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An extraordinarily long letter, remember this was all squeezed on to one sheet, describing the wedding party following the marriage of Mr Henry Gibson Dowson and Mary Houghton. What is interesting is that the bride and groom didn't attend their own celebration. They were in Cromer on their honeymoon. There is mention of Mr Martineau. I think this Mr Martineau could well be the father of James and Harriet Martineau (The Martineau Society for more). Mr Martineau was a merchant in Norwich and is mentioned in other letters. Harriet and James were Unitarians and attended the Octagon chapel where Pendlebury Houghton had been a preacher. I have a letter from Harriet to Mary Dowson dated 1824.
Not sure what the J in J Dowson stands for but in the 1851 census a John W Dowson is shown as a solicitor and teacher (born in Geldeston 1800, living in Norwich) with 2 pupils living in. The pupils are..... Hugh Martineau and Frances Madge. See whoiswho for a clue as the family of the latter.
The letter is undated but Henry and Mary married about 1823.
The spelling is as per the letter. Note the arcane use of the f style s where there is a double ss as in addrefs. I cannot replicate this on the computer.
Geldeston Wednesday morning
You will be very much pleased, my dear Henry, to hear that the wedding frolic went off in so merry & at the same time in peacable a manner, that the enjoyment was universal. They said they wanted nothing but your presence to complete their pleasure, for they had been so much accustomed to see you at all their frolics that they were quite at a lofs without you. The enjoyment was not confined to the people themselves, for we could not keep all of us joining in the merriment that was going forward. Mr Martineau appeared quite in his element; no schoolboy could be more up to it than he was. We wished as well as the people that you & Mary could have seen how much they enjoyed themselves, but as that was impossible I must endeavour to give you some idea of it.
I could see from the road before I arrived some very gay flags hanging from the building, but when I got here a more magnificent scene was before my eyes. In the first place there was a thing of flags, collected from all parts round about, suspended from the public house to one of the opposite trees in our garden, & another from the same place to a pole fixed on the other side of the road leading to the brewhouse. Mrs Beusley had a most magnificent one acrofs the road opposite her house; & garlands also were waving in the air, under the leaves of which some fairy dolls were reposing; her gate was decorated with boughs hung with farthing pictures. Mrs Thomson & Mrs King had some very elegant colours suspended from their cottages, & the former had your initials marked out with laurel leaves on a white something (sheet I suppose), which were too grand to be wasted upon such an unnoticed part of the village. There was a principal arch over the gate leading to your premises, & a bower before the brewhouse door, which together with the malthouse was ornamented with innumerable flags etc etc etc. Though last not least I must mention the granary, the breams of which were hung with garlands of flowers & boughs; on the table were set flower pots filled with elegant nosegays, between each of which was a tea-maker & her party. Now for the various amusements etc. As soon as my arrival announced the joyful news, we were saluted by a round of most excellent cannons, the report of which was loud enough to be heard quite plain at Beccles (which was a long way against the wind). I gave them, as you directed, some gunpowder, & we had another round before dinner. In the morning the ringers came from Beecles & rung a very merry peal with their handbells; my father gave them a fee & some allowance & they gave us a good many peals in the course of the afternoon, with which we were very much pleased as they rung very beautifully. After they returned we heard the Beccles bells ringing, which we supposed was in honour of you & your bride. The cannons were firing all the afternoon, & my mother & I (for my father & Mr Martineau were gone to Southwold) were saluted at breakfast time with a concluding round.
At 5 o'clock 13 women & 34 children the latter decorated with garlands of flowers in their hair, among which number I must not forget to mention Mrs Beusly, who was as gay as any of them, sat down to tea, & had a super abundance of cake, which they all thought most excellent. After tea my mother came & distributed among the women and some bride's cake, which they all thought proper to wrap up in a peice of paper & carry home, the single to dream upon themselves, the married to give to some single acquaintance, who were not past the age of uncertainly. Mr and Mrs Balls were not there, but they sent their children. Mrs Shouton was prevented going by some friends who were at her house, & her children having the hooping cough she thought it better to stay at home. The men all had their plum puddings of which there was quite enough though none left; there were 58 men including the boys. After supper the fiddle struck up & we had plenty of dancing of various kinds; reels county dances etc. The most conspicuous among them were the following couples, Mr Botwright & Mrs Baldry who jumped about like a girl, Mrs Robinson Chaplin & Mr King who had such a grand cockade on his hat that he kept it on the whole evening, & Edward Chaplin & Sally. Master Edward is I doubt, rather a fickle chap, for he seems to have entirely transferred his affections from cook to Sally. Botwright said he had not danced before for 12 years, but on this occasion he would dance till hew could dance no longer Mrs Beusley danced but very little, for the she said she had hardly recovered from the lumbago, but she flirted away most famously with some of the young man, who seem consider her as a girl in the bloom of youth. She also appears to have forgotten that she was ever married & to have recalled her young days, when she was the Queen of Hearts, & fancies her charms fully worthy of the admiration which it is the delight of the youngsters to bestow on her. Mr Mills gave us a very good hornpipe which he kept up wonderfully for so old a man. We had some very good songs among which were "The Venus of Totterdown Hill" & "Poor Mike the Smuggler" both were very good songs & very well sung. The last I heard was the "Swaggering man" by Tom Baldry who seemed himself to be verging on the brink of drunkennefs. Flowers thought proper to imitate his various movements, & thereby gained the unanimous applause of the lookers on. I was with them till 10 o'clock, when I thought I might as well retire. They parted between 12 & 1 oclock as sober as could be expected. In the middle of the evening Mr Martineau with a very audible voice animated manner addrefsed the company as follows.
"My friends we have not yet mentioned in a formal manner the joyful occasion on which we are all here afsembled, but I now propose that we all of us drink the health long life & happinefs of the Bride & Bridegroom, & then that we cheer 3 times 3 in such a manner as to be heard to the town of Beccles"
They all were indeed unanimous in their applause, & shouted so that if shouts can be heard as far as Beccles, these must have been. They afterwards all drank your health in a bumper. To give you an idea how much they all enjoyed themselves I was desired by one of the men to tell you they were all "noble", I must leave you to guefs who that man was. Upon so joyful an occasion how could it be otherwise?
I hope I have said enough to satisfy you that no people could enjoy themselves more than they did. Now for other subjects. My mother & I cut up the bride's cake & sent if off to Yarmouth and London after dinner. I am sorry to say that the cake that was begun to be cut up, was a good deal broken by the journey, but we made the odd pieces do for the womin & children; we were however obliged to cut a quarter & eighth out of the other cake instead of a quarter. I had not an opportunity of going to the house yesterday, for my time was so fully employed. But I got up this morning before breakfast on purpose to see it. I think they have got on uncommonly since I saw it. Mr Botwright said he was determined not to neglect you while you were out, but he would set on more men rather than do it. My mother said Mr Martineau liked the house very much when he saw it. Poor cook seemed to enjoy herself as much as could be expected, but she did not dance at all. The servants remained there till the party broke up, & enjoyed it most amaringly. My mother desires her kindest love to you both. Accept & give to dear Mary that of yr ever affect Brother