Letter from Henry Balguy, from boarding school at Quorn, September 1835
During the 19th century there were many private schools in Quorn. Sometimes they would only be in existence for a short period, and most would be located in the head teacher’s own residential property.
This letter was sent by 12 year old Henry Balguy in September 1835, when he was a pupil at a prep school in Quorn. Evidence strongly points to the establishment being a small boarding and day school, run by the Rev Thomas Burnaby, from his home at Quorn Court on High Street. Pigot’s Directory for 1835 shows only one such school. The entry reads:
“Burnaby Rev Thomas - gentlemen’s classical boarding and day academy”
The 1841 census has an entry recording that the Rev Burnaby had twelve boarding pupils. A newspaper article in 1843 includes a report of a cricket match between the Rev Burnaby’s pupils and those of Frederick Deacon. Frederick Deacon had taken over his wife’s Ladies Academy after her death in 1840 and by 1841 he was also taking boys.
Henry Balguy’s letter, (transcribed below), shows that Henry had an elder brother John (Johnny) who was at Eton, a younger brother Charles who was at the same school in Quorn, and a sister Barbara at school in London. Other information shows that he had at least two more siblings. Henry’s parents were John and Barbara Balguy, who lived in Derbyshire. They were a wealthy family and John was an eminent QC. Newspapers of the day record him as often representing people from Quorn.
No 7 Chester Terrace,
Quorndon September 5th 1835
My dear Barbara
I hope you are quite well, I have received a letter from Johnny he wrote part to me and part to Charles, he was quite well and liked Eaton very much. He can row a boat very well and can feather long oars in style. I should have liked to have been with him very much when he saw the King and Queen in a carriage and four.
I hope you like school, pray write to me as soon as you can to tell me how many girls there are, and what you saw in London as I should like to know. I should have wrote to you before but I did not know your direction till Johnny wrote to me and told both his and yours to me, so I wrote to him a few days ago and told him that I was going to write to you. I wrote home a few days ago to Frank as I thought he would like one.
I suppose Mama will be down in a few days from London as she said she should only be a forghtnigh. We have all been to the wood nutting and Charles liked it very much, I got 190 nuts which I think was a great many as they are very hard to find. We all went to Loughborough the other day to see the Bishop who was coming to confirm there, and Tom & Dick were confirmed, I liked it very much, their were about 3 or four hundred confirmed, and the church was very full. I hope you will get me some coins if you can and when you come home I can pay you, I have got two, one which Dick gave me and the other one of the boys gave me. Tom Dick & Hugo are gone to Mr Holms for dinner and to spend the afternoon their. Tom goes to London in few days to school there. On my birthday I had some books given me and a rule from the boys. Tom getting as many butterflies as ever I can. The little girls liked the plants very much. The pot of jam lasted us a long while but it is all gone now.
I think now that this is a very long letter.
I remain your affectionate Brother Henry Balguy. Write to me as soon as you can.”
Note that Henry had so much to say that he finished his letter by writing at right angles over the first page!
It is interesting to note that at this time, which was in the reign of William IVth, that although the General Post Office existed, there were no stamps or envelopes. The letter was written on one piece of paper and then folded into rectangle for posting, before being sealed with red sealing wax. Postage would have been paid according to the distance of its destination, and in this case it was 9d (4p), which covered distances up to 120 miles.
After the Representation of the People Act 1832 (known informally as the Great Reform Act), there were more MPs from a commercial background. This led to pressure for postal reform, which was driven forwards by Rowland Hill. In December 1839 a uniform 4d post was introduced, which was further revised into the famous ‘penny post’ in January 1840, and the introduction of the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the ‘Penny Black’, four months later.