Market Lavington Museum

A rather sad essay

We have featured, recently, a couple of essays published in a Derby and Joan club booklet in 1984. The essay we feature today was by Francesca (or Francisca) Ashe and  she was born in the 1850s. Amongst her memories are activities at the time of the Wedding of the future King Edward VII and his bride, Alexandra on 10th March 1863.

The future Mrs Ashe probably had a very prosperous childhood, but not, it seems, a happy one.

The table summarises her life.




Born at Burn Hall, County Durham as Francesca Josephine Salvin.


Listed as an inmate at St Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe, Warwickshire.


Married George Oswald Sharples at the Catholic Church, Durham.


Son, Henry Oswald born.


With husband George, a timber merchant, at Wavertree, Liverpool.


Death of Husband, George.


12 year old George Oswald Sharples with his Granny Sharples in Streatham, London.


Francesca Sharples and son at Cheriton Place, Folkestone, Kent, living on own means.


Son Henry Oswald died.


Married St George Ashe in the Peterborough district. St George was a solicitor born in Malta.


St George and Josephine lived at Moorhouse Hall, Warwick and Wetheral in Cumberland


Probable death of St George Ashe


Francesca at Townsend, Market Lavington (probably Wolseley House).


Francesca still at Townsend, Market Lavington


Death of Francesca Josephine Ashe. Buried at St Mary’s, Market Lavington on 8th March. A Roman Catholic priest officiated. Francesca’a address was Wolseley House.

And so to the untitled essay which has an unlikely name attached at the end.

As I never knew a Mother’s love – being brought up in early Victorian style, like Spartans -“Spare the rod and spoil the child” style, “Seen and not heard,” lived by rote and severe discipline, I, though a very young little maid and full of love and spirit – had the instinct to wonder if all children were sad and cried as I did, and never had pleasure or saw other children.

I lived in a lonely old Manor House, miles in the country and had a strict governess and began lessons at three, from 8.30 to 5 p.m., only two hours for walks. My greatest sorrow was the death of my little sister at six – a lovely child, fair as a lily with a roseleaf complexion and golden hair; a sweet character and very religious and clever. She was doing Euclid and Algebra, but drooped and died.

I recollect King Edward’s wedding; every mountain in South Wales was ablaze at night with bonfires. I was told by nurse – I went to bed at 6 p.m., – not like the modern pampered blasé child of today, who dictate to their silly parents that if I had expressed an opinion I would have had my ears boxed and been put to bed. I was thrashed (au naturel) often twice a week and could not sit down for many hours from pain.

My parents went to London for the wedding and we children had a holiday, and spent it at Home Farm, so I collected four bricks and gathered twigs and dried apple leaves and lit my tiny bonfire, and wished I could see the Prince’s wedding.

My next sorrow was the death of my dormouse; I had it in my bed and must have overlaid it and the next was a dear dog called Don, who fell down a well and was drowned. Then I had six sisters and three brothers all older than me – we four youngest had a donkey to ride in turn, and were taught to saddle and harness it, and when giving it food to hold our hands flat. My sister was sitting on it, and I gave “Charlie” a piece of bread with my fingers and he caught my finger and tore my nail out. My agony was beyond words

At eight years old I went to school at a Convent in ‘Warwickshire and there saw the Blue Bird of Happiness. The nuns were so kind to me and the girls soon made friends. There was a curious French custom; we were all dressed as nuns on Holy Innocents and performed the offices of the nuns and had a glorious day. I made my first Communion as a nun with a white wreath, also on Good Friday.

I was then sent to Edinburgh and found those nuns, Ursulines, terribly severe and was most unhappy till I found a nun I loved. I stayed four years and then my pet nun who favoured me was packed off to Perth. A Liverpool girl, who also loved my nun joined me in a mutiny and barricaded her cell, and put a chest of drawers against the door; we sat on the floor with our backs to the chest and our feet against the wall – a tiny room you could not “swing a cat in.” The Rev. Mother arrived and said in broad Scotch “If you’II naa coum oot, I’ll bang the door to smithereens,” At 9 p.m, the old gardener came up with a hatchet and smashed down the panels.

Fanny was put in a cell and I in another, and she was expelled and went on a joy tour to Bridge of Allan – I went to Bridge of Hell – Home – and was shut in my bedroom in disgrace and soon packed off to Clapham Convent, Notre Dame, the greatest teaching order in the world where I progressed rapidly in knowledge. I won many prizes for Music, Painting, Dancing, General-Knowledge and derivation of roots (Languages), also composition and writing.

I left at nineteen to enter life and dearly loved my Convent Home. The severity at home still continued – we never saw young men, only contemporaries of my parents.

I went to my first ball and then we had one dance and back to my mother, no sitting out; now all chaperones are abolished.

I was a very good horsewoman and loved hunting and was devoted to animals and gardening – no novels or papers being allowed.

While in London for my first Season, I met and fell in love; my people did not approve of so young a girl marrying, so after two years, I took the law into my own hands and made a Gretna Green marriage -“Elopement in High Life” the papers said. I was married in the Catholic Church in Durham and next year my boy was born, alas! now gone to heaven. I was a widow at twenty-five.

After two years since son’s death I married again and now I am again a widow.

Good-bye, kind readers, to the Child of Sorrow.

By Cigarette