Victorian letters of love and loss from Quarry Bank Mill
PUBLISHED: 14:41 23 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:57 06 July 2016
Letters revealing how an influential Cheshire family dealt with the loss of one of their children show a new side to Victorian life
Archivists at Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, near Wilmslow, have uncovered handwritten notes from members of the Greg family who built and ran five mills in the area during the Industrial Revolution.
Correspondence between the relatives of six-year-old Emily Gair Greg, who died of scarlet fever in 1876, detail poetically their love for the child. The letters and cards will form part of an exhibition on display at Quarry Bank Mill from January 19th until April 14th. Usual admission charges apply.
Ellen Fenton, Learning and Interpretation Manager at Quarry Bank Mill, said the exhibition proved Victorians – and in particular Victorian men – were not as stern or detached from their families as is often thought.
‘Henry Russell was with his daughter when she died after being taken ill very suddenly,’ said Ellen. ‘This perception of stern Victorian families was not necessarily the truth and in their letters there is a lot of emotion and, on certain occasions, a lot of humour.’
Envelopes carrying the letters were black-edged as a sign of the Gregs being in mourning. Deep mourning would have lasted a year with the family wearing black and dark drapes being put up around the home.
In one letter Henry describes Emmy: ‘She was a dear, good little girl as ever was – the whole of her character was so perfectly satisfactory. It was all of the highest promise.’
A year after her death Henry Russell wrote of plans to make Emmy’s birthday a memorial day, by providing funds to pay for 100 children from Stockport Workhouse to enjoy a countryside picnic.
Quarry Bank Mill’s ‘Best Wishes’ exhibition also includes the family’s Christmas cards, which were very different to today’s with images of cats, monkeys and frogs on them.
‘These cards, diaries and letters give us a true insight into how Victorians dealt with love and loss,’ said Ellen.
For more details call 01625 527468 or go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/