These letters graciously have been shared with the Victorian Web by Eunice and Ron Shanahan; they have been taken from their website. The letters give an insight into the daily lives and concerns of 'ordinary' people without whom history would not exist. The letters are a wonderful example of how much history may be gleaned from such sources.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Both of these two letters are from this man and both are addressed to Henry Ashworth, The Oaks, Bolton, Lancashire. The first was sent postage unpaid, and the second postage paid. The postal markings are quite different

These markings are all in black

  1. Stepped — framed TP Old Brompton Two Penny post Receiving Office. This was in the Country lists of the Two Penny Post in 1828 and in 1837. This type of stamp was in use in this office from 1827-1838.
  2. Handstamp charge of '2' representing the sum applied from 1801 to mail received or delivered within the area of the Two Penny Post. This sum was crossed through, as it had been incorporated into the total charge.
  3. Unpaid octagonal transfer stamp from the Two Penny Post to the General Post, of the type in use until 1836.
  4. Evening Duty circular datestamp applied at the Chief Office of the General post. Code letter O, date SE 15 1835 — the year curved along the bottom of the circle. This type of stamp was in use from May 1830 to September 1845.
  5. manuscript charge mark — a scrawl which could be anything, but should be 1/2d being 2d London Two Penny Post charge added to the 1/- (one shilling) the charge for London to Bolton — a distance of 243 miles, which was in force from 1812-1839.

The letter is an interesting insight into the private education of boys, and this was even before the Victorian age.

Cresswell Lodge, Old Brompton, 15 Sept 1835


In reply to your letter of the 12th Inst., I must request that you will return my thanks to those who have kindly interested themselves in my behalf at so great a distance. I receive about a dozen pupils in to my house, whom I endeavour to instruct in the principles of a liberal Education, i.e. not merely in Latin & Greek, but in a knowledge of the Scriptures, in history, geography, arithmetic & mathematics. My terms are a hundred guineas a year, & a guinea a quarter for washing.

I may refer you to the Hon: The Mrs. Winn, whose two boys have been with me some time, of this place (Kensington) & also to my Excellent friend the Vicar, the Venble. Archdeacon Pott, whose Curate I was for about 7 years.

I wish to receive younger boys, and I shall be happy to receive your ward, if what I have stated meets your approbation & if he brings with him a good character from his former Master,

I am Sir,
Your obedient & humble servant

T. Simpson Evans

P.S. I believe I ought to add that our Vicar is probably now on a visit with his nephew, the Revd Percival Frye at Lostwithiel in Cornwall.

Possibly the reason he did not pay the postage for that letter is that it was a reply to a request asking about his services. The second letter, however, was being sent as a reference to show his suitability. It was marked 'Paid' by the writer , and has 6 postal markings beginning with

  1. unframed Receiving office stamp a 2-step Old Brompton 2Py P Paid in black;
  2. Circular GP Paid In RED
  3. oval PAID transfer stamp to General Post in red -in use from 1824 — 1836
  4. Evening duty circular PAID datestamp — in RED postmarked 30 Sep 1835 with the date both sides of the month — this type was in use from 1822-1840
  5. and 6 two manuscript charges in red 1/10 crossed out and the amended figure is another good scribble, but it could (and should) be 1/0d for that distance.

This letter, written 15 days later, is in a different hand, but signed by the same one as the first letter.

Cresswell Lodge,
Earls Court, Old Brompton


I have this morning received a letter from the Archdeacon, in consequence of my requesting him to answer any letter of inquiry you might address to him. He fears he may have missed your letter, if you did write, as he has been travelling in Devonshire, and he kindly sends me the accompanying to forward to you, lest that may have been the case. Trusting you will pardon the liberty I take, in so doing, I venture to enclose it, & should it be useless as a recommendation to you, I shall esteem it a favor if you will take the trouble of returning it,

I am Sir,
Your most obedient servant

T Simpson Evans.

Then in a totally different hand, and with scribbled notes all around it — he has included a copy of this letter of recommendation

Copy on 29 — 1835


The Revd Mr Evans our Lecturer at Kensington has mentioned to me some wish on your part for a reference previous to committing your son to his care. I could enlarge quite in commendation of my very excellent and most valued friend and more particularly as to the strict attention every pupil of his will receive to the culture of moral and religious sentiments and his advancements in learning in which Mr.Evans excels in an eminent degree. It may suffice for me to say that had I children of my own I should think myself most happy to place them under his care and should prefer him for this purpose to any man I know.

I remain Sir,

Very truly,
W Pott.

I have been able to find out a great deal of information about the writer and the addressee of these two 165-year old letters. I am indebted to the Archives Assistant — Oxford University Archives, Bodleian Library, for extracts from their records. From the entry in Foster's 'Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886'.

  • Thomas Simpson Evans; matriculated [i.e. was admitted to the University] from St Alban Hall on 16 December 1815, aged 17; BA 1822, MA 1825, vicar of St Leonard's, Shoreditch, 1841, until his death on 30 January 1880.

Extracts from Crockford's 'Clerical Directory' in 1860: 1880

  • TS Evans, Stoke Newington Common, London N.; St Alban Hall Oxon BA ; deacon 1822, priest 1823 Vicar of St Leonard's, Shoreditch 1841 Vicar's gross income 656; population 25,111. By 1880: gross income 690, net 472; population 13,100. Formerly curate and lecturer of Kensington 1824.

So when he wrote this letter, he had not yet been appointed as Vicar, and he probably needed to augment his income by giving private tuition. The entry in Foster's for the Vicar's nephew, Percival Frye, shows that he was appointed vicar of St Winnow, Lostwithiel Cornwall in 1835 (when this letter was written) and he held that position until his death on 28 November 1863. His uncle the Venerable Archdeacon Potts, must have taken the opportunity to visit beautiful Cornwall

  • Henry Ashworth to whom the letters were written, was a partner in the firm of Henry and Edmund Ashworth, cotton spinners and manufacturers. He was described as "a Quaker, Anti-Corn Law Leaguer and model employer". In a book written about him it is noted that :

    "He gave his older children a Quaker education. The boys were sent to a variety of schools, mostly under the control of Quakers, and in the 1840s they completed their education with Dr Coke Taylor"

However, this letter written by Rev. Evans mentions 'your ward', not 'your son'.

  • "The Oaks" in the address has been demolished and the estate is part of the Canon Slade Grammar School.

As a point of interest, I had not realised these two letters were linked, until they were entered onto a database. They were written up in the London Postmarks but in two different sections; one for paid marks and one for unpaid marks. Because my collection was originally written up to conform to competition rules, (for which only applicable information is allowed), I missed the obvious link between them. Since I have given up competing, I am able to put a lot more research into the whole of the letters instead of just the postmark. It is much more time consuming, but I find it considerably more interesting.


George Brumell: The Local Posts of London 1680-1840

Willcocks & Jay: The British County Catalogue of Postal History (London)

Alan W. Robertson: Great Britain Post Roads, Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839.

H Saxelby (ed.), Bolton Survey (1953)

R Boyson, The Ashworth Cotton Enterprise: the Rise and Fall of a Family Firm 1818-1880 (Lancashire Record Office, 1970).

Last modified 3 December 2002