A Georgian Steward, sacked!

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I've recently been tasked with typing up Elizabeth Shackleton's series of diaries, who, for those of you who don't know is a famed English Diarist. Born Elizabeth Parker to John Parker, Elizabeth's father inherited Browsholme Hall and its estates in 1728. After her first marriage to her cousin, Robert Parker, who died young, leaving three children; Elizabeth ran off with her second husband: John Shackleton.

With this quite exciting beginning to her life, I anticipated diaries full of excitement and thrill. Not so, unfortunately it seemed the reality of Georgian England was less Bridgerton and sadly a bit more mundane. The first few pages of the diary document household finances, before moving into the concerns of a mother for her sons.

However, all was not lost. As I typed out my 50th "my own dear John Parker who tells me (thank god) that he is very well", I stumbled on a bit of excitement - "at last!", I exclaimed, "a bit of action!" (I admit, there's a reason I'm not an historian...)

"On Monday May ye 22nd the Steward came over here, he brought me a message from my brother that he would let the Steward transact no more business for my Sons he was so much displeased with a letter he had the day before rec’d form Mr. Foulds to desire he would sign the books which have not been settled near 4 years. He also brought me a letter from Mrs. Parker who told me my brother would not consent that the Steward should do any more business for my sons."

It appears, that her brother is so displeased with their Steward, a Georgian time Land Agent, that he has sacked him! Indeed, you could say that he has just woken up and decided one day that he has had enough, and that he is no longer going to subsidise her sons (his nephews). Elizabeth then journeys to Trawden with the Steward to speak to a Mr. Foulds to try and redeem the situation:

"On Tuesday ye 23rd I went with the Steward to Trawden where we found Mr. Foulds very civil who said he would do anything if my brother would but sign. We stayed dinner. I wrote to my brother to beg he would be so kind as to let the Steward continue to assist us which I hope he will. I also wrote to Mrs. Parker to beg she would endeavour to prevail with my Brother. Steward went to Browsholme that night."

To no avail:

"On Wednesday June ye 21st I rec’d a letter from Mr. Stirling to inform me my brother would not give the Steward leave to receive or pay or have any more concerns to transact business for my Sons which gives me the greatest distress. What must I do for my own poor Dear Children I am Innocent of my Brother’s anger about this.

She claims to be innocent of her brother's anger, however we now know as the reader that after she ran off with her new husband, her brother actually banned her from visiting for 6 years, so clearly there was already some element of anger there before! She tries once more to plead with her brother, for the sake of her sons:

On Thursday ye 22nd of June I wrote to my Brother to desire he would consider my distress & give his Steward leave for to assist my Sons as usual.

On Saturday ye 24th I rec’d a letter in answer to mine as above form Mrs. Parker wherein she tells me that my Brother will never let the Steward collect of pay any more money for my sons. Nor neither will he be ever more reconciled to me, the more the pity."

The effects of this change in circumstances for Elizabeth and her sons are yet to become clear; and so we type on - watch this space for Part 2.

Elizabeth Shackleton, who's portrait hangs in Browsholme Hall.

For Illustrative Purposes: Eighty-four physiognomic caricatures of English eighteenth century types. Etching by I. Cruikshank after G.M. Woodward.

by Eleanor Thorpe

Nov 14, 2023

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