Letters From America

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The following are letters sent to my ancestor from her aunt who migrated from Wakefield in England to St Louis in America. There is also a letter and some postcards from her American cousin. In the section below showing the postcards I have tried to link to modern pictures of them to create a sense of historical perspective (click the corresponding links to see). The descriptions that accompany the postcards were written by Elizabeth Kershaw in 1909 and were on the postcards that accompanied the letter dated 23rd July 1909 and were referred to in that letter.

Edward Kershaw

Edward KershawHerbert Richard KershawHerbert Richard Kershaw

LETTERS FROM ST LOUIS, MO, USA

1307 S Compton Avenue, St Louis, MO, USA.

23 November 1908

My dear niece

I received your welcome letter and was glad you are better; I have been very sick but I am glad to say I am well for an old woman, as I cannot expect to be very well at my age and in my seventy seventh year. I did write [to] you and got no reply to it and in 4 mo9nths time I got word that Mr Cole was dead but who got the letter I do not know and I am glad to hear from you. We will try to send you some pictures of the 3 girls next time we write to you. They go to high school and they have so many lessons to get a night and then they have to practice the piano lessons so that they do not have much time for anything else but they will have a week holiday at Christmas and then they will have their photos taken and I will send them to you.

How many sisters and brothers have you, give my love to them as I often think of all in Wakefield and wish I could see all of you but I do not expect to see you this [side] of the grave but hope to meet you all in the beyond and the meeting will be a grand reunion for all will be there to meet us.

I will close with love to all of you and God bless you all and hope to hear from you seen.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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29 January 1909

My dear niece

I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner but I hope you are well as I am for my age. I do not expect to write many more letters but will as long as I can. I send you the 3 girls’ photos and the boy but Elizabeth’s is not good of her for it doesn’t do her half justice for she is much better looking but will send a better [one] when she gets some more taken and would very much like you to write to Elizabeth and she will write to you in return so then you can keep in the way of knowing about us all the time all joins me in love to you and all your brothers and sisters not forgetting yourself.

I remain your ever loving aunt and God bless you.

Mrs R Kershaw

April 20th 1909

My dear niece

I received yours sometime since but have neglected to write but please excuse me as I am old and it is a trouble to write so do not think hard of me if I do not answer you just at the time. I should but will as soon as I can. Elizabeth is the oldest and Ruth the second and Edna is the third and Elmer is the boy and youngest. Elizabeth got your letter but she is looking for some posties for you and she will write you soon and send you the posties at the same time. She cannot write as soon as she would for she has so many lessons to get and her practising on the piano for an hour so you will see she does not get much time but in June they get a vacation for 10 weeks and they you may get a long letter for she does write very long ones but the one she [writes to] you in a few days may be short but make it up later. All is well at present and hope you are well. I will close for time hoping to hear from you soon. Give my love to your brother that is 20 I wish I had his photo and yours. I should be very glad all here joins me in love to you and God bless you is my prayer.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

I will be 77 on the 17th June so you see I am old.

1338 Maine Street, Racine, Wisconsin.

July 21st 1909

My dear niece

I received your welcome letter and I send you some photo[s] these are old but they’re what I have so I send you them. Fred is called after your mother McNeledge so I though you would like to have them. Edward is the one I make my home with in St Louis and I hope you will write to them in St Louis. My son here would very much like some postals on Wakefield. He was 8 years old when we left there. I am here on a visit for 3 or 4 months, but I will be in St Louis by Christmas all being well. I am between 300-400 miles from home. I am well and hope you are well. All joins me in love to you and if I can get any cards I will send them to you but being old I cannot get round as I would like. I am in my 78[th] year and not so sprite.

I remain your loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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1307 A S Compton Avenue, St Louis, MO.

23rd July 1909

Dear Cousin

I will now take time to answer your very welcome letter and thank you ever so much for the beautiful views from England. I guess it is never as warm in England as over in America. Sometimes the heat is so intense that we do not know where to put ourselves but at other times it is very cool and pleasant. Grandma is gone a week today. She has gone to Racine, Wisconsin to visit her son Fred [Fred McNeiledge Kershaw???]. I am going to a picnic Sunday, on the 31st and then again on 14th of August. I am getting so tiered of picnics, I have gone to 6 since the last week of school and then to so many other entertainments that I am tired of vacation besides picnics. This is my last year at high school. I hope to be a graduate in June if I pass in all my studies. I am sending some views of St Louis which I hope will please you as much as your English postals please us Americans. It seems so nice to be able to correspond with someone living across the ocean. I guess I will have to close now as I have to help cook supper because papa works nights.  Mamma and papa sisters and brothers send love and best wishes from your ever loving cousin.

