Friday, 8 August 2014

11. A Boroughbridge Boyhood in the 1850s: Aunts, sisters, cousins: “a jolly walk we had”

John’s aunt Elizabeth Hirst – his father’s sister, still commemorated in stained glass in Boroughbridge church – had been a loving companion to her husband Henry:
Monday November 3rd 1856
Went to Office  Had breakfast at Uncles as he was going to London & Aunt wanted to go to the Station to see him off …
She kept a cow:
Tuesday November 25th 1856
Went to Office.   Retd to Breakfast   At Noon Had a walk with Capes towards Kirby Hill by the fields.   At Night Joe & I walked to see Aunt Hirsts cow which they were expecting to calve.   Went home  read Law
and, like John, she too sorted the letters for the post:
Friday February 15th 1856
Was at the Office   Had breakfast at Uncles   went to Howells with a letter Aunt had missed putting into their bag …

Naturally enough, John’s diaries show the lives of his female relations only when they touch his own, but we catch glimpses of them – busy housekeepers, active countrywomen:
Sunday July 25th 1858
Morning & evening to Gt Ouseburn Church  In the afternoon Aunt [Henlock] & I took the Dogs down the Croft S[mallwoo]d walked on & I returned to BB with him after church at night  Rd Paver set us part of the way

Thursday September 25th 1856
Went to Office.   Walked to Aldbro to see Robert Thompson & Mr Holdsworth on business   At Noon Walked with Dora Hirst & Mary & the children to the Top of Gibbet Hill   At Night went to Pilsmoor as we expected Aunt Redmayne from York but she had walked on to Helperby   Mr & Mrs Roger Buttery drove her home
John’s younger sisters and girl cousins were away at school – Lizzy, Alice and Mary Redmayne went to Miss Adcock’s at Ilkley Hall and Sophy Hirst to Middlethorp Hall, York.  Sophy was a particularly lively companion:
Monday June 9th 1856
Went to office   Went down to see the Cricket  there was a match betwn BB & Aldbro   Uncle Hirsts ladies were there   At Night I had tea at Uncles   We then rowed Uncle Hirsts ladies to Westwick   Steele  Jim S[edgwick] & Capes & I   we went into Vyners grounds [Newby Hall] & had some jolly fun up & down the Hill Jim & Sophy & Miss Dixon & I.   Steele was called away   I went & had supper at Uncles   Miss Calder was also with us & after a jolly chat I went home along with Miss Calder

Tuesday August 26th 1856
I drove Aunt R  Aunt Bell & Sophy to Bowerley  made a call there & then went to Settle   I saw Mr Ingelby [sic] & Mr Foster   Mr F asked me to go & spend tomorrow with him   I then walked home & left Uncle to drive the Ladies   After dinner had some music   Sophy & I ran up to the Top of the Rock opposite   I went into the wood with Joe Hodgson but did not get anything
The girls too enjoyed outdoor games, boating, playing ball.  Schooldays over, they went on frequent and lengthy visits to family and friends.  The return visits enlivened the social scene for their brothers:
Thursday May 15th 1856
Went to office   At Noon read Blackstone  went to Aunt Bells   At Night I walked to Ouseburn   Joe was there  he had taken Aunt Bell to stay at Atkinsons  I met Uncle & Aunt Pick going to BB   I went & found Joe at Crosby’s   I saw Miss Johnson   She played & sang  I turned over the leaves  she has a very sweet voice   we stayed ½ an hour & then came home   got home a little before 9

Tuesday November 18th 1856
Went to Office & retd to Breakfast.   Joe & I walked down the Banks at Noon.   Miss Kate & Miss Lucy Collinson came to Uncle Hirst’s today.   At Night I went to a party at H.E.  Clark’s  had a jolly dance   got home at ½ past one

Saturday November 22nd 1856
Went to Office   Retd to Breakfast.   Dined as soon as I got home   Went to Newsroom after dinner & stayed there till Office Time   At Night after tea I went to Uncles.   Lucy Collinson & I walked arm in arm round their garden for a short time in the dark   Mary Hirst & Kate C did the same    Did not stay
They were all, naturally, good walkers – and walking together, for men and women, was a companionable activity.  Accompanying people on their journey and ‘setting’ people on their way was an important part of life:
Wednesday May 14th 1856
Went to Office.   At Noon read Blackstone.   Expected to go with Dora & Mrs Hy Powell but by a mistake Joe went instead of me   At Night went & sat a little at Uncle Hirst’s   went & had supper with [Aunt] Bell [Henlock] we had it in the kitchen.   Sophy & Dora came just after  we had a jolly chat   I set them home & then returned to my own home

Monday May 26th 1856
Went to Office   At Noon wrote to Tom  settled my Cash book &c   At Night went to Practise at the School   Saw Mr Frankland after the Practise   Sophy M.Dixon & I walked up the Common & round by Minskip   Dora met us & a jolly walk we had

Saturday March 12th 1859
To office.   At Night went in to Uncles   Sophy & I set M Sedgwick nearly home … 
John mentions no dangers on these walks, but records one surprise:
Friday February 8th 1856
…  Tonight as Mrs Davies was going home to Minskip she met two men one of whom gave her a kiss “very delightful indeed"

Interior of St James's Church, Boroughbridge (early C20 postcard)

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