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Wilby Rackham - His Life and Letters
Part Three






Wilby’s mother-in-law, Sarah Crosbie, wrote, presumably from the Bull’s Head Inn, at 101, Tottenham Court Road, London.  Mrs Crosbie tells Wilby of the birth of his daughter, Mary Jordan Rackham.



July 25th 1862


Dear Wilby


We received your letter and was very happy to hear that you had arrived safe and found all well. In regard to Mary and the little one I am happy to say they are getting on very well but for all that you must come home on Tuesday without fail as Mr. Henderson arrived here last night. Mrs. Henderson is unable to attend to Mary and my leg is so much worse I am not capable of doing anything for her and particularly now for the house is full of visitors and will be for a fortnight to come indeed I have been obliged to turn some of them away for want of room. Mary sends her best regards and all the rest to you all. Hoping to see you on Tuesday without fail


I remain

Your affectionate







Wilby, who was visiting his family in Suffolk, replied -


Lowestoft July 29th.    [1862]

My Dear Polly


I received Mothers letter this morning after waiting so anxiously for it, I cannot tell where it has been to not to get here before for I wrote on Thursday last and thought about getting an answer on Saturday or sunday morning, I am most happy to hear that you are doing well but my dear it is impossible that I can get to London before Friday evening except I take a fresh ticket and pay another ten shillings, perhaps Sarah & Mother will be able to do a little for you up to that time if not you must have another nurse for you know my dear it will not do to run any risk And if you are not able to get up all the good I can do will be of little use to you, of course I can do a little to assist Mother or Sarah and they could do the same for you but my dear I do not like the Idea of throwing away ten shillings for another ticket when I can get home for nothing, it is very pleasant down in the country here in the summer and my Friends and relations are exceeding kind to me, but still I seem quite dull and alone without you, I shall be glad when Friday comes to get home to you again, Mother says they are quite full in the House so I suppose my Brother Edward will have to find lodgings somewhere near hand he is intending to come up with me I think for he is anxious to see London and you besides this is not a very busy time with him at his business so he thinks that he cannot pick a better opportunity - this is tuesday and I am just going to visit two of my Aunts with my Mother they live at Woodbridge about 2O miles from here, I hope you will be able to do without me for this short time it will only be two days longer after you get this letter & then I shall be at your side again if we are spared, Give my kind love to all and accept the same to yourself with my blessing on our little darling


I Remain Dearest

Your Affectionate Husband

Wilby Rackham






Wilby departs for London.


Gisleham July 31st      [1862]


My Dear Polly


I shall leave here tomorrow morning at about 8 oclock by the Excursion for London and I think it arrives there about 2 in the afternoon. My brother Edward has made up his mind to come and see London so he will accompany me. I hope you are getting about a little by this time and that we shall have the pleasure of meeting all the rest in good health. I found my Aunts in tolerable good health and they were very glad indeed to see me and were kind to me. My mother & me came home again last night we only stayed about a day as my time was growing so short. My Parants say they think you might do without me for another week or so but I say no, no, if she is able to do for the young one I am the best nurse after the other is gone, and I think my stay is long enough, after being only 4 days at home out of 8 months. Give my kind Love to all at home and my People all send their kindest Regards, hoping to meet you soon. I send you my kindest Love & Affection And Remain Dearest


Your ever Loving Husband

W. Rackham






Following Wilby Rackham’s visit to Suffolk his brother Edward wrote to him –


Gisleham  August 8th 1862


My Dear Brother


I arrived Safe in Lowestoft at about half past 6.  I had rather a wet journey which was not very pleasant in an open carrage but I did not get wet as there was a young woman in the carrage that had an umbrela so I held it for her and kept her and myself dry to. She was a nice young girl so I paid myself for my trouble by stealing a kiss or two off her going through the tunnel at ipswich which she was very agreeble to. She was a suffolk lassie she was going to framlington so I lost her at Woodbridge I had to change twice, at ipswich and at Beccles. I called at hannah's and old Letty was there. She came the same day that we went up to London. She was sorry she did not see you, but she said if you were going to stay in London she would stand a chance of seeing you before you start. She is coming to gisleham next week to pay us a visit. Hannah was very pleased with the candlesticks and so was jimima and I shall give the pinbox to betsey as jimima prefered the candlesticks. Mother was also very pleased with the articals that Mrs Crosbie sent her. She thought it very kind of her and sends her best respects to her.


