The Cocker Letters (3)

from London, Sheffield, Manchester (1828-1847)

Contributed by Eunice and Ron Shanahan, © Copyright 2005


This page describes 5 letters purchased as a bundle by British Postal Historians Eunice and Ron Shanahan from dealer David Shaw in Yorkshire. This item follows on from two earlier bundles, of 12 Cocker Letters which were written by Joseph Robert Cocker to his sister Hannah whilst he was on business in Scotland 1845-1848, and 2 Letters to Paris to Joseph, from Hannah, and Joseph's wife Margaret.

The bundle of five comprises:-

  1. 27 Jun 1828 from London to Mr Thos. Cocker, Hathersage Nr Sheffield from Edwin and John Cocker.

  2. 25 Jul 1836 from Sheffield to Hathersage, an account (who from??) addressed to Mr H. Cocker, Hathersage.

  3. Undated, but postmark could be 3 Nov 1842. Contains two sheets one of which is signed by Mary Ibbotson. They are addressed to Miss Anna Cocker, Chapel Cottage, Hathersage, and postmarked Sheffield.

  4. 22 Aug 1844 from London to J. R. Cocker Hathersage nr Bakewell mourning envelope and letter from Edwin, plus enclosure from Edwin to his mother

  5. 12 Nov 1847 from Joseph in Manchester to Hannah in Hathersage, this is a contemporary of the original 12 Cocker Letters, and timewise slots between Letters 10 and 11 in that series.

Editor's Note: Family Search has records of the following baptisms to a Thomas Cocker at Hathersage - Henry - 5 Jun 1786; Robert - 24 Mar 1788; Samuel - 11 Jun 1790; James - 24 Jun 1792; Mary - 15 Oct 1794; Ann - 28 Feb 1797; John - 25 Mar 1799; Edwin - 10 Oct 1803; Hannah - 17 Jul 1808; John - 3 Jan 1813; and Joseph Robert - 21 Feb 1819. The last 2 are baptisms to Thomas and Betty.

The content of the letters suggests that Edwin was definitely Joseph and Hannah's brother, and as Edwin refers to “mother” most affectionately, it might also be inferred they had the same mother, which originally seemed to rule out our first supposition, of Joseph and Hannah's parents Thomas COCKER and Betty THORPE, married on 6 Sep 1807. Unless Thomas married twice...

Subsequent research (2006) has proved that this is in fact correct. Thomas was married previously to Ann IBBOTSON, who died (was buried) 18 Mar 1806. And Thomas Cocker's Will proved in 1834 names his children from both families. So - it would appear - Edwin really did have a high regard for his stepmother!

There is only one issue which I cannot resolve. The 1841 census transcription available via Ancestry UK records an Edwin COCKER aged 28 in the household of James KERSHAW and wife Alice, aged 30, at 22 Ely Place, and an Ann COCKER also aged 30. Although there is no known record of her baptism, Alice was named as one of Thomas's daughters in his Will. She married James KERSHAW, the son of an itinerant Wesleyan preacher, in London in 1833. James's occupation was recorded as “Commision Agent”, and Edwin's as “Merchant”, whilst a Thomas TURNER in the next household (in the same building) was recorded as “Needle M” (Needle Maker). However according to the above baptismal date in 1803, Edwin was 10 years younger than he should have been!

James and Alice KERSHAW were brought to my attention by Keith Sherwood of Cambridge, UK. They were his gt*3 grandparents.

Barbara A. Buxton's book Hathersage in the Peak records that John (b.1813) died in 1830.

