This Ladies complete pocket-book was found in the last of a row of houses beyond the factory, on the road from Wixford to Bidford.
Although the book is dated as 1777, the girl’s entries are dated as 1796-1797. Unfortunately, the months between January and May are no longer in the book, and the girl’s name is nowhere inside. Her entries reveal that she was likely at a boarding school in Leicester, suggesting she was a teenager when she wrote the entries.
Ladies’ pocket books
Ladies’ pocket books were ‘an intriguing and little known publishing phenomenon that blossomed and flourished throughout the second half of the 18th century and early decades of the 19th’1. The document is described as being used for recording ‘Business, Appointments, and Memorandums’ each week, as well as accounts. Pocket books combined calendars, information about holiday days, fashion plates, hymn lyrics and dance instructions with space for a woman to fill in weekly accounts and memorandums. These were aimed at middle to upper class women and published annually.
Most of the girl’s entries in the accounts section seem to be the accounts of a ‘Mrs Hefford in one half year’, rather than the accounts for herself. These include spending on a wig at 1/2d and a knife at 1s. Given her age, this could be seen as a practice for later life where marriage would make her keeper of household accounts.
Unlike the account section, her memorandums and observations seem to be her direct experiences. They relay her daily life both, talking of drinking ‘tea at Mrs Lawson’s’, and being homesick.
I hope I shall go home tomorrow. If not I shall be very unhappy as was to go home on Sunday. I hope I shall go home before we break up.
Some of the entries focus on notable occasions such as the wedding of her teacher.
Miss S Wilson was married to Mr Wood on Thursday the 22 of September 1796 […] they set off for Birmingham that morning for to stay a week [.] I think Miss Wilson is very unhappy.
She also mentions the seeing the famous highwayman George Davenport on his way to be hanged.
George Davenport was hanged on Monday August 28 1797 [,] we saw him go by in his shroud
Although she has not been identified, it can be presumed that the schoolgirl was from a middle to upper class family, and the diary can still provide an understanding of the daily lives of young women who left home to be educated. Furthermore, documents such as this can give an interesting insight into the early lives of 18th century Warwickshire women from this section of society.
1Batchelor, Jennie, Fashion and Frugality: Eighteenth-Century Pocket Books for Women, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture , Volume 32, 2003 , pp. 1-18
This is part of the Record Office’s Document of the Month series. Further editions can be found here.