Early Reminiscences of Elizabeth Anne Galton (Mrs. Edward Wheler) (1808-1906)

Alongside is a photograph of Mrs Edward Wheler (n閑 Elizabeth Anne Galton) aged 96 taken in 1904.

Elizabeth Anne Galton was the daughter of Samuel Tertius Galton and the eldest sister of Erasmus Galton, and during her life met many interesting and influential people. All through her life she kept a diary and preserved her family papers. When she was an old lady her children persuaded her to write her memoirs, which have been handed down and copied by various descendants of the Galton family. Dr. John Lewis Moilliet, deceased, and his son James Andrew Keir Moilliet, descendants of Elizabeth Anne’s sister Lucy Harriot Galton, copied and edited the memoirs in 1977. Recently Yvonne Solomon, the great, great, great granddaughter of Lucy Harriot Galton and a 3rd cousin of Dr. John Lewis Moilliet, has fully transcribed the memoirs.

James Andrew Keir Moilliet who owns the copyright has now published the edited memoirs. “Elizabeth Anne Galton (1808-1906) A Well-connected Gentlewoman”(1).

The following extracts were taken from the memoirs where they specifically relate to either Loxton or Erasmus Galton during the year indicated.

An extract from 1815:-

My Brother Erasmus was born on 31st May 1815, and as soon as my Mother was able to travel, we set off to go to the Isle of Wight, where we saw the sea for the first time. We stopped at Stratford to see Shakespeare抯 house, then a small butcher抯 shop. We went to Oxford next, where we slept. At breakfast the next morning the waiter rushed in, throwing up his hat and exclaiming, “Boney’s beat, Boney’s beat!” the news of the Battle of Waterloo having just arrived.

We children were much interested during this journey in hearing the watch-men calling the hour at night and seeing the huge wagons with eight horses each, each horse having a bell attached to its head, which made a very pretty sound. Everything was so new to us. Erasmus the baby, slept at night in the great trunk, which was his cradle when from home. Bassinets were not known until years later.

An extract from 1822:-

When my Father and Mother left us at school, they went to High Ham and Loxton (Somerset) to see my Grandfather’s farms, and when on Loxton Hill they saw a steam packet for the first time, coming up the Bristol Channel. I remem-ber well the sensation the first steam packets, the ‘James Watt’ and the ‘Soho’, caused, each steaming against wind and tide and arriving punctually. People thought it was not canny!

An extract from 1826:-

Captain and Mrs Griffiths came to Dudson on a visit. Captain Griffiths was in the Navy and wrote a great deal against the system of press-gangs, which he was very instrumental in abolishing. It was a cruel way of manning our ships; any sailor who had served at sea, even if he had only just returned home after many years, could be seized upon by a press-gang and made to serve on board a ship for many years again.

Captain and Mrs Griffiths came on a visit to Dudson every year, after visiting Leamington, and he was most kind in helping my Father when Erasmus decided to go to sea.

An extract from 1828:-

During this year, my Father and Mother, seeing Erasmus so bent on going to sea, gave their consent to his wishes. Colonel Bromley and Lord Lyttleton kindly exerted their influence to get him a berth in a ship, and Lord Lyttleton had just secured him one in a small ship, when Captain Griffiths, who had been most kind, wrote word that his friend Sir Edward Owen, who had been appointed Admiral on the East India Station, would take Erasmus as his midshipman on board his flagship H. M. S. Southampton, the very best appointment that he could have, and the same ship that his friend Irwin Maling had joined. In December, my Father took Erasmus to London to enter his name, and to change from the small vessel to the flagship.

On 4th February 1829 Elizabeth Ann and her sister Emma visited the Horners, friends of theirs in London:-

While we were at the Horners, my Father and Erasmus came to Town. My Father was first-rate at showing us sights, and took us all over London. He took Emma with him and Erasmus next day to Chatham, where Erasmus joined H.M.S. Southampton, Admiral Sir Edward Owen, Captain Fisher. We all felt parting with him, a boy of thirteen and the first break in the family, but it was his earnest wish, and he would be miserable not to go.

