Review of ‘The Jabez Bradwell Diary’, by the Bradwell Historical Society

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by the Bradwell Historical Society
ISBN 0-9529227-0-3 (2004)

Jabez Bradwell, born in 1856, shared his name with his home village, where he lived a spartan existence as a lead miner, sometime lime burner, farmer, road maker and labourer.

He recorded important events in his life on a small paper pad written in pencil. In the mid-1990s the faded and barely legible writing was painstakingly deciphered and Bradwell Historical Society published the diary. Copies have long been unobtainable but the Society has now printed a limited re-run. Helpful comments add to the transcript, 'translating' some of the dialect and revealing more about the characters known to Jabez.

One important milestone in his life took place in August 1878: 'Shaved for the first time on Wed.' He has much more to say when it comes to accidents in the lead mines and other incidents, mentioning names and occupations which may be of interest to family historians. 'Feeling badly' was a regular occurrence in the Bradwell household, especially with quinsies, and in wintertime it must have been difficult to keep warm. One year it 'snowed very hard' in early May, having snowed every month since November. In the better weather there were outings to magic lantern shows, village wakes, Hope Show, a waxworks show and an intriguing experience in 1879 when 'I went to Castleton to British Association showing Electric Light'.

Jabez fell in love with a local girl, Anna Burrows, and by the autumn of 1881 he was confiding to his diary: 'Anna and me talking at our being made one'. But then Anna became very poorly and their love story ends in heartbreak with the words: 'Anna [Died] Saturday age 22 years.' Jabez scribbled over earlier diary entries mentioning her name, and at 69 he died a bachelor, leaving behind this fascinating insight into one man's life in the Peak.

Review by Julie Bunting

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