1. London, 27th June 1828 to Mr Thos. Cocker, Hathersage

London June 27th '28

Hon'd & dear Father,

Your last letter I duly recd. As soon as the needles can be found I will thank you to let me have an acct of them - I wrote to the trade last night with all particulars, I suppose by this you have got Bro. Hy home again safe and well. I removed from Jewin Crescent the week but one after you left me, to Mr Martin's Snow Hill where I stay'd about six weeks, but the situation did not at all agree with my health & I soon found it would not answer to live with a customer - Mr Morton declares his intention to write you if I did not, to say that I had had a fit at his house on Sunday Evening last and I had one in the Office about a fortnight before that, fortunately Mr Marshall was in at the time - I am now physicing in my self & hope soon to be well - I thought it better to tell you for fear Mr M should make you uneasy. The fits come on without a moments forewarning & leave a deal of pain in my head for a day or two

Jno & I live at Shaker Lane Gt. Tower St, about 10 mins walk from the Office - Mr. A Dom and Mr Eyre a Surgeon late with Dr. Dom are going to be with us in the same apartments - we have one sitting room and two Bedrooms for which we pay 18/- per week. We have every attendance included - I have not shown Jno a deal about town yet as we cannot both leave the office at once, but shall as frequent as opportunity offers - I suppose you will still find him in clothes, so that if I should have occasion to find him anything I must keep an account - Jno is desirous of filling this letter up & will doubtless tell you what he as seen that pleases him - my best love to Mother & all the families - & believe me to be

Dr Father
Yrs mo affectiony
E. Cocker

P.S. Please say how Alice is

NB A bill has been left for acceptance this day of which I have had no advice - I shall be glad if they will always advice me as to what Bills they draw on me - It was endorsed by Mr Thos. Heatly, value 30£

Then on the other side of the page in a different handwriting:-

London June 27/28

Honour'd & Dear Father & Mother It is with pleasure I imbrace this opportunity of writing to you. I arrived here on Wednesday at 8 oclock after having had a pleasant journey. I kept my place throughout though many tried (when night came on) to get it. When I got to London I found Brother Edwin at the Inn waiting for me who took me to his lodgings we breakfasted & then went to the office and stopt till six, we spent the evening at Mr. Morton's very pleasantly, they seem very kind people.

Last night we went round the Tower and New London Docks. I was much delighted to see the River Thames and the ships on it, Saint Paul's Church, the Bank of England and the Post office &c &c. I think I shall like to live in London, though I have not given it a fair trial yet, it is quite a new life, all being hurry & bustle. How is sister Alice going on? Give my best love to all my Brothers and sisters and all the families & believe me to be Honour'd Parents,
Yours most affectionately J. Cocker
Mr Watts has just call'd and he is going to Ashton tonight.

Editorial Comments

It does sound as if Edwin had a condition recognisable as Epilepsy. References to ‘The Office’ suggest a London branch of the family firm, but we have not been able to find any reference to their business in London directories of the period.

“I suppose you will still find him in clothes” is an interesting phrase! In the north of England vernacular it would mean “I suppose you will still supply him with clothes”, rather than as we might understand it - that he is in the habit of taking his clothes off, but is expected to put them on for receiving visitors... one would hope so at any rate!

2. Sheffield, 25th July 1836 to Mr H. Cocker, Hathersage

The next one is a short bill from someone, but we don't know who. It is date stamped SHEFFIELD JY 25 1836, and the paper inside is a torn off page, with no heading, and is a 1d postage so was probably a local letter addressed to Mr. H. Cocker, Hathersage.

The account could possibly be for a funeral, as there are references to ‘mourning’ candles; alternatively it could be the winding up of an estate, since other debts are also being considered - sundries and rentals.

An amount of £4-5-0½ is stated to have been paid on July 29th 1836, and initialled ‘H. C.’. A note at the end says “Mrs Wilson's Bill for work at the Cottage occupied by Geo Wilson is not paid neither is GW's Rent paid.” (GW=George Wilson)

So presumably someone died in or before July 1836 - maybe father Thomas. [We now know he died 23 Oct 1834 q.v. his Will]

3. Sheffield, 3rd November 1852 to Miss Anna Cocker, Hathersage

No date legible, neither on stamp nor on postmark (which could be SHEFFIELD NO 3 1842) but has 1d red imperf with bottom two corner letters. But the contents of the letter says they are expecting a visitor at Christmas or January 1st 1843 so this is therefore 1842. There are two sheets enclosed and one of them is signed by Mary Ibbotson….