Elizabeth Kershaw

Fred McNeledge Kershaw
Above: Fred McNeiledge Kershaw

31st October 1909

My dear niece

I received your ever welcome letter and was glad you are going to be married and I hope you will get a good husband for if he is good it will be a blessing but if on the other hand I will be very sorry.  I wish you all the happiness in the world can give you I only wish I could see you but I cannot so my love to you and your intended husband with best wishes and I hope God will bless you in the undertaking. All is well here for they are getting ready for a mascarade ball on the 24th of November. The 3 girls and the mother will go to watch over them. I hope they may have a good time.

I do not know what is the matter with Mrs Southwell as I have not had a word from her since last winter is she sick or what is it.  I am back home again and will stop home now. I will write more next time so I will close with love to you.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

 

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John P Kershaw John P Kershaw (Son of Mrs R Kershaw)scan0005

POSTCARDS ‘SOME VIEWS OF ST LOUIS’ THAT WERE MENTIONED IN ONE OF THE LETTERS ABOVE:

Bridge & Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

The drive-ways in this part are very nice but this is extremely pretty [??] this park was where we had the World’s Fair and that time we certainly had enough people in St. Louis during the whole of the Fair. (These postcards are from Elizabeth Kershaw.  Although my name is Elizabeth I am called Libbie for short).

Bridge-and-Drive-Forest-Par

City Hall, St. Louis, Mo.

This is our City Hall, it is very handsome old building but could be in a better locality. Its grounds are beautiful always so pretty and green.

City-Hall

Compton Heights Water Tower, St. Louis, Mo.

We get our water from this tower, it is in a park which is about 8 blocks from our home. In this park we spend much time in summer and have often climbed to the top of the tower whre we could get a birds eye view of the city.

Compton-Heights-Water-Tower

Custom House and Post Office, St. Louis, Mo.

This building is one of our most useful buildings in the city. It is very large but it is not so extremely beautiful. But we are having a new post office built right across from Union Station.

Custom-House-and-Post-Offic

Eads Bridge & Wharf Boat, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a very interesting place as well as beautiful. Hundreds of people stand on this bridge to view our big floods. This bridge has very large traffic.

Eads-Bridge-and-Wharf-Boat

Grant’s Cabin, St. Louis, Mo.

This is an interesting cabin to the St. Louisiana. This used to be the home of one of our presidents in earlier days.

Grant's-Cabin

Lake at Hyde Park, St. Louis, Mo.

This is not a large park but for all is very beautiful. The lake is grand and a pleasure to sit by during summer and fine for skating in winter.

Lake-At-Hyde-Park

McKinley High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This high school is the one that Ruth and I attend. I have been going 3 years this June, only one year more and Ruth has been going 2½ years this June. We have lots of fun at school and cause the [?teachers?] lots of trouble.

McKinley-High-School

Elizabeth Kershaw graduated in the class of 1910:
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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Louis, Mo.

This has the [?name?] of having a grand front. It contains many beautiful pieces of statuary besides the wonderful paintings and other art works.

Museum-of-Fine-Arts

New Coliseum Bldg, St. Louis, Mo.

This is our new Coliseum, a very pretty building. I was there to [?hear?] [?Gyspey?] Smith. He was fine. They had to hurry this building last fall to hold the [?different?] conventions here. In this building we are going to have a large May Festival in May for three days. I expect to take part in the High School [?chorus?].

New-Coliseum-Building

Pagoda, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

This is one of the prettiest scenes in St. Louis, and is located in the park where the World’s Fair was held in 1904.

Pagoda-Forest-Park

4058 – Smith Academy and Manual Training School, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a school for boys and is situated in a beautiful part of our city. They have fine times at this place.

Smith-Academy-and-Manual-Tr

Soldan High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This one is the new school and was named after the late superintendent of the public schools Mr Soldan. This is not yet finished and will be a handsome school, being ready for work the beginning of September

Soldan-High-School

St. Lukes Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a very pretty place. Grandma Kershaw has visited there when my aunt [?Jennies?] mother was taken there when she was very ill.

St-Luke's-Hospital

Union Station, St. Louis, Mo.

This good old depot to proud of. It is the largest in the country. It interest many tourists besides its own people.

Union-Station

Vandeventer Place, St. Louis, Mo.

This is where many of St. Louis’ wealthy citizens reside. It certainly is pretty, especially so during the summer months.

Vandeventer-Place

Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

After I am through High School and care to go to college this is the one that I will attend. It is a very large place and interesting. From Elizabeth Kershaw.

Washington-University

Yeatman High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This is one of the four High Schools in St. Louis. It is the second to being the newest. It is built on the same plan as McKinley but this school has more grounds than McKinley and the trees are older.

Yeatman-High-School

Family Meetup At Hardwick Hall

Today I met up with the Derbyshire wing of my extended family at Hardwick Hall.  It’s a grand Elizabethan house built by Bess of Hardwick in the 1590s who was famous, in a kind of feminist critique of Henry VIII way, for having four husbands and becoming incredibly wealthy as a result.

Bess-of-Hardwick

Above: Bess of Hardwick – portrait from 1550s.

Built in a renaissance style that originated in Florence, the hall is known as a Prodigy House, ostentatious in design and large enough to accommodate the Monarch and their army of attendants when they upped sticks from London and went on a Royal progress around their realm.

Wikipedia (1) describes the Hardwick Hall as follows:

“The house’s design also demonstrated new concepts not only in domestic architecture, but also a more modern way in which life was led within a great house. Hardwick was one of the first English houses where the great hall was built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance.

Each of the three main storeys has a higher ceiling than the one below, the ceiling height being indicative of the importance of the rooms’ occupants: least noble at the bottom and grandest at the top.

A wide, winding, stone staircase leads up to the state rooms on the second floor; these rooms include one of the largest long galleries in any English house and also a little-altered, tapestry-hung great chamber with a spectacular plaster frieze illustrating hunting scenes.”

This description put me in mind of another house, far less grand though more local to me, in the town of Normanton, called Hanson House. I may appear to be digressing here, but bear with me, trust me – this does have relevance to my story.

The reason it put me in mind of Hanson House was that I recall reading something in Wakefield library that this house, the older part of it, was also of architectural significance.  Apparently it was a kind of transitionary piece of architecture that represented the move from houses based on the Medieval great hall to the multi-storey houses of the Tudor era. (2)

Now, back to the main story  – Bess of Hardwick was the daughter of Elizabeth Leake and that’s where a possible link appears in relation to Hanson House, and perhaps even my own family.  In my own family tree there is a link with a family called the “Leekes”, slightly different spelling, I know, but there it is! Following the death of my grandfather in 1988 I found an old book in a pile in my dads’ garage which I promptly rescued.  In it were some hand written copies of letters between a man called ‘Sir’ Levett Hanson (c.1748-1814) and his Yorkshire based cousin Thomas Leake (3).  Levett Hanson of course lived in Hanson House as did the person he was writing to – Thomas Leake. In some of the letters, Hanson alludes to Thomas’ family being a branch of one with a very ancient lineage, so that link with Bess of Hardwick could be a distinct possibility. Perhaps something that I may look into in the future?

That’s the end of my family links but another fact that I found interesting was that the descendants of Bess of Hardwick and her second husband Sir William Cavendish were the Dukes of Devonshire. People may remember the film, The Duchess, in which the glamorous Georgiana married into the influential Cavendish Family.  Georgiana herself was a member of the Spencer family – think the Duke of Marlbrough – John Churchill, Winston Spencer Churchill, and Lady Diana Spencer – Princess of Wales (4).

Duchess-of-Devonshire

Above: Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire – painting by Joshua Reynolds.

Bess’ descendants, the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire, were to have important and influential roles in future British politics, society, and history.

References and footnotes
(1) Hardwick Hall, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardwick_Hall
(2) There was a time when this house was derelict and the newer Georgian part can be seen HERE in a state of disrepair though thankfully it has since been renovated as can be seen HERE (the old building is behind the Georgian part of the house).
(3) I previously wrote about this subject here HERE.
(4) Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgiana_Cavendish,_Duchess_of_Devonshire

 

The weather today was pretty dreadful in typical English fashion, with constant rain which will probably mean more flooding.  A nearby stream at the bottom of the hill near the Hardwick Inn where we had lunch was getting pretty high. Still managed to take some photographs though not as many as I would have liked.

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Above: Hadwick Hall with carefully maintained garden.

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Above: Close up of Hardwick Hall.

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Above: Hardwick Hall from a distance.

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Above: Me in front of the Hall, clearly uncomfortable in the rain!

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Above: Hardwick Inn

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Above: Out of the rain in the pub!

Well worth a visit. I hope to make another visit to this wonderful house, when the house itself is open and with hopefully better weather.

