Warkworth WI’s July speaker, Joan Wright, explained to an attentive audience how she had come across a transcript of a young girl’s diary written in 1804.
Much later, by a tremendous coincidence, she was delighted to find the actual diary, with entries for 1805, which enabled her to continue her investigation.
The contents of the diary were of great value as a piece of social history and gave a most entertaining account of the everyday life of Eleanor Weatherley, eldest daughter of a widowed gentleman farmer in the Belford area.
The writer describes the pattern of her days with a dry humour that instantly appeals.
We hear of her rising at 5am to carry out many duties in the house, including spinning and shirt-making; these were interspersed with a considerable social life – balls in Berwick, Alnwick and at the Blue Bell in Belford, going to the races, visiting the theatre in Berwick and Belford and when just at home in the evening, playing cards for money.
Just like any modern 20-year-old, Eleanor records what happens to be in her head at that moment: bonnets and beaux, outings and chores, family arguments and the occasional disparaging observation about over-indulgence in alcohol.
Against a background of the Napoleonic Wars, it’s not surprising to read about the Militia turning out and there is a historic record of hearing of the death of Nelson, announced while Eleanor was at the theatre in Berwick – everyone is said to have wept and Rule Britannia was played.
Joan threw the spotlight on to another era with some fascinating extracts, illustrated by a selection of slides.
A document that had languished unseen in a drawer for many years, proved to be a treasure and gave us an evening of real enjoyment.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 6, at Warkworth Memorial Hall at 7.30pm, when there will be a talk on the History of Postcards. Visitors always welcome.