I’m been going through a letter from Anne Walker sent to me by Steve and Bernadette Robinson. I’ll see if I can get permission to publish it here in full, but in the meantime I’m going to simply review it with regard to some of the detail on the family it contains … not least because it helps me make sense of who she is writing about. In fact, it’s this kind of mystery that interests me most.
I’m pretty certain that the Anne writing the letter is the daughter of John Walker and Mary Arrowsmith. It’s written on 26th Jun 1886 from 30 Sandingham Terrace, Lytham. I can’t work out which cousin she is writing to, but he appear to be living overseas; might have had something to do with raising cotton, or had been thinking about doing so; and appears to be married with a large family because Anne writes, “I hope your wife and large family keep well” and “I dare say you are now a grandfather1″. She also asks whether he’s near a village or town and whether there are any wild animals near him”. I can’t find any likely candidates on the family tree I’ve been sent.
Anyway, Anne mentions meeting Alice and I think she’s talking about her cousin Alice Parkinson because she mentions her two youngest children Annie Gertrude and Joseph. She also mentions Alice’s husband Mr (James) Robinson.
Alice’s father was John Parkinson who married Ann Gornall. John was brother of Margaret, Anne Walker’s mother. I love the way the letter brings those she mentions to life. For example, Anne remarks that “Alice is looking very well and I do not think I saw a grey hair, although a grandmother”. Whereas, “Mr Robinson is far from strong, but looks robust enough to last for years”. They seem to be doing well as she says “they have all they could wish for in reason”, and she adds “only hope you have as comfortable house”. Charlie’s little girl is also mentioned as being there. Not sure which Charley she is referring to, but it could be John Charles Robinson who had a daughter also called Alice probably after her grandmother. Anne calls her “a pretty engaging little child I would like to have here”.
She also mentions visiting a Mrs Noble and refers to her as “sissy”. I think this is John Charles Robinson’s sister Mary Theresa who married Thomas Noble. She is referred to as “… the picture of happiness. Her house the pink of perfection in cleanliness. She makes a darling little wife and has a darling baby which you may be sure she is very proud off”. I can’t help think this sounds a little like damning with faint praise, but that might be an unfair interpretation.
Anne also mentions that she has not seen Deborah for some time, “who in her own way happy and extra pious and good”. I’m guess she is talking about Deborah Parkinson, daughter of John Parkinson and Ann Gornall. What’s interesting is that she doesn’t mention Deborah’s sister Isabella in the letter, who according to the family tree I’ve seen died in the same year Anne’s letter was written. Nor is the brother Thomas mentioned, who could easily be the recipient of the letter the way Anne talks about his relatives, but looking at the family tree it doesn’t seem he married or had offpring.
She mentions that Joe and her are still living together. I think she’s referring to her brother George Joseph Walker who doesn’t seem to have married. Anne comments on this at the end of the letter by saying that “he is not at all inclined for matrimony”. There’s other information about their life together and status as Anne talks about them “having little to do” and how they are “obliged” to keep at least one servant, although they have to be very submissive as servants they have are now more like “ladies” than the ones they used to have. The house is described as having two bay windows, one above the other, with dining and drawing room, 5 bedrooms and an upstairs, as well as a view across the park. I think she also refers to the area in the letter as an aristocratic little place, when referring to how fashion can be a bore. The 1901 census shows them living “on their own means” in Lytham. which is out West from Preston on the coast. This tallies with the address on the letter, and she mentions how their Preston friends have gone and they’d missed them if they went back even though her heart still clings to it and “dear St. Winfred’s” (the oldest Catholic church there). I’m guessing by gone they mean passed away as Anne would be in 70s by then.
Anne and her brother also seem to be cultured, which is how my mother remembers her Marwood relatives so maybe this trait came from the Walker side of the family. Anne talks about not playing the piano any longer with Joe as she can now only hear with the aid of an ear trumpet, but is grateful she can read without spectacles as she reads a great deal. She also mentions later in the letter how her sister Mrs Thonton (Margaret Deborah Walker) “… has now three daughters at home one married and three at school, all good looking and musicians as there is plenty of life among them”.
Earlier in the letter talks about her niece “my little Alice” (Alice Walburge Walker) who she is amused to have been accused by the cousin she’s writing to as being severe about. She mentioned how Alice is nicely settled having married a Mr (John Joseph) Lewis from Bolton. Alice is the daughter of my great great grandparents James Walker and Mary Hannah Smith. My great grandmother “Pollie” (Mary Agnes Polly Walker) also a mention as having done well having married a Mr ‘Mainwood’ (transcription error of Marwood) of Blentham a month or two before Alice married. She explains that Pollie’s brother Charles (Aloysius Walker) has married a widow (Eliza Holden) in the same year (1855) and they are now living in a large house in Fishergate. And how there’s now only one son living with Mr (James)Walker, which is probably John H ‘Wilfred’ Walker. Anne also explains how James’ oldest daughter Mrs Psaila (Mary Georgina Walker) is now living in Demerara. Mary Georgina’s brother “Stanie” (Stanislaus Walker) is on commission but lives inland with a big hous, two horses and a trap but apparently “Georgina” is to afraid of taking her children to visit because of the tigers. I didn’t realise they had tigers in Demerara. Anne also mentions that she often hears from her nephew James Leo who works for Pullmans. She think he has something to do with the shipping department and has informed her that there have been riots about capital and labour, with capital the victor.
This letter doesn’t give a huge amount of detail but it gives me a better idea of who everyone was and what they did, as well as how they seem to keep in touch. I guess the geography helped, but it made me realise how little I see of my relations even though I have cousins down her in Brighton. Then again there’s huge generation gaps between us, but would be good to catch-up now and then.