Updated 17 Jun 2014
Wilfred and Mabel 1938
Wilfred & Mabel
the failure of a marriage
Marriage in 1924
Taken in 1935?
These four letters survived for 73 years, hardly read
because of their very poor handwriting. They tell the story of the
failure of a marriage through alcohol, of a husband brought low
and a wife unable to cope.
Wilfred and Mabel married in 1924. He was a young officer
in the Indian Army (3rd Batallion, 17th Dogra Regiment),
lowly born but a high flyer.
Well educated and clever, his three younger siblings were proud
of him. She was a local girl, who enjoyed a privileged
life-style. However, Wilfred left the Indian Army as a captain, perhaps
under a cloud, to become a Vicar in a lovely part of England.
As alcohol took control, Mabel wrote these letters
to Wilfred's brother, Bern in 1938. He resigned from the Church,
but War clouds were gathering, and Wilfred climbed again to
rank of Squadron Leader before he was killed by a grenade accident
aged 45. He has a
Commonwealth War Grave in England.
Tuesday. [Written 1938]
Many thanks for your letter. You tell me some rather shattering news,
which only goes to show me that Wilfred has done nothing but lie to me
from the very first. I always understood that W[in] and G[ert] were left
fairly well off - needn't earn their own livings & that the 'boys' got
nothing much, because they had been put on their feet. It was only when you
told me the other day, that I
knew what Wilfred had been left.
As regards getting together again I've no intention of doing any such thing.
I've had a dreadful 14 years & everybody here says I shouldn't live with him
again. They realise that I am very different from him in every way & they
can't understand why I haven't left him before.
I've been honourable enough to pay his debts which I ought to have left for
him. The bank manager tells me not to sell my home - W. can't claim it
nor am I responsible for any debts. He is responsible for mine - I have none.
[written sideways: "Furniture was bought when the vicarage was in my name
so he can't claim it in any case"]
So I'm sticking to my home, for which I have worked so hard, & for which I
shall get nothing if I sell.
You have no idea how many times W. has done the dirtiest tricks on me,
which have made me frightfully ill.
He has asked my forgiveness & got round me again,
& he is doing the same again.
But not this time! I'm having none. I'm sticking out on my own.
I find I've lots of friends with whom I can stay - in every
place where we have lived & I'll turn to them.
Until I get a post, I've to live on charity.
But I've no intention of dragging W. after me again.
If he can't realise his function as a priest & do as he should
without my constantly begging & praying of him to be "all right" before
a meeting etc: I'm not having the burden.
No, I'm not having him again - I won't have the unearthly struggle.
People have noticed how nerve-wracked I've been. Its hard to be natural.
As regards W. & friends, he never has made a friend. He's too
hob-nobly with everybody. Hence my position today.
I'm sorry now I didn't take the advice of Dr McNaghten. He told me not to part
with the £200 that was in my name. I did to help straighten things up, &
I've exactly £20 to receive?, & live up to goodness knows when.
But with the help of friends I
shall be all right until I take up a post.
If I get the Worcestershire post I shall be
looked after again. The people here (by people
I mean the gentle folk) have friends and relatives
up there, who are going to be asked to call on
me & look after me generally so I shall have a
very nice life. It is a beautiful spot, smack amongst
If I don't get it I shall rest a while, & not be in
a hurry. I'm desperately in need of a holiday.
Well, as I told you before, I wrote at the request of the
rural dean. I don't want you to think that I want anything
from anybody. As soon as I have got well again I shall
only be too eager to do something. I couldn't rest a year
as the R[ural] D[ean] wants me to do.
I'm going off today, to stay with relatives in London
in their home. If I've got the W[orcestershire] post,
I shall move into in August whether the house is
modernised or not - that can be done afterwards - &
I shall look forward to starting a new life. I'm
having no more shame & humiliation from W[ilfred].
I hope you & Ena are well,
PS. The cottage in W[orcestershire] is spacious & compact. I can
get all my furniture in. The rector is having it modernised if
I go in but I don't mind it as it is
The bank manager is helping me as much as possible. He told
W[ilfred] he wondered that I had stuck to him as I have.
