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Women's Diaries and Related Sources

Part 5: Sources from Essex Record Office

Womens Language and Experience, c1500-1940 Womens Diaries and Related Sources is based on a nationwide trawl of womens diaries in public libraries, university libraries and county and regional record offices carried out by Dr Amanda Vickery, Consultant Editor. Part 5 of Womens Language and Experience, c1500-1940 is based on sources from Essex Record Office. Earlier parts have covered material from Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Suffolk County Record Offices, Birmingham University Library and Birmingham Central Library, the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales.

Part 5 from Essex Record Office includes 92 volumes of diaries, one commonplace book, 26 journals, an account of the life a seventeenth century lady and a seventeenth century expenses book. These describe the lives of 12 different women covering the period from 1628-1902.

The Diary of a young girl recording frequent social calls in Canterbury and St Albans areas, 1769-1776 includes details on her new clothes and when they were first worn, and lists of expenses and receipts.

The following describes a typical day in her life:

30th April 1769 Sunday in the morn, Mrs Chandlers came and dined here. Mr Fremonts drank tea here in the evening. Mama sisters and I took a walk met Mrs Saxtons. Mama went back and sat some time with them. Sisters and I went on to the Halfway house met Mrs Franklin and returned to Mama at Mrs Saxtons.

The Diary of Miss Caswall, sister of George Caswall of Sacombe and Aunt of Susan Round, 1825-1830 describes the life and routine of an unmarried woman of the period and includes details on visits made, visitors received, visits to Church and local gossip:

Thursday March 3rd 1825 London. About half past Eleven called on Mrs Booth then on Mrs Ralt then on Miss Diana Dowdeswell then on Mrs E D. She could not see Son being engaged with a Friend Lady Margaret Walpole and 2 Daughters called. I dined and drank Tea alone.

The Diaries of Ann Eliza Branfill, 1822-1872 are extensive and cover fifty years in her life. They are entered into pocket diaries containing topographical engravings, articles and poems. Before the death of her husband in 1844 the entries are mostly on the medical care of the family but afterwards they are consistently kept and refer to the family and work on the farm and social life in Upminster and Romford. There are lists of items required in London, of things to do, of books lent to the poor, of clothes needed, of clothes bought, details on visits to agricultural and flower shows, home health remedies, notes on polling days, sermons, visits and visitors, a description of a trip to Chelmsford for the Quarter Session and visits to London for a Ball and for the Coronation in 1838, summer holidays in Kent and the Isle of Wight, family births, deaths and weddings and finances.

The extract below is taken from the diary for 1822:

Names of men to have the sheeps Heads January 1822; Names of Women who are to have my milk; Names of Women who are to come for Dripping every Saturday.

The following is from her diary for 1845:

30 Sept 1845 Agricultural Society Meeting in our grounds. Attendance very numerous.

6 Dec 1845 To Brentwood to see Wall & give a statement of our income.

The Diaries of Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney, 1829-1841 give us an insight into the life and leisure of an aristocratic woman of the mid nineteenth century. Lady Mary Smith was the second daughter of William Gosling of Portland Place and Roehampton, Surrey. On 20 July 1826, she married Sir Charles Smith, son of Augusta and Charles Smith MP for Westbury, who had inherited the title from his uncle, Sir Drummond Smith. Mary was his second wife. Sir Charles Smith died in 1831 at the age of 31. There is much in the diaries on the health of her children, visitors received, visits made to friends and to Church, the state of the weather, outings to the theatre and national events such as the death of the King in 1830. A description of her childrens tea party gives us a good idea of the standard of living they enjoyed:

Friday 16th Nov The children had a tea party consisting of coffee and 33 dishes filled with various kinds of cakes and sweetmeats, afterwards they went into an adjoining room where there was a green tree heavy with different little presents, it made them very happy and they thoroughly enjoyed it. In the evening we went to hear the children practice singing with the organ.

We also include the Diaries of Clarissa Bramston ne Trant, 1821-1844. These include references to books read, medicinal recipes, notes on the failure of the Reform Bill, the birth of her daughter, parlour games played, the illness and death of Sir Nicholas Trant, the Queens first speech. Her holiday journals are also included giving detailed descriptions on her travels to France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Portugal.

The following extract describes her reaction to an invitation to a Ball in 1824:

Wed August 1824 Lady C wrote to offer me a bed in case I went to the Ball. Capt Dilkes offered to escort me and thus I have no excuse left. But my heart is not in dancing mood and I should be a stupid partner for the gay CavaliersWe dined at Mrs Newmans of Dromose her eldest girl is very gentle and affectionate it is so refreshing to meet with a character as open as day.