Merry Christmas

Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas. Got a new camera for Christmas – photography is one of my hobbies. This is a picture of my Christmas tree today, Christmas Day 2015.  Another hobby of mine is collecting Christmas baubles as you may have guessed by looking at the tree.  When I am on holiday I try to get a unique Christmas decoration from the place I am staying.

Tilly’s Christmas

People who visited my blog earlier this year on 8 October will have seen that my pet dog, Tilly, underwent a major operation.  You can find the 8 October post HERE.

Earlier this week she celebrated her first Christmas since her operation.

The following video shows her opening her Christmas presents on a Christmas morning we thought she might not have seen.

W.A. Ismay Collection By Matthew Darbyshire – Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

Written 23/10/2013

Chris Knowles Hepworth Gallery 300

Above: Chris Knowles at the W.A. Ismay Collection by Matthew Darbyshire – Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield.

Today I have visited the W.A. Ismay Collection by contemporary artist Matthew Darbyshire at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.

My visit was, primarily, a homage to my grandfather who was a friend and neighbour of Mr Ismay whom he knew as Bill.  It was my first visit to the Hepworth Gallery as I am usually not that impressed with modern art.  However, I liked what the gallery had to offer and would certainly recommend that others pay it a visit.  In addition to the art, it affords excellent views of the river Calder and allows you to view Wakefield from a different perspective.

My grandfather arranged for my mother and myself to view Bills collection when I was a teenager back in the 80s.  However, at that time it was at Bill’s house on Welbeck Street.  He told us in no uncertain terms not to tell anyone because the collection was very valuable.  It was certainly not the sort of thing that you would expect find behind the net curtains of a modest terrace house.  To a trained eye, not mine, it was an Aladdin’s Cave of exotic ceramics.  To me it was simply like a museum.

Darbyshire has arranged the collection using the footprint of Bill’s house as his canvass.  This includes the front room, and the living room, but omits the kitchen.  The gap in the middle of Darbyshire’s work is the position of the steps down to the cellar. It was interesting to compare this piece of modern art with my own memories of Bill’s home.  I think he captured the essence of the atmosphere in the house very well – organised clutter.  The house was jam-packed with pots covering every last space on more than one floor.  Frankly I was amazed about how Bill actually managed to live in his own house!

WA Ismay 7

There was one occasion when Mr Ismay was out when a delivery from Japan was made.  Naturally they asked a neighbour to sign for it and look after until he returned home.  That neighbour happened to be, much to her chagrin, my grandmother.  She was a woman of a nervous disposition at the best of times and was horrified about having a fragile and potentially valuable piece of art being left in her care.  The ceramic article survived, even though my grandmother was well known for dropping crockery in the kitchen due to her arthritis.  I think she was very relieved when Mr Ismay finally took possession of the item.  My mother thinks the item is the large circular object in the photograph [above] this paragraph. Darbyshire’s portrayal mixes in white goods such as the washing machine which contrast marvelously with the pottery.  I do not remember any white goods when I was back at the house, but they could have been completely covered in pots!  The juxtaposition of ancient and modern technology is an excellent way to draw attention to Bill’s collection. I took quite a few photographs at the Hepworth.  In the first group below, I wanted to show the collection as a single united work of art by Matthew Darbyshire. The following photograph shows the view from what would have been the kitchen. The cabinet in the foreground would have been below the living room window that looked out into the back garden.

WA Ismay 1

The following photo shows the view from what I would presume would have been next doors’ kitchen if the walls had been made out of transparent bricks.

WA Ismay 2
Below is the view from what would have been the view from the garden of Bills other next door neighbour.  You can see clearly where the chimneys were located.

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In the photograph below, you can see the living room on the right with the mirror above the fireplace, the front room which has shelves above another fireplace, and in the middle the blank space representing the stairs down to the cellar.

WA Ismay 4

The next photograph shows Matthew Darbyshire piece in the context of the room in the Hepworth Gallery.  It shows it as a work of art in its own right that happens to incorporate many works of art within it.

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In the following set of photographs I have tried to focus on specific items of Bill’s collection within Darbyshire’s work of art.  This is one of the remarkable things about the piece – you can see it as both a single work of modern art and a collection of less modern art forms put together by a single human being.  The photograph containing the bert, the magnifying glass, and the typewriter seem to represent Bill the man.  He seemed quite the English eccentric, exhibiting a unique appearance when he was out and about, being easily identifiable from his beret.  He was an intellectual, a friend of my grandfather and a very nice man indeed.