Addressed to Miss Anna Cocker, Chapel Cottage, Hathersage, postmarked Sheffield.

It begins with two words which are presumably the address from which the letter is written and it looks like Globe Banks<?> The rest of the two page letter is quite legible…

My Dear Anna

I am sorry to have been so long without writing you but my engagements seem to increase every day so that if I put off any longer I fear I shall not have time to write at all - I have been nearly a week in getting a letter written to Mrs Hanna -

This day week Lt[?] Mercer called upon us and asked Kate and myself if we had been confirmed and when we answered in the negative he offered us tickets of admission for the following day and Kate, Henry, Maria and myself took the vows of confirmation before hundreds I may almost say thousands of people - 14 to 1500 persons were confirmed, but there was such a bustle that it did not appear to me at all sacred at the time. It was a pouring rainy day and I think I never knew the value of a bonnet before for though I did not take mine off until I just had to kneel down I felt unspeakably impudent.

Lt. M. gave us an excellent sermon last evening on our vows and certainly if ever we needed religion to support our drooping spirits, it is now that business seems to overwhelm us with distress and anxiety. We have had a letter from Papa today he is off to Buffalo and it is most probable that Thompson will be over this Christmas at least he said he intended dining with us on January 1st of 1843 so that all well we shall have a bit of fun.

We have had an American dining with us today from Ohio but not a most fascinating man -

I wrote the preceding several days since and now I have only a minute or two to spare but still I must tell you that Mrs Mercer has a daughter a week old and I hope is doing well. This morning we had a letter from the Rev. John Hanna he tells us that on Sunday Mother<?> Matilda gave birth to a dear little daughter and both she and the baby were going on very well for the time so that notwithstanding the badness of the times population is on the increase

Mr Hanna says that Dr. Smith [or McM. ?] is now in Paris again and that he was just writing to tell him that he was now an uncle for the first time in his life -

We have a great quantity of American Pork selling in Sheffield at 3½ per lb and Papa says that in Montreal they are using fine hams for [fires??] and selling good bacon etc at 1½ per lb English Pork has reduced considerably since the arrival from America.

We are to have the sewing meeting at our house on Friday that is tomorrow and Kate and I are thinking of proposing that instead of working for the absent poor that they should all set to and work for the present poor and by making our lads shirts &c certainly it would be a deed of charity.

Tell Joe that he must let us know whether he can spare us those delightful books any longer for Mrs Smith borrowed Proverbials &c a month ago and is so much delighted with it that though she is determined on purchasing it still she cannot spare it to us yet and I have not read the half of it. The Providence of God is not finished with at Globe Cott, and yet Miss Simpson has squeezed it out of us for a short time having had an interesting peep at Monseats, but still if Joe really wants them he must not scruple to say so at once, we are greatly obliged for the loan of them.

Then on a different piece of cut off paper she continues….

Rank idleness prevents my going upstairs to fetch some more paper so that you must please to forgive my shameful scrawls and perhaps you may get a decent epistle next time

Kate says that though love from her is a matter of course yet still I must not forget to send her special this time. I hope your mother is not suffering so much now, do write soon and believe me your own as ever
Mary Ibbotson.

Then there is an added part:-

We have had a new sleeve pattern made up this week which is less trouble than the one you gave us and if I like it when I have worn it a little I will send it to you.

The Dyers have completely ruined our pink nidian[?] dresses, they have made darker than my Aunts - is it not provoking and they have [insert?] several holes in the middle of one of the breadths, but I must away

There are quantities of velvet dresses selling in Sheffield.

Editorial Comments

“Lt. Mercer” and mention of a bonnet makes it sound like the Salvation Army! “Hanna” seems to be an unusual surname.

They mention foreign travel so casually, as if in their circles at least it was a common occurrence!

The fact she had a pink dress indicates they weren't always wearing black!

4. London, 22nd August 1844 to Mr J. R. Cocker, Hathersage

The next one is in a very small ‘mourning’ envelope 4½" x 2¾". It also contains two letters, one of which is on mourning paper, so this matches the envelope, which also matches the datestamp on the envelope of AU 22 1844 posted in London. The envelope is sealed with black sealing wax with the initials E.C. in Old English Script.

