Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Crewe Alexandr(i)a 2

A week or so after arriving in Egypt Kate had found her feet:

 Friday 29th October 1897
Mistress & Mrs Hogg [the Peels’ married daughter, also living in Alexandria] drove to town & Miss Grace went out for a ride & Miss Winifred went on her bicycle. Polly & I were left in by ourselves... We got our teas while they were out & now have just had our supper. … Just fancy, a week today we landed here. I felt awfully strange but I am better used to it & know my way about now all over the house & all round. We have two very nice ponies & the young ladies ride them in turns …

 The following Sunday marked the first time they went to church – always a big occasion for Kate:
Sunday 31st October 1897
 It has been a very wet morning … but it has cleared up now & is fine again. I hope it keeps fine for [Mistress] has promised to let us go to church this evening. They are all gone this morning & we have just done the clothes ready for the wash & we have builders & joiners & all sorts of men here working today. It does seem so funny. I don’t know how they expect to prosper I am sure with such carryings on. She never seems to think it is Sunday, it is all the same with her so as the work is done. We have got the roof off the drawing room. You never saw such a place as we have got, to be sure it is awful. The men are busy doing the roofing & building two or three more rooms on to the house to make it larger. I don’t know whenever we shall be straight I am sure. …  We have just had our dinner & now we are trying to write a bit before tea, for it is nearly tea time now. Polly is busy getting it ready & there is a lot of gentlemen here to tea that have called to see our people & welcome them back here to their home here. They are having tea in the hall. After our tea we got ready for church & went about half past 5 oclock. From here to Ramleh church it is about ¾ of an hour’s walk. We went down the railway line & came back part [that] way . Got back here about half past 8 oclock & then had our supper & to bed about 10 oclock pm. I did so enjoy my walk & it was a lovely little church & such a nice minister. It was quite a treat to be able to go to some place of worship or other so goodnight & sweet repose.
Throughout the diary Kate is appalled by her employers’ willingness to work on a Sunday:

 Sunday 7th November 1897 
It is a beautiful day. I hope it will keep fine for we want to go to church tonight again … Two of the young ladies are gone to church. Master & Mistress & Miss Winnie are at home, all on business matters with the men. They are working here today, putting drawing rooms with doors in and knocking the tower down off the top of the house. You have no idea what it is like & now Mistress is gone to enamel the seat of the WC, on Sunday mind you, & we two have just done the clothes. Now I must dress for lunch, there is several gentlemen here to tea. We went to church again & got back here by 8-20 pm so we were not out late.

Sunday Nov 14th 1897
It is a splendid day today, such a change again. The men are here working today just the same as usual. After dinner Polly was messing about; she can’t rest without she is on with something or other all the time & I don’t believe in it. I shan’t forget these Sundays, never to my dying day shall I forget them. It is tea time now well we went to church and were back here by 9 x 30 pm. The minister was a splendid little man. I did so enjoy it for he spoke so plain & nice it was rather dark coming home

 They couldn’t always make it to the church though:

 Sunday Dec 12th 97 
It is a cold rough morning … Miss May & Miss Grace & master are gone to church & mistress & Miss Winnifred are at home. Polly is quite busy as she has to help to lay the table, we are having 3 more to lunch today. It is raining & pouring again, now we can’t see the sea for the rain is so dreadful & so sudden. … It has been too rough for us to go to church tonight so we have sat down for an hour & read, Polly her bible & me Ben Hur for a while & then I read several chapters in my bible.

Amid all the upheaval of the alterations to the house, Kate had to carry on with her usual routine, which was pretty arduous. As sewing maid, she was responsible for making and mending day clothes along with evening dresses for the many balls and parties the family attended. As well as this, she had to clean the house, serve at the table and be on call for endless fetching and carrying for the family. Mrs Peel had an ‘at home’ every week, with guests enjoying tea and a musical evening, and dinner parties for 50 people were not unusual.

 Monday 1st November 1897 
I was up by 6-40 am & had breakfast by ¼ past 7 oclock. I went down to Mrs Hoggs at 8-30 am to put the sewing machine in working order so as she could use it & came back about 9-30 am. [I] did my rooms after & then sewing a bit & cleaning a bit & polishing furniture. I have to be jack of all trades. …. Mrs Hogg has been down to lunch & we have just had our dinner & I am darning now for dear life…

 Tuesday 2nd November 1897 
I was up 6-45 am & breakfast by 7-15 am & now am nearly ready for my dinner. Miss Grace is in bed ill all day long, it is so tiresome, there is enough running about without them stopping in bed now to make more work. Mr Pervice, an English gentleman … has arrived here this morning & is staying with us for lunch [Mr Purvis later married May]. …  Polly & I went … to the station to post a letter for Mistress. We have just had our supper & I am trying to write a bit before bed. It is 9 o clock now, I don’t know how long they will leave me alone I am sure.