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Finally the following video, that can also be found on the Hepworth Gallery website, talks about Bill Ismay himself who left the country such a great artistic legacy.

The exhibition runs from 12 October 2013 to 26 January 2014 at: The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 5AW.

The ‘Sir’ Levett-Hanson Letters – Part of the History of Normanton, West Yorkshire

Written on 21/10/2013

Following the death of my grandfather in 1988 I found an old book in a pile in my parent’s garage which I promptly rescued.  In it were hand written notes and old newspaper clippings from the 19th Century.  This included what appeared to be some hand written copies of letters between a man called ‘Sir’ Levett Hanson (c.1748-1814) and his Yorkshire based cousin Thomas Leake.  Some years ago I wrote a biographical summary of Levett-Hanson based on information derived from these letters and some rudimentary research.  What follows is the summary that I wrote together with a transcript of the first of the letters (I may publish the rest in due course).

Biographical Summary

Levett Hanson was born in 1748, in the village of Welton-with-Melton near Beverley in North Yorkshire.  He was the only son of Robert Hanson and Elizabeth Jackson (nee.), but had a sister who would later marry Sir Thomas Cullum of Bury-Saint-Edmunds in Suffolk (who also had holdings in the Normanton area).

Fate dealt Levett a cruel blow early on in life, when he was  only 5 or 6 years old (c.1743) he lost his mother and this was compounded at age 11 (c.1749) when his father died.  The legacy of this double tragedy dwelt within him for the rest of his life.

He was born into a proud and influential heritage; as far as the History of Normanton is concerned, his family ties with the Levetts and the Leakes, both families playing key roles in its development for much of its history, are significant.

From around 1790 to his death, while he was overseas, he entrusted his Normanton interests to a manager called Mr Brook, who would have dealt with all his business affairs in the local area such as collecting rents, selling land, etc.  He communicated with his manager via his bankers, Messrs. Hamersley, based in Pall Mall, London.

Out of all these cities it was Copenhagen that captured his heart; this was the place where he felt most at home, and showed great affection with relation to it in correspondence back to Yorkshire.

From c.1790 to the end of his life, he resided in cities of the Baltic Sea region, most notably Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamburg.  It seems likely that it was around this time that he acquired the title of knight.  He was an officer of the knightly order of St. Joachim, which was founded in 1755 by members of the German nobility.  He was an officer of the chancery of this order of chivalry and it seems reasonable to assume that his duties were of a diplomatic nature.

In a letter to his cousin, dated Copenhagen, 9 July 1807, he said that he had been evading the French armies since 23 October 1805.  This must have related to the increase in British involvement in the anti French coalition; it was only 2 days since the Battle of Trafalgar, which took place on 21 October, giving Britain naval supremacy.  It was also a time when, it would be reasonable to assume, there was considerable unease in the areas where he resided and had links with (Copenhagen and Hamburg).  Indeed, the French defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Ulm (in southern Germany between Stuttgart and Munich) on 21 October of that year; it must have seemed that Bonaparte could have pushed north at any moment.  It was just after this time that Napoleon scored one of his most impressive victories at the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805.  The armies of the great general must have seemed invincible to the officers of his enemies at that time.

Sir Levett Hanson died on 22 April 1814, at Copenhagen in Denmark; he was 59 years of age.  The war against the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte, of which he seems likely to have played a role, would wage on for over a year until it reached its climactic conclusion at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

Chris Knowles

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First of the Letters – Correspondence Between Sir Levett Hanson And His Normanton Cousin Thomas Leake

Copenhagen November 27th 1804

Dear Kinsman

Your letter gave me great satisfaction.  Had I not been favoured with yours, I meant to write to you.  I do not doubt you and your family have lost two good friends by the death of Mrs Elizabeth and Mrs Catherina Hanson.  However, [if] you and your family conduct yourself properly and [you] remain an honest respectable character, you will always find me to be a sincere and good friend.  I have already said as much in my letters to Mr Brooke.  Whenever you have the misfortune to lose your mother, I have told Mr Brooke that you will continue to live in the house and have the orchard, both rent free, and in case of sickness or misfortune I have desired him never to let you, your family [or] your mother want for anything.

I can never forget that you are my nearest of kin on the Levett side, and, though fortune was not favourable to your father and grandfather, I beg you never forget that on the side of the Leakes and the Levetts you are as old [and] good a family as most in Yorkshire and as many in England.  The past Lord Scarsdale was a Leake, and always acknowledged your grandfather as a kinsman, although he could not come in for the Estate and Title.