It is addressed to Mr J R Cocker Hathersage, Nr Bakewell.

It is somewhat confusing, as the envelope also included an earlier letter, which refers to another letter, which we don't have.

22 Ely Place August 22 1844

Dear Brother Joseph,

Your note of yesterday apprising us of our dear Mother's death was this morning received & gave us mingled feelings of sorrow & joy.

It would also give us great satisfaction to pay the last tribute of gratitude if circumstances permitted, you will therefore I hope take the will for the deed, Brother James has been here a few days and through the intelligences of Mother's death he is presently visiting a friend for a few days, & will leave here in the morning for Sheffield & probably be with you the same evening.

Accept our love under these trying circumstances and believe me to remain Your Affectionate Brother

Edwin Cocker

The enclosed letter is also from Edwin, and also from 22 Ely Place, Holborn but is dated July 15 1844, so predates the one above, and their mother's death.

He begins My dear Brother, but has written over it to be:

My dear Mother

I received a letter from Joseph this morning & enclose herewith as requested, truly hoping it will alleviate your sufferings - I am sorry Joseph should have deemed it necessary to have remitted Dfts for the amt, as anything I can contribute to your comfort I shall have great pleasure in doing so - It gives us great uneasiness to know that your health is so precarious, but what are the sufferings of this present life conmpared to Eternity & you my dear Mother daily experience that vital Godliness which worketh unto Eternal Life

Mrs Kershaw is still with us, no arrangements having been effected. She may probably visit Derbyshire soon unless something turns up - We have been busy removing & not yet quite settled, there are so many things wanted.

Mrs Kershaw & Betsy unite with me in kind love to you, Hannah & Joseph

I remain
Dear Mother
Yours very affectionately
Edwin Cocker

Editorial Comments

This pinpoints the death of their mother in August 1844, and so the original letters in January 1845 were, as surmised, still using up the mourning paper.

Manchester, 12th November 1847 to Miss Cocker, Hathersage

The final letter in this set postmarked Manchester NO 12 1847 and Bakewell NO 13 1847 from Joseph in Manchester to Hannah in Hathersage, and timewise slots between Letters 10 and 11 in the original bundle of 12 Cocker Letters. The Penny red is imperf and has the letters Q and E in the left and right corners respectively. The numeral obliterator is 498. It is addressed to Miss Cocker, Broom Cottage Hathersage Nr Bakewell, and is a very intriguing letter as it seems to point to some business difficulties.

Nov 12 1847

My Dear Sister

Yours of yesterday I have received and have written to Dundee respecting the Linen, don't fear, we shall get it and when I return home, if time permits we shall have a regular search in Sheffield

I have today met with Jonn [Jonathan] Cocker and after a long chat which I shall tell you on our own hearth, he engages to demand the Notes at once from hence - all money paid to him except Brother James share, and should he refuse - to place the matter at his own risk in the hands of the Lord Chancellor - I told him some thing which rather frightened him, and after all I think the Lord who has the hearts of all men in his Hands will do something for us.

We have been working very hard at the balance sheet but shall not be able to complete it before Monday when it must be filed in the Court and to do that we must work late tomorrow night - however I dare not leave Manchester until all is right -

We are thus hindered by finding some startling errors in Brother's private Cash Book in 1843 and 1844, and instead of commencing as we intended in 1845 for the Balance Sheet we have started June 30th 1843 - (This information is for Brother/private)

I am much disappointed in not being with you on Sunday, I hope to get home on Tuesday next but don't expect me for I must finish the work

Write to me by Sundays post, after that keep all letters until return

With best love
I am ever
Your Affection Bro
Jos Robt Cocker

Editorial Comments

The reference to an account being filed in Court is tantalising! Joseph's wife Margaret was born in Manchester, and his working there suggests a possible scenario for them becoming acquainted; perhaps she was the daughter of one of his contacts there.

This is the last of this series of 5 letters.

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