Richard Walker's Journal

There has been preserved a journal in which Richard sets down in meticulous detail all his expenses from the year of his marriage to Mary Skinner in 1827 up to the year 1843. From this journal we can learn a good deal about Richard Walker. He seems to have been a gentleman of considerable means, and of a strongly religious turn of mind.

His marriage to Mary Skinner (1806-1866) when he was 32 years of age and his bride 21 years of age took place at Stockton on 19 July 1827. Following the marriage ceremony, a reception was given at the Blue Lion Inn where "wine drinks, fruit, coffee etc." were the order of the day, to the tune of £17-6-0d. Suitable fees were given to those whose services were required for the wedding such as the minister, the clerk, the bellringers and the driver of the chaise that conveyed the party to the church. Also sharing in the largesse were the servants of Mr. Skinner. A separate item reads . . "our workmen . . . £3." This last item presumably refers to men employed in Mr Walker’s business.

There were a number of presents from the bridegroom to the bride. The most valuable was "a gold watch for Mary with key £18-12-6d." Other gifts included a locket, a broach, two robes, a work box, a work bag, a reticule, a pair of scissors and a pincushion.

The honeymoon, or journey as it was more commonly called at that time, consisted of a trip by chaise to Ripon, Harrowgate (sic) York, Thirsk and back to Stockton, a distance altogether of about 110 miles. The expenses of the wedding and journey came to £99-14-6d.

During the following six months, Richard proceeded with the furnishing and outfitting of their home and on this he spent the considerable sum of £640-14-0d. Among the larger items were a "Pianoforte bought in London - £39", furniture, £132, a dinner set, £22, carpets and blankets, £15, carpets and curtains, £31. There is a curious entry – "Paid Mr. Skinner senior, for feathers, £21-0-0d." presumably for stuffing pillows and mattresses. There are other large sums paid to various people, but for what reason is not usually stated.

In the course of time, the children came, eleven in total. The first was Mary Jane born on 19 December 1828 and a Mr. Milburn was paid £5 for attending the birth. "Our workmen" received £1 to celebrate the event. The first son, James, was born "at nine this evening" on 2 April 1831. Dr. Alcock, the obstetrician received £5, but "our workmen" only received 10s.

The succeeding children were all delivered by Dr. Alcock but on each of these subsequent occasions, the fee was only £4 and "our workmen" went without. The first of these, Richard, was born in 1833 and was followed by Hannah Eden in 1835, Charlotte in 1836, Elizabeth in 1838, Fanny in 1838, Caroline Eden in 1840, Richard in 1841, William Eden in 1842 and Thomas in 1844. Of the eleven children, three received the name Eden after their grandmother, Hannah Eden.

The year 1838 was a sad one for Richard and his wife, Mary. In this year we find the entries; in February "Grapes – 8s. for dear little Richard" and on February 19 – "paid Mr. Smith for dear Richard’s funeral £5-7-6d."; on 13 March – "paid Mr. Smith for dear little Charlotte’s funeral £5-4-0d." Dr. Keenleyside was paid £1 – presumably for medical attendance on the two children. In April the same year, Mr. Alcock is present again at the birth of Elizabeth. Over the years there are quite frequent items in reference to "monthly nurse - £2-10-6d."

On 16 June, 1841 we learn that James had some teeth extracted at the cost of £1, James being age ten years at that time.

In the following year, 1842, school bills make their first appearance. In July there is a bill for £6-14-0d. – Miss Cossens School bill for Mary Jane. There is also a total of £8-18-10d. to Mr Special – his bill for James’s schooling, part of which is labelled "four weeks private instruction for James, which we thought dear" with 6s/6d. for books. Nevertheless, in the year 1843, approximately the same amounts are paid to Miss Cossens and Mr. Special.

Heating was by the burning of "coals" which averaged out at about £10 per annum. Taxes were levied for various reasons but did not include any income tax. There was church tax, lamp tax, poor tax, highway tax, window tax (There were 21 windows in Richard’s house) and others. In Richard’s early years, his total tax bill came to about £10 per annum later rising to about £20.

