IT is remarkable what you can find at antique fairs, jumble sales and car boot sales. Pat and Terry Jordan from Coseley are always on the lookout for interesting curios connected with the Black Country and at a recent sale they bought a box of assorted documents at a knock-down price.
Among the miscellaneous papers, letters and cashbooks was a fragment from a pocket diary 135 years old. We do not know to whom the diary belonged but from reading the entries it is clear it was a Black Country man. Pat and Terry brought the diary to the Bugle in the hope that readers may find something of interest.
There are 12 pages torn from the 1878 diary, which was produced for the gentleman’s outfitters E. Moses and Son.
Elias Moses had a chain of shops across the country, selling affordable clothing to the masses, but he is perhaps best remembered for his pioneering marketing techniques.
The entries in the diary are close written, to fit in the small space allowed for each day. It is interesting to note that the diary has no Sundays; in 1878 Sunday was very much a day of rest, so there was no need to have Sundays in any diary.
In some places the handwriting is illegible but we have done our best to transcribe the contents. We can only speculate as to the writer’s occupation. His wages vary around £6 a week and he often notes payments he had made to others. Terry Jordan wonders if perhaps he worked in insurance.
The diary refers to local affairs and international events and the writer mentions visits to Birmingham and Dudley.
The fragment begins with an attempted murder and suicide:
“Jan 10 Thursday. Sharp frost. Tiles from Rollinsons for New Hovel. Wm Hy Griffiths attempted to murder Elizabeth Besston and afterwards cut his own throat at Wolverhampton on the 9th. Went to the meeting. Paid Davis 5-6. Liberation at Sm Johnson’s Bulls Head at night. Spent 7s.
“Jan 11 Friday. Light frost. Work all day. No remarks.
“Jan 12 Saturday. Nice Day. Paid for wages £5- 2-8. Draw week. Lent Dick 5-6. Paid T. Hale £1-7-6. Sent S. Rollinson coal. Cashed Hicklings order. Paid 4-9 for couple fowls.
“Jan 14 Monday. Showery. Work all day. Distribution of prizes at Ebenezer.
“Jan 15 Tuesday. Rainy. Work all day. Bulls Head Club at night, members present Hill, Hollies, Maples, Smith. Paid £5-17-0.
“Jan 16 Wednesday. Fine Day. Work all day. Home at night. Received from Darby rent 6s.
“Jan 17 Thursday. Fine Day. Work all day. Home at night. Paid Mr Bunn 6- 0.
“Jan 18 Friday. Fine Day Work all day. Went to F. Smarts at night. Had supper. Paid him £1-10-8.
“Jan 19 Saturday. Fine Day. Mrs Aston died of typhoid fever. Paid for wages £6-0-6. Went to Mainwarings at night. Spent 8s. Paid Rolllinons 3s for fowl, 10s butter.
“Jan 21 Monday. Windy and cold. Paid for rent 8- 0. Paid Mr Bunn 8-3½. Work all day. “John went to Birmingham Browns Lodge at night. Called at Clems. Spent 6s.
“Jan 22 Tuesday. Showery. Work all day. Home at night. Went to church on Sunday. Twice heard Cousons.
“Jan 23 Wednesday. Slight frost. Work all day. Went to Felix Evans at night to audit the books with F.G. Hickling and M. Nock.
“Jan 31 Thursday. Frosty. Work all day. Slight attack of indigestion. Cooper’s wife and children went to Yorkshire.
“Feb 1 Friday. Frosty. Work all day. Sent T. Halls coal, Rayboulds slack, Bennets Brazils. Home at night. Had half a pig from Smarts 3 score and 9lb.
“Feb 2 Saturday. Fine day. Paid for wages £6-7- 0. Went to Mainwarings at night. Spent 8s and paid Rollinson. Sunday went to see Smart in the morning. Home the rest of the day. Paid Mr Bunn 5-10.
“Feb 4 Monday. Frosty. Work all day. Paid Elwell £1-7-3. Gave John Read 1s. Paid Sm Astons sick pay to Mrs Brown 9-8. On Saturday had 2 glasses of whisky at Browns.
“Feb 5 Tuesday. Fine day. Work all day. Went to Dudley at night. spent £1- 8-3 at Yates, Hall St. Received rent from Darby.
“Feb 6 Wednesday. Cloudy. Work all day. Murder at Combes Wood Joseph Harris killed his wife and child on the 5th. Rumour that Aldridge has gone deranged.
“Feb 7 Thursday. Fine day. Work till dinner. Went to Birmingham with Batham to Prince of Wales. Cost 9-11½. Back by 9 o’clock at night.
“Feb 8 Friday. Dull day. Very Busy. Rumour that the Russians had entered Constantinople. Withdrawal of Fosters amendment against the war, majority 204 on the division.
“Feb 9 Saturday. Dull day. Busy. Contradiction of rumours by the Russian ambassador. Paid wages £6-2-6. Borrowed 8-6 from John. Went to Mainwarings at night. Spent 11½.
