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Susannah Dalbiac’s Almanack

October 24, 2018
by the gentle author

Margaret Nairne brought her great-great-great-great-aunt’s diary to show me. It is an Almanack of 1776 belonging to fourteen-year-old Susannah Dalbiac, whose father Charles Dalbiac was a silk & velvet merchant who ran the family business with his brother James at 20 Spital Sq. The Dalbiacs were Huguenots and Susannah’s grandfather escaped France as a youth in a hamper in July 1681 after his parents and three sisters were murdered. At the opening of the diary in January 1776, London was suffering a Great Frost with temperatures as low as minus eighteen degrees. (You can click on any diary page to enlarge it)

Monday JANUARY 1st 1776

Mama & Lucy drank tea at Mrs Martin’s. I stayed at home to make tea for Papa and Cousin James

Tuesday

Papa & Cousin James Dalbiac went to Town before Dinner.

Wednesday

Mama went to Town in the Coach at nine o’clock, took Harriet & Nurse with her. The man came to take down the Organ.

Thursday

We worked at our muffs, drew and did the same as when Mama is at home.

Friday

The man finished packing up the organ. We finished our muffs.

Saturday

I was very glad to see Papa and Mama. They came to dinner. Mama was so good as to make a present of a fan and an Almanack.

Sunday

We did not go to Church. We read a sermon in the morning… The text was Felix’s behaviours towards Paul explained.

Monday JANUARY 15th

Mr Cooke call’d in the morning. They play’d at Quadrille in the evening.

Tuesday

Papa went to town. Mama read Cyrus in the evening.

Wednesday

At Home alone.

Thursday

Mama read Cyrus in the evening.

Friday

Papa came down to dinner. They play’d at Quadrille in the evening.

Saturday

Papa took a ride in the morning to Admiral Geary’s. They play’s at Quadrille in the evening.

Sunday

We read a sermon in the morning, the text was National Mercies considered. I wrote what I understood by it. I kept up a hundred at Battledore Shuttlecock with Miss Watson.

Monday MARCH 11th

Went to Town. Took CM. Din’d at GM’s. Came back to tea. Mama drank tea at Mr Sebly’s. We at home with CM. Papa went to Bookham.

Tuesday

CKL & CM drank tea here. DK slept here.

Wednesday

Papa came to tea. Sally & Frank came to dinner from Bookham.

Thursday

Papa went to Town. We took a ride with Mama & Aunt L to Hackney. Papa came to Dinner.

Friday

Mama took a ride in the Phaeton with Papa.

Saturday

Papa went to Town. Came back to dinner, Papa went to Mr Paris’s. At home with Mama, Lucy and CM.

Sunday

Went to church with CL & we din’d here Papa & Mama drank tea at Uncle Lamotte’s.

(Susannah mistakenly entered her grandmother’s death on the wrong date and crossed it out)

Monday APRIL 1st

Aunt Lamotte went to town with Papa. Came back to tea. They all came in the evening. Grandmama very ill.

Tuesday

Papa went to town. Took CM with him. Came back to tea.

Wednesday

Aunt & Uncle Lamotte went to town with Papa. Aunt and Uncle came back to tea. We spent the day with Mama at Uncle Lamotte’s.

Miss Louise Delaporte

Thursday

Aunt & CL went to town with Papa. Aunt & Uncle came back to tea. We spent the day with Mama at Uncle Lamotte’s.

Grandmama died at four in the evening. Though expected at her age it is always a great loss. She was 84 next July

Friday

Aunt and CL went to Town Came back to dinner with Papa. They spent the evening here. CM came in the morning.

Friday

Papa went to town. Came back to tea. Mama drank tea at Uncle Lamotte’s. CM came here.

Saturday

Went to town with Papa, Uncle and Aunt L & CL who was so good as bespeak some mourning for us, Mama not being well enough. Saw G’mama. Did not find her much alter’d.

Sunday

CL came in the morning. We drank tea at Uncle Lamotte’s. Papa came down in the evening.

Monday APRIL 22nd

Drank tea at Uncle Lamotte’s where we met Uncle Dalbiac’s family

Tuesday

CK call’d. Papa slept in town

Wednesday

Papa came to dinner. Mr Paul and Peter L [..?] spent the day here

Thursday

CM spent the day here. CK called

Friday

Papa went to town. We spent the day at Uncle Lamotte’s

Saturday

CK call’d in the afternoon with MJ Lamotte.

Sunday

Went to church with CK. Sukey din’d here. CM came in the morning.

(Susannah’s own mother had died young and her stepmother gave birth to a baby boy in April.)

Monday APRIL 29th

Mama rather low at little boys going out to nurse. We drank at Uncle. Aunt came here to tea and CL in the evening. Note on opposite page - The little boy went out to nurse upon the Forest the nurse not being able to come.