Included also are the Diaries of Mrs Susannah Gilbert ne Green, 1841-1866. She was the wife of Josiah Gilbert of Mardley Ash, portrait painter and son of Mrs Ann Gilbert ne Taylor. The diaries detail articles purchased, expenses, visits made and visitors received, her health, the weather and travels in France and Switzerland. The following excerpt is taken from her diary for 1866:

6 Jan Saturday Fine Jane and the 3 Miss Leckyards called to see Js sketches; then we had a drive to Mells, Mrs Dunn and the Olives called in afternoon also the le Gros.

Travel Journals of Caroline Wilkinson, 1817-1840 describe her travels to Falmouth, Truro, Bodmin, Isle of Wight, Wickham, Arundel, Chichester, Brighton, Winchester, Portsmouth and London. They also include lists of books read and items translated. Caroline was the daughter of John Walter Wilkinson.

The following extracts describe a visit to London in 1825 and to Brighton in 1823:

1825 5th April Went to London by way of Corsham and returned by the same road 21st of June. During our stay we visited most of the public places either of note or amusements and among the rest the Diorama which is remarkable for both its beauty and novelty. It consisted of a splendid panoramic view of the interior of Holywood Chapel by moonlight.

1823 Brighthelmstone (Brighton) is a most charming watering place: its amusements and gayeties agreeable beyond measure its Buildings publick and private grand & handsome particularly Regency Square than which nothing can be much finer. The pavilion or Royal residence is a pretty chinese fabrick light and fantastick.

The Journals of Katharine Maud Pearson ne Hutchinson of Harewood Hill, Darlington, Co Durham, 1870-1872 and 1880-1887 are also included. She married John Heath Pearson in 1870 and had two daughters, Lucy Marion Heath Pearson born in 1880 and Constance Mary Pearson born in 1882. She died in 1935.

The diaries give details of her life in London - of parties, outings to Henley, Windsor, Eastbourne, Torquay and Paignton, visitors, cricket matches, dinners given, health of her children, clothes bought, games of tennis, wedding parties. Included also is a list of wedding presents received and an index to places and people mentioned in the entries.

The following extract gives a description of her experience at a local ball:

1870 Jan 13th Thursday. Last night Edward Fanny and I went to the Croft Ball. We started at 9.30 and I got back about 4am. It was very jolly indeed & there were about 140 there, while last year there were only 86. I dont think it was quite as nice as last year. I wished so much to have had a gallop with you. Edward introduced Milford Cust, who told me he had heard a great deal of me & had long wished to meet me. I think he is very poor looking and very sickly, but he is very gentlemanly. I was introduced to a stupid animal, called Hales, who was with the Collings.

Journals of Lucy Marion Heath Pearson, 1892-1902 follow the life of a young girl of eleven right through to a young woman starting with a journal kept during her illness at the age of eleven which is inscribed by her "it is the most interesting I shall ever keep". In it she chronicles her illness in great detail. Other diaries describe birthday and Christmas celebrations, her religious thoughts, schoolwork, her schoolgirl crushes, books read, visits to the circus, to concerts, to Salisbury and the Isle of Wight and friends at school. After school in 1901 she went to Berlin in Germany to teach English and improve her German and she describes life in Germany the houses, food, shopping, church, railways, clothes. She also gives her thoughts on boyfriends and infatuations.

The extract below is from her diary for 1902:

Whitsunday 1902 Aunt M is very down on people marrying below their station. I wonder what she would say if she knew how devoted I am to someone not in my own station.

Also included in this part is The Commonplace Book of Susanna Tabor, 1821-1867. It includes an interesting selection of extracts from books read, poems and hymns with an index to the contents at the back of the volume.

We also include An Account of the life of Lady Katharine Aubigny, ne Lady Katharine Howard, daughter of Theophilus, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, 1851. This book relates the history of Lady Katharine Aubigny, born c1620 who renounced the Protestant faith and with her husband Lord Aubigny was a firm supporter of Charles I. After her husbands death at the battle of Edge Hill she married Sir John Livingston. They both continued to support the Royalist cause and lived in exile in Holland where she died in 1650.

Also included is My Ladies Booke, 1628-1638 with the disbursements of Lady Joan Barrington.

The diaries and journals to be found in Part 5 of Womens Language and Experience gives us an insight into the thoughts and lives of women from very varied backgrounds and for a long time period and we hope it will encourage work by scholars of many disciplines including English, History, Politics, Sociology and Gender Studies.

Editorial introduction
Digital Guide
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