The identity of the Mr Poolman who died in Maria’s letter of December 1875 has been discovered, thanks to my very good sleuth friends John and Rose.
He wasn’t a Mr at all, he was a Mrs, or rather she was a Mrs. The following newspaper cutting from the Salisbury and Winchester Journal dated 27th November 1875 tells the tale, although not accurately as we shall see.
Even this newspaper report is wrong, as John explains:
There seems to be at least one obvious error in it as far as I can see, as Benjamin Poolman’s wife was Elizabeth and it is definitely her that this refers to. Also Miss Titt has to be Amelia Titt, and it’s her niece’s (Annie) marriage being referred to, not Mrs Poolman’s niece. In the parish burial records, Elizabeth is buried on 28th November with a note saying “coroner’s warrant” – I think that’s how I got to the old papers angle, thinking about it. Here is that record:
If you look back at a calendar for 1875, it shows that Wednesday was 24th November, and so fits in exactly with the date of the marriage of Annie – and that event must, as Maria says, have been something of a dampener indeed.
Thank you John and Rose for that clever detective work.
So, just to clear up this whole sorry mess, who was Elizabeth Poolman by birth? She was Elizabeth Bartley born c1819 from Semley, Wiltshire. After her death Benjamin Poolman born 1821, died 1894, Chitterne, married widow Eliza Ashley, neé Bacon.
Maria continued to write to her mother, but now more frequently to her son, Jimmy, apprenticed wheelwright in Warminster. Jimmy lodged in Warminster during the week and walked the 7 miles to Chitterne and back at weekends. Maria relied on him to cash the money order she regularly sent him, and to take the money to his grandmother. In January 1874, when Maria was earning £22 per annum and Jimmy was 17 years old, she writes this to him:
Well, my dear, I have not been able to get you a birthday present, but I have enclosed an order for £3. 3/- (£3.15). The three pounds you must take to your Grandmother, and the 3/- you can buy what you like best with. I know you will not squander it away. You can buy a Book or any thing to wear that you like best.
In the summers of 1875 and 1876 Maria goes sailing with the Hamiltons aboard the yacht ‘Diana’ heading towards the Channel Islands and France. In 1875 in France Maria was shocked to see businesses open on a Sunday and has this to say:
We went ashore Saturday afternoon and I went marketing with the Steward. The women all wear clean white mob caps instead of Bonnets or hats, and wooden shoes. Then on Sunday we went ashore again. Plenty of Roman Catholic Churches and plenty of Women and Children and old men but all the young men would be at their business. Every shop open and every trade going on. Builders, Painters, shoemakers, drapers and Grocers. Oh, I would not live in France for all the money I could see.
On that particular trip they were unable to make the Channel Islands due to the weather, but in Portsmouth Maria had a surprise:
I went to Portsmouth one day last week to see a friend and I walked up to an Inspector to enquire for the street, and I heard the Policeman say, I know that Lady, so I looked at him and thought, well, I don’t know you. So he says, you don’t come from Wiltshire, do you? I said yes, I do. You were Mrs Feltham. I should know you among ten thousand. Do you know Charles Ashley? And then I could see some Whatley in him. I was very pleased and he politely put me in a tramsway and I bid him good bye. I was pleased to see another Chitterne man, but I hardly step ashore but someone knows me.
The policeman was George Ashley 1851-1901, son of Charles Ashley 1827-1898 and Jane Whatley 1828-1907.
Winter 1975 Maria’s charges Eva 11, and Beryl 10, are being educated at home, Armadale, Row, Scotland, as she describes in a letter to her mother dated 3 December:
We have the snow lying on the ground, but hard frost and bright sunshine. Our Children skate and slide for 2 hours a day between lessons, but they have 3 miles to walk to the pond. They are in the schoolroom every morning at 10 minutes to 8 and after skating, resume them again till ½ past 6.
And we get some Chitterne news, so we are able to accurately date the letter to 1875:
The sudden death of Mr Poolman (I have not been able to identify this man) must have cast a gloom over the festivities of Annie Titt’s marriage. It speaks aloud to all of us, be ye also ready. (Ann Sarah Titt, born 1849, who had lived with her aunt Amelia at the Poplars smithy, married widower Henry Maffey on 24 November 1875 at Chitterne Church.)
