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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

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Easter 2017 issue

Alfred Thomas Osmond’s Diary and Letters

Continuing the series of diaries and letters of Alfred Thomas Osmond, relating to his sea voyage from Southampton to Calcutta and his early months in Calcutta, 1852-1853. Alfred Osmond was the son of Rosemary Monk’s Great great great Grandfather William, who was a stonemason at Salisbury Cathedral.

Alfred Osmond – 2nd letter
The P&O Ship Bentinck
Anchored at Santa Cruz

Friday Nov.26 1852

My dear Father,

As the steamer which was expected has not yet arrived I will give you a few lines this morning, which you will receive at the same time as my first letter. We have been detained here longer than we expected – the coaling is such a slow process. I have spent some time on shore and have seen all the towns in the place. On Wednesday my first call was to find out Mr Davidson. His place of business is near to the landing place and I was delighted to find his son Robert (who was in England in the summer) with him. My friend Mr Bray (our doctor) was with me and they kindly invited us both to dine with them the following day. They have a nice villa a short distance from the town with a good garden – all in capital style. Mr D invited the English Consul (Mr Murray) to meet us, and we spent a most delightful evening. Mr Murray is an enthusiast in music – has a fair voice and good taste. I was obliged to do what I could in the way of accompanying as Mrs D. is quite out of practice. Mr Murray is related to Mr Stephen Mills and knows several people in Wiltshire. Mrs Davidson of course knows many Salisbury people, among others she remembers Mr Fisher and Mr  Mackrell. There are only 3 or 4 English families here, so they are delighted to meet their countrymen and are extremely hospitable. Our captain and his lady, the doctor and myself are invited to go to the theatre this evening with the Consul and Mrs D and we shall see all the rank and fashion of Teneriffe. I have not time to say much now of the place, you shall have a copy of my diary next time I write. The streets are full of half naked children of whom Murillo’s Beggar Boys are the exact type. I am expecting Robert Davidson and the Consul on board every minute so I must soon conclude this as I may not have another opportunity of posting it. We shall probably leave tomorrow evening or Sunday morning, and shall have about 30 days to the Cape (D.V.) I will send you a full report. I think I omitted in my first letter to tell you our Captain’s name. It is Bourchier, pronounced strangely enough Boucher.

With love to all, believe me, Your ever affectionate son – Alfred T Osmond   

 NB We can’t prepay letters here.

Diary of voyage from Southampton to Calcutta cont.

Nov, 24 – 1852

Anchored at Santa Cruz, Teneriffe this morning. We went ashore at 1 o’clock with the doctor and soon learned that Mr Davidson’s place of business was near. Called and saw Mrs D and also his son Robert and received an invitation for both to dine there tomorrow. Walked about town for two hours. It is said to be a fair specimen of a Spanish town. There are no showy shops as in England. A shoemaker or tailor may be seen working at their respective trades through a half open door, but there is no attempt at display. There is an English Consul here. Our Captain paid him a visit as soon as we arrived and also the Governor of the islands, who is of course a Spaniard.  In every street we saw numbers of barelegged ragged boys, reminding us forcibly of Murillo. Saw a few dark eyed Spanish ladies with their attendant duennas. They wear a very graceful head dress of black lace and satin, which falls over the shoulders, called a mantilla.  A crack regiment of Spanish soldiers is quartered here. Tidy looking men enough, but will not bear comparison with the British soldier. Entered a large church called the Church of the Conception, which is very plain and poor looking outside, and very gaudy within. Sundry altars gaily painted and gilded. Black and white chequered marble floor. No pews or benches. The building is of no particular style, meant for Roman. Saw a good example of the jolly fat monk. The streets are partially paved with a rough of stone in small pieces, the carriageways pitched with flints or round pebbles. None of the buildings have any architectural pretensions externally. They are merely plain blocks and generally plastered and whited. Houses are built somewhat according to the Moorish Plan. An open court in the centre with fountain or shrubs and flowers and with the staircase and galleries to surround it. We went to the Richardson’s English Hotel and paid 3 shillings for a bottle of execrable wine, not unlike a weak solution of vinegar with a little honey in it! There is a theatre here apparently of large size. Most of the women I saw were of the lower class – the dark eyes, long lashes and olive complexion of the Spanish meet you at every turn. These women wear a cloth on the head, with a felt hat, like the English Chapeau, or a straw hat upon it – the cloth falls down over the shoulders, rather picturesque effect, especially when gaudy colours are worn. The countenances of some of the old women are very grim, they would make capital witches in Macbeth!