Further extracts from 1829:-

At the beginning of August my Father had to return to the Bank, and took Darwin and Francis to their schools. The following week we left Ramsgate, intend-ing to stay at Dover, but when we got there we did not like the place, and we persuaded my Mother to go to Boulogne, Lucy and I promising to take all the trouble off her hands. The family of Captain Fisher of H.M.S. Southampton living there was a great inducement, as we hoped to hear of Erasmus from them, so the next day my Mother and we four sisters crossed the Channel.

We often heard from Erasmus, who was perfectly happy, and we heard from Admiral Griffith that he gave satisfaction to his Admiral and Captain. His letters were four months coming to us – wonderfully quick, it was considered, as a short time previously it took six months to bring a letter. What a difference now!

An extract from 1832:-

In the middle of August my Father took Emma and me in our pony carriage to Bath, where we stayed two days to see the Miss Fourniers, and then on to Glastonbury, as my Father and Uncle Hubert (who joined us there) wished to see the farms now belonging to them. We saw the Tour and the beautiful Abbey, while the gentlemen went over some property at Mere. We greatly enjoyed visiting the farmers, who gave us apricot tart and clotted cream in abundance. Our amusement was to see our Uncle抯 horror at our venturing to eat fruit, for fear of cholera; he carried brandy with him for fear of an attack. From Edymead we went to Loxton (Somerset), the bells ringing us in there and at High Ham. At Loxton we visited the Cheddar Cliffs and Caves. Then to Clevedon for a night, a pretty little place, but so deserted we could hardly get anything to eat. From there to Yatton, Bristol, and Chepstow, where we saw the castle, Tintern Abbey, Ross, and from thence to Cheltenham and home – a most enjoyable trip indeed.

Further extracts from 1832:-

On the 12th October, H.M.S. Southampton arrived at Portsmouth from the East Indies. Erasmus wrote that the ship was ordered off to the Schelde (presumably to take part in the Anglo-French operations against Holland during the establishment of Belgian Independence?) so that he could not get leave to come to us. My Father and Mother at once decided to go to the Isle of Wight to see him, and on the 18th we went to Ryde. As we drove through Portsmouth on our way to the packet, the carriage was stopped by a smart young officer, very sun browned, who said he was Erasmus. He was so altered, from having been very fair and stooping to being so upright and tanned, it was some minutes before we could feel it was himself, and very pleased we were to see him, he got leave to stay a day or two with us.

Erasmus was with us on leave and was taking a long walk with us on 1st. November when, looking towards the sea, he saw the Blue Peter flag on the South-ampton, showing she was going off, and before he could get back, he saw the English and French fleet sail off to the Downs. It was a grand sight! Erasmus wished us good bye and hurried off by coach to join his ship at the Downs. He had not been on board long before a flash of lightning struck the Southampton and set her on fire. There was only one flash, but it fired off two cannons, and one ball was fused in so curious a manner it was sent to the British Museum. A lieutenant on board had been much laughed at for having a bell put in his cabin, which he could ring for one of the sailors, and that bell saved the ship. The mast which was struck went straight into the powder room, but this bell wire drew the lightning off to the cabin, part of which was much injured. Two men were blinded for a time. Both French and English ships sent boats to help, and the flames were soon put out, but it was a providential escape. After Erasmus went, we left Ryde and returned to Leamington.

An extract from 1834:-

About this time we heard of a terrible accident that had befallen Erasmus in Malta, where his ship HMS Favourite, Captain Rodney Mundy, was stationed. Erasmus and Mr King (one of the lieutenants) were asked to carry a bag of money to some place near, and set off on horseback. They met a sailor, who offered to carry the bag for Erasmus. Soon after, they came to a narrow road between two low walls, when out jumped three men and caught hold of the horses. One man hit Erasmus so violent a blow on the head, it was thought he was killed. Mr King was a powerful man and kept the men from doing him much harm, and fortunately some people came by and the thieves were taken up and punished. Erasmus was unconscious for many hours, and was a long time in the hospital before he could rejoin his ship, and felt the consequences for a long time after.

An extract from 1836:-

In May, Erasmus returned to England from the Mediterranean. My Father and Emma came to London and took me with them to Deptford and over Greenwich Hospital, where we saw one thousand nine hundred men at dinner.