I am glad my dear Boy has joined the Bible class. Hoping to hear from you soon with all the news of Imber people (Maria’s mother Euphemia was born Daniells in Imber). I see Mr Parhamis gone (John Parham 1795/6- 1875, farmed at Tilshead Lodge). Mr Morris is left a lonely Oak in the forest. (Charles Morris 1785/6-1879, lived at the Round House for over 60 years).
The following year Maria is under sail again from Scotland to France. This time the family are accompanied by Archibald Lawrie 1837-1914, who will later marry the widowed Constance Hamilton. During this trip Maria and Jimmy fall out over the purchase of a bicycle. She writes a letter gently chastising him from aboard the Yacht ‘Diana’ anchored off Gosport, Hampshire, on 22nd September 1876:
My darling Boy,
I was so glad to get your letter and am sending you an order for £1, but, my dear Boy, I do not approve of your having any thing without paying ready money for it. Your dear Grandmother always taught us never to buy any thing till we had the money to pay for it, a practice I have always carried out, and would hope you will do the same. Out of debt, out of danger.
I could not think of you going abroad, a young respectable man like you, saddled with debt, so I am sending this at no little inconvenience to myself, as there are many things I too would like to have and could have, if I liked to spend my last penny or run in debt. But it would not make me happy if I could not enjoy it, and I hope you will not be so imprudent again. As it’s the first time you have asked me for any thing, I have sent it.
Now, my dear Boy, we expect to have the yacht on Monday, and when I get to Paris I will write. I hope you will enjoy your Bicycle and that you will never again buy any thing till you can pay for it.
The following week on the 1st October Maria writes to her son from the Hotel St James, Rue St Honoré, Paris:
Here I am in Paris, and a Sunday in Paris is a very different thing to a Sunday in Scotland, or even England, but I went to a very nice English Protestant Church on Sunday and enjoyed it. But when I came out, it was very different. All kinds of trades going on. No rest for man or Beast. In a carpenter’s shop just opposite here, the men and boys have been working and singing the whole day long.
It is a beautiful city. A lovely river called the Seine, like our Thames runs through it. The buildings too are very noble and the monuments very grand indeed. The public parks and Gardens you can go in free of charge and there are plenty of seats to rest on. Then, they are laid out for miles with grass plots, Flowers and Statuary and Fountains playing. I have been to the Tomb of Napoleon the great, and driven in the Bois de Boulogne, been to the Louvre, where is gathered all the National property: Pictures, Statuary, precious stones, Jewellery, works of art of every description. Also to the Tuileries or Royal Palace. It was burnt at the war (destroyed during the Commune in 1871). I have also been to the Palais Royale and to some of the most famous churches, and yet one feels almost inclined to say with St Paul, a city given over to Idolatry.
Mrs Hamilton is very kind. She has taken me out in the carriage each day. We live very well at this Hotel. We have Coffee, Roll and Butter and an Egg for Breakfast, Dinner at 1, Soup, Fish, 2 Meats, 2 Vegetables, pudding or tart and Grapes, Peaches and Pears, and as much Claret as we like to drink. No tea but at ½ past 7 Meat, Salad, Bread and Potatoes and Claret again, but all very good. Just 3 meals a day.
During the 19th century, the affluent Rue Saint-Honoré started to attract young talented craftsmen whose names became the ultimate symbol of luxury. Among them were the trunk makers Louis Vuitton and Lancel, the saddler Thierry Hermès and the fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin.
Maria spends winters in London as usual. From Christmas 1870 to Easter 1871 she is with the Hamilton family who have taken a house at 7 Queen’s Gate, Kensington. She spends Summer 1871 and 1872 in Scotland at Armadale, Row.
Summer 1872 turns out to be terrible as Maria says to Jimmy on 11th July:
…a great many people ill here…it’s the wet cold summer. It pours with rain nearly every day. There has not been such a wet summer known in this part of Scotland for thirty years.
During Summer 1873 Maria goes sailing around the western coast of England, Wales and Scotland aboard the Yacht “Julia”, from Gosport on the south coast. I’ll let Maria tell the story of the trip with extracts from her letters written between late June and November:
I am sure Jimmy and you will be glad to get a line from me now that I have been a week at sea. In the first place, tell Mrs George she was quite right about my being bilious, for I do not think I ever had it worse. It began Friday night and lasted me till Sunday morning. The worst of it was we were in a heavy sea a great part of the time. We got to Southampton Saturday night and I went on shore to Church twice on Sunday. Monday morning we left for Torquay but did not reach it till Wednesday morning. We were lying off Portland, where they send the transports, for a day and a night in a heavy swell without a breath of wind so we saw plenty of it; more than I hope to see again or any one that belongs to me*.
