresters Regiment.  His home was at Old Westwood, Jacksdale, Nottinghamshire.  He was so grateful to Margery Swanwick that he had his wife write a letter of thanks.  William Gothard had left home in August 1914, just a week after the birth of his first child, and was taken prisoner two months later.  It is clear that Margery Swanwick corresponded with both William Gothard and his wife, and there are indications that Margery Swanwick may have visited Mrs Gothard. 

The third English prisoner to receive parcels from Margery Swanwick was William Marke.  He tells of his birth in Hanwell, Middlesex; he joined the East Sussex Regiment in 1904 and was later a gymnastic instructor attached to the Devon and Cornwall Light Infantry at Bodmin where he met his wife.  He writes of his two daughters, one of whom he had not seen. 

Intriguingly the fourth recipient of parcels was a Russian soldier, Alex Petrow.  Five of the postcards sent in his name convey a printed message in German acknowledging receipt of parcels.  A sixth card contains a message of thanks written on Alex Petrow’s behalf by a fellow prisoner.

Postcard from Gothard to Mrs Swanwick, ref: D6287/5/3/1
Postcard from Private W. L. Gothard at Kriegsgefangenenlager, No. 1 Camp, Munster to Mrs Swanwick, 28 Feb 1916 (ref: D6287/5/3/1)

The cards illustrate the range of goods sent in parcels and convey not only thanks but specific requests.  The Russian soldier’s fellow prisoner confirms that “socks and underclothing would be of great comfort – winter is now here and very cold.”  William Gothard asked for, and was sent, a French dictionary: “I am endeavouring to master the French Grammar in my spare time.”  His parcels also contained a sewing kit and a small heater, for which he later asked for refills.  William Marke was appreciative of a spirit lamp.  He politely asked for biscuits to be replaced by bread.  He even asked for, and was sent, specific physiology and anatomy textbooks “for which you will have to write to the Board of Education.”

In December 1916 came a substantial change.  The sending of parcels was formalised.  It was no longer open to private individuals to choose items and to send parcels themselves.  Parcels were assembled and packed at depots established by organisations such as regimental associations.  Margery Swanwick’s role changed from sending items of her own choice to making a regular financial subscription.  The document collection includes four letters from organisations concerned with these arrangements. 

Two of the prisoners continued to correspond with Margery Swanwick.  They regretted the changed arrangements.   William Gothard wrote: “the parcels under the new scheme arrive regularly but they are not like the old home ones.”  William Marke regretted the loss of a personal link: “the parcels under the new scheme are quite good, although they have not the pleasing effect the ones packed by yourself had.  You know we miss those fancy things that we have been used to, which we know has pleased our friend in packing.”

The writers expressed hopes for the future.  William Marke was thinking about his Army work after the War: “I am sure [the physiology books] will help me considerably in my branch of the service when the war is finished.”  William Gothard’s wife was looking forward to when “this terrible war is over, and he is safe home again.”

Detailed descriptions and transcriptions of the postcards and letters can be seen in the Record Office catalogue under reference D6287/5.

Addendum: Thank you to Roger for his admirable work in transcribing these letters, several of which are in French. We are very grateful.

Lockdown Stories: Working from Home

From earlier blog posts, you will have realised that I, like my colleagues at the Record Office, am working from home during this period of lockdown.

For me, in my modest cottage, this has taken some adjustment. Firstly, child number two, aged 21, arrived home from University with a friend in tow – both with the huge pressure of deadlines to meet for coursework, dissertations to complete and final exams to pass for their undergraduate degree courses. Hmmm, a puzzle to solve. Three adults into a small cottage has meant one of us in the basement bedroom (fondly known as the ‘dungeon’), one in the dining/sitting room (also referred to as the ‘yoga studio’) and me in the kitchen (near the food).

Archivist Becky dropped off a laptop, keyboard and mouse, which after 72 hours of quarantine were ready for use. With some assistance from the Derbyshire County Council IT department, I had already set up my personal PC and phone to allow limited access to the Record Office databases and communications system. Once switched over to the laptop and equipment Becky had dropped off, full access was enabled and I was ready to go.

The work task assigned to me has been a pleasure to work on, for which I feel extremely grateful.

