Eunice and Ron Shanahan have shared with readers of the Victorian Web this material from their website, Letters from the Past. Click on thumbnails for larger images.
This letter was written by John Lamb Hare dated 11/2/39 17 Trafalgar Street Walworth (London), addressed to : Mr. J Blampin, Lympstone, Near Exeter, Devon
Postal Markings on the front of the letter
- a two step framed TP Mount St Lbth in black - this is Lambeth, which was in the Town lists of 1794, 1828, 1837, 1838 and 1839.
- Handstruck 3 charge mark but cancelled with
- the 'spring' in red. This 3 was cancelled by the inspector, but why it was applied at all is a mystery. The 3d handstamps were supplied to the Twopenny Post offices in the Country area, to be applied to letters passing to or from the country area, and Lambeth was never in the Country area, always in the Town area.
- Manuscript 11 - distance London to Lympstone 171 miles to Exeter distance 170-230 was 11d during the period 1812-1839.
Postal Markings on the back of the letter
- transfer stamp of the Twopenny Post, 6 Ev. FE 11 1839 in red — the postmarks changed in 1837 to mark the cancellation of the 7 pm delivery to be replaced with two deliveries, one at 6 pm and another at 8pm.
- General Post circular date stamp Letter D FE-11 1839 in black, applied when it was despatched to Exeter.
Also note the red wax used to seal the letter.
Lympstone is a beautiful village about three miles from the town of Exmouth and seven miles from the city of Exeter; nowadays there is a village post office and a larger one at Exmouth.
Now to the letter, which I have transcribed exactly as he wrote it, capital letters, spelling etc. He has written on the front page — tersely and formally, considering it is going to his brother-in-law:-.
I received your on my Return on Saturday Evening and Perused Lambs Letter stating His wanting 10£ to Be sent Him and also that he thought as to our Having Had an Equilivent share I do not understand.
I would thank you to State to me By Post or otherways the value of the Land too and then I will write to Lamb respecting our Claim on it as I Have no Doubt that will Be the Easyest manner of settling of the matter.
In the mean time you Had Better Pay the amount of Land tax that is due on it and I will be answerable that you shall Be Repaid Provided you do not Purchase.
I am yours &c
Elizabeth will finish."
This all sounds a bit short tempered, and it seems his wife tried to smooth things down, as she has completed the letter inside. Notice that she calls her husband Hare - not using his first name, even to her brother.
"My Dear Jonah,
As I Perceive Hare had said I will finish your letter, I am set down to do so, allthough I must confess I do not feel satisfied at what he has said & thank it quite unnecessary your writing the value of the Land as the (they) are willing to give up their Claim to it and that I thank he should have stated but you know his way.
I wanted him to write yesterday but I could not get him to do it untill this morning, just as he was going out, so I did not see it but I fear it will not be satisfactory."
She then continues the letter with family news. The spelling is as she wrote it, 'thank' for 'think' and 'the ere' for 'they are', and 'Except' for 'Accept'. This could be because Elizabeth herself came from Devon, and so was writing phonetically, in her local accent.
Dear Jonah we are going on much as usual, Mary has had very bad eyes ever since Leah left, the ere (they are) getting better and now I fear mine are getting just the same. The ere (they are) so bad I can scarcely see to write. Grany (or Gweny?) is quite well - give my love to Leah and tell her Bodley is better than when she left but I do not thank him well, I thank he has the scurvy in his blood he was the same last year. He is still with me — he went to Knightsbridge last week the ware (they were) all well.
Note: The mention of Bodley having scurvy is interesting, as this was a disease that struck sailors who had been on voyages with no fresh food, and is now known to have been caused by lack of vitamins. It was also known to prisoners in the gaols, which were not renowned for the quality of the meals.
Please to send Marys boots as soon as you can, be sure the ere (they are) wider in the bottom. Give my love to my dear Mother and all frends and Except the same yourself from
Your affectionate sister
Elizabeth Hare's signature
From the Internet I have found a lot of useful information. For instance, in the 1851 census (twelve years after he would have received this letter), Jonah Blampin is listed as a carpenter, aged 38 living in Lympstone, Devon with his wife Alice. Later in the 1881 census he is listed as a widower, aged 65 still living there and still working as a carpenter. I now know when and where the writers John & Elizabeth Hare were born, and married; who their parents were; the names of their brothers & sisters - the Leah mentioned is Elizabeth and Jonah’s sister, who had been married to John William Bodley for 10 years when this letter was written.
From Isobel Watson (Chair of the Friends of Hackney Archives), I learned that in London, since the mid Nineteenth Century, streets are supposed to be numbered beginning at the end nearest St Paul's Cathedral with odd numbers on one side and even numbers the other. The name of Trafalgar Street was given officially in 1865 when the whole streets and numbers were rationalised to remove names that were too frequently used. At that time the numbers ran to 187 on one side and 206 on the other. As this letter is clearly dated 1839, the name must have been one that was allowed to remain after the re-organisation.
Another useful tool is a website which gives a map of London street addresses, and in many cases an aerial photograph. The aerial photograph shows that Trafalgar St, Walworth is still there today and the photo is clear enough for me to count seventeen houses in the street! The same site also gave me a map of Lympstone.
There is no doubt that the internet is a terrific tool for research, and I am repaying the help I receive by putting postal information on the web, with images of old letters. This is a great way of sharing information, but there is still no substitute for actually having a letter such as this in my own possession.
George Brumell, Local Posts of London, 1680-1840.
Last modified 28 May 2010