New Year memories from Victorian Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 14:55 05 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:07 17 June 2010

LUCKILY Sidmouth historians have the diaries of Peter Orlando Hutchinson to draw on for any social history they may want from Victorian times.

LUCKILY Sidmouth historians have the diaries of Peter Orlando Hutchinson to draw on for any social history they may want from Victorian times.

This week Nostalgia looks at New Year snippets from his illustrated journals and sketchbooks from between 1846-1870 from the book Travels in Victorian Devon, compiled and edited by Jeremy Butler.

1849: Tuesday January 2. The gold mines in Upper California have sent America mad. The ground is on the banks of the Sacramento and the San Joachin, not far from the port of San Francisco.

No sooner does a ship touch there than the sailors desert and run away to the gold fields.

Everything is neglected for gold, and the necessities of life are getting very scarce.

1852: Friday, January 9. Finished turning the brass setting of my achromatic object lens on Mr Heineken's lathe.

Monday, January 12 Music at Mr Heineken's. Played the overture to Semiramide as a quartet.

1853: Saturday, January 1. The frequent on-shore winds having removed the shingle to an unusual degree, suggested the idea that a favourable opportunity presented itself for making some examination of the spot.

A wall 80 feet long and three feet thick runs parallel with the beach wall and about 30 feet outside it, mostly constructed of blocks of stone the entire thickness of the wall...

If these foundations formed part of a habitable building, it should appear that the sea must have encroached since the time it was inhabitable.

1855: New Year's Day. I wonder what this year will bring...For England to be at war is a thing quite new to me. No doubt we have made the most egregious blunders. Never have troops suffered as ours have before Sebastopol for want of sufficient food, clothing and shelter.

As we have been at peace ever since the Battle of Waterloo, we are novices in the art of fighting, but great efforts are now being made to retrieve past mistakes.

1858: New Year's Day. Was awoken by the church bells at some unknown hour this morning, but fell asleep again. Today I hoisted the large flag but there was not a breath of wind to display it. This evening our old Christmas friends the Mummers came round.

1861: Tuesday, January 1. Accounts reach us of the unusual severity of the weather all over the country. On Christmas Day the thermometer seems to have fallen lower than on any other day this winter so far.

At Sidmouth it was 23 degrees, at Cheadle in Staffordshire 10 below zero, or 42 below freezing. It was 26 in my bedroom and everything frozen hard - jug, water bottle and toothbrushes.

I broke the ice in my jug and sponged myself with water and then dressed. I sleep under 15 blankets - some are doubled but it is 15 thicknesses at all events.

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