I recently catalogued the research papers and archive material collected by local historian Michael Boyes. The collection forms the basis of his two books ‘A Victorian Rector and Nine Old Maids’ and ‘Dying for Glory: The Adventurous Lives of Five Cotswold Brothers’ and tell the story of Robert Le Marchant, the Rector of Little Rissington, his wife Eliza and their fifteen children.
It includes photograph albums, scrapbooks and sketch books, but mainly comprises letters written by five of the six Le Marchant sons to their family at home. Edward, Evelyn, Louis, Basil and Cecil travelled the world pursuing their careers in the army and navy during the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s. Their letters describe the conditions they endured with details of places they visited and people they met. They mention how much they miss their family and the Vicarage’s garden, especially the fernery and sitting beneath the tulip tree.
As 1 April to 4 May is National Pet Month it inspired me to focus my blog on the pets the family cared for, animals very different to those we consider pets today. While serving overseas the brothers frequently wrote home about the animals they had. Evelyn wrote to his Father in about 1885 from HMS Wild Swan and told him that the ship’s monkey and cat have tried to ‘commit suicide’. In 1889 Louis, while in Ranikhet [India], wrote to his Mama to say that his dog has been ‘carried off’ by a leopard. Edward included a sketch of his dog Belle in a letter to one of his siblings. A few years earlier, in about 1875, he told his sister his news in the form of a poem while in Thayetmyo, Burmah. It includes the sorry tale of the death of his monkey, shot by Colonel Standfield (see image).
According to Michael Boyes the family appear to have been avid nature lovers catching and identifying species of moths, recording the bird’s nests found in the nearby countryside, adopting a family of water rats by the local brook and looking after a dozen young rooks for a short period. As well as the usual dogs and cats the family also had tame and caged parrots, canaries, a cockatiel, doves, rabbits, a tortoise, piglets, foxes (including Jimmy seen in the photograph below) and a bonnet macaque named Jacko. This appears to have been brought home by one of the brothers.
Apparently, Jacko was kept in the kitchen as it was the warmest place in the house, but was let out on a long leash. It was smelly and badly behaved and had a habit of jumping at people and frightening them. The family nearly lost their cook as she threatened to quit because of him. Jacko lived with the family for five years before he was given to Bristol Zoo.
Michael Boyes’ books, which include lots of images from the collection, are available in the searchroom. Details of the archive material can be found under the reference D13099 in our online catalogue.