*Was Maria thinking of James Feltham, her wayward husband, here? Although the transport of convicts had been reduced since the passing of the Penal Servitude Act of 1857, the last transports reached Australia in 1868.
I saw a good bit of the Isle of Wight and now I have seen a good many miles of our own sea girt isle, and the more I see, the more I love her.
Torquay was delightful. I went ashore both days we were there and called on some old friends and as usual was much warmly received. I went over some of the walks and went to see the house where I had lived*, and I could not help feeling very thankful for the mercies of the past six years.
*The house Maria had lived in with Lady Bisshopp and Walter Long.
We went from Torquay to Dartmouth, a very pretty place where there is an old church, 5 hundred years old, also some very old buildings, so I spent a very pleasant day in Dartmouth. From thence we went to Plymouth, where we spent Sunday. A very large place, full of Soldiers and Sailors, and very strong fortifications. They seem to be building very strong fortifications all round the coast, but I trust they will not be used in real combat in our day.
This is what the Sailors call a dirty day, raining and blowing hard, so I am very glad we are anchored here. We are taking in water and provisions to going round the Lands End, as we are now very near it in Cornwall.
I was able to keep on deck till we passed the Lizard, but I did not see the Lands End as I was too sea sick. When the wind is against us, instead of keeping straight on, we are obliged to tack about like a horse with a heavy load behind him would do going to Ansty (Chitterne Ansty – a reference to the hill on the B390 there).
I am very well and very comfortable and have got every thing into my own way again, and every one is very kind. The Captain is a Baptist and I believe every one of the crew are Dissenters. It must cost a pretty penny as there are twenty of us altogether. The lowest sailor gets 25/- (shillings) per week and two suits of clothes, and the Mate, Captain and Steward much more.
Wales is very pretty. I went to Church in the morning and Chapel in the evening at Milford and went into several shops. The women’s high hats looked very funny. When we arrived at Holyhead on Wednesday morning, there was not a single vessel in the harbour, but it soon began to blow a gale, so that by Thursday middday there were more than 50 ships had put in for shelter. It was very grand and it shows what traffic there is on the sea.
There is a beautiful breakwater 2 miles long, which makes it very snug, for as soon as the vessels get inside, the water is comparatively smooth. It abated a little on Friday and at 4 o’clock in the afternoon we left for Scotland and before ten at night I could just discern the Irish coast on the one hand and the Isle of Man on the other. It was a nice night and we had a fair wind and kept on and dropped anchor at half past 1 on Saturday at Stranraer.
Then I packed, took the train at 5 o’clock and came through quite a new part of Scotland, to us very wild and mountainous. We got off the train at 9 at night and then had 9 miles to drive. So you may think we were all very tired. We expect to remain here till Thursday and then join the yacht and go back to Armadale, which we hope to reach by next Sunday.
I did not go ashore till Sunday morning as the dear Children were in bed and asleep before we got in sight of Armadale. We were only there 8 nights after being away so long, and 1 day I was in Glasgow and 2 days in Helensburgh, so there is no rest for me.
Yesterday was a pouring wet day and heavy squalls of wind, but in spite of this we left home and were just driven to Rothesay, where we anchored for the night. And this morning we came on to Lamlash. We had a dreadful sea this morning, her bows under water at times and 3 or 4 times a big wave dashed right over her stern completely, drenching us as we sat on deck.
There were grand doings at Oban, Highland Games, of which you would not understand, but the dancing was very nice. Gentlemen dancing for prizes, the Sword Dance, Scotch Reels and Highland, all dressed in Kilts and no music but the Bagpipes, and no Ladies allowed to compete. All the yachts in harbour were dressed from stem to stern. The “Julia” looked beautiful. And, a grand display of fireworks from the yachts, answered by those on shore at night. It was really very pretty.
Some old photographs of Chitterne have arrived from Wylye Valley Post Cards so I’m taking a break from the Maria Cockrell letters for a while. I was searching for an old photo of the bottom of Bidden Lane showing Maria’s mother’s home when I came across a site selling copies of photos I hadn’t seen. Sadly not what I was looking for, but worth sharing with you.
