Two weddings in Marple - 1 Beginning to Plan
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January 1st, 1883
Well, how appropriate this Christmas gift to me from Mary was. I shall use this splendid new diary to record all the events leading up to and including her wedding. I am sure it will be a useful aid for me, as well as a remembrance for her in years to come.
I suppose if this is to be a proper document, I should start by introducing the situation. I am Hannah Robertson Carver, married to Thomas Carver, owner of Hollins Mill, in Marple along with his twin brother John and the Hodgkinson brothers, Samuel and Edwin. We have eight children living, and four, sadly, buried in the earth.
We moved to Marple, here in the countryside, but also on the outskirts of Manchester in 1860 when my husband and his twin brother secured a loan of £15,000 from their father Thomas Carver, who owned and managed a successful transport company. We made the trip from Manchester by canal boat, and what a trip that was. We had only our eldest child, William Oswald, now 27, with us at that time. He was 3. Mary, our eldest daughter, who is now 26, was born here at our house, Hollins House, where we have lived ever since. Our next children are Ernest, 22, Jessie, 20, Thomas, 19, Bernice, 16, and Robertson, 15. Oswald, Ernest, Mary and Jessie live here with us, but the younger three children are at school still, with Bernice in Ormskirk, Lancashire, and the boys at Strathmore House School in Southport.
Mary is marrying Frank Barlow, who is 25, who works with his father Thomas Barlow. He has two companies; Thomas Barlow and Bros of Manchester and London, and Barlow and Co of Calcutta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Mary met Frank at a large gathering that we went to in Manchester a few years ago. It was our neighbours the Bedsons, from Oakleigh House, who organised it. It was quite a do. We women went by carriage, in all our finery. It was at the Albion Hotel, with the music provided by none other than Charles Halle and his orchestra, and we danced from 8-11, Mary spending almost all of her time with Frank. Then we had supper, and I must say it was well into the early hours of the morning when we returned, and Thomas, bless him, had organised a private train for our company to travel back through the night to Marple Station.
Since then, Mary and Frank have been in constant correspondence, and he comes to see her whenever he can. They have been engaged for nearly a year now, and I had envisaged a late spring wedding - when the flowers would be at their peak. But on Christmas Day, Mary and Frank announced that they intended to make their wedding sooner rather than later. The exact date is yet to be set, but they have determined on March.
The venue will be our beautiful Congregational Church on Hibbert Lane. Thomas, John and their eldest brother, William as well as the Hodgkinsons, paid most of the money for that church to be built. We were always members of the Congregational Church, and when we moved here, we were devastated to find that there was nowhere for us to worship nearby. I don't mean there were no churches - Marple and the near by village of Mellor are well supplied with three Anglican churches, as well as perhaps six Methodists of various shades. But we had been very involved in the Congregationalist way of service, and so we travelled six miles each Sunday, until the men got together and planned this church.
I must admit that Thomas is not at all pleased about us going to that church for the wedding. We, the children and I worship there every week, and often during the week when services are available. And Oswald is one of the elders. But Thomas had a falling out with the minister, and hasn't been in the church since 1882. Rev. Simpson, took exception to a speech Thomas gave, putting forth the argument for having a meeting room for a non-denominational service - including all the Christians of any denomination in Marple and the surrounds. But the elders would not have it, and as Thomas was as determined for it as they against, it came to a parting of ways.
Thomas then got it in his head to build another church - but more of a meeting place than a church - and that is now the Union Rooms, (pictured above) just down the drive from here on Stockport Road. It is a fine large building, and it serves as a social centre for the whole town, which is what Thomas envisaged - a community church. On the ground floor he has the Coffee Tavern, which serves tea or coffee and small snacks, but never a drop of alcohol, as we are tea-totallers, and always have been.
Then upstairs, there is a reading room attached to the library (with appropriate religious books) and also what serves as a church. I must say that when it was opened a few years ago now, it was packed to the gills. Thomas was so proud that his idea of an inter-denomination place of worship was wanted and needed.
However, after a few years, having been inspired by the Stockport Salvation Army, Thomas decided to do the same sort of thing here, and he has recruited from all the town, men to join his Union Band. They look very fine in their uniforms. Thomas is of course the General and his has gold braid and embroidery on the front. He plays the drums. The others however, are also very smart with their white stripes on their blue jackets. They meet each Sunday and march around the town, and end up back at the Union Rooms for the service. It is very successful, especially with the millworkers.
As you might expect, there has also been quite a backlash from the more conservative members of the town - saying that they are desecrating the solemnity of Sunday with their band. But Thomas is determined that it is the will of God that they should honour Him in just this way.
