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Extracts from the diary of George Woodman

by George Woodman

Part 1

The diary of George Woodman HistoryBorn in 1844, George Woodman was apprenticed in 1863 to the chemist Robert Meatyard. From 1863 to 1869 he lived and worked at Christchurch and Bournemouth, returning to Basingstoke in 1870 to work for F Blunden. In 1872 he rejoined Meatyard and his partner Arkas Sapp at first only to help them move into their newly built premises on the corner of Market Place and London Street. In 1875 the Meatyard and Sapp partnership was dissolved, leaving A Sapp with the chemists’ shop. In 1878 George Woodman became engaged to Elizabeth Corps, with whom he worked, and who appears variously in the diaries as Lizzy, Elizabeth, or EC. In 1885 they were married, and moved to Odiham to run a chemists’ shop in the High Street which George had acquired in partnership with Arkas Sapp.

He kept a very detailed diary from 1862 to 1932, much in his own shorthand, including a long entry on the opening of the Willis Museum in 1931 which he attended.

We join George Woodman in July 1884 when he is working at the chemists’ shop in Market Place, living with the Sapp family and engaged to Elizabeth Corps.

July 8, Tuesday. Went to Crystal Palace with EC (Elizabeth) and Miss Hornzee. Left at 9.00, arrived at the Palace about 12.00. It was a splendid day and we enjoyed ourselves immensely … We saw an immense procession, and fountains played in the grounds. EC and I climbed up one of the towers, and it was a very clear day with a magnificent view over the palace.

July 14, Monday. Sheep Fair, one of the best in years.

July 17, Thursday. Two cases of hydrophobia at the Cottage Hospital.

July 18, Friday. Great talk of mad dogs.

July 24, Thursday. Church and National School Treat at Goldings. 950 children.

August 4, Bank holiday. A glorious day. In the morning about 11.00 went on a walk over to Cliddesden and Farleigh. It was scorching hot; I nearly melted. Watched them cutting wheat; all the corn is dead ripe everywhere. Picked a handful of wild flowers the other side of Farleigh, and looked at the hills beyond; could see Kingsworthy and Winchester.

August 8, Friday. Hottest day, 91° F in the shop, making ginger beer, 120° F in the sun.

August 19, Tuesday. Basingstoke Flower Show and it came on to rain just as people were going in… The Duke of Wellington buried at Stratfield Saye, a private affair, very different from the funeral of his father, the Great Duke.

September 2, Tuesday. Went to Burberry’s and bought a jacket and waistcoat for 2/6d.

September 21, Sunday. In the morning at Sunday School. The Lord’s Prayer. In the afternoon walked to Hackwood Park, a dull day, the trees looked very sombre, and I felt miserable.

September 24, Wednesday. Lizzie’s birthday, 39.

September 25, Thursday. Went to Chineham. It was a beautiful day. Tigwell overtook me and gave me a ride in his trap. The Mayor, Captain May gave a ball at the Drill Hall.

Part 2

We return to George Woodman one hundred years ago in October 1884. He is working in A. Sapp’s chemists, on the corner of London Street and Market Place, living with the Sapp family and has been engaged to Elizabeth Corps ( Lizzie) since 1878. (The Corn Exchange is the present Haymarket Theatre).

November 3, 1884, Monday. 40 years old. Have now entered middle age, have done nothing for myself or anyone else, not much pleasure in looking back on a wasted life. At supper Mother gave me a cup and saucer with Basingstoke views on it, an a beautiful 5/- crown piece of George IV’s reign and A. Sapp’s children gave me a photograph of themselves in a group.

November 5, Wednesday. Fire broke out in Poplar Lane and burnt Mr Baker’s stables down.

December 18, Thursday. To Lady Patroner’s Ball, 190 present, much activity in the Market Square, so many carriages rattling about.

January 1, Thursday. Mr Sapp and I decided to go to Odiham together as partners taking the Hornsby’s business.

January 17, Saturday. Bought a hat at Howitts, 25/-

January 24, Saturday. Dynamite outrage in London; attempt to blow up the House of Lords, House of Commons and Tower of London. Thousands of pounds worth of damage, all England astir.