The Miller Mundy family of Derbyshire has provided us with a true insight into their lives as landed gentry and politicians from the 1700s onwards. Based at Shipley, Markeaton and Walton, the family was extremely large and unravelling the different strands of this family has been challenging at times, particularly with their fondness for the names Edward, Frances/Francis, Godfrey, Robert, Nellie, Georgiana and Alfred, used in almost every generation. The astounding number of children born to each generation, with Edward Miller Mundy (1775-1834, son of Edward, father to Edward) fathering 13 children with his wife, Nellie, adding to the puzzle.

Aside from the family seat in Derbyshire, there is a long history of involvement in both local and national politics. Several members of the family became Members of Parliament, High Sheriffs and Magistrates. With so many children, it was usual for sons other than the first born heir to enter the military or church.

I have been transcribing letters from George Miller Mundy written to his Father, Edward Miller Mundy. George was in the navy, Captain of The Hydra, and wrote extensively about the Napoleonic War. George’s writing style is clear, and he is well educated, sometimes quoting Shakespeare, although not always entirely accurately. He writes of battles and strategies naming ships familiar to us, as well as naval officers such as Collingwood, Hardy and Nelson, the enemy Villeneuve and Napoloeon; politics as well as his feelings. Reading them transports me to another era.

It has become clear that in spite of the size of the family, there is a deep affection and respect for one another, which is very touching to read.

My working day is a stimulating break from being stuck at home baking, reading, learning Spanish and playing the Ukulele. As a part-timer, I work four hours per day over four days, which is ideal for this task. I have now rigged up a large monitor, discovered in child number one’s room (on a sabbatical and currently isolating in Panama). The large screen has helped considerably in trying to decipher the somewhat tricky handwriting. Zooming in on a big screen aids with seeing how letters are formed, leading to understanding specific words.

Generally, the internet connection has been very reliable for all three of us working. Today has been the first day of failing, which has made me realise how reliant we are on technology. I fear this lockdown would have been far more isolating without our Skype and zoom meetings with colleagues and friends. Working from home would have been a completely different story, and may have been nigh impossible in some cases.

Melanie's workstation


This image shows my home office set up in my kitchen; I am lucky to have enough space for a desk. The handwritten/highlighted notes show my first attempt to plot the Miller Mundy family structure! I choose to work with the radio on (Radio 4 or 6) as I like some background noise. This is not heard by the two students elsewhere in the house.

Not far from wherever I am, you will find my two dogs, Nora the Greyhound and Nelson, my Jack Russell. Nelson is 13, and when I named him as a nine week old puppy, I did not envisage I would be reading letters about Lord Nelson’s heroic actions, victories and demise.

So, here is ‘my’ Nelson.

Nelson the dog

Melanie Collier, Archives Assistant


A letter from Trafalgar

Part of a very moving collection of letters in the Miller Mundy collection (D517) from October and November 1805, George Miller Mundy wrote an account to his father just two days after the Battle of Trafalgar.  George was captain of HMS Hydra and spent many years patrolling the seas around Cadiz and Gibraltar, engaging in combat.  It is clear that Lord Nelson was very much admired and respected by his men, and his demise at Trafalgar was sorely felt, in spite of the tremendous victory.

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Letter from George Miller Mundy to his father, 1805 (D517 BOX a 3 part 2)

George writes about the day of the battle, and describes how Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Lord Nelson inspired his men to victory:

“One of the most characteristic circumstances of his conduct on the great day was a Telegraphic message to the fleet in general just as they were going into action. It was!

“England espects [sic] British Seamen will do their Duty, this Day”

what could have been more expressive and more exhilarating to men who looked to him as a father? Can you conceive any more to the purpose? The Captains of course turn’d their men up and read the short but nervous sentence to them. Imagine the unanimous response of

“We will do it”

and three lusty Cheers”

The letter continues to describe how Lord Nelson’s unique and inspired strategy repeatedly broke the French line of ships, demolishing the fleet of their enemy.  The cost was:

“the loss of Lord Nelson. A Frenchman shot him of the Fore tops thro’ his shoulder which lodg’d in his back, he liv’d some hours, and when Hardy went down & told him the Trinidad (the pride of Spain) had struck! & some others. He said, he was satisfied it was a victory, and almost immediately expir’d, so departed, this wonderful man.”