 Thursday Jan 27th 1898 
I was up by 6 x 50 am and have been busy sewing till lunch time. After lunch I straightened the work room up …  the young ladies and midshipmen are having tea there today because the dining room table is laid ready for dinner tonight because we have a dinner party on. … We had 4 gentlemen & our young ladies in the workroom for the tea & two gentlemen & a lady with mistress for tea in the drawing room, & we have had 2 sailors & 2 soldiers & Mrs Hogg for dinner tonight. Now they are all in the drawing room, playing & singing… We have just had our supper … & we must get to bed as soon as possible for we are both tired  … I am retiring to rest now at 11-10 pm.

 And even if she was ill, Kate didn’t seem able to take time off:

 Tuesday Nov. 30th 1897
It has been a very dull cold day. I fell upstairs this morning & hurt my leg rather bad. I was up by 7 oclock & have been busy covering chairs to day & beeswaxing the young ladies room. ..

Friday Dec. 17th 1897
I was up by 7 o clock & was very busy sewing all day long, making & retrimming Miss Winifred’s black velvet bodice. I was very sick & vomiting all day, quite out of sorts somehow. I did feel ill & bad but you have to keep on with your work all the same & say nothing. 

She was soon back on her feet, though, and getting excited about Christmas:

Dec. 22nd 1897
It has been a lovely day. … I have been very busy sewing as usual. Mistress has had several Xmas presents all ready. She has had two Hams & a live turkey & Plum pudding & a Bale of apples. 

Friday Dec. 24th 1897 
It has been a lovely fine day & we have all been busy preparing for Xmas day. Just fancy, it is so near I can’t believe it. We have had two more live turkeys sent as presents to day & mistress bought one & a cheese sent as well for a xmas box. We have just given over work,  it is xmas eve & I am not going to do any more that ever I can help to night. It is 7 oclock now. I wish I could have a look at you. I know you are fine & busy to night. I gave Miss Winifred a bath after our supper & then I got to bed about 9 x 45. Feel tired but a little better today, so now must get to sleep. Goodnight & god bless you all, & keep you together to spend Xmas day together. I am thinking about you & the bands playing in Crewe now…

Saturday Dec 25th 1897 
Xmas morning. I was up by 7 x 30 am & we were very busy first thing to get done. We went to the garrison church service, commenced at 10 x 45 & it was so nice there. The soldiers were all there & the band played beautiful. All our people went & us two as well. I had the thimble out of the plum pudding & Polly the ring & Eliza a silver coin. I left the ring on a plate & carried it out to the kitchen & it was thrown down the slopstone in the water. I am as vexed as can be for Polly did so prize that, it was a keep sake of hers & there it is lost. After that we went down to the beach for an hour & when we came back I got a cup of tea but we were all too upset to eat ... I have had a present from mistress & one from Mrs Hogg & a box of chocolate between Mary & I from M. & G. Peel & a card from W. Peel. Now it is nearly dinner time. We have had Mrs Hogg’s waiter here helping to wait so as Polly & us could be by ourselves. I had a card from Polly as well. They are busy in the dining room now. They have taken the plum pudding in, the room all ablaze, it looked grand. It has been blazing hot today, just like summer in England & now we must have our supper for it is getting late. We got to bed about 11 x 30 & were both fairly tired out, so that ended xmas day.

The next big event, of course, was New Year’s Eve:

 Friday Dec 31st 1897
It is bitter cold again today but the sun is shining now. I fairly tremble with cold so you can guess what it is like. Just fancy, the last of the old year today and now commences a new year. Last night I had a mince pie, the first one this year! … I have been busy cutting out a new evening dress for Miss Winifred so I am quite busy. The soldiers have all been past here this morning for the sham fighting again & the band played beautiful as they were passing here. I heard them shooting but could not see them with me being in the workroom. … It is 2 x 30 pm now, there is 5 gentlemen dining here tonight, so of course it has been very busy to night. Miss Winifred is going out to a dance.

After dinner: well just fancy last of the old year to night, if we live to see morning it will be in another year. How the time does go to be sure. I must give over now for I want my supper & then to bed. So goodnight & sweet repose & think if me so far away in a foreign land on the eve of the old year & the new year coming in. It is 11 x 30 o clock & to sleep & rest I hope. Our young ladies & two of the gentlemen have gone to a dance at Mrs Wilson’s after dinner tonight. The carriage is waiting now to take them so ta ta. Polly is having a donkey ride outside, at this time of night! I got to bed, I was tired but she stayed up & let the new year in. They came back from the dance at 2 o clock next morning.

 Saturday January 1st 1898 
It has been cold again today but the sun was shining this morning. I was up by 7 x 45 am & have been busy sewing all day long. They all went out this afternoon … so we had tea out on the sea veranda. The sun was shining & after supper we got to bed about 10 o clock. We were both tired & sleepy - that is the commencement of the new year. So goodnight & god bless you all in England, & think of me so far away.

So begins a new year for Kate. The diary ends shortly after this, but because the last part of the notebook is missing we’re not sure exactly when Kate returned home.

Next time, though, we’ll see what happened to her after she did, as well as finding out about the sad ends met by some of the Peel family.




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