So, getting back to the topic of the wedding, Thomas, who now has his church in the Union Rooms, would prefer the wedding there. But Mary and Frank were quite determined on this point, and said the wedding would take place at the Congregational Church. So whether her father attends or not, we shall see.
What we must do fairly soon, is agree on whom to invite, as it is only proper that there should be at least a few month's between the invitations going out, and the wedding itself. The church will hold 200 at a pinch, and as this is my first child to be married, I hope that we can fill it for the occasion.
I might as well start my list now, and then Mary and Frank can decide who else to add to the list.
Our family alone will account for quite a number, but the younger children may not be able to get away from school. Let's say 10, including the servants and another 20 including Thomas' brother and sisters and their families.
My sister and her husband, another two.
Then our good friends the Bedsons, George and his wife, Sarah and their children still at home, Sarah, Joseph and Peter.( I was rather hoping Mary would marry Peter, I must admit He's a lecturer in Chemistry from London University.)
And of course, our partners, the Hodgkinsons, who are currently still living at Woodville, but that is where Mary and Frank will move to when they return from their honeymoon. Samuel, his wife Anne and their children That makes another 13.
I feel we should invite the gentry of the town. They may not come, but best to invite them, and have them refuse, than not invite them, and have them take umbrage. After all we are nearly on a social level with them, despite us having made our money from hard labour rather than having inherited it along with a title. So that means
Mr and Mrs. Thomas Bradshaw Isherwood, and three Miss Hudsons from Brabins Hall, although I very much doubt the eldest one will be fit enough. Ann must be nearly 90 by now. Another five.
Then of course, the groom's family
Thomas Barlow and his wife Mary Ann and their children, John, Lionel, Percy, and Annie. That brings the total to 44.
I was interrupted in my writing at this stage, as it was time for our evening meal. My cook, Mrs. Clayton, does a very nice job and we are very lucky to have her. But during the meal, I decided to discuss some of the outstanding issues about the invitations.
Here is more or less how the conversation went.
"Tell me more about the Barlow family, Mary. Are Frank's brothers married? Where do they all live?"
"Mr and Mrs. Barlow live in Wales with their sons Lionel and Percy but Lionel goes to school in Brighton. I doubt if he would come for the wedding, John is a barrister, and is the senior partner in his father's company. He is not married. I think Frank intends having him for his best man."
"How much do you know about this company they run? Are they very successful?"
"I am not marrying him for his money, Mother."
"No, of course not, dear. But it would be useful to know more about their background, as we will have to converse with them for some time when they come for the wedding."
"I can tell you about them," put in my husband Thomas.
"His father started out as an apprentice silk dealer in Macclesfield and in 1848 : purchased the firm of Josiah Merrick & Co., velvet and fustian manufacturers, Manchester. A few years later, with declining profits from home trade, and looking to expand abroad, he joined forces with local business acquaintance, John Bolton to form Bolton & Barlow, of Manchester, to export textiles to Far East."
"That all sounds very grand. And will your Frank be working at all in the Far East, Mary?"
"There is a new contract which is about to be signed, and it is all up in the air at the moment, which is why we haven't been able to set a definite date. Frank and I are hoping to go to Shanghai on our honeymoon to combine with him overseeing the new office that will be set up there."
"Why didn't you tell us that before?" I said, quite discomforted by this news.
"As I said, it is all still being talked about, and Frank didn't want me to say anything until it was definite, so please don't mention this to him, or he would be very upset with me."
"I don't know if I like the idea of your honeymoon being taken on the back of a business trip, Mary. That is not very romantic."
"It will take us weeks to get there, and travelling on the ship there will be wonderfully romantic, Mother. And he won't be working all the time. He will be able to do sightseeing with me, and he says the people from the office that are already out there will entertain me and show me around when he is busy. I am greatly looking forward to it."
"And that makes for another whole problem of the matter of what you would wear there at this time of the year. Will it be hot? And what about the insects and wild life, there - and will it be safe?"
"Hush, Hannah," put in my husband. "You will get poor Mary dreading her new life, rather than anticipating it. The Barlows have had a presence in Calcutta, Shanghai, Singapore and Malaya for nearly 20 years. They will be able to answer Mary's questions and help her sort out any problems."
"Are they in the cotton industry?"
"They export mainly cotton and woolen goods to the far East."
"And what do they import?"