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Letter from George Miller Mundy to his father, 1805 (D517 BOX a 3 part 2)

History tells us that Nelson was recognised as a hero by the nation.  The monument, Nelson’s Column, in Trafalgar Square in London, has the inscription ‘England expects every man will do his Duty’ at it’s base, the same message described by George in his letter.

Melanie, Archives Assistant

Stay connected, get creative and keep learning

Over the past few years the record office has been working with our friends at Junction Arts, the Chesterfield-based arts charity, on the project The Art of Letter Writing. The project celebrates the unique relationships we make with each other by writing and receiving letters, using historical letters from the record office’s collection, the participants’ own letters from home, and the art of illuminated letters.

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Excerpt from a letter written by Elizabeth Winchester, lady’s maid at Chatsworth House (D5430/76/23)

Usually a hands-on project, whilst we’re all socially distancing, the project has been specially adapted to go online. So what better time than now to connect with family and friends? The project is also connecting people with more vulnerable and isolated members of our community by offering people the chance to connect through letter writing. It might even be the start of a friendship that lasts beyond the lockdown!

For more information on the project and details of how to get involved see the Junction Arts website. If you do get involved, we’d love to hear how you got on.


Florence Nightingale’s local patients (part 2)

Roger has almost finishing transcribing the letters of Florence Nightingale to Crich doctor Christopher Dunn and will be researching some of the patients she cared for.  Here is another instalment from Roger about the letters, and one patient in particular… “little Lee”.

The letters are predominantly about the health and welfare of individuals living in Lea and Holloway.  From the letters emerges the particularly poignant story of  a young boy, often named in the letters as “little Lee.”  Charles Henry Lee, known as Harry, was born in 1875.  His family were living in Lea or Holloway, his father, Andrew, being a hosiery factory worker.  Florence’s letters indicate that Harry had a deformity of the spine, and it seems reasonable to assume that this condition was present from birth.

The first reference to Harry in surviving letters is found in a letter written in October 1877, when Harry would have been two years old.  Taken together, one letter held here at the record office and one at Boston University, USA (see both via the Florence Nightingale Digitization Project website), indicate that Harry was about to be taken from his home to St Thomas’s Hospital in London. Florence asks Dunn for assistance in preparing for the journey:

Could you kindly give directions for someone as to the “small padded board” for the child: & charge it to me?  I am ashamed to trouble you but the parents are too stupid: & I have no one here who is clever about these things.

At the last minute, however, Florence learned that Harry was showing evidence of fresh inflammation.  She needed Dunn to see the boy to confirm that he could make the journey.  First she tried to contact him by word of mouth:

I sent 2 or 3 messages into the village yesterday to ask you, if you were in Holloway, to be so kind as to go & see the child.

When this failed she wrote to Dunn asking him to see the boy immediately.  Approval must have been given for the journey.

Andrew Lee’s child will go up to St Thomas’ on Friday.  The “board” for it is come: & I will send it to Andrew Lee’s to night [sic].  Could you be so very kind as to see the child tomorrow, Thursday – look at “board” & child, & tell me whether both will “do.”? 

Within a few days, at the end of a long letter about other matters Florence assures Dunn that the boy is safely and happily housed at St Thomas’s Hospital.

It is not clear how long Harry Lee remained in hospital.  In a letter written in January 1879, more than a year after his admission, Florence reports that Harry was no longer in need of hospital treatment but was being cared for at a convalescent home, Ascot Priory in Berkshire.  There can be little doubt that this provision was made at Florence’s initiative: she knew some of the nursing sisters at Ascot Priory from when they had served with her in the Crimea.  Later in that year the sisters reported Harry Lee to be a “peculiarly happy child”:

He is quite “master” at Ascot; and he objects to another patient being called “little man” [saying] ‘He is only a little boy: I am the man.’

By early in 1880, however, Harry Lee was in hospital again.  Florence reported to Dunn that although the Mother Superior at Ascot Priory saw Harry Lee to be happier she was concerned about his increasing deformity.  John Croft, the surgeon at St Thomas’s Hospital was also concerned:

You will be sorry to learn that little Lee has now a very large abscess connected with the disease of the spine. This makes the case much more serious. The parents ought to know that the chances of recovery are less than they were.

At this time Florence was living at her London house.  She asked Christopher Dunn to visit Harry Lee’s mother and father:

When you are going Lea way, could you be so very kind as to inform the parents of little Lee, because you will be able to answer their questions as a Medical Authority; & neither unduly to frighten them nor to flatter their hopes.

