Margaret has taken on, during lockdown, a giant task to transcribe over 80 letters from the Clevedon Pier Company collection which are all handwritten and contain a wealth of information about the building and running of Clevedon Pier between 1864 and its handover to the Clevedon Board in 1891.
We have given this collection the pet name of ‘The Little Letters’ because they are all on notepaper no more than A5 in size. The cover a huge breadth of interests as the letters are written by builders, shareholders, trade suppliers, piermasters, auditors to name but a few. The handwriting is fascinating and, at times, challenging to read so having transcriptions of all of these letters will make them so much more accessible to the public in the future.
Margaret has been assisted in her task by the fact the 80 letters formed part of the Clevedon Pier Company digitisation project undertaken by Archive Volunteer Michael and so she is now able to view them online. For anyone transcribing old documents that ability to zoom in on them to read some of the more difficult handwriting is an absolute boon. It also means that when the original letters are returned to their owner the Pier Archive will hold not only a complete digital record to share with public users and researchers but also a complete transcription record of every letter.
We’ll be posting up more about Margaret’s transcription work over the next few weeks but for the moment here’s an interesting snippet that she has shared with us regarding one of the ‘little letters’ written on the 20th December, 1880. It is very seasonal being all about a Christmas bonus. Margaret tells us:
The bundle of ‘little letters’ includes a number of letters requesting the payment of an annual gratuity of £1 to ‘Feltham’ just before Christmas. The letter dated 20 December 1880, from A H Elton of Clevedon Court stated “ Feltham has been accustomed to receive £1 every Christmas for his service in the fishing season”. Intrigued to find out who ‘Feltham’ was I searched the 1881 Census on http://www.ancestry.com. Alfred Feltham, born Clevedon in 1844, was employed as ‘Pier Porter’. He lived at Fir Hill Cottage, Dial Hill with his wife Jane and their 6 children. I am sure his £1 bonus was much appreciated just before Christmas!
SS Waverley damaged on arrival at the Pier
In the summer of 1887 an incident occurred when steamship SS Waverley visited the pier as part of its summer programme of pleasure cruises. Following the visit a letter was sent to the Secretary of the Pier Company, dated 2 August 1887, from the charterer of the vessel, Mr Tucker of Bristol. He complained of the conduct of the Pier Master who had “thrown off the stern rope, placing the vessel, and the pier, in a very undesirable position”. Captain Greenway was refusing to visit Clevedon again and had been requested to survey the vessel and report on the damage incurred.
The owners of the Waverley, Messrs Campbell of Glasgow, were on board at the time and had witnessed the incident. Mr Tucker wrote that they were going to remove visits to Clevedon from their programme. In another letter sent on the 29th August Mr Tucker stated “ The Pier has been in a very shaky state for some time and quite unsuitable for a large vessel like ours to call at”. “It is highly dangerous, not only to the Pier, but to our vessel in the present state of the pier.”
Refs; E14.26.1 and E14.27.1
To find out more about what the Archive Volunteers have been up to during lockdown follow this link.