the stratfordianThe following journals were discovered (2000) at the bottom of the River Avon in a lead-lined and waterproofed box. Although some damage had occurred, The Journals of a Stratford upon Avon Man of Means were in the main decipherable. After 20 years preservation and restoration work The Journals of a Stratford upon Avon Man of Means are now available to read.

Believed to have been written sometime in the 1700’s the author remains somewhat of a mystery.  Obviously a man of some wealth the journals contain accounts of his everyday life and business dealings. He refers on occasion to a ‘Mrs P’ who we take to be a reference to his wife. He also describes trips to his ‘Chambers’ so we can safely assume as to him being a man of the law, although in what capacity we cannot be sure.

The run of the journals appears simple and generally day to day. Although, times and dates are not always stated understanding amongst academics and scholars, tend to agree that this is a simple account of the writers life, undertaken as more of a hobby than an intentional historical record.

We hope the reader will excuse any historical inaccuracy or judgement stated by the author and simply enjoy the journals for what they are. A man’s life.


APRIL.

Homeward bound. Will be glad to be away from this place and back to Stratford upon Avon. Bristol is damned. Full of uncouth seafaring types who have no regard for the finer points in life. Hundreds of men do dock work and are a sight to be seen unloading huge ships of sugar cane from the Caribbean. It is stored in vast warehouses on the harbour front.

Opium houses abound as do the Chinese. There are a number of Blackmores who are freemen and are in business (although taken advantage of). One of whom, Joseph who butlers for Baron Sumner (an acquaintance), tells me he is treated well enough but ponders sadly over the fate of his Wife and daughter who he last saw ten years ago. Although Joseph is now a freeman, there is still much consequential wickedness in the trade, especially for men such as Joseph.

I see many men forced to take the King’s shilling in Bristol and wonder what it must be like to wake up at sea so far from home. To my way of thinking this is a horrendous crime and no way to build our empire especially with reluctant souls.

The sooner home the better. Business almost concluded and my bid for part of a ship bound for the Indies accepted. Documents to sign and soon away from this sinful place. I shall fill my flask with the best Bristol sherry and depart with haste.

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We lost a wheel in Banbury which delayed my arrival in Stratford by a good 4 hours. Had to seek overnight lodgings. Thankfully we have at last arrived and I am with the delighted Mrs P. She tells me that I have been missed. I am greeted with rabbit pie and ale. I eat while she regales me with news from in and around Stratford. Poachers have been active at Charlcote, floods in Wellesbourne and I am saddened to hear that Joseph Barnaby, (a tenant) was taken with the plague in the early hours.

Bad news. A good, hardworking man who owed me a guinea in lieu of rent. I will make it my business on the morn to visit Mrs Barnaby to offer condolences and collect debt.

For now, I am exhausted by my travels and travails and make my way to bed and a well-earnt sleep, if the rabbit pie will allow.


Wednesday 13th

My first call at The Dark Horse since I have returned from my business trip. Not surprised to see Master Shakespeare in his usual state of drunkenness. More to the point he tries to lighten my purse of a guinea which I refuse. I have made the mistake of lending him coin before. Repayment comes when he remembers. Admittedly, he eventually pays but without interest. No doubt his wealthy Father will replenish his funds just to rid himself of the constant pestering.

I tell Mrs P of Shakespeare’s drunken state which leaves her much troubled. She has a soft spot for William. She believes he has hidden talents…aye said I, ‘in his codpiece’. She was not amused. Sent me from house to buy fish.

Jed Basket the fishmonger is a talkative man who keeps me informed of Town gossip. To my shame, I am not hearing him clearly as I am fixated by the large boil on the end of his nose. Buy fish and leave none the wiser.

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Sunday 17th

Confined to home this wet morning as pig escaped from Ely Street’s slaughter house. Mrs P much alarmed as the beast has taken to attacking passers-by. Much mayhem outside house with injured parties lying in road bloodied. Shots fired by slaughter house apprentice Boddins. Unfortunately his skill with a musket leaves much to be desired and we hear later that head slaughter-man Joseph Winter has sadly suffered a wound from a wayward ball. Meanwhile the escaped pig causes more damage.

Pig has entered Mrs Mansell’s pie shop and devoured stock. Mrs Mansell furious and has attacked the crippled Mister Winter causing him much alarm and more pain. The Watch has been called. Mrs Mansell restrained but refusing to to remain silent and is finally taken into custody.

Pig much slowed down because of surfeit of pies has been pounced upon by other slaughter-house workers and subdued. It is led away to suffer its fate. Injured and wounded transported to hospital. 

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Wednesday 27th

Master Roberts daughter Felicity is a comely wench. She turns heads in the Dark Horse. Roberts is too hasty allowing her to serve tables. No good will come of it and we will all lose. I have memory some years ago when a lay-a-bout drunk and unruly madman took to Roberts wife and lost an ear in the doing of. One can understand Robert’s annoyance of course but there was no need to undertake closing of the public house for a week. Methinks pride. I hate to think what might happen if Felicity were to be taken advantage of. It will be more than an ear that that foolish man loses mark my words. 

No matter.

Hearty sing-song with some friendly sailors this good evening. A game of cards and a visit to Mrs Parlour’s parlour to see the lovely Annie Stapleyard, who was thankfully free. As is her wont she was knowledgeable as to my needs and to finish of a fine evening I was allowed discount. A pleasant walk home a little weak at the knees and confused of the head but well satisfied and in good humour.

Slept in stable. For some reason beyond me my good lady would not allow my presence in mine own house. Something about a heavy scent upon my person. Devil woman.


Thursday 28th

Awoke this morning with aching bones. It will take time for my anger at her at home for locking me out to abate.

The Dark Horse for breakfast methinks which is a new experience for me.

Alarmed to find that the plague gatherers find their morning’s refreshment here after a hard night of loading corpses. Roberts informs me it is their habit to take breakfast at his establishment and has been for some weeks. He tells me they have formed ‘The Night Harvesters Society’. For-shortened…the NHS. 

Never a jolly group of men have I seen. Some already drunk at what is 6 in the morn. I overhear a discussion that all is good and getting better. Not sure how to comprehend this. Their work is increasing? Or the plague fades? 

I fill my empty belly with freshly baked bread and a turnip. No doom and gloom here unlike my own house. 

I have decided to walk the river after this hearty breakfast to stretch these aching limbs. Could do with Shakespeare to write me a sonnet for my wife.

 

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