A Ship Letter From Rolleston: 1840

The marks on this fragile, folded sheet of paper (approximately A4 size), with a wax seal, appear hard to decipher but they tell an interesting local story.

The front of the letter is addressed to –

Mr Thomas Swift
Hobart Town
Vandamans Land

Ship Letter

It is stamped first “BURTON ON TRENT 24 JA 1840” ( i.e. January) and over-stamped “PAID” It is then stamped “PAID SHIP LETTER LONDON 25 JA 1840” with the royal crown.

The reverse of the letter states “cannot be found” and is stamped first “GENERAL POST OFFICE SYDNEY JY 15 1840” (i.e. July) then “SHIP LETTER 28 JY 1840”

It thus appears that the letter spent its first six months on voyage to Australia and when undelivered returns to England.

We know that Thomas Swift was formerly the licensee of the Bell Inn in Horninglow Street, Burton and that his wife was a sister of Thomas Robinson of Rolleston.

The text of the letter reads as below and the original spelling has been retained. There is very little punctuation and / marks have been inserted to indicate the probable sentence structure. The letter is written in a fine copperplate hand and the mix of correct and incorrect spelling and grammar indicates a basic education for the writer.

We are grateful to Mrs Jeanette Robinson for making a copy of the letter available from her family papers.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Rolleston, January 23rd 1840

Dear Brother & Sister

I writ to you hoping these lines will find you both well as it leaves us at this time thank God for it / I writ to inform you of your Fathers Death he died of a cancer at the back of is ear / But I supose you had been rote to before about him he was quite in a deranged State of Mind which he was Obliged to be confined he brok out twice and whent to buy horses and pots to bring with him to come over to you / the Bell Inn is still Occupoyed by a good Tennant but I supose you know all About it / you cant think well to write to any of us how you are going on / you think prahaps we are not worth writing to but we may be your Best friends / we have had a very wet season this year a great Deal of our wheat is sprouted and we have had a meney Large flood which as spoiled a great quantity of Our Hay and washed a many Hundred Tons away / England is at this time in very disturbed state there as been a grate rhoiet at Monmouth in Wales / there is a meney been condemned for transportation and three are condemned to Die / Names are Frost, Williams, Jones / there as been anther at Sheffield thay the police have taken a great quantity of Ball cartridges and Bumbshells and qots which they intended to through in the streets to Lame the Horses feet / thay are in great fear of them in London / they are holding very Large Meetings but they have got poleace all over England / the Mob in Wales was beetin with 30 Soldiers and meney Lives Lost / it is expected that the Queens Marrage will take place about the Middle of Febuary / I supose you know she is going to marry with Prince Albert of Ex Copourge of Gothe / parliament are sitting at this time / I have to inform you that Old Mr Dugmore is Dead he as been Dead about six months / Old Mrs Dugmore is still Living but getting very infourm / Mrs D Dugmore Wife is in a very poor state of helth this time which I think she is not Likely to recover / if you was to come into Rolleston which I hope you will you will hardeley know ware you was it is so much altered / the Pyecrofts are all gon out of the place and there property is all sold / Mrs Weston is deed from the new Inn and (?) Rowley which Married Jane Rowland is Living there / Old Mr Rowland is dead and is son as Married Sarah Taulbott thay are at the Bublice House, your Brother Richard still single and send is love to you, we are Living under Sir Osw Mosley we are Milking 12 Cowes this year, so I conclude my Letter by uniting with all Friends and Relations / from your faithful Brother and Sister

Thos & Mary Robinson


1. During the late1830’s England went through a period of very poor harvests and civil unrest with radical and working-class leaders drawing–up a “People’s Charter” to get the vote for every adult male and for opening up membership of Parliament. The riots refer to the Chartist Riots, of which Monmouth was the most famous.
2. Queen Victoria announced her intention to marry Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the Privy Council in November 1839 and they married on 10th February 1840. Just before they married, Prince Albert was naturalised by an Act Of parliament.

Return to Home Page or Memory Lane

© This site was created by Richard Bush

Last updated: 14 March 2009