An extract from 1837:-

After Erasmus passed his examination at Woolwich, he told my Father he wished to leave the Navy, which we were very sorry for, but he had been much injured by the attack of thieves at Malta, and would not have been able to go to any hot climate, so it was settled he should go to Scotland and learn farming, and then settle down at Loxton. He went for a year to Mr Robson, who had a large farm in the South of Scotland.

A further extract from1837:-

Early in September, Ferdinand Arkwright came to Leamington for the Races, and he and Erasmus went to them. A few days later, Erasmus became very ill, and three days afterwards he broke out with smallpox. He remembered that, at the Races, a woman begged of him and showed him her child covered with a rash. He had the smallpox very badly, and all the servants were vaccinated at once. My Mother and I, with the help of one manservant, nursed him, and everything was done to prevent infection. I had been re-vaccinated four years before and so was tolerably safe. When the crisis passed, Erasmus got well rapidly, but was much marked for a long time.

An extract from 1840:-

My Mother and Ad鑜e went to Loxton (Somerset) to stay with Erasmus, and it was fixed that Ad鑜e should come and live with him. Dr Marsh and his daughters took over Ad鑜e抯 school and established it in the Holly Walk. They also kept on Miss Betts the Governess, who was an excellent one, very precise and formal in manner. Her mother had been a lady抯 maid to a lady who was in Brussels at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. Ad鑜e therefore went away without anxiety about her scholars. While with Erasmus she did much good at Loxton. The farmers and people were very ignorant, and she had meetings for them and taught them various things, which interested them very much.

She was much amused at the curious names of some of the children: two little girls were called ‘Castor’ and ‘Pollux’. On enquiry, she found that a young man had stayed a few weeks in the neighbourhood for change of air, being very out of health. For want of amusement, he attended all the christenings, and gave the parents half a crown if he might name the child.

Samuel Tertius Galton died on 23 October 1844 and an extract from 1845 read:-

On 13th May, my sister Ad鑜e was married to Robert Bunbury at St. Mary抯 Church. As we were all in deep mourning, the wedding was perfectly quiet: Darwin, Mary, James and Lucy, Erasmus, Francis, Mr Thomas Bunbury, Emma and I went to Church. Darwin gave her away, and Archdeacon Shirley (afterwards Bishop of St Asaph) married them. Dr Marsh and Mrs Chandos Pole came to breakfast with us and, soon after, Ad鑜e and her husband set off to the Isle of Man. We were de-lighted with Archdeacon Shirley, so truly religious a man, without any cant. Religion seemed to pervade everything he said, and we were sorry when he went.

An extract from 1848 when Elizabeth Ann’s sister Lucy was ill with dropsy:-

I stayed with my very dear Sister till the 18th September, and left her with a very heavy heart, knowing I should never see her again. She became worse, and my Mother and Emma set off for Brighton and took lodgings near her. Erasmus also went and was of great use in lifting my poor sister, who was very heavy with dropsy. My sister rejoiced to see them, but gradually got worse and died quietly on 5th November. My mother, Emma, Erasmus, Francis, and James Moilliet were with her at the time.

An extract from 1855:-

On 2nd September Erasmus came from Aldershot and had the afternoon with us. I do not think I have mentioned that, when Erasmus joined the militia, a young man, Mr C., joined, and his mother begged Erasmus to see he was not persuaded to drink, as it was a failing in the family, the father being given to drink. Erasmus promised he would, and that evening announced to the mess that he meant to be a teetotaller and invited others to join him, which this young man did and was saved.

An extract from 1860:-

On December 1st 1860, the Empress of the French arrived and went to the Regent Hotel (Leamington). Erasmus, who was staying there, took Lucy in and placed her where she could see the Empress. The landlady had much difficulty in trying to walk backwards before Her Majesty, and after a few steps turned suddenly round and walked with her back towards the Empress, much relieved. The French Royal standard was hoisted on the Hotel, and crowds tried to get a glimpse. Very early the next morning, the Empress and one lady went quietly out to Clarendon Square, where they asked someone they met to tell them which house the Emperor lived in the winter he was at Leamington. They were told it was No. 6, and I think they asked to be allowed to go in, but no one found out who she was. At one o抍lock the French flag was taken down, and the Empress vanished quite quietly.

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