Tuesday

Papa went to town

Wednesday MAY 1st

Went with nurse Flaxman to see the little boy. Found him very well

Thursday

Staid at home. Aunt Ch CS Dalbiac drank tea here

Friday

Went with nurse Flaxman to see the little boy

Saturday

Papa went to Uncle Lamotte’s in the evening where he met a great many people

Sunday

Went to church with CKL. After church we went with CM to fetch little boy. She spent the day with us.

Monday MAY 13th

Sir John Silvester came to see mama, she was so very low. CK call’d

Tuesday

Sir John Silvester came. Papa went to town came back at night

Wednesday

Papa went to town. Came back for tea.

Thursday

Sir John Silvester came

Friday

Papa went, came to back to tea. Took a ride after tea to see little boy. Found him very well. Call’d on Uncle Lamotte

Saturday

Sir John Silvester came. Ordered mama today a bed till Monday as had a little rash. CM drank tea here.

Sunday

There was no service. Took a ride with Papa & Aunt Lamotte. Called at Uncle Dalbiac.

(Sir John Silvester was a doctor from the French Hospital and one of the top physicians of the day)

(Susannah records her winnings at Quadrille on the right hand page)

Monday JUNE 10th

We drank tea at Mrs Brickendon’s with Mr and Mrs B and C. Walles. Met Mr ? and Mr Forbes

Tuesday

At Home. Play’d at Quadrille in the evening

Wednesday

Mr and Mrs Jourdan came down to dinner. Mrs Fellen and Mrs Draper dined here. Played at Piquet with Mr Barbut.

Thursday

Mrs Brickendon and Miss Streton drank tea here.

Friday

Drank tea at Mrs Brickendon. Lucy played at cards after they came home. Went halfs with her.

Saturday

Drank tea at Mrs Fellen’s. Mr Barbut came down in the Phaeton

Sunday

Went to Church with Miss Barbut. Mrs Rose & Mrs Forbes. Drank tea here.

Monday JUNE 24th

Spent the day at Uncle Lamotte’s. Slept there. Left Wanstead Lane.

Tuesday

In the Morning Papa tooke with the Phaeton to Uncle Dalbiac’s. Took a walk in the evening to see Harriet with Aunt.

Wednesday

At home alone.

Thursday

Spent the day at Sir J Silvester’s with Aunt & Uncle, CL & CM. We had a very agreeable day.

Friday

At home all day

Saturday

We went with Aunt in the morning to see little boy. Found him very well at 1 0’clock Mr Gallie called in the coach. We went with him to Uncle Lamotte’s

Monday JULY 1st

The coach came for us after Dinner to go to Town. Found Mama very well which made me quite happy

Tuesday

Went with mama the other end of Town in the morning. Very busy all day.

Wednesday

We all went down to Uncle Lamotte’s in the evening.

Thursday

Went to Town in the morning. CL & CM with us. We all went to Vauxhall in the evening & I found it much greater than my expectations as I had never see it before. In the morning we saw little Harriet and little boy.

Friday

Very busy all day. Mr Laport din’d with us. He came from New Providence to see Grandmama his sister but was disappointed.

Saturday

We set out a journey…

There is a gap in Susannah Dalbiac’s diary between 6th July and 14th October, after which she is in Paris and from then on many of the entries are written in French. It may be that her stepmother’s illness led the family to return to France where she had relatives or that the turbulence of the Weavers’ Riots in Spitalfields at this time caused James Dalbiac to withdraw his business. Susannah never married or had children but, living with her sister Louisa, she died at her brother-in-law Peter Luard’s house, Blyborough Hall, Lincolnshire in 1842, aged eighty.

Dr Kathy Chater will be showing portraits and discussing the lives of Huguenot Women at 2pm tomorrow, Thursday 25th October at the Guildhall Art Gallery, EC2V 5AE.

Click here for tickets

You may also like to take a look at

The Huguenots of  Spitalfields

3 Responses leave one →
  1. October 24, 2018

    Susannah was born around 100 years after her grandfather and great uncle were smuggled to England from France as very small boys hidden in a hamper. Shockingly, the little boys’ father, who smuggled his boys out of the country, had lost his father and mother, his three sisters and four of his five brothers, all of whom were murdered during the persecutions in France. They found sanctuary in London along with thousands of other Huguenots fleeing religious persecution at the time. You can read more about Susannah, her life and her connection to Spitalfields at http://www.huguenotgirl.com.

  2. Ruth Fleming permalink
    October 24, 2018

    What a remarkable and rich portal into the world of Susannah Dalbiac. Absolutely fascinating.

  3. October 25, 2018

    Sadly, this historical document reminds me of how restrictive women’s lives were in the past. Although too well-to-do to need to work for a living, the constant round of tea, church and occasional trips as documented by Susannah seems stifling. It may not have seemed so to ladies of the time but the lack of purpose hits the modern reader with some force.

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