The Smiths, the Torres and the Favells are [Fiz Gigges], as the late Robert Holdsworth called them in comparison with you, like father like sons.  I suppose the Baronet of Newland or the Squires of Normanton and Snydale are not a bit better than their fathers, where you do not posses the estate and fortune, these people do.  But that is nothing, remember manners maketh man, and an honest man is God’s masterpiece.

When I tell you never to do anything unworthy of your name and character, and [to] never forget whence you are sprung, I do so to [excite] you and yours to live [as] honest decent people and not to make you foolish, vain and proud, which behaviour is improper even in those who are rich and really great.

I have known you these one and thirty years, I think you must be about four and forty.  How many children have you in all and how many lads and lasses, as we say in Yorkshire?  What is the name of your [mother’s] aunt at Wakefield and is she living, she used to be my snuff merchant.  As to your son, I wish he was eighteen or twenty instead of fifteen.  I want a companion and not a servant.  My manner of living would not suit a lad [of] fifteen, although it might a young man of one and twenty.  I live much a[t] home and [am] very [retired] and do not like those who are with me to be running about.  This is hard for a lad of your son’s time of life.  Nevertheless, I do not give up the matter but he must wait [u]till I come to Hamburg.  I would wish your son, in the meantime, to stick to county business and beg you to assure him [that] I shall not forget him nor his father neither.  If you have lost two good friends in my aunts, you have found one in me.  If I have never any reason to the contrary, I shall always look upon you and love you as my next of kin.  Remember our Grandmothers were sisters.

As to the wood you wish to purchase, it is a matter upon which I do not pretend to determine anything.  Mr Brooke has my power of selling it for me and if you and he can settle the business, I shall be satisfied.  I have sent to him, by this post, that half of your letter which concerns this business and if you and he can agree, I think you ought to have the preference, but I must tell you once [and] for all, my good kinsman, that it is my firm and decided resolution never to take my business out of the hands of Mr Brooke, which I have [since] trusted to him, first of, all because he well deserves my [continued] and unlimited confidence by his past probity and attention for my interests, and secondly because, situated as I am and at so great a distance, Mr Brooke is far better able to judge of what is right and proper than I can possible [do].

When you talk of the ‘jungle’ near the house you live in, I suppose you mean the orchard.  I beg you will take great care to keep up the hedges and fruit trees.  Our Uncle, Mr Robert Levett, had made it, for its size, one of the best orchards in the parish.  It is your duty and interest to preserve it in a good state and plant choice trees when necessary.  I mention these things since you are old enough to pay due weight upon what I say.

I am glad to hear the [e]nclosure advances; certainly I would wish you to have a [close] for the convenience of you and your family and [Harpin’s Close], likewise, when he dies; but for these I expect a fair rent.  All these are things you must talk over with Mr Brooke who, I am sure, wishes to befriend you.

As to the complaints you make that the wood for repairing the house and homestead was not given to you, I must tell you I do not think you have such a great reason to be satisfied.  Mr Brooke agreed with the tenants Bailey about putting all the buildings in repair, and it was not extraordinary [that] Baily should wish to favour his brother-in-law.  So close as a man’s [shirt] sits to his…you may be sure, I as your kinsman, ever wish to give you everything.  But there is no rule with an exception, and on the outset of this rule [you] might to have made application to Mr Brooke, God knows, I never wish to take the meal of any man’s table, and least of all yours.

I heartily thank my cousin, your wife and your mother for all their kind remembrance of me and for their long and delightful assurance.  My kindest remembrances and wishes to Matthew, who is one of the most honest and best of friends I ever met with.  He has enjoyed my confidence for years and deservedly so. I don’t know anything his [quarters] with me as a friend.

But ‘tis all to no purpose, however, that will never prevent me from having more regard for him than for any other friend or acquaintance in this world and, am sure, his heart is the same towards me.  Pray let me hear from you in answer to this and write to me often.  Tell Matthew I have wrote at least two letters to him to which I have received no answer. I am very glad to hear he is well in health and spirits and I pray God you will continue so.  Remember you are a relation which is more than friend or acquaintance.  I must repeat it that I expect you will not fail to answer my letters regularly.  Be kind and neighbourly too to Matthew, when it is in your power.  I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and remain with truest regards and friendships dear Thomas.

Your affectionate kinsman

Levett Hanson

PS. Your letter gave me great pleasure, when you write again speak to me as your near relation and make use of no ceremonies; common civility is all that is required between kinsfolk.