W[ilfred] is begging & praying of me to forgive him & join
him again. He's going to live so different in the future! -
evidently frightened, without me. But he's not leaning
on me again. I'm going to be my old self again presently
when I'm well. No more burdens to carry.
Friday. [Written 1938]
Have you asked your sisters to help W[ilfred]. I hope something is
forthcoming from them - I don't want it for myself. The rural dean
pointed out that whether it is W[ilfred's] own fault or not he has
to be helped & if the parish can help so can his own family.
Choose what is wrong with him this is his last bid to get well. If he
doesn't get well, then he will be thrown back on his family to keep.
The rates won't keep him
while his family are as well off as they are.
At the present time he is living on his Church quarter pay which the bank
is advancing. The rural dean & I are responsible for that. If any money
send it to me, & I'll put it in that joint account. W[ilfred] is not
allowed to touch money at all.
I'm living as I can. He took £32 unknown to me of the last quarters
(July) pay. Altogether he has got through about £300 this last year.
I find he has been treating people.
Church pay only pays for home treatment. He has to have three months
rest after that to prove that he is alright for
another job. I have sold things & paid bills as far as I can. I can't
leave in debt. Some debts (insurances, hospital, etc) will have to
The people are backing me up now, more than they are him. They realise what
an awful life I've had. I've applied for a school of 20 children? with house
for 8/-? a week in lovely country in Worcestershire. I am qualified for it
& am backed up by everybody here. The rector there wants me, but I've to get
past a very sticky secretary of the Gloucestershire ed.com. Already ten
applicants have been turned down.
I cannot keep W[ilfred] & I've promised
that rector that W[ilfred] shall not live with me. No priest can stand another
in his parish. This rector has only been there three months - was dean of
Edinburgh - Bi[shop] Perry
People here say I ought not to live with W[ilfred] again.
I haven't told the rector what is wrong with W[ilfred]. Simply
said he was ill - in nursing home - & may not be fit to work again.
If I weren't breadwinner, I couldn't(?) have job of teaching.
Well write to me soon - have to report to rural dean about help.
You must do something. I've done my utmost for 14 years, am now
I don't want Worksop to know about drink - say anything. I want to
go back holding my head up. Strange how everybody predicted I should
have a husband who drank. Well, I made the wrong choice.
Thursday. [Written 1938]
Could you possibly come over for a day or two &
help me with Wilfred?
The parish is very good, but naturally they are asking
why you have not been over.
W[ilfred] has lost his job & I am going to sell up &
earn my own living. We haven't a bean except what I
shall have from the furniture.
He has forced my hand
to part with everything.
I can't stand the overwhelming burden of him any longer.
I'm trying to face things calmly. The doctor tells me
I can get a divorce. He has been drinking heavily & only just
now I've found out he owes £16 at one place.
I'm not going to pay it, as I asked all the pubs round
about not to receive? him on account of his illness, &
moreover as he'd got all our affairs into a muddle
at the bank, the manager
made things so that no cheque was acceptable without my signature
as well. He went into hospital Mar(ch?): (Srop? Hosp) for which I
still owe £7:10:0. He promised the bishop, & everyone concerned
that he wouldn't touch alcohol again - fatal to him, & he's been
having quite a lob?: Every day practically I've had to see him drunk.
He has been forbidden to drive the car. It will be sold. He has ruined
us. I don't know whether we can be helped by any societies or not, but
what I am going to ask you to do is to look
after him between you. I can do no more, & moreover
he spurns my help. Naturally I am the world's worst woman.
Really everybody marvels that I am sane, & all know I
have done my very best for him.
I feel convinced that if he kept off drink he'd be cured
of his illness. I've seen an improvement in it since
hospital treatment. Before he was asked to resign
(yesterday) a lady offered to pay expenses for
him to go into a home for a month or two to be looked
after (vest?) but I don't know now what she will do.
I shall see her tomorrow. If he got absolutely better
he could return to the church, but in
the meantime I must sell up for money & if he does start
in the church again it might be as a curate, so that he
doesn't have full responsibility, & we should go into diggs.
