Letters Home – II

1871 – 1872

28 Jan 1871

Skating and … too much information

I am very glad to hear you are getting better and able to get downstairs; I hope you will soon be able to come to London. We have had a very little sleeting here today on some swamped fields but there was only a place about the size of the schoolroom fit to skate on, our feet kept going through to the grass in the other parts. There will be some people skating tomorrow I think.

I promised Bob Whitworth I would write to him but I have not had time to yet. I rather miss him on half holidays.

It is said that there will be no more skating after this for 2 years so Jessie had better make haste and learn if she is interested to.

I managed to gulp down the egg and one sandwich on the journey and then near London I was fully sick out of the window. If the next carriage windows had been open it would have blown within.

I had that gent with the black beard ???? there like Dr Waite but shorter and fatter in the carriage with me and after Grantham then we had a talk to ourselves …

because I could not go down to go to sleep two or three times as I always do coming back here.

It was awfully slippery her a day or two ago a horse fell on the hill in front of the school and stunned itself.

I have nothing more to say so with love to all I remain your affectionate son

PS you will perhaps see an envelope with my writing on it – it only a circular which I had to address about the gymnasium

11 Feb 1871


I have been expecting a letter such a long time for I think I wrote to you but I don’t think you have answered it yet. When are you coming to London because the merit holiday is from next Saturday till Monday. My birthday being on the Sunday but there is an awful lot of small-pox in London at Highgate Islington

… so I have heard from 2 or 3 people and at Westminster there are black flags hung out to warn people off streets where it thickest. I have heard of 1 or 2 cases here but a lot of us were vaccinated today. K himself and Thomas who was in an awful feint about it, but it was no use they would do it in spite of his excuses about carrying up the coal boxes and ?????, blacking boots etc.

Thank Jessy for her letter. We had no skating here today to speak of. When I was vaccinated this morning I began to feel awful ???? short time after. I think I was on the point of fainting but one of the …

… the chaps brought me a glass of port and I went and laid down and soon I got alright again.

I have nothing else to say so with love to all, I remain your affectionate son

The Great Smallpox Pandemic of 1870 to 1875 was the last major smallpox epidemic to reach pandemic level across Europe. The outbreak has its origins in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871, where unvaccinated French prisoners of war infected the German civilian population, before the virus then spread to all corners of Europe.

A ward in the Hampstead Smallpox Hospital, 1871. This was built to meet the needs of the epidemic of the winter of 1870 to 1871. This shows a ‘Nightingale’ ward with windows opening top and bottom. With identical windows on the opposite side, ventillation could be adjusted. From The Illustrated London News. (London, 1871). (Photo by Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images)

22 Feb 1871

Self denial – giving up algebra


I am writing only for the sake of answering your letter because I have nothing to say. Bill is awfully lazy about sending the Guardian he has not yet sent the one for last Saturday week.

I went to the Crystal Palace on Monday and have …

bought Isabel the little knife which I promised her though I nearly forgot. We had to go to church this morning and then to come home and go without pudding to practise self-denial and fasting. Dr Morgan has asked me if I should like to leave off algebra and do more arithmetic and bookeeping as I only got 80 minutes a week for arithmetic. I said yes because I thought as he told me that arithmetic was more good than algebra but if Papa does not approve of it I can go on as before.

I have nothing else to say so with love to all I remain your affectionate son.

PS Are you quite well again now? Please let me know a good long time before you come to London.

4 Mar 1871

Looking for dormice, finding Prince Arthur.

I made a mistake last night and told you wrong. The merit holiday is a fortnight today and I told you a week which was wrong; so if you can come down then I shall be able to spend it with you and I am nearly certain not to be asked to Wimbledon …

as Richardson is going away for some time.

I am rather tired tonight as I got leave to go with someone else this afternnon to try and dig out some dormice, we went a long way but could not grab any out though we tried hard to.

I saw Lawes a short time ago and he wanted me to remind Ned to write; he says it is a long time since he did.