Here is the first, a view of Chitterne from the top of the hill behind the Old Malthouse. It dates from the early years of the 20th century when malting was still happening there.
How I wish I’d had this photo when I wrote the blog on malting last year Malting Barley in Chitterne, early 1900s because it shows clearly the separate malthouse building alongside the house we know now as Old Malthouse, which was then called Pine Cottage. The malthouse building was probably demolished before 1938 and the site is now Old Malthouse driveway and garage complex.
Clump Farmhouse is just visible between the trees on the right. The first photo also shows, centre left, the extent of the Clump Farm buildings at that time on the opposite side of the road to the farmhouse. Clump House still exists but the farm buildings have been replaced by St Mary’s Close. Which leads nicely onto the second photo of the back of Clump Farmhouse.
Half of Clump farmhouse is visible on the left and the stable building, with an open door, is to the right of it. Depending on when the photo was taken either Charles Bazell was the tenant farmer or, after 1913, Clump Farm had been bought by William Robinson, father of the WW1 victim Harold Robinson.
The twin-roofed house just visible behind the stable is 96 Chitterne. 96 sits on a site known historically as Clear Spring and may have been built to house the bailiff of Clump Farm. The house was known as Bailiff’s Cottage in 1911 when James Churchill lived there. From 1916 to 1935 it was named Laurel Cottage by new owners Edward Polden and his wife Edith Mary Burgess. Since then it has had various names. It was 96 Chitterne under Evelyn and Marabini Feltham, Clear Spring House next, then Pear Tree Cottage.
Beyond 96 is the thatched White Hart Inn, dating from 1651. George Henry Livings was the tenant beer retailer from the early 1900s to 1928. Several landlords came and went until Charlie and Florence Mould took over in 1941 and stayed until 1955. The Moulds were the last innkeeper tenants. The Withers and Newton families who followed were carriers and ran a coach business from White Hart House until the 1970s when the house became a private residence.
Ironically Maria’s mother’s house is probably hidden behind those two trees on the right…
It’s thanks to Julian Frost of Wylye Valley Postcards, who collected and preserved these interesting old photos, that we are able to see them today.
At the end of July 1870 Maria accompanies her two charges, Eva aged 6 and Beryl aged 5, and the rest of the Hamilton family on a six-week sailing holiday around the Hebridean islands off north-west Scotland. First traveling by steamship for 8 hours from the river Clyde to Fort William before joining the Yacht ‘Columbine’. Maria has her first taste of sailing in bad weather during the following weeks, as she writes to her mother on 25 August 1870 from the yacht anchored off Isleornsay (village on the Isle of Skye overlooking the Isle of Ornsay):
You will be thankful to hear that I and all on board are quite well, but we have had fearful weather. Tuesday we left Tobermory in the Island of Mull, but the wind was against us. I never expected I should see such waves. I went on deck about nine and before tea we were every female on board, 7 in number, stretched on the decks in sea sickness. We did indeed feed the fishes. We wanted to get to Skye. Before we had got far, we heard a tremendous crash, and looking up, found the wind had torn our top sail, so we were obliged to reef our mainsail, which caused the vessel to toss very much.
We then put into the first shelter we came to, which was a natural harbour in the Isle of Rum, and rum enough. I thought it was only one house on the Island, belonging to the chief called McLeod, dressed in Highland Kilts. There were a few servant’s huts but no shop of any kind, nor Carpenter. But he was very kind and sent a large basket of Vegetables, fish, Grouse and Venison. We stayed one day just to recover from our sicknesses and yesterday morning weighed anchor to come to this place.
It was blowing hard when we started, but when we got into the open sea, it was a tempest, the sea at times washing clean over the decks, and as we could not get up, we just stopped in our berths the whole day, and the steward had as much as he could do to empty the basins, but we are all well today and it does seem good to be in a calm again.
We are to remain here today to get the sail repaired, and as there are a few houses and a post office, I thought I would embrace the opportunity.
