I’ve been a tour guide at Browsholme Hall for many years now and it has been a privilege to be allowed to show people round this lovely family home. The characters have become very real to me over the years and I’ve always longed to learn more. When the owner offered the tour guides a chance of receiving training to be volunteer archivists, I jumped at it. Little did I know what hard work it was going to be!
We received expert training from Anna, a qualified
archivist and then set off on our own. I was assigned one particular character,
Thomas Golbourne Parker (TGP) who lived from 1817 to 1878. The letters come from
various family members, friends, colleagues, and tradesmen. The handwriting is
very difficult at times and, because paper was so expensive, people wrote
across the paper and then turned it round and wrote the other way. Magnifying
glasses became my closest friend.
Many of the letters were very routine and dare I say
boring. There are many expressions of thanks to TGP on the receipt of game, or
arrangements for shooting parties; enquiries about family member’s health;
confirmation of travel arrangements; reports of births, marriages and deaths;
tenancy agreements. The letters are often written in a flowery way and a lot of
words are used, but then I have no room to talk, as I can always say 20 words
when one will do!
But recently I was working alone in our attic archive room when I sat up and took notice. Suddenly, I’d uncovered a scandal!!
We knew that TGP’s wife, Mary Ann Carr (daughter of architect John Carr) had left TGP and the children after the death of her father and gone back to her childhood home to live with her mother, but nobody knew the reason why. The letter from a Mr Rayson was giving advice to TGP about how to manage the scandal of his wife’s debts with the least embarrassment to his children and grandchildren, but then the writer mentioned ‘the other matter’ which he suggested that TGP would have to make a decision about.
The writer had included a copy letter that
he had previously written to the Bishop of Ripon. The 'other matter' was a report
that Mrs TGP had been in ‘undue closeness and familiarity’ with the local vicar
who had left his wife and children in the parsonage and moved in with Mary Ann
and her mother. The report added that adultery had been committed between the
vicar and Mary Ann. Mr Rayson also included a paper cutting of a precedent
concerning another vicar.
Well, I didn’t expect that! I’d found some of TGP’s
letters a little boring but now I have new sympathies for him and will look at
him in a different light. Who knows what else I will find as I delve deeper in
to the archives. I can’t wait!
Uncovering a Scandal in the Archives
Sep 27, 2021
by Linda Sawley