"Mainly consignments of tea., Mother, and that is where Frank comes into it. It is a new tea contract in Shanghai. They already import Darjeeling which they get from the Castleton tea estate, but now they want to import other types of China tea."
The meal being nearly over, I said to Thomas and the children, "I am busy making a list of those to invite to the wedding, so I would appreciate information from you about your friends that you feel we should invite. I want the invitations to be out by the end of the month at the latest, and need to see about getting them printed this next week. Please Mary, make sure you check with Frank about the date for the wedding, and then confirm it with the Church."
"I will not put my foot inside that Church," said Thomas. "I told you that before."
"Well, then we might just have to have the wedding without you, Father," said Oswald, "as everyone else is happy with it, and besides, I have heard a rumour that Rev. Simpson is leaving, so we might well have somebody new in place by then, whom you will perhaps even approve of, or should I say, might approve of you."
"I must be off now, as there is a lot going on this afternoon. Gorton Band are coming, and we will all meet together at Rock Cottage. Compstall Band are coming as well as our Union Mission Band, and we will march up and down the vicinity. It will be quite a sight and sound, I tell you."
"Will you be going to a church meeting as well, Thomas?"
"Reverend Reginald Adams from All Saints will lead a prayer for us at the group meeting," he replied. "And later, I might drive into Stockport as I like to show my solidarity for their Corps of the Salvation army. They always have a rededication to the cause on the first of the new year."
"Do you mean, War against Satan and his forces?" asked Oswald with a cynical tone to his voice.
"As you well know," replied Thomas.
"Speaking of satanic activity, I understand that the murderers who led the assault on Stoke Castle are being tried at the sessions in Knutsford," put in Ernest.
"That happened back in early November, I remember," added Thomas. "And what a scandal as the perpetrators were not louts, as one would expect, but had been perfectly educated."
"They are innocent until proven guilty, Father. And they have pleaded not guilty."
"Huh. We shall see about that. I read in the paper, Oswald that the Prince of Wales was off at Merton Hall in west Norfolk."
"I think he often goes there, Father. It is the seat of the Duke of Walsingham, I believe. I have seen block prints showing his endeavors there. When he finally becomes King, he will have less time for his various frivolous pursuits."
"What are your plans for pursuits, frivolous of otherwise, Mother?" asked Mary, "besides getting the wedding list prepared."
"Well on Tuesday we have the annual tea party for All Saints - the appreciation for the teachers and scholars. Are you singing for it, Jessie and if so, do you need me to accompany you?"
"No, Mother, not for that one, but I have several scheduled for later this month."
And with that, our dinner was over, and we each went our separate ways.
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Rather a lot of unhappy
Rather a lot of unhappy friction hindering focussing on grasping and passing on the gospel, and keeping the peace over minor issues. Interdenominational service sounds good, but it could end up as just another secular entertainment type meeting.
The wedding arrangements sound complex, but I expect it will be interesting to glimpse into another family's affairs, and their era. Rhiannon
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I like marching bands. We
I like marching bands. We have one that goes round every third Sunday - it's been going since I was little, I love it. Everyone comes out of their houses to watch them go by. I think it's the boys brigade - has girls now as well.
Enjoyed reading, Jean.
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hello jean - - - I enjoyed your evocative stories on the return of missionaries from the West Indies and have now read this new beginning in CXIX Marple. As before your writing rings with historical accuracy - - and then I read in the comments that you have indeed immersed yourself in the archives. I have some sympathy with you: I tried to write a biography of a celebrated children's author not a million miles from Marple and in the end opted for a biographical novel. It gave me more scope to get at what I imagined the inner truth. Some of the same thoughts are prompted by your last and present work. You seem to come down on the historical side of "historical fiction" to great effect but leaving me at least wishing you'd pursued some of your transaltlantic travellers into the realms of fiction. They promised terrain occupied by people like Maugham, especially over the collision of the exotic with the suburban. simon
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kellog & little bighorn
Well, congratulations Jean, it sounds as if you have more than enough excitement in your own life without having to make it up. That peiod of US history is fascinating so I look forward to reading your work on it (on this site?) and keeping up with your battle in the courts. I'm impressed that you've provoked such a furore. The only people who ever accused me of libel backed off and accused me of being a second-hand car salesman instead, which was libellous (as much to the motor trade as to me) - - storm in a very small academic teacup. So I hope your computer is back on the rails - - and as to your writing on the return from Trinidad, I should say that my prompting was spurred by some very enticing thumbnail sketches combined with a kind of passive-aggressive undertone from your narrator. It felt as if you were setting things up, but I can appreciate how you needed to tread carefully. simon
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