In April 1880 Florence relays a further report from the surgeon John Croft.  A long stay in hospital was predicted:

I wish I could give a more hopeful account of little Harry Lee. The new jacket had to be taken off.  The abscess is discharging freely still.  He is very thin & weak.

Surviving letters from Florence to Christopher contain no subsequent reference to Harry Lee.  But Florence writes at length about him in a letter (original is at Boston University) written in August 1880 to Miss Mochler, a Nightingale family assistant living at Lea Hurst.   Harry Lee was about to leave hospital and to return to Ascot Priory.  The improvement in his condition led to him being called “a little miracle”:

He is now able to wear his new splint – a much better one than he has ever been able to wear before – he can walk a little and there is very little discharge now.

Florence was thinking about the advisability of arranging a visit by his mother.  She was cautious about the risk of raising his mother’s hopes about his prospects: his mother would probably think him looking worse that when she last saw him.  Despite the improvement “he is not better and never will be.”

In the absence of any further references in Florence’s letters we rely on other sources of information.  When a census was taken in April 1881 Harry Lee’s family, his father, mother and three sisters, were at home in Lea.  Harry was at Ascot Priory, the youngest of 23 patients and one of only four patients of school age.  Harry Lee must have died in the following few weeks: his name appears in the list of deaths registered between April and June 1881.

A year earlier Florence had written of him:

“Poor little man!  But few well-to-do children could be so carefully nursed and attended.”

D2546 1-88_0133D2546 1-88_0134

Florence Nightingale’s local patients (part 1)

Today is famous nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday.  Her life is being celebrated across the world during 2020 although the coronavirus pandemic means that many planned events have had to be cancelled or postponed.

Through the course of this week, we’ll be posting on Florence’s connections with Derbyshire and how her story is influencing people today.

While we are in lockdown, not only are staff working from home, but several of our regular volunteers have also had the opportunity to work on projects that might not otherwise have arisen.  Roger is our longest-serving volunteer, and you will have heard about his other projects through the blog.  His latest project is especially timely as it has involved transcribing in full 88 letters written by Florence Nightingale and purchased for £2,000 back in 1982.  The transcripts will ultimately be added to the online catalogue (reference D2546), but in the meantime, here are some insights into the life of Florence as told by Roger:

The collection (Treasure No. 39) contains letters written between 1876 and 1887, representing a portion of the correspondence between Florence Nightingale and Christopher B C Dunn, a medical practitioner living in Crich from 1862 until his death in 1892. We have only one side of this correspondence: none of Christopher Dunn’s letters to Florence Nightingale are known to have survived, so in that sense Florence Nightingale’s perspective prevails. The rhetoric of the letters can be regarded as delicately polite, at times deferential, and respectful of the professional status of the doctor:

Do you wish your Patient’s hair to be shaved or cut short?  Would you say whether he must not leave off the cotton Jersey next his skin?

Florence Nightingale aligns herself with Christopher Dunn as a fellow professional:

I am very much obliged to you for your report of our Patients.

The letters may also be read, perhaps, as leaving Christopher Dunn in no doubt about what was expected of him:

Could you be so very good as to have a Water-bed hired or ordered at once for Mrs Limb; and send me the Acct?  I am giving you this trouble but I hardly know where one is to be had.

On occasion he was expected to act almost as Florence Nightingale’s local agent; Mr Acraman being vicar of Crich:

I hasten to send you a Cheque for your Qr Acc [quarterly account] for the people to whom you are so kind & to thank you for your kindness.  I venture to ask you to be so good as to give £2. 2 (which I have added to the Cheque) to Mr Acraman for his school subscription; for which he wrote to me. I must apologise both you & to him for this unceremonious way of doing it.

Florence wrote these letters in her role as benefactor to the community of Lea and Holloway in general and to a number of individual residents in particular.  She commissioned Christopher Dunn to give diagnoses, treatments and medical oversight.  She paid for medical attention, including in some cases meeting the cost of hospital admission.  She provided some individuals with a weekly supplement of nourishing food.  Many local people enjoyed her generous individually tailored provision:

I have now (this morning) received your kind letter.  And I will trouble you about Milk & meat & such things as you kindly order for our charges.  On meat are Sisters Allen Louisa Peach Mrs Broomhead Widow Barton Widow Brown.  Of the two last, Widow Barton’s was only to be for the winter months.  Widow Brown’s only for her illness.  Both would stop on March 31.  I observe from your letter that good Widow Pearson has been ill.  Would you like her Meat to continue a month longer?