We are having very fine wather now almost as hot as summer.

As I was coming home today I saw Pince Arthur riding …

with someone else.

I have nothing else to say so with love to all I remain your affectionate son.

PS This is possibly my last stamp

21 March 1871

An appointment with K at London Bridge

I will just let you know that I got to London Bridge last night just alright with just 5 minutes to spare, & when I got here K was not but I told Mrs K and she said it was alright.

I felt awfully …

.. sleepy today as always do after I have spend a day in London.

I am sending that glee(?) which I told Louisa about is a very good one and I think that after I have had the bother of sending it she ought to get it.

I have nothing else to say and I ought to write to R Whitwell so with love I remian your affectionate son

2 May 1871

How do you put your Mum’s mind at rest? Tell her about a local murder of course.

Thanks for the handkerchiefs which I have received alright.

I was poorly on Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday with a bad headache and sore throuat and as we have no average marks in the Special it has made me very low down in my form.

Have you heard of that murder not 2 miles from here, the son of a printer about …

… the best in Greenwich has murdered the daughter of a music master with a hammer, at least suspected and almost certain to have done it but it has not been proved yet. Bill will have seen the paper or not but I suppose I had better send it him in case he has not.

I have not written to Lucy yet though I intend to.

I have nothing more to say and I have to finish some work so I must conclude with love to all, your affectionate son.

Jane Maria Clouson  was fatally stabbed in the early hours of April 26, 1871, dying in hospital four days later. Edmund Walter Pook  was charged for her murder, but found not guilty. Clouson’s murder has been referred to as the Eltham murder. The murder, and ensuing police investigation and prosecution, were the subject of considerable press attention.

10 May 1871

Too many silkworm eggs, too few tortoises, too much for Mr Hart

You must not expect a long letter as I am only writing to send Polly the silkworm’s eggs amd I have just written to Lucy.

I got up shortly after 6 this morning and went to Greenwich to buy a tortoise but I did not succeed. If there are too many eggs …

… Polly can easily give some away.

Yesterday we had an extra half holiday in consequence of Mr Hart’s leaving the school.

It was rather inclined to be wet in the beginning of the day but cleared up in the afternnon.

On Monday afternoon we had a thunderstorm here.

Why Mr Hart left I don’t know, I asked him and he said because we had given him heart disease, but that was all I could get out of him.


It is close on prayer time so with love to all I remain your affectionate son

PS Who has that chap at the station when I was going away? At Kings Cross when he saw me looking for my box he spoke to me and said that he was doing so to; he was rather tall amd youngish with brown whiskers and small moustache, he know me because he called me “Mr Huntriss”, though I did not know him. It is not the first time that chaps have done so to me.

11 July 1871

Checking invoices

My dear Papa

I received your letter etc and have done what you asked me. I make the first two invoices right but in the third I find a difference of seven shillings owing to a mistake of 10 ?? instead of 20, I added it up several times but it always came to the same amount.

We had some warm weather…

here for a few days but today it has turned very cold and windy ahas been raining hard all day

When your letter came to directed to the school Mr K told me that he preferred making them directed to his house, for school season. I don’t know unless there is a chance of having them lost at the school.

I went over these invoices at the house with no help at all and told Mr Morgan your message from Mr Foster but he told me ??? to tell him that he thought him a very shallow fellow for never writing to him.

I am stopping from school today with a back ache and sore throat which I suppose I caught by having to stop on the heath on the rain last night.

I have nothing more to say so with love to all, I remain your affectionate boy.

15 September 1871

A pork pie and smallpox

I arrived here alright and at Malton who should get into the same carriage but Mr Kempthorne and Mrs etc. I lost them at York when I ate half my pork pie but I had to change carriage again at Doncaster and get into the carriage again from there. I sat next to a chap….

… who had only just recovered from smallpox until I got to London.

I have been promoted into the first form and shall most likely want a lot of books sending. I have just written to Bob Whitworth.

The work is much harder in the first form than the second,<br
 I have nothing else to say so believe me your affectionate son.