While Richard subscribed to the Temperance Society, he was not a teetotaller. Over the years, he paid to Skinner and Thompson, wine merchants, between £30 and £40 per annum for wine and spirits. In the year 1837, the bill was £80 with the observation "but I have much wine for another year" and indeed in 1838, there was no entry for Skinner and Thompson. The Skinner was very likely on of his Brothers-in-law. Occasionally, there were additional supplies, such as a cask of wine from Holland and four dozen Port wine.

Clothing was another major item; varying over the years from £45 to £80. Examples include Miss Wilkinson’s bill for Mary’s pelisse £4; drill for R.W.’s pantyloons, 11s/9d; cloth for a great coat £1-17-8d; stockings 6s/6d; a new hat 25s/0d; boots mended 4s/0d; gloves 4s/4d silk for a gown £1-4-0d; toothbrush 1s/0d and so on.

Books were a considerable item, particularly in the early years. Among others, he bought a bible for £5 and Cowper’s poems for £1-5-0d.

In 1836, he gave to his brother-in-law, Joseph Skinner a sugar basin which cost over £8. Joseph at this time was 27 years old and it is possible it was a wedding present.

Also in 1836, he incurred a considerable expense for mantel pieces, carpets, painting the house etc. which came in all to £326.

In the same year Richard bought two pictures from Holland through his brother James and also some pictures from Liverpool at a cost of £94. In the next year, Mr Taylor painted Richard’s portrait for £5 and his wife, Mary’s for £6. He must have been fond of pictures as he bought quite a few. In 1835 he bought at Scarborough "The Death-bed of Napoleon" for £20 and had the frame gilded for £1-8-0d. In these years, Napoleon would still have been fresh in the minds of Englishmen, for the French Emperor died in 1820 and was re-interred under the dome of Les Invalides in Paris in 1840.

By way of contrast in 1837 – "for cleaning our well – 12s/6d."

How many servants were employed in the house is not stated, but the servants’ wages varied over the years from about £25 to £35 per annum.

Richard Walker was quite a traveller. Most of his travelling was within a radius of 40 miles of Stockton. However, in June 1838, he visited The Hague and Amsterdam where he bought a print for £2 and some plate glass with frame for £6. He returned by way of London where he spent 14s/6d. on toys for the children. Most of his travelling was by chaise and occasionally by coach. His itinerary was mainly confined to the North Riding of Yorkshire and County Durham. Among the places visited was Middleton-in-Teesdale, Darlington, Whitby, Seaton, Durham City, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Yarm, Redcar, Scarborough, Hartlepool, Sedgefield and Norton. Many of these journeys were to attend chapel meetings and others, no doubt, on business.

Richard’s character is to some extent revealed by his list of "Givings" or charitable donations. These usually totalled about £50 per year and, on some special occasions, very much more. They involve subscriptions to chapel funds, missionary meetings, preacher’s funds, Bible meetings, preacher’s travelling expenses, quarterly collections, theological institutions, Sunday Schools. Many of these meetings were held in the towns and villages listed in his travels, so his interests in religious welfare were not confined to his immediate home area.

In addition to subscriptions to religious bodies, there were a lesser number to other causes, such as; Benevolent Society, School fund, Female charity, Kingswood school, Infant school, Temperance society, Industry school and "Mrs. Bimings’s boy". In the years 1839 – 1841, there is yearly donation of £77 to the "centenniary subscription for the Rev. R. Jackson". On another occasion, he gave £5 to Rev. Jos. Watson "as he could not clear himself on leaving the circuit, in money matters."

In 1843, he paid 9s/12d. for "alterations to my pew in the chapel." It has generally been believed that the Walkers of Whitby were Quakers. John and Henry Walker were members of the Society of Friends. However, it is more likely that Richard Walker belonged to a non-conformist sect. The reference to "the circuit" above suggests he was possibly a Methodist.

John Holt Skinner, a brother-in-law of Richard Walker was described as belonging to an evangelical branch of the Protestant Church of England. He was also a man of good works. Possibly Richard also belonged to this group. However, it appears that Richard’s children belonged to the Established Church.

The journal ends in the year 1843. In the 1851 census, he is living in Stockton High Street and his occupation is given as a Flax Merchant. Richard lived until 1867 and his wife Mary until 1866.

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Copyright © Geoff Walker 1999 - 2003
Last Modified 30 December 2003