Florence did not limit her interventions to medical matters.  She took a much broader view of her obligation.  She asked Christopher Dunn to take action or to give advice about what might be called issues of public health and community well-being, including tainted water supply and inadequate household heating; relief of financial poverty and the establishment and maintenance of a coffee house in Whatstandwell intended to reduce excessive patronage of a public house.  She sought to remain well informed, even when living in London or visiting her sister in Buckinghamshire.   She can be regarded as having, in modern parlance, pulled strings: involving local men of influence such as William Yeomans, a senior employee of the Nightingale Estate, but also a long-serving Poor Law Guardian and local councillor, and Robert Wildgoose, manager of Lea Mills, a significant local employer:

Would you kindly remember me to Mrs Swann and tell her I have not succeeded (I hardly expected it) in finding Patty Cottrell a suitable place.  I hope she has, for Mr Wildgoose has promised in that prospect not to take her on at the Mill.

She also expected, perhaps required, Christopher Dunn to provide her with information about individuals – aspects of their behaviour as well as their health; and to offer some “patients” moral guidance as well as, or even instead of, medical expertise:

I know you will be so kind as to enquire after Rose Limb (morally not physically) when you visit the mother.  This child, for I think she is only 12, declared that if she did not like her new sister-in-law, she should leave the house & set up for herself elsewhere.  (This is the harm the Mill does – girls of 13 think they owe no allegiance, if they can earn their own bread)  If this fit of rebellion has, as I earnestly trust, passed away, I would not revive the possibility of her doing such a thing.  Rose Limb is frightfully spoiled. Tho’ she is put to school at no expence [sic] to them, she is allowed to go or not as she pleases.  I know you will kindly ask what she is doing. (The girls at Holloway are a heavy anxiety: so much dress: so little putting by money or even mending their own clothes. Many a girl who begs of me spends more money on herself relatively, and in a few instances absolutely, than I do.)

But “clinical” information did not flow in only one direction.  Florence used other sources and gave information to Christopher Dunn:

Thank you for your kind note about Adam Prince.  What I hear of him is that can now take neither milk nor eggs.

On occasions she shares doubts about her practice:

Poor Lyddy Prince has been helped this winter – it is a difficulty about this, knowing that what helps her goes to supply Adam [her son] with drink –  She is now on the parish, with a claim to Medical relief.

The letters, then, offer a glimpse of how Florence Nightingale operated as an influential benefactor.  Do such exchanges of very personal information challenge modern notions about patient confidentiality? We might remember that this is private correspondence, intended never to be seen by anyone other than Christopher Dunn himself.  Is it we, as curious readers achieving access through a world wide web who are intruding on private matters?

Signature, Jan 1880 (ref: D2546/54)

See the letters for yourself

Images of the letters, along with many others written by Florence Nightingale, from archives and libraries across several countries, have been made freely available:  In particular this searchable web site gives access to a few letters to Christopher Dunn, the originals of which are held elsewhere.

The Crich Parish website has pages devoted to Christopher Dunn, and to the Whatstandwell Coffee Rooms, with transcriptions of a number of the letters held at the Record Office.

Escape from 200 French infantry on the beach in northern Spain using guile, cunning and some fish!

So in my earlier post, we heard how George Miller Mundy managed to be reunited with his ship HMS Hydra after a beach skirmish. However, not all his crew managed to board a fishing boat to do the same. In the letter dated 1st May 1809 written to his father, Edward Miller Mundy of Shipley, he describes the adventures of fellow Englishman Radford…

‘Radford had a narrow and rather extraordinary escape he had, like myself, been obliged to remain on shore at Castel de Fels in consequence of the great sea on the beach, and as he could not pass Barcelona very safely by land he went to Tarragona where he got a passage in a packet boat bound for Mataro and on the 27th when near Barcelona found himself in the midst of the French squadron which he took to be English and without hesitation went alongside the [French vessel]…‘

So, mistaking an enemy French vessel for an English one, whilst on board a Spanish packet boat with Spanish crew threatening to stab him (rather than being discovered harbouring an English seaman by the French), what did Radford do?