The Peak is about 15 miles from Santa Cruz as the crow flies, but it is difficult of approach – 45 or 50 miles would scarcely get you up to it. There are only 3 or 4 English families at Santa Cruz – no protestant chapel, but they meet at the Consul’s house. The population is about 12,000 – crowds of dirty children in the streets, whose only covering is a coarse shirt though it is their winter!  Saw a public fountain of dark grey stone which was erected a few years ago. Water trickles from 5 lions heads which are some 10 or 12 feet from the ground. The women were filling their barrels by means of bamboo canes (which they apply to the mouths of the lions forming a kind of pipe) gossiping meantimes with a volubility I never heard excelled – these barrels they adroitly carry on the head. Met the chief steward of our vessel by appointment at 3.30 and left the island in time for dinner on the Bentinck. Steward arranged the price of the boat which we hired – we paid 10d each. It is always necessary to make a bargain first or the villains will cheat you. Found the “coaling” going on when we reached the vessel. Coal dust flies all over the place even penetrating your trunks and boxes. Much struck with the picturesque appearance of the swarthy half naked Spaniards engaged in heaving the coal. Played backgammon with the doctor in the evening.

Thursday November 25th.

Fine morning and very warm. Thermometer stands at 80. Went ashore in one of the ship’s boats at 1.30 with the surgeon, Mr Angood (3rd) and Mr Fox (4th) Officers. Took the 2 latter to Richardson’s where they obtained horses and went to Laguna, a town a few miles inland. Doctor and myself then went to Mr Davidson’s. Robert D took us to a shoemakers where doctor purchased a pair of white leather shoes for 2 dollars (about 8/6). We then went to a kind of general shop and purchased  two straw hats (or sombreros) for about 10d each. Mr D then left us to wander about town, appointing half past four for us to call and go with them to dinner. We entered the same church we saw yesterday and were shown various Chapels and Oratories etc with figures of the Virgin etc., gaudily tricked out. In this Church they have procured some small Union Jacks as trophies of their success against Lord Nelson. They show these flags with no little pride. Paid a visit to another Church (San Francisco) very similar in character to the first, but more highly ornamented. Ragged boys showed us the wonders of both Churches – we recompensed them with a quartz each (1/3 of a penny!) with which they seemed delighted.  At 4.30 called on Mr Davidson who drove us to his Country House, which is just above the town in a good situation, surrounded by a capital garden. It is a capital little house, quite an English villa and nicely furnished – was built by Mr D. He had invited the English Consul (Mr Murray) to meet us and we spent a most delightful evening. Mr Murray is a most agreeable person, passionately fond of music. We had an excellent dinner – a variety of wines, including champagne and Teneriffe (local wine). Tasted the banana, a very luscious fruit, also the guava, which has an excellent flavour, but a very pungent odour, which I think very unpleasant. After dinner we had some music. Songs by the Consul, accompanied by myself!! After a fashion. Songs performed by Consul, Doctor and myself, Mrs D accompanying. We left at 9 o’clock – self, doctor and Robert Davidson on foot, the Consul on pony – sang opera airs in chorus on our way into town. The Consul knows Mr S. Mills and sundry other Wiltshire worthies. One of the jolliest fellows I ever met – gives private concerts in his house. Captain and Mrs Bourchier, Doctor and myself invited to go to the theatre tomorrow night where we shall see the rank and fashion of Teneriffe. When we arrived at the landing place we were obliged to ask permission to leave shore (being after 9 o’clock) of the officer on guard. This is a mere form and was immediately granted. The boat we hired was moored 30 – 40 yards from shore. 2 of the crew stripped (a process which did not occupy much time) and plunged in to get her. They rowed us to the Bentinck in this state, quite unconcernedly, to our great amusement. As it was so late we were obliged to pay ¾ of a dollar ( about 3/2d)

to be continued