PS please can you send me some 1/2d stamps

3rd October 1871

Headaches and a paper chase

I have nothing much to say so you should not expect a long letter, besides my head aches fit to split and has done all day for the third time since Ihave been back.

I do not want any more books. I often find the work in this much more than I can get through so I don’t expect to get a single merit …

… holiday. I did not dislike the taste of that cheese you sent me; I am sorry to hear that Radcliffe is so poorly.

we are to have the paper chase next Saturday – almost everyone is taking part. If I can, I want to write another letter tonight as I have a little spare time, so with much love to all, I remain your affectionate son.

Ps If my jackdaw is much of a nuisance it can be got rid of though I’d rather have it kept. I have only two more stamps left.

10 October 1871

Pleading for liberty

Thanks for you etter. I should like the handkerchiefs sending as I am one or two short, and that is rather inconvenient when I have a cold.

We are to learn Shakespeare again in our form so will you send me one, that one of Ned’s will do.

I forgot to tell you on my last letter that I met uncle Henry as I was going from school to the house; he had been staying at the Barclays and was just going away; Ellen and Louisa were also there but I saw nothing of them.

One of our chaps got his leg broken playing at football on Tuesday evening.

The paperchase was rather tiring owing to the heavy rains which had fallen until a few minutes before we started; on the way I saw a hollow tree and looked inside and there was a hornet’s nest there was a lot of stuff like a honeycomb with several of them crawling about in it.

Do you think Papa would mind me trying to get my liberty to go walks instead of going on the heath, it is so slow for me there without any companions at all; besides I don’t care to play at football my nose is likely to bleed and my trousers to get loose.

We begin short hours on Tuesday. Is Mr Radcliffe getting better ? We have begun fire today I am glad to say.

I hope my jackdaw won’t get wild up in the pigeon cote. I got a blackbird given to me today. I don’t much care about it only it is no trouble or expense to keep and has been brought up by hand from the next so it would not like it if I let hm go.

I think I will join the singing class again as I can get some ?? by it for the merit holiday, although I don’t expect to get them even then.

I have had a dozen very good photographs taken they are all vignettes.

I have nothing more to say so with love to all I remain your affectionate son.

I suppose I must not send the paper this week – I did last week before I got your letter.

I keep getting colds in my head (I have one now) with standing about on the heath doing nothing. If I could possibly get my liberty I should enjoy my half holidays much more as its is I had much more rather to to school than on the heath, get cold and numb, besides some some other boys have it and one or two are not even on the first special.

25 October 1871

Not happy …

Thank you for your letter and for Lelly’s which I ought to have answered though I don’t suppose it matters so long as I write to some one. I would have written sooner only I have been in bed since Sunday evening with a bad headache and sore throat and I only got up today for the first time, I don’t know whether …

… I shall have to go to school tomorrow or not as the doctor said he would send me two pills tonight. Of course I lost my merit – I never expected to get it, but I had it given as I was new to the form though I only went to the Crystal Palace.

When I asked for my liberty Mr Kempthorne as usual would neither say yes or no and that is just as good as a no because he always puts off until one gets tired of asking him so if I have not a special letter to ask for it I shall never get it at all; besides I am …

… as high up in the school as I can possibly get.

I have heard nothing at all about any engagement, how could I when I had never been told. What engagement is it?

I can’t write any more as my head aches and my hand trembles so with stopping in bed so with love to all, I remain your affectionate son.

PS here is the photograph I promised Polly

5 November 1871

Decision time

I think you were talking some time ago about me leaving school and going into some kind of business. I had not then made up my mind what I should like to be, and consequently did not give you any direct answer, but since I came back this term I have been thinking a good deal about it; and as you say you do not think I should stop …

… long in any manufacturing business in consequence of not knowing enough (I myself do not take much interest in it) I think the best thing I could do is to farm, as I dare say you know I have a liking for such things and I should be more likely to get on in that than in business and so I would like to get to it as soon as I conveniently could if it would not be very much against your wishes.