‘of course he soon discovered his error, but how to get away again was the business, and the Spaniards on the Boat were going to stab him conceiving that he had acted treacherously, in this disastrous situation he thought of asking, or rather holding up some fish to the French officer, who was attending at the side, who refused them, on which he immediately cut the rope and dropt astern, most fortunately for him, the ship was in the act of making sail in chase of the Hydra which occupied the whole crew’

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Excerpt from George’s letter to his father, 1st May 1809 (D517 Box A 3 part 2)


Quick thinking Radford tricked the French officer, who was more concerned with chasing the Hydra, into thinking he was simply crew of the packet boat, by offering him fish and so secured his escape!

Melanie, Archives Assistant

a lucky letter repair

Here is a nice repair job I carried out on one of our Franklin letters, written by John Richardson to John Franklin in July 1823. It was a particularly satisfying one, as this letter originally had a missing corner piece, which amazingly our project archivist Neil had managed to find! After it had been matched up to its rightful home, I re-attached the piece using a wheat starch paste and spider tissue, and filled a hole with handmade repair paper. See the results below – it just goes to show how easy it is to lose information when paper becomes damaged, but luckily this time we could help!


Letter to Franklin from John Richardson


Missing piece of the letter


Letter before repair


Letter after repair


Missing piece re-attached


Letter after repair – infill

Treasure 49: a letter from Congreve Butt, 1839

This letter (D5605/2/6) was written by a medic, Congreve Butt, to his brother Revd George Butt, who was vicar of Chesterfield from 1851 until his death in 1888.  It was nominated as one of our 50 Treasures by Vicky, a Record Assistant at Derbyshire Record Office, who picked it out for our “Thank You For Your Letter” outreach project in 2009. “I was surprised to find the content of this letter much richer than described in the catalogue entry”, says Vicky. “Although George went onto become a much respected Vicar of Chesterfield we don’t hear directly from the louche doctor again. Relatives say in much later correspondence that he became a ship’s surgeon bound for Calcutta – I just wonder what he got up to there?”

The letter is an entertaining read, but the handwriting is not easy – Vicky’s transcript follows beneath the scanned copy.

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Martley [Worcestershire] Nov 4th 1839

My Dear George,

Enclosed in some rough envelopes I have sent you a ham – which I trust will turn out well- and if it will not be unacceptable to you – I have received your two last letters which gave me great satisfaction as I wanted to hear from you having been kept in a long continued state of ignorance as to your state of health and progression in other matters. In fact I have not had any family communication since we met. With the exception of seeing Ewen whom I heard address a jury the other day. He performed his part far better than I could have expected, from the little I heard only at the fag end of the learned counsel’s speech –and I should not be surprised to see him worming his way to some eminence “nator fit” we all know & the youth possesses perseverance – Speaking of orators – what do you think of the poet Kilpins production? I have not yet read it but I have heard some persons speak of it in high terms – Kilpin says you are very amusing and find him matters for his wit – Did you find matter for “the man in the moon ?”

I heard of Lovery lately from the hearths of Wick – I think the second sister is staying in Oxford – Pray tell me if she is, and what you think of her – she took wonderfully with me not so much for her personal appearance as for her good qualities – which were remarkable – I found a strong contrast to some other members of her family . If old Conway Lovery (or rather, young ) is in Oxford pray tell me & remember me to him as I should like him to come a & spend two or three days at Xmas.

As I am now getting established in the opinions of many of my neighbours – and I am progressing as this thinly populated and poor neighbourhood will admit of – I am making enough to keep myself in pocket money & boot leather & not of any fresh debts – having received perhaps £20 altogether – and If I get the remaining £10 in my books paid by Xmas – I think I can strain a point to see an old friend for a day or two – especially as I have been requested to take my friends to some neighbouring families – where I always have a knife & fork & a welcome. Old Captain S when he sees me always sneaks away like a canine animal in a quandary – leaving my circle of acquaintance almost confined to Mrs Sparkes, Mr Kenton, Eginton,& Archy[…]

We have a pleasant curate just arrived. He was at East Garlton in the summer months cooking at the curacy – His name is Davis – he is very gentlemanly – keeps two carriages & preaches extempore in a manner not unwitting of a metropolitan pulpit – I have not visited Price recently – I rather think that he has voted me a bore, as he has hinted two or three times on the expense of going to Worcester to see Mr Lechmore, so I trouble him as little as possible – I suppose you know old Sir Winnington is translated to another world – I do not know his son.