“Feb 11 Monday. Fine day. Work all day. went to Browns Lodge at night. Received 2-3 from Mrs Brown for Whitehouse.
“Feb 12 Tuesday. Fine day but rained all night. Work all day. Noah began work at Dudley St. Went to the Bulls Head club at night. Paid £7-9-0.
“Feb 13 Wednesday. Fine day. Work all day. Home at night.
“Feb 14 Thursday. Fine day. Work all day. Received from Mrs Millington 12s. Amos Worton was killed at the P Wales Pit, 26 years. Home at night.
“Feb 15 Friday. wet day. Wm Evans smothered at Rayboulds on Buffery Colliery. Paid T Smart £2- 10-0 on account. The Fleet entered the Dardanelles.
“Feb 16 Saturday. Fine day. Work all day. Paid for wages £6-10-0. Mainwarings at night. Spent 7s. Paid Hipkiss for beef 5-8. Sunday anniversary at Ebenezer. Went at night heard McGregor.
“Feb 18 Monday. Fine Day. Work all day. Busy day. Went to Evans Club at night. Paid club money. Paid Mrs Brown 12-0. Home by 11 o’clock.
“Feb 19 Tuesday. Dull day. Work all day. Went to Coopers at night. Fletcher sale building not sold. The top lot bottom lot sold to Bytheway for £600. Spent 7s at Coopers.
“Feb 21 Thursday. Fine day. Work all day. Went to Dudley at night heard Hugh Stowell Brown, text John 14-6 at the New St Baptist Chapel. Spent 1- 3. Cost of renovations £700.
“Feb 22 Friday. Fine day. Work all day. Smith of St James St, Mrs Hartsorn, St Thomas St, and Old Lady Walker died. Smith & Hartsorn on Thursday.
“Feb 23 Saturday. Fine day. £6-18-0 wages. Work all day. Mainwarings at night. Spent 1-2. Paid Robinson 5s, Hipkiss 4- 1½ life insurance. Sunday walk in the morning. Ebenezer at night. Gave 6s. Millington preached.
“Feb 25 Monday. Showery. Work all day. Home at night. Lent Hipkiss 1 load slack. Received 4s rent from Darby. Balance £3-13-0. Joseph Duce found dead in his shop.
“Feb 26 Tuesday. Fine day. Work all day. Bulls Head Club at night. Paid Sm While £10-0-0 on account.
“Feb 28 Thursday. Showery. Work all day.
March 7th 1878 agreed to pay £1-10-0 monthly to T Smart.
“Mar 1 Friday. Wet and showery. Work all day. Smarts at night. Joseph Duce buried. New line opened to Halesowen.
“Mar 2 Saturday. Fine day. Work all day. Mainwarings at night. Spent 1- 0. Hipkiss 7-6. Mrs Cooper paid 8-0. Balance 3-0. Sunday home all day. Fine day.
“Mar 4 Monday. Fine day. Work till 12 o’clock. Went to Birmingham for John to fetch a shower bath. Went to Browns Lodge at night. Called at Clemsons.
“Mar 5 Tuesday. High wind. Work all day. The treaty of peace signed between Russia and Turkey. Paid Mrs Brown 11-1. Spent at Birmingham 3-2.
“Mar 6 Wednesday. Very high wind. Work all day. Sent Mrs Cooper coal. 11-6 left. Sent the Hall 3-0 coal.”
On 21st February the writer recorded that he saw Hugh Stowell Brown preach at the Baptist Chapel in New Street, Dudley. Brown (1823-1886) was a famous Baptist preacher from Liverpool, president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain at the time, and noted for his homely and humorous style of preaching. The diary suggests that he may have been preaching to raise funds for the chapel’s renovation.
Another local event recorded is the opening of the Halesowen branch line. This was built by the Great Western Railway from Old Hill and on the same day it opened the link from Old Hill to Netherton. In 1883 the line from Halesowen to Longbridge opened.
The diary also refers to the Russo-Turkish War, fought 1877-1878, and the Russian threat to Constantinople.
At that time the Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled much of the Balkans but the Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians and Montenegrins rose up and fought for their freedom with Russian support. As the Russians advanced on the Turkish capital and fearing that the Russian fleet would then have free access to the Mediterranean, the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli sent the Royal Navy to the Dardanelles and threatened war if the Russians should enter Constantinople.
Fighting ended with the Treaty of San Stefano, signed 3rd March, 1878.
This was followed by the Congress of Berlin, where the Great Powers redrew the map of Europe.
Romania, Serbia and Montenegro won their independence, while Bulgaria became an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire, Bosnia-Herzegovina came under Austro- Hungarian influence, and Britain took control of Cyprus.
Is there anything in the diary that may give a clue as to who wrote it? Do readers recognise any of the people, places or local events mentioned?