The Slade Letters: "This wonderful village" - 1839-1846

(The following text is from research carried out by Martin West into a unique collection of 19th century letters. Our thanks go to Martin and to David Slade, a descendant of that family.)

The Slade archive covers the period between 1839 and 1846 and consists of thirty letters.  All letters have the same addressee: Henry Slade, junior, who had emigrated to Australia during 1839 - the trip having triggered by a broken relationship.  

The bulk of the correspondence comes from his mother, Charlotte Slade (née Lousley), 1789-1847.  She accounts for the majority of the letters.  The remainder comes from his brothers and sisters as well as one letter written by his future brother-in-law.

"There are nothing but changes in this wonderful village.  People say there might be a good novel written upon it.  What with love stories, bailiff sales, houses to let and deaths, there is always something stirring".

Introduction:

The letters contain many details of life in Aston Upthorpe and Tirrold at this time.  Much of the focus falls on the family, both inside and outside the village.  Aside from this, however, we learn a great deal about the daily life as it ebbed and flowed around Thorpe Farm.  Primarily the letters deal with those belonging to the same social grade as the Slades, if not above (their landlords, the Valpy family of Wargrave, feature constantly).  Occasionally, though, we find references to others that lived and worked in the villages.

We follow the human cycle of courtship, marriage, births (sometimes the other way round), and death.  Endless tea parties held in the freshly mown meadows occupy the leisure hours of the local gentry and their friends.  We hear about bankruptcy, thievery and rowdy behaviour, black sheep, and business.  Just occasionally, we learn about care for the poor, but also about dismal suicides. 

We learn about how people got jobs, whether they wanted employment as a shepherd and came to negotiate their wage, or whether they wanted to sell their medical practice and buy another in a better area.  Meanwhile, we watch the teenagers grow into adults, much of their leisure time spent on the hills coursing, hunting, and shooting, playing cricket in the evenings, riding and falling off their horses, or just scaring the maids half to death so that the doctor needs to visit.  Although the facts recorded must have happened, we could be forgiven for believing that we had fallen into a mixture of Trollope, Dickens, Austin and the Brontes.

Dramatis Personae: