Judith Walker's Holiday 1830 - 2
Our fears of bad weather were unfounded, as we have a beautiful morning, the finest we have had for a long while, and we were helped into our coach promptly at 5.45 at the Bell. (Officially the Bluebell and pictured above).
Mary looks very peaky. She says her father got up with her to breakfast at 5 o'clock and then saw her safe to the coach. I do hope she won't be a difficult travelling companion. Our first stop is at Warrington.
Although our plans are to stop off at Dudley and stay with Jane for the night, we can make the final decision at the time. I look forward to seeing her, as we haven't met since she left York in April. We are due there at about 6 p.m. Mr. Cox came over yesterday and explained his idea of the subject. He felt that it was important for us to have a rest in the middle of the journey. We would then go on from Dudley tomorrow at 11, arriving in Worcester about tea time.
In order to take Mary's mind off the journey, I asked her about how she spent the day yesterday.
“Yesterday morning, Father, Aunt and I went to see how the railway is progressing. We also went to the Botanical Gardens.”
“And how is the railway coming on? Do you know when it is due to make its maiden voyage?”
“Early September, I believe. But it has already done a trial run in January, and another in planned, and they are now just making small adjustments and finishing off the various stations en route from here to Manchester.
“We went inside that place at Crabtree Lane where they have the different things for the railroad, and saw all the carriages that are to go on the road. I had not any idea that they had been so handsome, or so large and convenient. I suppose one or two of them are to be tried again next Thursday.”
“And what did you see at the Botanical Gardens of interest?”
“Let's see. We had a tour with John Shepherd, who is the curator. This is what I learned. The Harthill Botanical Garden was established in 1802 by the Botanist William Roscoe and was the first in the North of England. He and his friend botanists decided to form a private botanic garden on land near Mount Pleasant, close to Myrtle Street. It was the first project where there were public subscriptions to build something for a private society. He says they drew their inspiration from the Renaissance Gardens of Europe. There are ornamental ones in the centre, and a large walled kitchen garden. Apparently there are plans for it to be moved in the near future to Wavetree.”
“It sounds wonderful. I must make a visit myself when next I am in Liverpool. And what else did you do yesterday?”
“I wrote to William, including some poetry, and went to Dale Street to post it. Some of the poetry was written by Uncle Edward. I expect you have read it. The one about Kenilworth Castle. I think very beautiful. I found the other pieces of his about a month ago, and thought them rather pretty.”
“Yes, I have seen some of Edward's writing and think it exceptional. And his father, George Lissant Cox, wrote a poem on the treatment of sailors, which was printed by F.A. Wright, who was imprisoned for a year in consequence.”
“I was told that Mr. Wright was a member of the Renshaw Street Chapel.”
“Poor Edward apparently was in love many times, unsuccessfully, in his early years. Did you read the poem about his parting from his Mary who died?”
“Yes, that is one I have copied for William. And his poems on Friendship also remind me of my times with William – our rambles and resting places.”
“You must miss him very much. How long have you known each other?”
“We have been special friends for four years now, but our understanding dates from my trip back from Beaumaris two years ago. I had a very bad crossing, and he was sent to accompany me and my sisters on our return journey.”
“I expect you will have a letter from him waiting for you.”
Later, about 9 a.m.
Now we have left Warrington and are nearly in Northwich. Poor Mary really is a poor traveller, complaining that she feels sick and faint. And to make matters worse, it has come on to rain, although of no consequence to us as we were well sheltered.
“I am sorry for being such a nuisance,” she said to me. “I don't know what to do with myself to make me feel better. I expect it is owing to my riding inside, wanting my breakfast, and feeling so very cold.”
“What a miserable smokey place Northwich appears to be.”
“Yes, to live here would be like living constantly in a room filled with smoke.”
“I understand that we shall stop and breakfast at Middlewich, at 10, which is only a matter of a few more miles. Perhaps you will feel better with something more substantial in your stomach and have had a chance to warm yourself by the fire.”
“Yes, I do hope so.”
And such was the case. I have never seen a young woman who complained of feeling sick pack away so much food. She had two mutton chops, an egg, plenty of toast and two cups of coffee.
“Who would have thought that I had breakfasted before, or that I was at all ill,” she commented. “But what a difference it has made. I now feel I could do anything.”
“And I expect the fresh air helped.”
“I do enjoy being outside. We can see about us so much better and the country is looking all the better for the rain.”
Soon after that we were called back into the coach and set off on our way to Wolverhampton. Before long, Mary had curled up and was fast asleep.
When she awoke, I continued our conversation.
“Do you feel better now?”
“Yes, totally refreshed. What time is it?”
“Nearly 1 p.m. This next place we are coming to is called Tak on the Hill. The valley is very beautiful, don't you think? And the next town we will be coming to is Spring Vale near Stone. Do you know anything about it?”
“I know it is where the lunatics are kept. We had a picture of it at home, and I am sure I will recognise it from that.”
A few minutes passed, and she was able to confirm that she could identify the correct house.