If you have resolved that I am to go into business I think I have learned as much here that I shall want as I am likely to, for things keep…

…recurring in business which I do not learn here, so you can hardly expect me to know everything that I shall want before I leave school. Do you think you could possibly let me leave at Christmas because I am so very dull here with not any companions at all and nothing to do in my spare time but to stand about on the heath, and if I stay on after Christmas I shall be doing nothing at all either in school or out but what I am doing now, as I am as high in the school as I can get.

Perhaps you will think by..

… this letter that I am very discontented; I used not to mind being here, but this last term since all my companions have left I certainly have felt very dull.

Hoping that you will think about me leaving, I remain, your affectionate son.

28 Nov 1871

Shirts, the study and skating

Thanks for your letter, all of my shirts are going on their fronts except the plain ones without tucks, I can’t get them mended nor can I do it myself (though I do have to sew on my own buttons) and I have only one tie that will hide them.

Kempthorne has put me into the study which is rather better than being in the other …

… room, only he often expects us to do without fires which is not very nice this weather.

Will you send me some more stamps as I have no more. I think the term ends in about three weeks.
We had a little skating here a few days ago, but not good; the ice was full of cracks and holes and a few chaps got in up to their necks. I got a very good pair of skates from Thomas – second hand of course- but they are as good as new and went splendidly.

I am glad to hear Papa is better.

I have nothing else to say so with love, I remain your affectionate son.

PS I asked in my last letter if Lelly or Jessy had been photographed though you did not see it as it was written on the envelope, if they have I should like one of each.

12 Dec 1871

Over the way, Tichborne and travel arrangements

I have spent the merit holiday with Ned, and have been a good deal with Uncle Henry’s and of course been “over the way”; on Monday night we had supper at G. Edwards’s where Ned is going to dinner next Thursday, I was asked but don’t suppose I shall go.

On Monday morning I went …

… to meet Fred at Finsbury Park to skate but the ice was not very good, Louisa went to hear Tichbourne instead.

Thanks for the tie, it is a very nice one and just in time.

I am coming home on Thursday week by the 10 train from Kings Cross which gets to Halifax at 2.55. I shall go by the 9 as usual as I don’t want to miss breakfast, so I shall leave here at 7 and have breakfast with Uncle Henry as they have asked me. Also if I go by the 10 train I shall have someone to go with, one of the masters who lives in Doncaster.

Do you think I am at all …

… likely to leave because if I am I had better know in good time as as I have such a great number of books etc which I shall not bring home unless.

I don’t think I shall write again as it is so near the holidays, so with love, believe me, your affectionate son,

Here is a crest for Jessy

The Tichborne Case

The Tichborne case was a legal cause celebrre that captivated Victorian England in the 1860s and 1870s. It concerned the claims by a man sometimes referred to as Thomas Castro or as Arthur Orton, but usually termed “the Claimant”, to be the missing heir to the Tichborne baronetcy.


Roger Tichborne, heir to the family’s title and fortunes, was presumed to have died in a shipwreck in 1854 at age 25. His mother clung to a belief that he might have survived, and after hearing rumours that he had made his way to Australia, she advertised extensively in Australian newspapers, offering a reward for information. In 1866, a Wagga Wagga butcher known as Thomas Castro came forward claiming to be Roger Tichborne. Although his manners and bearing were unrefined, he gathered support and travelled to England. He was instantly accepted by Lady Tichborne as her son, although other family members were dismissive and sought to expose him as an impostor.


After a civil court had rejected the Claimant’s case in 1871, he was charged with perjury; while awaiting trial he campaigned throughout the country to gain popular support. In 1874, a criminal court jury decided that he was not Roger Tichborne and declared him to be Arthur Orton, passing a sentence of 14 years.

3 January 1872

Pleading to come home

I don’t see any reason why I should not come up on Sunday, if you think we should be too crowded in church I could go to some other church with Ned and then come to dinner and spend the afternoon, beside I want to ask you something which I could not well do by letter and I have been counting so on leaving.

