292. Robert Bloomfield to Hannah Bloomfield, 4 July 1814


292. Robert Bloomfield to Hannah Bloomfield, 4 July 1814* 

Shefford July 4. 1814

Dear Hannah

In my letter of yesterday I left off rather abruptly, and in a way which you was not likely to comprehend. I there said that the Herald was follow'd by a Band, but to accommodate that Band a Boat was procured from Chicksands, placed upon a carriage, and surmounted by boughs of Oak and Laurel, and in the front rode Judy Basterfield in White, and crown'd with a wreath, as the emblem of Peace. In the procession rode Mr Williamson &c, Mr Walker, (two church parsons,) Mr Potier, the Catholick priest, and Briggs the Methodest preacher, and all who could procure Horses, or wish'd to join the Cavalcade, In the rear of which appeard an old black Horse decorated with an enormous pair of Bullock's horns place'd near his ears. On his back rode the Devel with a monstrous Mask and horns to corispond, and drest in a black cloak. Behind him rode (riding backwards both on a Horse) a lad with a pale Mask, and in the utmost trembling and destress, to represent the fallen Emperor. Both these perform'd their parts extreemly well, and cause'd the utmost laughter, Inskip was Devil, and Jack sombody was Bounaparte. It was the best Devil I ever saw, and riding thus like a whipper-in after the parsons, had a strange and ridiculous appearance. A Bullock drest in Ribbons, followd likewise by music, had marchd through the town two days before and was now on the Spit, and in the pot, as dinner was to commence at 4. A long range of Tables were placed from Westons door to the George, capable of accommodating all the poor in the Town that is, all who labour for bread, the whole was coverd with Canvass and form'd a compleat tent, border'd throughout by garlands of flowers, and each table having a flag inscribe'd, 'Alexander', 'Blucher', 'Platoff' &c. [1]  At the end stood a kind of Maypole, bearing a gilded Cock, surmounted by a flag—Across the center of the street was erected a stage for the band, who had there a little bower of their own, above the passing carriages.—At 4 about 250 people sat down to dinner in the greatest good order. [small sketch at the bottom left of the page with the words 'England' with the drawing of a cock underneath and then the words 'of the walk' beneath that] At the head of the Table sat Mr Williamson and the other conductors of the feast took each of them a Table, as president and carver, Here you might have seen two Doctors, two publican's, a parson, and a Shopkeeper &c &c. in White Aprons, slashing up the Beef and plumb pudding, and sharing out several Baskets of potatoes.—The Town was crouded with spectators, and all was joy. At 6, (after grace in due order) dinner was removed, and the Gentlemen part of the company had a boarded stage for their wine and refreshments, and here; while men women and children were Huzzaing around, they did just what must be expected, viz, got drunk by drinking Toasts. The musical performers at one time did not know 'God save the King,' from Jack's-alive; but this fervor subsided gradually so as to produce no mischief, and to leave the evening for a still more singular exhibition, which is the beautiful effect of light under boughs, which, as you have now seen Vauxhall, you can fully understand. I should here tell you that in the evening Tea was serve'd on the platform to all the women who choose it, and dancing commenced in the real country stile. Miss Weston made more tea than she ever did in one day in her life. Amongsts the flags Inskip had two very large, inscribed 'The Strength of Kings is the Affections of the people' and, 'Freedom to Slaves, and peace to the World'. Mr Walker had a real fine transparency, and his house a croud of green and blossoms,—Mr Gay several transparencies of his own painting, and his House shaded by Oak-limbs planted in the street. Mr Radwell, Mr Betts &c cut a conspicuous figure; so that when I tell you that there was not a window in the town without Candles, folliage, and flowers, you must try to guess at the effect. It made my eyes water in spite of myself.—This first night's frolick was not all, though the Town was not quiet till two in the morning.—

On Thursday—A Ball had been announced to be held at the White Hart, to which were invited all the Respectable people round the neighbourhood, and Charles had been busily employd with other scholars to write Notes of invitation. This whole day was spent in mirth. Amongst the rest a large party, (in fact any who pleased) danced to two fidlers on the platform, Young Girls 'threading the Needle along' the Street, Boys kicking a Bladder; And more particularly a ridiculous scene, of a Rope suspended upon poles, to which was tied by small twine two lumps of pudding drip'd in treacle, under which stood on stools, two boys with their hands tied behind them, whose business it was to catch the pudding in their mouths! I say nothing of their faces! treacle betide us! what a mess. At Night about 40 Ladies and as many Gentlemen danced at Barbers till morning, with fidlers from Bedford and Nitshill &c—Friday—Taylor the Sadler Chaird through the Town with the Band, and the wife of our 'Old Richard' riding on a great thundering black Horse coverd with a white sheet and flowers. This old woman litterally danced all day from Wednesday morning till Friday night. On the Ball night Mr Weston ornamented his House with Hop-vines from his Garden, intersperse'd with Lamps; with several transparencies of his own designing, Saturday—The Townsmen presented a Flag to Sir George Osborn in testimony of his bounty towards this real and National holiday, which the good old man has promise'd to presever and to leave to his grandchildren. &c &c

And now Father how did you get through this bustle,? what did our house look like? did not you want to help?

I saw on Monday that I should 'be drag'd' and directly began to regret that Hannah was not at home to contrive and to help. 'I wish Hannah was here' was repeated oftener than I ever repeated it before, for Charles was busy at writing, and Charlotte my only housemaid,—However I naild up lathes for the illuminatiion, sent for Candles, Cockades, &c—Joe Saunders procure'd a large bough of Oak, and Old Squires two tall branches of Laurel;—Our three younkers went to Rowney and lug'd home as much Yellow Broom and Cornflowers as they could carry, we set to work, made them with form, and on Wednesday morning up at 6, I hung the outer circle of the parlour window with a garland of flowers, naild a Rose-bush over the door, trimd up Roberts Hoop into a Garland and displayd it on a pole from the Landing window.—In the evening lighted up about four score Candle, and remove'd your old Richard and Kate [2]  from the Mill, and with a White flag inscribed peace mounted them on one of Barber's Gin Kegs on a string inside the parlour window, to the great amusement of the Boys. [a sketch of this below]

Now my dear Girl you must absolutely come home this week, for though Charlotte does all she can, we are in a muddle according to your notions, thus far we have been starving upon bake'd Veal, Calve's Liver, Shoulder of Lamb and Goosbery pies. Charlotte has a Cold and sore throat.—

NB. The only house in the Town not in the garb of joy was our neighbour Fitsjohn's. That poor sufferer died on Saturday, and was buried on Thursday last, (not at Campton)

Love to you and friends

Rob Bloomfield

* BL Add. MS 28268, ff. 346–47 BACK

[1] Tsar Alexander; Marshall Gebhard von Blucher, leader of the Prussian forces against Napoleon; Count Matvei Ivanovich Platoff, hetman of Cossacks, and Russian commander in the Napoleonic wars. Shefford was celebrating the allied victory over Napoleonic France. BACK

[2] Presumably dolls, or china figurines, named after the characters in Bloomfield's poem of that name. BACK