“Oh look, just before the house, there is a fountain at play. Isn't it a beautiful place and look there are some places made for the poor lunatics to sit in and amuse themselves with looking at the coaches and people passing on the road.”
“I can remember reading about a woman called Jane Johnson who was kept here in 1824 had some form of mental illness. John Johnson, her husband, was keen to have his wife back at home, and he wrote to the Overseers to ask whether they thought she was well enough to be discharged.
Mr. Bakewell, the owner, was keen to see Jane Johnson discharged. He wrote a letter to the Overseers asking for payment.
Here is an approximation of the story.
He wrote, “I have had for nearly a year poor Jane Johnson one of the rudest most noisy and troublesome patients I almost ever had and my only comfort is that I have others nearly as bad as her for a longer time who have recovered and had it not been for the hope of her recovery I should have discharged her long ago, she is certainly upon the whole better and there are hopes but she is still very noisy at times and rude, I hear her at this moment. She came at Lady Day last but I am only charging you from Midsummer and for the half year ending with the year 1823. I shall be greatly obliged if you will pay my son who is the bearer of this, as for the first quarter I have not been paid and suppose I never shall. If any of the Officers of the Parish come this way I trust they will call. I charge as I promised the same as the County Asylum does but I never will take another at that rate at all like Jn Johnson she has torn blankets to the value of half what I charge.
“Finally, John Johnson got his wife back home. Whereupon he promptly complained that he could not cope with her! He asked whether she could be sent to the larger Stafford Asylum, with himself picking up half the expense, and the Parish paying for the other half. Clearly the situation was desperate, as his landlords were preparing to evict him.
This is something of what the husband wrote.
“Sir, I write a few lines to inform you that I fetched my Wife on Monday morning according as I Promised to do she behaved very well on Coming But since she has been very unruly I find myself to be very foolish indeed that I would not yield to your Proposals which I am Certain would have been to my advantage according as we had agreed I therefore own my fault and beg you will Excuse me I now Propose to you if you will agree to put her in Stafford Assylum I will pay half as I agreed or else I will come over to the Parish with her I will do which you Please I have been to Stoke Vestry and they will send us if you will send them the order I beg therefore you will send me an answer by Return of Post as I am obliged to stay at home to mind her myself no woman dares stay with her from
Your unworthy and most Humble Sert.
John Johnson near Bulls Head Lane End
NB Sirs my Landlord is not willing that I should stay any longer in his house”
J.P. Shepherd, the assistant Overseer of Wrockwardine, responded to John Johnson with some degree of scorn.
Here is an approximation of his reply.
“J.P.Shepherd, Wombridge Apr 13,1824
John Johnson Your letter Came on Friday Evng. which I was very much Surprised to see, you had like to wrought before you had rec'd your Wife into your home or given her any tryal Why not you keep her Strait Wascoat on and Chain her to some place that she may not Arm any one, then I think there would be no Doubt but you could get a woman to look after her. I should have answered you sooner but having stated on Wednesday last to the Gentm'n of the Select Vestry what agreement you and I had made on the Saturday Proceeding. I must Consult with Some of them. And as you had the offer of the Parish allowing 5s/week and you to pay the same sum for her to stop a few months longer with Mr. Bakewell under the Same Circumstance you may take her to Stafford Assylum as you said you would if you could not manage her Your Brother-in-law is Witness to all these Agreements and I ham well convinced that he blames you very much at the Next Select Vestry the first Wednesday in May, your letter will be laid before the Gentn. and Answered. PS you may rest assuredly that the Parish will pay 5s/week for to give her a tryal for 2 or 3 months at Stafford Assylum Yours J.P.Shepherd Asst. OS.
“Those are very amusing, and how well you have remembered the details,” laughed Mary.
“I have a special interest in Thomas Bakewell and have read his books. He wrote quite widely on mental disorder. He believes insanity curable, if treated properly and early enough. The treatment system he developed combines a medical approach, directed mainly at the bowels, with a fairly sophisticated 'moral treatment'.”
“Although the scenery is beautiful, I should not like to live around here,” said Mary. “Although I am interested in the smoky and dirty part of Staffordshire, it is something quite new to me. I am pleased to see the different machinery and employments of the men, women and children, so different from what I have ever seen before. But I am wondering where will these people go for a rural walk, and they would be puzzled to find one, but I suppose they have something else to do than think of walking, for they are the poorest class of people who live hereabouts.”
“Well, not all of them are poor,” I answered. “That palace we are just about to go by is the noble seat of the Marquis of Stafford.”
“I know that he is the one who was the main objector to the trains being built, because of his interests in the canal system,” added Mary.
“We seem to be stopping. Perhaps it is just to admire the scenery.”
We stopped the coach for a closer look, and Mary asked the guard what the river was and he of course, replied the Trent.
“I can scarcely think that this could be the same river which flows through the meadows at Nottingham,” said Mary.
The country around here is really beautiful with the Trent meandering through the park and meadows.