[The curate referred to was Revd Edward Acton Davies M.A., who was rector of Areley Kings by the time he died in 1880, aged 74.]

It is a great difficulty this to lie by and let my “wanton zeal mould in roosted sloth” – but I groan & endure & read books of a voluminous size from the library being relieved from my monotony by being visited by about one patient a day – & an occasional bit of cheating at vingt un with some of the fair agricultural nymphs of this vicinity – among whom I am sorry to say that I cannot help maintaining my ancient character for being fond of a bit of “getting upstairs and playing the fiddle”. I say sorry, because all the world expects a medical man to be always wrapt up in an odour of gravity – in fact to assume a humbugging puritanical deportment which it is my misfortune to lack – time, however, which will soon turn me bald, may perchance give me a due share of that other inestimable quality.

[Vingt-et-un is the French version of the card game known as blackjack or pontoon – but somehow I don’t think this is what he is alluding to.]

In your letter of October 4th – you describe my letter as a non descript one – What will call this? – Something of the same sort. My hand is quite out – I have written to no one & for no one. I am obliged to take up with the subjects of conversation I meet with, instead of enjoying the company of any rationally educated people – It is therefore marvelous that the product of my brain should be a rambling hodge podge , a pot pourri as the Gauls have it. Besides when I take up my pen in your behalf I have so much to ask you & so much to say that I scarcely know where to begin far less where to end. I thought therefore that your reverence will not measure my feeble epistolary power by your own signature ones – but will be taken into your generous consideration that, however great a jumble & even concentration of ideas – distinct or otherwise there may be in my cranium – yet I am not weekly exercised by the utterance of them in writing of humour (not that I mean to say you with your own nor anything to the contrary) as you are. Nor am I in a classical soil – Genius within this country – men whose talk is of bullocks abound here to the exclusion of all others.

I wish you would lend me your pistols for a short time when you don’t want them – they would afford me a small variety in my retreat & I want to shoot a dog or two which always fly at me – & in kicking of whom I hurt my toe – you shall have them back honor bright.

The day after I sent your box , Perrott sent me a new copy of Coleridge – all three vols which is the one you have – as I may as well keep the other I send you the two. You did not tell me whether all the books were right – I think my “Bacot on Syphilis” is amongst your books – Please take care of it. [John Bacot’s “A Treatise On Syphilis” (London, 1829).]Can you tell me how long Henry will be in Paris ? I would like to commission him to get some bougies [A thin flexible surgical instrument] if I knew his address – Bloxham knows a gentleman in the customs at Dover who would pass anything for him – It is the india rubber bougies & catheters which I mean and which are made so much better in Paris than anywhere else. Plague upon it – I just see by referring to your letter that Henry is in London – when we get the penny postage I’ll write him a letter. Apropos Remember me to Penny – and B.M.

Your very affectionate brother Congreve

Key players in the FitzHerbert Family

When you’re cataloguing a large family collection such as this, it’s fair to say there’s always a large number of people involved! The FitzHerbert family is no exception and throughout the listing process where I’ve been looking through all of the material in all the boxes (see my earlier posts), there is certainly a large amount of correspondence.

Some of this correspondence is business related, regarding the Tissington estate (also some of the other estates), Whilst some of the correspondence is private, between friends and family about a whole array of subjects.

This adds to the already catalogued material of this collection and fills what would otherwise be an incomplete gap. Take a look at the catalogue for collection D239 here.It also gives an insight into the lives and personalities of those who are writing the letters. Given that the material in these particular boxes dates rom the late eighteenth century to the 1960s, it is four of the FitzHerbert Baronets who are the main authors of the letters, the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Baronets: Sir William, Sir Richard, Sir Hugo Meynell and Sir William.

Including friends and workers on the Tissington Estate, they correspond with some interesting people, Edward Ford being one significant individual. A gentleman called Col. Weetman is a name frequently mentioned, he was an insurance agent for the FitzHerberts. Why not come and read the correspondence when its all sorted and properly catalogued?

In my next post I hope to tell you about some of the items I’ve discovered which are ‘treasures’…