That is, if I decided to return to him. I certainly
shouldn't, for him to rob me again
It is a dreadful state of affairs. I can't believe it
has happened, & yet I've seen it coming.
Please do come,
With love to you both,
The doctor has just been & he tells me to sell up &
get out thereby saving expenses on this house.
I shall go back to my own people, for a time.
W[ilfred] might spend some time with you & some with
Winnie. I don't want Win here, nor do I want Worksop
mentioned, as we have very decent people here
related to Worksopians, & if the word leaks out
every thing & all the history will be delved into
The doctor says there is nothing wrong with W[ilfred]
except the craving for drink & he'll fleece me
white if delay.
If I have anything in my name or anything of my own
I am not tp part. He letts the biggest lies too.
Its a fearful world to live in, & I must escape for a time.
The doctor is going to see the bishop about a fresh start
if W[ilfred] can get better. He won't have me as guard or
nurse but he will, probably, have someone else.
When he was in the hospital for Tropical Diseases
first of all they said he had a bug making cists
on the nerves. Then epilepsy. Now drink - dipsomania,
& I'm sure it is the latter.
People have been wonderfully kind & patient & helpful,
but now they have lost respect. Two Sundays ago I
started to play the organ regularly & should
have had £25 per year for that. Everybody
was delighted with my playing too, & of course
I love it. But all my help seems in vain.
I started a new choir too.
I'm sacking John the houseboy,
to save money.
Tuesday. [Written 1938]
Note at top
Trips up to L[ondon] to see specialist on Friday.
This will be the 6th specialist I've had for him!
It is to decide about what kind of home he should
I'm too ill to write much, but it is at the
request of parishioners that I write at all.
A great deal has happened since you were here.
It boils down to the fact that I married an
abnormal person, given to drink, & under the
new law I can have a divorce.
People marvel that I am not insane after
what I have gone thro' - awfull shocks -
he has relieved me
of every penny - pension & insurances are gone, & I've
applied for a post to help myself. I've more than done
my duty to W[ilfred] & I've everybody's sympathy &
pity here, which rather hurts.
He has lost his job - the bishop gave him a chance,
& W[ilfred] didn't take it - now he is finished.
I told him where he was heading, but he wouldn't
listen to me.
The parishioners are rallying round me - offered
to keep me for three months while W[ilfred] is in
a home, & a collection is to be made, because naturally,
the question of
the cost of a house came up, & I had to lay
all the facts bare. I discovered I hadn't
even an insurance which I might have realised,
he has mortgaged. When I've paid all bills,
I've enough left to do a removal only. I'm
not paying any more of his (£16 at one pub).
I haven't been left alone until today, when I have
the rural dean & his wife coming - I'm afraid of myself.
It is taking me all my time to keep sane.
I don't need people to tell me I've been a brick
to him - I realise & did 14 years
ago, that he was a "wrong-un" & its been uphill work
to try to keep him straight. He's been too much for me.
Doctor asked me if he was full of deceit & lies
with some low traits & I had to admit that he was.
Dr advised me to sell up., get out & get a divorce -
said he'd leaned on me until he'd squeezed the last
ounce in every way. Gossip & scandal here are awful.
My people say I haven't to earn my own living, but I
can't sponge on them if I have my health.
W[ilfred] can go to pot - I'm not living with him any
Epilepsy, & the Eastern bug are washed out. Doctors now say,
Let me know when you are coming, as I shall have to let
other people know, to meet you.
I could kick myself to think how, over & over again,
I've saved every penny when I've been on leave,
to help us, & he's claimed the lot when he arrived
for unpaid bills.
I'm sorry I didn't spend it as Dad told me to do.
Everything has gone, & I don't know how to hold
my head up.
He could have gone far with my help, as everybody
says, but he chose to go his own way.
I even started to play the organ for £25 per year to
help us. People loved the playings (I mean the upper
know what they are talking about)
& I also started a new choir.
But everything is spoilt & gone.
