Todmorden Antiquarians: The diary of a schoolboy part II

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Todmorden Antiquarians welcomed back our own member, Dr Angela Redmond, to continue her talk from the 1861/2 diary of 12 year old Walter Stansfield who lived at Priestwell.

The diary survives as a prime historical research item for Todmorden and copies can be seen, by request, in Todmorden Library.

Walter has beautifully neat script, but is often repetitive and not so good at spelling. Some snippets are inconclusive.

Walter is now 13 years old and Angela began reading from January 1, 1862.

As at Christmas, New Year passed by without celebrations and parties we now know.

The only tea-party mentioned was when Derdale Mill opened.

The family lived at Priestwell and his grandparents lived nearby in Millwood. Walter ran many errands for family and neighbours.

Two uncles are mentioned, one a farmer and the other at the Smithy.

Walter’s father was a whitesmith, but still recuperating in Derbyshire until April 1862.

For local historians many traders are mentioned, such as Sally Ormerod’s grocery in Blind Lane and John Barker who brought manure for the Priestwell garden.

Walter himself was a keen gardener. He mentioned planting peas and seeking advice from neighbourhood gardeners.

Angela said that Walter went to school across the road in the present day Warburton’s Chapel of Remembrance.

A school fee was paid, also for borrowing books at the Mechanics Library.

Walter recounts tales of historic battles with the French when England ‘killed all bar 10 men’.

He learnt about Flemish weavers and English Kings. There were Bible lessons, lots of mathematics done on his slate-board and ‘diktation’.

In his own time, Walter loved maps and his grandmother bought him a map of England for 1p.

Walter was a good-natured, helpful 13 year old. He was healthy bar some toothe-ache and diarrhoea.

He mentions several friends, particularly Fred Law, but just one whom he dislikes.

He was conscious of local news, whether it was accidents or petty crimes.

In conclusion, Angela showed Walter Stansfield’s progress through life, studying each ten year census.

He worked, as his father before him, as a whitesmith. In 1883 Walter married Mary Unsworth and they subsequently had a daughter and son.

Walter died in 1931, aged 81 years, whilst living in Cambridge Street, Todmorden.

The next meeting of Todmorden Antiquarians will be on Tuesday, March 8 at 7.30pm in Todmorden Town Hall Court Room.

Kit Hardwick will present ‘How I nearly didn’t research lower ashes’.