I wrote my letter to Mrs Eskrigge and she has written . What a mess that skylight would make in the hall.

It is quite worktime so believe me, your affectionate son

Do if you can have me up, I have got something for Ned as well. Answer this as soon as you can.

6 Feb 1872

Partial liberty and a squeaky voice

I will get this letter off my mind to make one less to answer as I have owed two for some time.

I don’t think I can write so often this term as I have been turned out of the study to make room for someone else who has left school but still boards here.

I have only got 3 days a week…

… liberty as a compensation for being turned out of the study, Kempthorpe has said nothing about Papa’s letter about it. I am not alone in my room now as there is a new chap come and he has been put into my room which is rather a nuisance as he is rather fond of asking questions and not only that he has a dreadfully loud, squeeky voice and screams them out at all times of the night.

Dr Morgan keeps asking about the election which I know nothing at all about …

.. so I tell him I have not seen the paper and no more I have yet.

I went out a good long walk on Saturday to a place called Bromley and it was just in time to see the Woolwich hounds finish their run and seeone of the chaps come off. I looked at the place afterwards it was soft clay and he made such a nice round mark in it.

I can’t write any more as I have got an awful headache and have had it all day. So with love to all believe me your affectionate son.

29 February 1872

Nothing to report – except for the Prince of Wales, an Emperor, and an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria

Thank you for your letter which Ned sent on to me as I only slept there on Monday night and got up and had breakfast at 5 the next morning at Charing Cross hotel with Tom Eskrigge; we saw the procession from a shop window in the Strand and the went up Chancery Lane and saw it again a Holburn were Ned and TE each took one of my legs and lifted me up to see. We saw the illumination in the evening there was awful..

…crush especially at Temple Bar and Ludgate Hill. I only managed to get back to Blackheath at 12 o’clock, awfully dirty and tired, as I was undressing I found such a monstrous flea on my cheek but before I could kill it, it had hopped away, and I could not catch of sight of it again. This morning I found a few spots on my arm but if I see it again I will have it if I possibly can.

I had a letter from Herbert Estrigge the other day, their horse has died he says, he does not know what from. Tell Jessy that I had nothing to do with her valentine, nor did I know about it until some time after it had been sent.

There was a fire here a few days …

.. ago the backs of some shops in the village at about 1 in the morning I heard an engine go by here but never thought it would be one.

What did you mean by the winding up at the mill?

There is no weekly half-holiday at the bank is there? Ned said Thursday I never new it. I saw the Emperor again about a week ago – his hair and moustache were dyed black when I saw him before he was quite gray.

I have got a bunion on my little toe and two corns on the same foot one is on the sole and is rather sore; the other was well trodden on in the crowd the other night.

I never see the paper at all so consequently did not see FB’s marriage.

I shall be sorry if H Lockwoods cottage comes down; did Richards’ baby die?

A man has shot at the Queen on Constitution Hill but did not hit her; he is in custody.

Please send me plenty more stamps as this is the last but one letter or two now. I never know that Lucy’s school people had ????.

It is bedtime now so with love, believe me, your affectionate son

PS How is my jackdaw – mind he is taken good care of and don’t let the cat get him.

I need some more envelopes too please.

Whilst the date at the top of the letter clearly states 29th February 1871, this must be a mistake. The details below are consistent with a date of 29 February 1872.

The procession

In the winter of 1871, while staying at Londesborough Lodge, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, the then Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VII)contracted typhoid fever, the disease that was believed to have killed his father. There was great national concern, and one of his fellow guests (Lord Chesterfield) died. Edward’s recovery was greeted with almost universal relief. 13,000 people squeeze into St. Paul’s Cathedral for a service of Thanksgiving in appreciation for his recovery; thousands more line the streets for the procession from Buckingham Palace.

The Emporer

It is possible that the Emperor could have Napoleon III (Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (1808 – 1873), who was the first President of the French Republic and the last monarch of France. He spent the last few years of his life in exile in England, with Eugenie and their only son. The family lived at Camden Place Chislehurst (then in Kent), where he died on 9 January 1873. Chiselhurst is just six miles from Blackheath.

Attempted assassination
As Queen Victoria circuited Hyde and Regents Park for a Leap Day drive, 17-year-old would-be assassin Arthur O’Connor managed to scale the fence at Buckingham Palace and sprint across the courtyard without detection. When the queen’s carriage returned to the palace entrance, O’Connor rushed up to its side and raised a flintlock pistol just a foot away from the queen. John Brown, the queen’s personal servant, seized the teenager by the neck and tackled him to the ground as the queen was rushed to safety. Although the monarch didn’t know it, O’Connor’s pistol was broken and unusable. A descendant of Irish revolutionaries, O’Connor said he never intended to kill Queen Victoria, but to frighten her into signing a document that would release Irish political prisoners being held in British jails. Brown received a medal for his heroism. Sentenced to a year in prison and 20 strokes with a birch rod, O’Connor was eventually exiled to Australia.

11 March 1872

Desperate to come home

I have just received Papa’s letter which I shall answer by one to you as I have not written to you for some time.

The regular way for me to come home at Easter is not on Saturday as Papa seemes to think but on Friday evening before, for if I stopped until the Saturday I should not only have the whole day but also be quite alone here all the Friday evening with nothing here to do on …

… Saturday, come home alone, whereas if I come home on the same evening on which we break up (Friday) I shall have Mr Sutton one of the masters with me up to Doncaster. As to getting out of school a little earlier in order to catch the train , Mr Kempthorne and Dr Morgan are sure to give me leave for that as they always have done, and not only me but the other boys who come from a distance; besides that Mr Kempthorne always does all he can to get us all out of the house as soon as possible so as he can get away himself and he would not care about me stopping the night here alone. As far as school work is concerned for Friday afternoon I shall lose nothing by leaving …

… at 4 as there is never anything done on the last afternoon. I shall be certain to catch the 5.25 train; the reason I did not do last Easter was because I went to Canon Street instead of London Bridge, thinking I would have more time at Kings Cross, but it was owing to stoppage between London Bridge and Canon Street I missed it, this time I shall only go to London Bridge and be sure of the 5.25 from Kings Cross.

Of course if you particularly want me not to come on Friday I can stop but I had much rather not as it will (be) very wretched here all alone.

Don’t sell the parrot; if it is too much trouble, I will look after it when I get home.

It is getting late so believe me, your affectionately

30 March 1872


Thank Jessy for her letter. We have had holiday since Thursday at 12 but it has been pouring all the time until today which has been very close and sultry, we have not been anywhere.

I had a letter from Mr Eskrigge this morning, he says that Miss E is going to a ball at the Salts on the 5th April, he will most likely go with her …

I shall most likely go up to Ned today week to stop over Sunday; Fred is away at the Isle of Wight on business, but will be at home then.

On Wednesday I saw a pony phaeton run away and catch the hind wheel inside a fish cart wheel and turned both the cart and pony in it over on its side. The phaeton went on again after that and caught the other hind wheel on a lamp post and that pulled both off.

I have nothing more to say so believe me your affectionate son


A phaeton was a form of sporty open carriage popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Drawn by one or two horses, a phaeton typically featured a minimal very lightly sprung body atop four extravagantly large wheels. With open seating, it was both fast and dangerous, giving rise to its name, drawn from the mythical Phaeton, son of Helios, who nearly set the Earth on fire while attempting to drive the chariot of the Sun.

The letter dated 30th March was the last in the collection. Did he leave school at Easter? We don’t know.

All we do know is that his father seems to have agreed with Charles’ wish to go into farming. The 1881 census shows him at Redlands Farm in Lightburn, a village in Warwickshire some 6 miles south of Leamington Spa.

At the time of the census,John, his first son, was just 9 months old. You can read his story here.