The dear Children love this life and are so good and uncomplaining. I think I have seen the best and worst sides of yachting. It certainly is lovely in fine weather, such wild grand Mountains, and at every turn they seem to break out into fresh beauty. And in stormy weather it is grand in its terrible majesty. The wind comes rolling down the sides of the Mountains and the Yacht, like a thing of life, just mounts up on the crest of the waves and dashes down again into the trough of the sea, and you feel that if it would stop for one moment, you would be quite well.
By the end of September Maria tells her mother:
I have enjoyed it so much and feel so much at home here now that I don’t care to go and live on land again.
Meanwhile back in Chitterne Maria’s son, 13-year-old Jimmy, is about to start a seven-year apprenticeship with Mr Exton of Boreham, Warminster, as a wheelwright. She has some words of advice for her son on 9 December 1870:
I need not tell you how glad and thankful I was to get your welcome letter and to hear that you think you shall like your place. I hope you will and get on well in every sense of the word. It is very good of you to give your Grandmother something regularly. By doing so, you are helping her and me and it is a great comfort to us both, and you may depend upon it, it will not lose its reward.
It’s a great mistake to think a young person will be any the worse off for what they do for their parents. As well may you say that a Father would be ruined by providing food for his helpless children. If all would do it, there would be much more happiness and greater prosperity in households, and in the country at large, but apart from all this, what a pleasure and comfort it is to oneself to know that we are adding but one crumb of comfort to those who have done so much for us, especially when we do it in a spirit of thankfulness to the giver of the health and strength and kind friends.
I am sorry to hear the water is so high (a reference to Chitterne’s problem with the winterbourne that runs through the village). I do hope you will be able to go home nearly every week, as you are all the comfort dear Mother has got, as Walter (Walter Isaac Windsor 1854-1921 youngest son of Issac Windsor) is only a trouble to her, who does your washing. I am glad to hear you have such good wages and I am sure you will be as careful as you can. You don’t know what is before you, but whether it is prosperity or adversity, you will find that it’s a good thing to know where to lay your hand on a pound, and if you don’t begin to lay by now, you will find it more difficult bye and bye.
I was very much interested in reading that account of the Riflesupper (Jimmy became a keen member of the Wiltshire Volunteer Rifle Corps) in the paper, and trust that whenever your name appears in print, it will always be in connection with something honourable.
The last two paragraphs show Maria’s concern that her son should not turn out like his father James Feltham, who spent his earnings on alcohol and as a result was often in court and in the newspaper. At this point in Maria’s story we have no idea where James Feltham is. He does not appear in the 1871 census as far as we can see and Maria makes no mention of him, but he is due to turn up in Chitterne again in the 1880s.
Maria’s mother Euphemia and her second husband Isaac Windsor were living on the St Mary’s side of Bidden Lane at this time, next door to the shop run by Thomas and Lydia George. This shop appears to have been directly behind The White Hart Inn and no longer exists. Maria frequently asks about the George family in her letters to her mother.
Maria has at last found her safe haven. She remains with the Dennistoun-Hamilton family for the rest of her working life, bringing up the two girls until they are of marriageable age, treated almost as one of the family.
For the first few years when Eva and Beryl are small Maria stays with them almost continuously. The Hamilton family usually spend summer holidays sailing and the winter in London, where they take a fine house for the season in Kensington. Addresses such as Princes Gate, Queen’s Gate and Queensberry Place all appear at the top of Maria’s letters over the years. Maria shepherds the two young girls on the train from Scotland to London as she describes in one brief undated letter to her mother from 43 Princes Gate:
I am sure you will feel thankful to know that we arrived here quite safe last night at a quarter to eleven. We left Golf Hill (the home of Alexander Dennistoun near Glasgow) at 9 in the morning, so we had a long day in the train, but the children were very good and we had a very pleasant journey. Baby is just asking who I am writing to and I told her, so she has sent 5 kisses and 5 loves to my Mother and a thousand kisses and a thousand loves to my little boy.
I have no time to say more, as I am busy unpacking and very tired, but very thankful that providence has brought me to my native land once more in peace and safety.
