Not long after I started working at Hampshire Record Office, I was sorting documents for customers in the search room and amongst them were a number of travel diaries. I remember looking through them and being captivated by the amount of detail and impressive sketches included within. The longer, lighter days, warmer weather and recent bank holiday weekends have got me thinking about holidays, travel and in particular these diaries.
The travel diaries of Robert Parker can be found in the Shelley Rolls of Avington collection (ref: 18M51) and include those of his tours of Wales, Bath, Italy, Paris, Germany and the Netherlands. The journal of his tour in Wales (ref: 18M51/557) begins on Thursday 2nd August 1804, and Robert writes: ‘Set out from Bath at six in the morning. Breakfasted at Petty France an Inn at the distance of fourteen miles – from the Garden of this Inn you enter the Grounds of Badminton a seat belonging to the Duke of Belmont.’
As you can see by the photographs below, not only did Robert Parker write about his travels with meticulous detail, he also captured them in grey wash sketches.
I am sure the description of the weather from his entry of Sunday 12th August is familiar to many of us, it certainly sounds like numerous summer holidays I have had in the UK! ‘Set off from Carmarthen at half past six and in five minutes met a tremendous shower which lasted a short time and soon after another; the weather continued wet and cold…’
In 1782, John Byng (Viscount Torrington) kept a journal entitled ‘A Ride into the West’ (ref: 95M88/1) and as you can see by the photograph below, his journey covered a good deal of north and mid Hampshire, and totalled 356 miles. As well as his written observations, the Viscount included many prints and engravings of his travels through Hampshire and Dorset.
Unfortunately Viscount Torrington was disappointed in many of the inns he rested in and often commented on his lack of sleep, poor treatment and uncomfortable furnishings. I am pleased to say that not all of the Viscount’s experiences were bad, in fact whilst staying at one particular house as he passed through Romsey, he was ‘fortunate enough to meet with an excellent pigeon pie’ which inspired him to write a small verse on the subject!
The Viscount was not the only one to include details of his accommodation, in the back of some of his travel diaries Alexander Morden Bennett includes a list of hotels, with a brief comment on his opinion of them (Bennett of Bournemouth collection, ref: 123A03). I suppose you could look on this as the equivalent of today’s one to five star rating systems!
(Ref: 123A03/A1/1 and 3)
This is just a brief look at some of the travel diaries and journals we hold within our holdings. If this has sparked your interest why not visit Hampshire Record Office and look through our collections – you never know, you could be inspired to write your own journal the next time you go on holiday!
Steff Palmer (Search Room Team)