Dear Brother I hope you got home before it began to rain. Give my Best respects to Mary, and to all at home. Now Dear Brother I bring this to a close by hoping it will meet you all in good health as thank god it leaves us all present except george but eye getting Better and believe me to remain your most Affectionate Brother


Edward Rackham











Another letter from Edward to his brother Wilby.



August 25 1862


My Dear Brother


I received your kind letter and was glad to hear that you got the money Back again It was an object though not a B 0.  I thank you for sending me my pocket Book. I have.sent you all the Tickets I had which I hope you will [receive] all right. Dear Brother I have no news to tell you this time. georges eyes are getting better. Now I must conclude by hoping this will meet you quite well as thank god it leaves me and all of us at present. Give my best respects to Mary and all at home and exept the same to your self, I remain your

Loving Brother

Edward Rackham


(Note.  Edward was by no means as good at penmanship as Wilby though his signature is a very dignified one. Capital letters are evidently on the hit-and-miss principle.)






The following is a copy of the only envelope in the collection. It is addressed to


Mrs Rackham

Mr Wm Crosbie

Bull’s Head Inn

101 Tottenham Crt Rd

London W


It bears the postmark      LONDON   E

                                           SP 15  62


No letter is enclosed. I surmise that her husband sent the message as a birthday greeting as well as a Good-bye.






A Blessing


May the blessing of God await thee

may the sun of Glory shine around thy bed

may the gates of plenty, honour & happiness

be ever open unto thee

may no sorrow distress thy days

may no grief disturb thy nights

may the pillow of peace kiss thy cheek

and the pleasures of imagination attend thy dreams,

and when length of years hath made thee tired of

earthly joys, and the curtain of death gently closes

around thy last breath of human existence,

may the Angel of God Attend thy bed

and take care that the expiring lamp of life

does not receive one rude blast to hasten its extinction.






Cardiff   Oct 27     [1862]


My Dear Polly


Enclosed you will find P 0 order for £3 10s. which you will receive on Tuesday Morning I suppose and I hope at about the same time to have one from you (a letter). We shall be Loaded and ready to sail if the weather permit on Wednesday morning for LiverpooI, where I shall expect a note from you on my arrival letting me know if the money arrived safe and all particulars and that of all who are dear to us. Give my kind Love to them and hoping to have the pleasure of seeing yourself and our dear little one before long again. I send you my Blessing

With ------ from your Loving Husband

W, Rackham






Whitehaven   Nov 11th.     [1862]


My Dear Polly


You will no doubt be rather anxious to know where we are during these Hard breezes of late. I'll tell you my dear, we are snugly moored in the harbour and have been all the time instead of being out as you most likely supposed, getting our corns washed, but we have not ourselves to thank for that so you see I do not ask you to think us very clever for staying in the Harbour for if our cargo had been ready in time we should have gone to sea on saturday and since that the good folks of Whitehaven have received Telegrams from London, saying that bad weather was coming so that no vessel has left the Harbour. I suppose you will think it strange that the Londoners can tell the future state of the weather to the Whitehaven folks better than they know themselves but such is the case, and they hoist up signals on the Light-houses to let the Ships know. So you see my dear by these means we can often avoid going into the Lions mouth as the sailors call it. I Received your note on Saturday wholly unexpected for I thought as you did not write so as it would arrive on Friday it would not come. The book came all safe too but I am so sorry to hear that you are all so poorly. Surely you will have better news to tell me next time. As for myself I am happy to say that I never enjoyed better health in my life. I should often like a few more of Home Comforts and company (your own especially). You need not write to me at Cardiff for a day or two as there is no appearance of a favourable Change in the Weather.,We may not go there before the latter end of next week. Give my kind Love to all at home and I hope Fathers cold has become quite warm again, my Love to him and accept of the kindest Love and best wishes of



Your Loving Husband

W Rackham



P. S.  take care of this paper - My two Polly's are closely entwined round My


[sketch of a heart]












Cardiff  Nov 16     [1862]