By January 1868 Maria hasn’t seen her son or mother for 9 months. She is writing from 64 Princes Gate to Jimmy on the 22nd for his 11th birthday the following day:
I trust this will find you in good health on your eleventh birthday. 11 years old, only think, you will soon grow up I do hope a good boy and, if you do, you will no doubt grow up a good man. I have sent you a British (illegible) again this year, as I believe from what I hear, you are trying to improve yourself and I hope you will like it and try and imitate the good men you read about, and be kind to animals, for they are God’s creatures as much as we. And I do hope you ask God to help you every day. Remember you are God’s servant as much as the King on his throne, and if you serve him faithfully here, you will wear a crown of Glory in eternity hereafter. And let me beg you to go to school as much as you can, both night and Sunday school and Church too. And if you try to do right, God will help you and bless you. And be careful not to tell a lie, nor be saucy to any one. Never mind about being laughed at if you are trying to do what is right. And be kind to your dear Grandmother and Isaac, and think of what they have done for you. And if you can do any thing to help them, do it cheerfully. You will then show at least that you love them and are willing to do all that lies in your power to repay them and it will comfort me very much if you do so.
I have not seen you now, nor your dear Grandmother, for 9 long months and I fear it will be a long time before I shall see you again, so that it will be a great comfort to know that you are trying to be good.
Maria sees some sights and goes to concerts in London. She writes this from Queensberry Place in the 1870s:
I went out in the Carriage yesterday morning and saw the procession beautifully. We left at quarter past nine in the morning and did not get back till two, but met with no accident, thank God, and did not take cold. The children enjoyed it very much, although it was snowing. The royal party were in open carriages drawn by six horses each. The streets were lined with Soldiers. The Queen (Victoria) was looking very well and the Duchess pleasant but tired.
In the 1880s Maria sees Adelina Patti at the Royal Albert Hall:
I enjoyed myself very much at the Albert Hall. It was an Oratorio, “Israel in Egypt” (Handel). There was the great organ and a band of musicians with string and brass instruments and 3 drums and 400 singers, yet in that vast hall it was not a bit too much. It began with the words, “there arose another king in Egypt which knew not Joseph” and ended with the song of Miriam. The horse and his rider had (to) be thrown into the sea. Madame Patti (Adelina Patti, who was in her prime in the 1870s and 1880s) sang the solo “their land brought forth frogs even in their king’s chambers”, but what I thought most fine was the bass and tenor, singing “the Lord is a man of war, the Lord of Hosts is his name and he gave them hailstones for rain and flames of fire in their lands”. One tenor sang “the enemy said I will prevail, I will divide the spoils”. It was very beautiful and I enjoyed it very much. It lasted 2 hours and a half.
Maria explores Scotland too, as Constance Hamilton, who is fond of Maria and good to her, pays for her to go on excursions, as in this letter to her mother from 16th July 1868:
They (the adults in the family) went last Tuesday for a tour in the Highlands, and in the meantime I and the dear Children are with their Grandmama (the old Lady that engaged me at Torquay), (Frances Onslow Dennistoun) and of course she cannot be kind enough, since I have turned out so satisfactory. I expect them to be away a fortnight.
I am going on an excursion next week if all is well, to see some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, the Mountain called Ben Lomond and its Loch or Water called Loch Lomond. It’s at my mistress’s expense. She very kindly paid me my wages before she went away, so please tell me in your next what my boy wants, and I will send the money.
Maria writes to her mother once or twice a month and once or twice a year to Jimmy himself. To her mother she sends money for Jimmy’s keep, unwanted clothes that have been passed on by the family to be altered for him, and words of advice or remedies, such as this one for her step-father Isaac:
If Isaac should be troubled with rheumatics again, wrap it up in Archangel Tar*, that they use for sheep, when he goes to bed. Our cook had been treated for months with it and the Doctor could do nothing for her, and an old woman advised her to do it and the second night she did it, she was completely cured. Just spread it on with a knife like Treacle and wrap it up in an old gown tail or something to keep it from the sheets.
This remedy evidently worked as Maria says to her mother some months later on 19th October 1868:
I am truly glad to hear Isaac’s arm is better and could persuade him to persevere in the Tar.
Next blog we will see what happens when Maria goes sailing.
