Updated 17 Jun 2014

Wilfred and Mabel 1938

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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.

Letter 1 | Letter 2 | Letter 3 | Letter 4 | Tree | Birthplace | Census |

Letter 1

Tuesday. [Written 1938]

Dear Bernard,
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 the aristocracy.
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,
With love,
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.

Letter 2

Friday. [Written 1938]

Dear Bernard,
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 stand over. 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 helpless.
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.

Letter 3

Thursday. [Written 1938]

Dear Bernard,
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.

Letter 4

Tuesday. [Written 1938]

Note at top
----Cancelled----- 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 go to.

Dear Bernard,
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 more.
Epilepsy, & the Eastern bug are washed out. Doctors now say, drink addict. 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 ten who 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 comfortable.
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
          WAINWRIGHT=====v=====HUTCHINSON                  HARTLAND=====v=====WARBURTON
          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
1944                          Ernest

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 Haggonfields Lock 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.