My Dear Polly


I received yours on my arrival yesterday and am very much grieved to hear of your continued illness. I had hoped to hear better news. You must get Dr Weekes to call upon you perhaps he can do something towards your recovery. I am afraid you took that bad cold on your return to London from Southampton, as it was a dreadful day of wind and rain that Saturday. Do not be afraid of the expence of the Doctors attendance for you had better pay a small bill now in good time than to let it get worse and have a large one to pay. I think you ought to get new milk and plenty of nourishing food for Baby so as to give her as little of the Breast as possible. My Dear you did not send me word if you got the last money all right. You must always remember to do that as there are often letters going astray. Write immediately on receipt of this and send me all particulars of yourself and Baby and Mother. I hope her leg continues to mend. I send you 1£ with this and tell me if it is all safe and I think we are bound to Southampton from here but am not certain of that yet. I shall know tomorrow and will send you another line or two before we sail if we do go there. I could wish you were able to come down, give my kind Love to Father, Mother, Brothers and Sister Sally, also to Aunt and Uncle Jordan. We had a very fine passage from Whitehaven, and shall be ready to leave here on Sunday next. I think I will conclude with my kindest Love and most tender regards for your speedy recovery.

I am Dear Polly,

                                    your Loving Husband

                                                                               Wilby Rackham


P.S.  We are coming to Southampton and I have permission to pay you a visit so do not come but lift up your spirits and get better as fast as you can                                      W R


I can only send one£ as I shall require some for the train fare, write by return of Post






Liverpool Nov 18  (1862)



My Dear Polly


We have come to Liverpool instead of Southampton, which I have no doubt will cause you some disappointment, as for me I have got mine over now and have made up my mind to put up with it quietly. My Dear I asked you to write to me on Saturday so that I should have got it before I left but there was no letter came. Now I wish you to write me a few lines here just to say how you are getting on and if you have received the Money all right. We are going from here to Whitehaven again, and shall be ready to sail at the Iatter end of the week. Can Sister Sarah not write a line or two if you are in bed, if you knew how uncomfortable it makes me when I am disappointed in hearing from you I think you would get somebody to do it for you. I have not time to write any more (next sheet missing)






Cardiff   Dec 13th.      [1862]


My Dear Polly


We arrived here last night after a pretty favourable passage and are now Loaded ready for sea again bound for Southampton. We left there on the same day as I left London at two in the after noon. When I got down to the station at London I found that the cheap train had started at 6 in the Morning so I had to take the next one which left at 8 and cost me 11 shillings so I did not have much in my pocket when I got to my journeys end. My dear I have sent you all the money this time so you need not think of me coming too see you this voyage but I shall not say that you are not to come and see me, so you can do as you think best. I shall expect a letter from you at least. Address the same as before Smith Sundries & Co. We shall be there on Tuesday if the Weather permit.


So with my kind Love to Father, Mother, Brothers and Sister Sally (I hope she is mending again) and the kindest and Best Love to yourself and our little Darling


I Remain Dr Polly

Your Loving Husband

W Rackham





Portland Bay   Jany 5     [1863]


Dear Polly


I hope you have not been making yourself uneasy about our safety as we have been snug in harbour during all the late breezes and very bad weather it has been, I hope you got safe home and found all at home in good health. Give my kind love to them all, and I cannot say exactly when we shall be able to proceed on our voyage as there does not appear to be any prospect of a change of wind at present. I think we might just as well have been in Southampton all this time for we are not more than 40 miles from it yet but never mind we had a nice spell there this last time and must be content for another 8 or 10 days. I hope we shall come back to London. I beleive it is not settled upon for us to go there yet but we shall know before we leave Cardiff. You may write to me when you get this so I shall get it on my arrivall at Cardiff and be sure and send me all particulars about yourself and our dear little Polly bless her little heart. I hope she is clear of that cough by this time. My dear the Captn is just going on shore so I must close this with my kindest Love and best wishes for your health and comfort

and Remain your

Loving Husband

Wilby Rackham


Sarah has not written to me. I think she will send me one to Cardiff, my kindest Love to all

W R  goodbye   Dr P






The following is a letter sent by Jane Gillbanks. Presumably it was at her house that Capt. Rackham had stayed with his wife and seven months old baby. This landlady was neither good at writing or spelling though she was probably a kindly soul. Perhaps the son she is anxious about was a sailor too.



Feby 26th. / 63


Dear sir


I duly received your kind not and was glad to hear of your safe arival at home and allso of Babey and you getting Better. Mrs pycraft arived on sunday evening and Mr Kirk today so you think that I am verry Busy as thay are all Borders. I shall be happey to hear from you at anney time when convenient. I have not heard from my son as yet hoping this will find you all Well as it leaves all here at present in hast yours



Jane Gillbanks