Cold War Front Lines: Memories From The Border With The German Democratic Republic, 1975

Written 18 October 2013.

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Above: Germany 1975: Adults suit up for a drive, while a young Chris Knowles inspects one of NATO’s military assets.

If you think we have it bad today, when I wer’ a lad things were much worse! (in the spirit of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen)

I am one of those people who can remember my very early childhood.  I once assumed that everyone was the same, but to my shock I found that not everyone could. Perhaps they are compensated with a better short term memory or something?  One of my earliest memories of a family holiday (I have many even earlier memories of other things!) related to a trip to Germany in 1975, when I was only three years old.

Life At The Barracks
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Above: From NATO heartland to the border of the Warsaw Pact: There and back again in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. With young Chris Knowles at the controls!

We were staying south west of Hannover at Hobart Barracks in Detmold in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.  The 20th Armoured Brigade of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) was based at these barracks and this area could be described as one of the front line defensive positions in the Cold War.  We were staying with a family friend who was a serving soldier at the time.  We travelled through Belgium, Holland, and a good part of Germany in our yellow Volkswagen Beetle to get there.  We got to the continent via a Sealink ferry from Dover, and coincidently I remember Rod Stewart’s Sailing being played on the radio – my first remembrance of a specific piece of music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW2-_01i48w#action=share).

 We stayed my at parents’ friends home   They lived in married quarters on the base and had a couple of kids of around my own age which added to the fun of my stay.  It was interesting to experience a military environment at such a young age and in a way had I to bear the brunt of military logic myself in my own small way.  At some point during my stay, I came down with a bad case of tonsillitis.  The camp doctor refused me penicillin, which was a real pain for me at the time.  Of course this refusal made sense from the perspective of a military doctor who would have to face a nightmare scenario in the event that antibiotics lost their general effectiveness through overuse on relatively trivial complaints.

“Inner German Border”

The border between East and West Germany was known as the “Inner German Border” (1).  It was along this line that opposing armies faced each other and watched for movement on the other side. In places like Detmold NATO forces stood poised, ready to repel the Soviet hordes at a moment’s notice and prevent their tanks from rolling into Western Europe.

While staying at the base my parents and their friends planned a trip to the Harz Mountains which formed the border with the East.  We were told in no uncertain terms to be careful and received some sound military advice.  We were warned not to wander in the woods at the border lest we inadvertently cross into the German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany).

There were no fences separating East and West but there were other hazards such as minefields but they were not the only thing to worry about.  We were told that East German snipers ensconced in the hills on the Eastern side of the border may let us cross into the GDR but might not be so obliging when we tried to cross back into West German territory. Concern about snipers, tanks, and minefields certainly provided the makings of a “fun” childhood holiday!

Though there were no fences in the Harz Mountains that separated East and West, the fences and obstacles elsewhere show how determined the Warsaw Pact was at preventing people escaping to the West.  The following illustration, that can be found at Wikipedia, provides a visual representation of what would be escapees would have to contend with:

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The description that accompanies the illustration at Wikipedia reads as follows:

“The border shown in the diagram cuts across a road which formerly linked east and west. Proceeding from west to east, the zonal border is marked on the western side by signposts saying “HALT HIER GRENZE” (“STOP HERE BORDER”). Just behind the border, there is a border marker pole with diagonal black, red and yellow stripes. A short distance after the zonal border, i.e. on the Eastern side, the road is dug up, so there is an anti-vehicle ditch across its whole width. Then follows a metal-mesh fence, with a double gate where the road is. To the left of the road, the metal-mesh fence forks to form a double fence; the area between the two fences is mined. Near the road, instead of a second metal-mesh fence, there is a concrete-faced anti-vehicle ditch. Next follows a flood-lit control strip; behind that, a guard patrol road running parallel to the border. After that comes a strip of open green territory containing various types of guard towers, a dog run and an observation bunker; this is delimited by a signal fence which has floodlights spaced at regular intervals. The signal fence curves around a village that is close to the border, excluding it from the border strip. Where it crosses the road, the signal fence has a gate, and further up the road, i.e. deeper in East German territory, the road is blocked by a horizontal barrier, beside which there is a little house.”

We could potentially have had a pretty nasty surprise if we had gone down to the woods that day!

Seven Days To The River Rhine

In 1979, four years after my holiday at the Barracks at Detmold, the Warsaw Pact came up with a military plan entitled “Seven Days to the River Rhine”.  This was a plan to penetrate Western Europe up to the River Rhine, following a Western nuclear first strike (2).

