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.

Postal markings two business letters

Hurst letter postmark

These two letters from the past were both written in 1824, by Mr J Roadhouse, of Ely, and addressed “Hurst Esqr. Attorney, Nottingham.” The postal markings are the same for both letters, the ELY 68 mileage mark where the letter was posted, and a charge mark in black '11'. This was the cost of sending a single sheet for a distance between 170 and 230 miles. The charge marks are often confusing, but at this time it was not possible to send a letter direct from Ely to Nottingham, it had to go to London then out again to Nottingham. So the cost of 11 pence was made up of the two combined distances — Ely was 68 miles from London and Nottingham 124, making 192 miles.

The letters concerned non-payment of interest on his funds. The first was dated May 17th 1824, the charge mark '11' was in black ink, but the mileage mark is in red.

manuscript letter

May 17th 1824,


I take the liberty of writing to you for the purpose of enquiring how it is that the interest due to us last November from Mr Rayner has not been pay'd to us? I have wrote to Mr. Shipman repeatedly and he, Mr Shipman has once or twice wrote to say that the money would be sent by such a time, but that time and the other is gone by and not any money has come.

There is also another half year's interest due, so the sum we want as our right is £25.0s.0d., which I request you sir to send in a day or two as we are in great want of money, for reasons I will not state. And I do desire that in future the interest may be pay'd every half year according to the agreement.

You sir, or Mr. Shipman may pay the money to one of the Nottingham Banks, directing them to send it to Esdailes and Co, No. 21 Lombard St. London for Mr. J Roadhouse Ely, to be transmitted to Mortlock's Bank, Ely for me.

By your attending to this letter you sir, will greatly oblige, Yours respectfully

J & L Roadhouse.

Hurst letter 2

The second letter was written six months later, and was post paid. 'P Paid' apparently written on by Mr Hurst. Because of this, the charge mark '11' is in red ink. The ELY 68 mileage mark is also in red. The contents show that the writer is aware that there are better ways of using his money, and has the wit to let the Trustees know that he is keeping an eye on things!

Nov 5th, 1824

Mr. Hurst,


When Mrs Roadhouse and myself were at Mr. Shipman's last August, we were informed that the greatest part of the £500 which you had to put out for us was still in one of the Nottingham Banks. Consequently the interest will be only about half the amount of what it would be if properly lent on Mortgage or even Joint Note.

I therefore write at the present (and intended to have wrote much sooner) to urge you with the other Trustees to put it out as soon as possible, either on land security or Houses, if you cannot get it out at five percent you can I hope at 4½.

Or in case any Houses could be purchased in a good state in Nottingham, or any other place where we could have a confidential friend to receive the rents, or to be pay'd to yourself, or any one of the other Trustees, if you or they would take the trouble — that probably would answer equally as well, or better and especially if it was freehold property.

Mr. Shipman was talking of makeing purchase of houses, if you and Mr Shipman and the other Trust thought it would do to unite with Mr Shipman in either purchasing houses or land to build upon, and could build to advantage, that perhaps would do as well.

We certainly particularly wish it to be put out somewhere safe to bring us more in than it has done this last two years or upwards, and as you Sir, have most to do with it, or have had, we desire you will very soon with the other Trustees put it out where it will be safe and bring us in if possible 4½ percent. By attending to our request you will oblige us.

Mrs. R. Joins me in respects to yourself and the other worthy Trustees. Yours respectfully,

J Roadhouse.

P.S. In case I should make purchase of a few hundred Pounds worth of property would the Trust object lending it to me, or what I might want on proper security? Tho' I am not certain I shall do that.

One of the reasons I find these old letters so interesting is the window they open into the lifestyle of the past. The references to the banks in these letters, for instance, show the way the money was transferred, and many of my letters mention banks that are no longer in existence, having been absorbed or taken over by other banks to become part of the modern megabanks. It is easy to imagine that financial planning is a product of the affluent 20th century. For instance, I tend to think of a mortgage as a modern financial document, but obviously not, as the derivation of the word is Old French 'mort' and 'gage' and indicates a pledge on death — so the principal must have been around for a while if not the interest!

As these letters show, the need to have the capital invested safely — but with as high a rate of interest as possible — is not a new idea. It would be echoed nowadays by many retirees. Financial options do not seem to have changed much over the past 170 years do they?

3 December 2002