I have applied for a post as teacher
with a little house available, so I might
be able to keep a little of my home.
I shall be far better off than I have
ever been in my married life. It has been
one long scrat? & worry, wondering how to
keep out of debt, when we could have been
I'm sorry I've wasted my life on such a
worthless creature, my talents & gifts,
especially for friendships - I am much
loved here - would have been greatly
valued by the right man. People are
more than disgusted with him.
The help they are giving is for my sake.
Excuse scraps of letter,
Sheffield Wombwell Sheffield
1863 Barnsley 1875 1876 Ecclesall 1874
Horace 1897 Edith Henry 1897 Emma
1945 | 1931 | 1920
| Barnsley | Sheffield
1899 | | | | | | |
George Wombwell 1899 1901 1904 Worksop 1903 1899 1901 1907
Wilfred 1924 Mabel Emily Beatrice 1928 Herbert Hilda Sydney William
PALMER=====v=====WAINWRIGHT m.1925 WAINWRIGHT=====v=====HARTLAND
Horace was station master at Shireoaks in 1911 Census
Wilfred was living at the Woodend Inn, near Worksop
The Woodhouse Inn c1923, Woodend, near Worksop, Notts.
Wilfred Palmer was born in 1899 at The Woodhouse Inn.
His father William Henry ran the
Inn from about 1902 until 1922 when he died. The Inn was then run by
Arnold Medley of Huddersfield, WHP's nephew.
Sometime about 1970, the Inn crossed
the road without changing its name. GWP's sisters Win and Gert and brother
Bernard were also
born at the old Inn. A pony and trap can be seen outside the main door.
The pony was kept in the field next to the small vegetable patch, and knew
its way to Worksop (and back) by itself. The old Inn is now a line of
attached houses on
Tranker Lane. Nearby is
on the Chesterfield Canal, into which Wilfred fell
when young but was rescued.
1911 Census for Woodhouse Inn, Worksop, Notts
PALMER William Henry Head Marr M 42 1869 Licensed Victualler NTHs Glapthorne
PALMER Mary Wife Marr 12yrs F 35 1876 Assisting In Business Notts Worksop
PALMER George Wilfred Son M 11 1900 Notts Worksop
PALMER Rose Winifred Dau F 8 1903 Notts Worksop
PALMER Charles Bernard Son M 5 1906 Notts Worksop
PALMER Gertrude Annie Dau F 2 1909 Notts Worksop
HIBBARD Richard Leonard Bro IL M 12 1899 Notts Worksop
ALLISON Rose Serv IL Sing F 16 1895 Domestic Servant Gen. Notts Worksop
1901 Census for Holme Carr, Shireoaks, Worksop, Notts
PALMER William H Head Marr M 30 1871 Coal Miner (Hewer) Glapthorne, NTHs
PALMER Mary Wife Marr F 25 1876 - Worksop, Notts
PALMER George W Son - M 1 1900 - Worksop, Notts
1911 Census for The Station House, Shireoaks, Worksop, Notts
WAINWRIGHT Horace Head Marr M 48 1863 Station Master Sheffield Yorks
WAINWRIGHT Edith Wife Marr 14yrs F 36 1875 Wombwell Yorks
WAINWRIGHT Mabel Dau F 12 1899 School Wombwell Yorks
WAINWRIGHT Emily Dau F 10 1901 School Leigh Lancs
WAINWRIGHT Beatrice Dau F 7 1904 School Wombwell Yorks
1901 Census for 150 Plank Lane, Wombwell, Yorkshire
WAINWRIGHT Horace Head Marr M 39 1862 Railway Station Master Sheffield Yorks
WAINWRIGHT Edith Wife Marr F 24 1877 - Wombwell Yorks
WAINWRIGHT Mabel Dau - F 2 1899 - Wombwell Yorks
WAINWRIGHT Emily Dau - F 0 1901 - Abram Lancs
HUTCHINSON Charlotte Sis-IL Single F 14 1887 - Brampton Yorks
Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded,
and copyright © 2011, John Palmer, All Rights Reserved.