*Pinewood tar, called Stockholm or Archangel tar has a long history as a wood preservative, as a wood sealant for maritime use, in roofing construction and maintenance, in soaps and in the treatment of carbuncles and skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
After Walter Long died in Torquay in January 1867, and Maria’s employment by Lady Bisshopp ceased, Maria’s next letter is written from Armadale in Row*, Helensburgh, near Glasgow, Scotland. It is dated less than 6 months later on the 20th June 1867. In the letter she says to her mother:
Well, Mother dear, I finished the Brandy and Water Whitsunday evening that Harriett and you mixed the morning I left my home sweet home so you see, though not at the Kings Head yet, I had some Kings Head Brandy mixed with Chitterne water to drink the health of my loved ones on the Auld Hills of Scotland. I was too full the day I left home, although thank God I was able to keep up whilst I was with you. You will, I am sure, rejoice to hear that I am very happy and have every comfort I can wish for in this world, the dear Children devotedly fond of me, my Mistress very kind and my fellow servants also, and very respectful. And a comfortable nursery to myself and no one intrudes except I ask them, but its very nice to sit down quiet of an evening. I don’t wish for company after being out all day, and my Mistress very kindly brings me a newspaper nearly every evening. She always comes to see the Children in bed after her dinner and has given me a pot of jam twice for my own tea, although she does not allow the Children to take it.
These are little kindnesses which find the way to one’s heart and if the Children are naughty, as they are sometimes, she always says poor Nurse and never encourages them in any way. She has never found fault with any thing, or looked cross, since I have been in Scotland, and last Thursday she took me into Helensburgh in the carriage and told me to go into a shop and buy myself a new print dress, something like the one I have. As she liked it so much, I have enclosed a bit for you to see. She is very pleased with it. I think I am very fortunate to get a new dress given me already. She said last week, Nurse, I must compliment you on the way you do the Children’s hair, and dear Papa is quite enraptured with it.
I think I must be a bit of a favourite with the old Gentleman as he is rather eccentric and does not like to meet a female servant , but yet, I often go in the carriage with them and always sit beside the old man, he is much such a looking Gentleman. Poor Mr Long.
I don’t think I told you that I am the only English servant and so Mrs H takes me into Helensburgh every other Sunday with her in the carriage. She is very regular at Church. I get every other Sunday and then the nursery maid takes charge of the Children. There is an English clergyman and a small congregation and the service is held in a part of the town hall, but they are building an English Church. All the other servants attend the Scotch Church in the village. This is a beautiful place where the Glasgow Merchant … (illegible) have their summer residences and they can go into Glasgow every day, as the steamboats pass every two hours, just as the trains would, and there is a little pier here just for them to stop and take up goods and passengers and put down, but I think I must close my letter.
I will write to Jimmy next time. Tell him I hope he is a good boy and give him my love and kisses. I hope my Brother and family are well. I am very pleased that Harriett is rigged out so well. My kind love to all and be sure you tell dear Mrs George how I am getting on. And now, may Him who is the giver of all good, abundantly bless you all and all our kind friends, and keep us humble, watchful and prayerful and then in life or death, all will be well. With much love to you my own dear Mother, I remain your afft. Maria
Maria has been hired to look after two little girls, Eva Constance aged 3 and Mary Frances Beryl Hamilton aged 2 after the early death of their father, John William Hamilton, the previous year, the girl’s mother, Constance Dennistoun Hamilton is with them. Constance is the daughter of a retired Glasgow merchant, John Dennistoun (1803-1870), and Armadale is one of his homes. The Dennistoun family made their money from the international shipping company started by John’s father James Dennistoun, and gave their name to an area of Glasgow known as Dennistoun, founded by John’s brother Alexander Dennistoun.
Just imagine the journey Maria has made, from dear old familiar Chitterne to the outskirts of one of the most booming industrial cities in Britain. From a poor rural village life of agriculture and cob houses to a wealthy scene of busy shipping on the Clyde and tall granite town houses.
Once again Maria, whose fame as a conscientious worker must have spread, has been snapped up by a family connected to Chitterne. John Dennistoun’s wife’s mother, is Frances Anne Onslow, daughter of Sir Henry Onslow bt. lord of a large slice of Chitterne who is buried in All Saints graveyard here. What sort of adventures await her with her new employers? We will find out soon…
*Rhu is a village and historic parish on the east shore of the Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. The traditional spelling of its name was Row, but it was changed in the 1920s so that outsiders would pronounce it correctly. The name derives from the Scots Gaelic rubha meaning point. It lies north-west of the town of Helensburgh on the Firth of Clyde, in Argull and Bute, and historically in the county of Dunbartonshire. Like many settlements in the area, it became fashionable in the 19th century as a residence for wealthy Glasgow shipowners and merchants. Wikipedia.