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Above: Warsaw Pact Battle Plans: Seven Days To The River Rhine

A rather alarming map complete with mushroom cloud graphics that relates to this plan can be found HERE (3).

The existence of such scenarios demonstrates quite clearly how, back in those days, even on days when you were enjoying a pleasant holiday in Germany, World War III could have broken out at any time.

Being present at a front line barracks in that war might not have made much difference, we were all under threat of immediate destruction wherever we were, even if we were hiding under our beds at home.

Perhaps the modern armageddon of global economic meltdown is not so bad when compared with being vaporised on your German holidays.

References:

(1) Inner German Border (Wikipedia)

(2) Poland risks Russia’s wrath with Soviet nuclear attack map. Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, 26/11/2005.

(3) What World War III Might Have Looked Like (The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the Twenty-First Century)

Hydrotherapy For Dogs

Written on 8 October 2013.

 Today I have taken my dog for her first hydrotherapy session after a major operation for a slipped disc.  She injured herself just over three weeks ago and first started limping with her back left leg, then she was unable to walk at all.  What was particularly shocking was the suddenness.  One minute she is running around happily, and then next she is having trouble walking.  We took her to the vets the same day and she stayed there overnight.  She then went for scans and was diagnosed as having a slipped disc.  A major operation was necessary. It has taken her about three weeks to be able to go for a five minute walk each day and now she has started a course of hydro therapy to aid her recovery.  The pictures below illustrate the hydrotherapy session.

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I would like to present my profound thanks to all the staff at Calder Vets for looking after Tilly they have really helped her.  They know her by name and I believe they know all their patients by name.  Calder Vets is a truly caring environment for poorly pets or ones who have been injured.

Have Left and Right Lost Their Political Meaning?

Written on 14 September 2012.

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Winston Churchill once famously said:

“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, my early political affiliations were with the left.  I was sympathetic with the liberals from my time as a teenager until I left university when I became involved in the Labour Party.  I now consider myself a conservative (please note the small ‘c’ – I am not a member of the Conservative Party), though more to the left wing of conservative thought.  I did the political compass test just the other day and ended up near the very centre, though located slightly within the section for the libertarian left!

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It was interesting to discover, though not altogether unexpected, that the Labour Party is located quite far within the quadrant depicting the authoritarian right.  Perhaps that’s why they call it ‘New’ Labour and why the Labour Party no longer represents the interests of the working class.

The political world today is nothing if it is not peculiar.  Looking at the political scene is like looking at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – the situation is bizarre.  It seems that politicians who are not ‘in it for themselves’ are a very rare breed indeed.  Perhaps the poor quality of leadership in the Western world explains our decline into the Spenglerianwasteland we see around us.  I believe that the lack teaching of history in our schools and the popularity of the socially destructive moral relativism has played a role too – but they are based on political choices too.

I witnessed authoritarianism within the Labour Party while serving as Chairman of my local Young Labour Party group.  This was before the election victory in 1997 but Tony Blair had already taken the reins of power within the party.  My friends and I, within the local Young Labour group had taken it upon ourselves to create a political magazine so we could express ourselves politically and exercise our young intellects with something that is becoming increasingly rare – free thought.  One of my friends was a politics student who had applied to work at the regional party office during the summer vacation.  However, he was in the unfortunate position of writing an article that the party apparatchiks did not perhaps quite agree with – to cut a long story short, he did not do his work experience at regional office!

We were all aware about the concept of being on message, and my unfortunate colleague found out about that the hard way.  However, the Labour Party once in power made being ‘on message’ almost your civic duty and draconian laws were enacted to ensure those who were off message were suitably punished.  Seems that I have learned the lessons of the excesses of socialism myself too, and my own work in helping the party gain power is something, even though my contribution was minute, for which I will suffer eternal shame.

The Conservative Party on the other hand, bruised and battered by over a decade in opposition has failed to reverse the authoritarian socialist legacy – we are still lacking the freedoms that were stolen from us by New Labour.  In many ways the Conservative Party is just a watered down version of the Labour Party.  We have socialists who are not socialists and conservatives who are not conservatives both wallowing in a social and economic disaster of their own making.  From a democratic point of view a world without values has become a world without choice.  If left and right are indistinguishable is democracy even possible?

Today we live in a Western world where those with power are incapable of using it wisely and those without it are powerless to improve their lot.  Going back to the Churchill quote at the beginning of this article, the political class have neither heart nor brain and those that they govern have no choice.  Left and right have lost their political meaning and our societies have lost their way.