MH

Stroud - a 19thC diary

The diarist was supposed to be anonymous, but the introduction to the 1975 edition of Paul Hawkins Fisher’s Notes and Recollections of Stroud says that he wrote columns in the local newspaper under the pseudonym 'An Old Inhabitant' in the 1860s.

Fisher - born (according to the diary!) on 21st Feb 1779 - was a solicitor in Stroud for many years. He and his family lived at The Castle and the Fisher family surfaced frequently during our research into The Field estate (see this section of our website). He had retired from his legal practice by 1851 but he edited a fortnightly journal called 'The Gloucestershire Repository' for several years and then went on to publish his Notes and Recollections of Stroud in 1871. We noticed very similar wording, and stories, in the diary and his book, so it seems very likely that Paul Hawkins Fisher was the anonymous writer of the 'completest private manuscript diaries' that had so delighted the editor of the Stroud News.

Old Glos Diary column

These columns from the 1899 Stroud News were found by chance in the summer of 2013 when Tony Macer was scouring the microfilms of the Stroud Journal and Stroud News for a community research project about The Field estate of William Cowle - which is on another part of our website.

I used some of the material in The Cowle Legacy exhibition that autumn, and in my book William Cowle of Stroud - life in a Victorian town, but the diary deserves a wider audience. An earlier, undated transcript is in Stroud Local Studies library but it does not include births or deaths. With the agreement of the County Archives and Stroud Library, Tony Macer photographed every column of the diary in the newspaper. A complete transcript was made from those gloomy, faded images by Elizabeth Wright during the winter months of 2013-14. Thank you Liz - that was a heroic task. Some entries were very faint or smudged and mistakes are inevitable, but between us we have done our best.

The first Instalment was published on Friday 6th October, 1899 - we imagine in response to the kind of nostalgic look-back that happened in our own time at the end of the 20th century. Whatever the reason, Stroud's historians will take as much delight in reading through these newsy little pages as did the editor, 115 years ago. Here is the editor's 1899 Introduction:

“Through the kind offices of a lifelong resident of Stroud – a member of an old and well-known local family – we have been favoured with the loan of a set of the completest private manuscript diaries ever kept. We have received permission to make such extracts for publication in the Stroud News as in our judgement will prove of public interest, and we propose to avail ourselves extensively of the privilege. Generally speaking, the entries in the old Diary were commenced about the beginning of the present century – more than fifty years before Stroud could boast of a regular newspaper, and at a period when there was little attempt at recording public events except such as related specially to official transactions. Therefore the old Diary is unique and invaluable and present residents of Mid-Gloucestershire will doubtless find in the entries much information of which they were previously unaware. There are few casual entries respecting events which occurred in the early centuries; and also in the latter part of the Eighteenth Century; and these we incorporate because they undoubtedly possess general interest. These extracts will be published in the Stroud News week by week until the diaries are exhausted.”

In fact, the instalments petered out at the end of Instalment 19 on the 16th February 1900. The last diary entry was dated 30th December 1869 and although it was marked ‘to be continued’, the new year editions had nothing more. The euphoria about a new century had faded and the pages were now overwhelmed by news from the Boer War. Fisher died in October 1873 so, although there may have been diary entries after 1869 that were never transcribed by the Stroud News, they could not have continued for many more years.

You can browse through the diary entries by clicking here (and search using Ctrl+F). If you are a local or academic historian and would like a spreadsheet version (not designed for printing) that is sortable and searchable by topic, you can do so using this link: Old Glos Diary online. Our research is available for personal and academic use under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.

If you are not already familiar with this copyright system, clicking this CC button Creative Commons License will take you to an explanation of the scheme, and its very simple fair use terms.


Marion Hearfield, May 2014