I was sorting out some old books and came across a letter. It has been written on a page ripped from a shopkeeper’s book of bills. The paper is only 5” by 8” – and the picture on the top left hand corner, barely 2” square, is quite fascinating in its detail.
Dressmakers Wholesale Supply Stores, Proprietor J S Wilkinson – Established half a century – and there is a horse drawn covered wagon, and a boy with a barrow. Here’s the right hand top corner. This letter was written less than three weeks before Queen Victoria died. [now that’s a topical subject this week, isn’t it?]
Thrifty Mr Wilkinson was using a book of bills printed for the 19th Century in 1901! Saffron Walden is a small town in Essex, very close to Bishop’s Stortford [where my father was Baptist Minister from 1956-1962] I think Mr Harris would have been Walter John Harris, a generous man, who had given my father a lot of his books. WJH was a church member, and Messrs Ackland & Son were the solicitors in the town. I just about remember Walter John – he was a very elderly man when I was a little girl. He was a Pillar of the Community- and had been a Trustee of the Almshouses just round the corner from the Manse where we lived. I don’t think WJH was actually one of the solicitors at Acklands, but I am not sure. The firm dates back to the 1830s, and is still in the town, now called Nockolds.
I was fascinated because he had a chair in his house which was the one he had sat on in Westminster Abbey when he was at the Coronation. [I never did know which coronation – there had been five in his lifetime – WJH got married the year of Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee]
Here’s the Almshouses, and below the Opening Ceremony in 1906 – I guess Walter John is one of the men on the platform. He was a bigwig in the town even when a relatively young man.
The content of the letter is absolutely intriguing
A customer of mine, Miss Thursford late of Beech House, B Stortford, has left the town and I am unable to find her address. As she owes me £3.16.0 I am anxious to trace her & should esteem it a great favor if you could help me in procuring her present address.
Thanking you in anticipation, I remain, Yours faithfully,
J S Wilkinson esq.
I shall treasure the letter – it is a lovely little piece of dressmaker history. Do you think Walter John sent him her address? Did he ever get his money? I used an online calculator, and her debts would be around £200 today, so I think it was quite reasonable for Mr Wilkinson to try and track her down.