February 4, Wednesday. Went to the Savings Bank to draw out all my money which amounted to £177 18s 1d. John Dew complimented me on the amount. Up till very late packing.

February 5, Thursday. Arkas Sapp and I succeeded to the business of John Harwood Hornsby at Odiham. We paid £200 for it. This is my first start in life. Directly after breakfast A Sapp and Thomas went off by train and took possession of the place, and Mother and Lizzie went to Edney’s and selected the furniture for two bedrooms and the kitchen. I was very busy packing up my books and other things. Budden, the carrier called for the things at 11am… This has been one of the most eventful days of my life.

February 11, Wednesday. News of the death of General Gordon at Khartoum. The Duke of Wellington came into the shop and I sold him some wax vestas.

Part 3

We join George Woodman again just after his 40th birthday, as he is beginning to settle down to his own shop in Odiham. As we plan for our holidays we can see how a Basingstoke couple holidayed a hundred years ago.

25 May, 1885, Whit Monday.

Got married

Got up rather early, had breakfast, put my traps together, and put my new clothes on… About 9.00 Mr Milligan called for me, a ¼ hour later the cab drove up with Elizabeth and her cousin Ruth Corps, and we drove down to church in good time. It rained a little and being early and our keeping it quiet there were but a few in the church. Canon Millard was in readiness, Milligan gave her away and Ruth was her bridesmaid. We got through the ceremony alright, it was not half the ordeal I expected… We went into the vestry and signed the necessary documents, Elizabeth Corps signing her name for the last time. On coming out of the church, several were there to give their good wishes… We were soon arrived at home and all got out and went for a glass of wine… Then went on to Overton by cab, then had a little chat, and the breakfast… packed up ready to start, in fact the cab drew up to us just as we were cutting the cake. It rained fast, but we did not mind that, as we were in the railway carriage by ourselves until we got to Salisbury. It seemed a long wearisome journey, but at last arrived at Exeter…

26 May, Tuesday. Did not get up until after 9.00. After breakfast went to the Cathedral. Went for a walk around the streets. In the afternoon went to Dawlish by train. It was exceedingly hot, had a good look round, it was something like Bournemouth only smaller with more hills

27, May, Wednesday. Went to Plymouth , got up early and started on the excursion at 8.00. Had the carriage to ourselves for some distance, but gradually it filled up with all Devonshire people, who laughed and talked to their hearts’ content and were all bent on enjoying themselves. Soon found out that there was an agricultural show on at Plymouth…

28 May, Thursday. Went to Torquay.

29 May, Friday. To the cathedral for a last look round… bought a green bonnet for Lizzie…

30 May, Saturday. Went to Ilfracomb. Got up early with our things, paid our bill and set off at 9.00. Enjoyed the ride through Devonshire, amazingly all the trees and streams and rocks looked so lovely, so different to anything we had ever seen before…

31 May, Sunday. First Sunday of our married life, it was rather a gloomy day as regards weather but not otherwise.

1 June, Monday. Went to Clovelly. It was a glorious day, beautifully bright, and the most delightful spot I ever visited. Charming in the extreme. E and I went by steamboat from Ilfracomb Quay, it was a most delightful trip on the water. The sea was as smooth as glass, and shone like a mirror… We could not get the steamer close in, so we had to go ashore in little boats. The entrance to the place is very quaint, you have to go under an archway and up some steps… The High Street as it is called is not badly named as it is high and steep beyond imagination. There are actually steps all the way up the street, and a donkey going up and down with a pack on his back… On arriving at the top we were well paid for our tiring climb, as the view was magnificent, never saw anything so beautiful before, even in Jersey.

2 June, Tuesday. Went to Lynton by coach. Find going about costs double what it did a month ago. I keep forgetting I am married when I have to pay. It was extremely jolly on top of the coach, this was the first time I ever rode on a coach… this was one of the old-fashioned four in hand stage coaches, being up on high we got a finer view…

3 June, Wednesday. Last day at Ilfracomb. In the morning went out shopping, in the afternoon went for a row on the sea… This was the wind-up of our holiday which was one of the things that seemed to spoil it all.

4 June, Thursday. Went back from Ilfracomb to Odiham. Got up very early and started from Mrs Dyer at about 7.00… To bed together for the first time in our new home, I can hardly believe it.

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