Collection AR168 - Diary/Commonplace Book of John Blake

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Diary/Commonplace Book of John Blake


  • 19 Aug 1819 - 11 May 1840 (Creation)

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Biographical history

John Blake lived at 65, Park Lane, Croydon. He appears on the 1851 census as an auctioneer, aged 69 alongside three servants named as Rebecca Standing aged 40 years, Sarah Standing aged 19years and Amelia Skinner aged 38years. His birthplace is given as Surrey, Croydon. He died at his residence in Park Lane on the 23rd February 1852 aged 72 years.

A tribute was published in The Surrey Standard of 28 February 1852 and was subsequently printed for private circulation. The Local Studies Library holds a copy. The following excerts from that publication sum up the character of the man and read Not only was he a great labourer in the business of life, but even his recreations would have been labours to many; for with the exception of the hours spent in social discourse with his numerous friends, whom he delighted to make happy around him, the pauses in his professional labours were chiefly devoted to important works for the benefit of others. His guardianship of the poor, the management of public charities, the duties of trustee for families not related to him, and the dispensation, with discrimination mixed with warm hearted benevolence, of his numerous private charities, were his mode of unbending or refreshing his mind after the labours of business

He had a strong natural common sense and sound judgement ...a natural simplicity of character...a straightforward plainess of manner and intention , and a candour and openness of heart, which enabled every one who knew him to see, as it were, beneath the surface of his character , and to percieve and feel the integrity and the benevolence that formed its basis. These qualities it was that gained him the warm esteem, and the most implicit confidence of all who knew him

It seems that in the absence of wife or children a large portion of Mr Blakes extensive possessions will devolve, we presume, on his nephew, and partner in business, whose amiable disposition, good business habits, and well known integrity, render him a worthy object to recieve the falling mantle of his lamented relative, and a fit successor to follow in his good uncles steps of charity and utility.

Archival history

Donated to Croydon Library by Edward Hall Manuscript Dealer of Gravesend in 1960.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Accession Number: A483

Diary/Commonplace book of John Blake

Blake lived at Park Lane, Croydon - he appears on the 1851 census as an auctioneer, aged 69. Volume includes diary entries; lists of charitable subscriptions, weekly pensioners and Christmas gifts; copies of correspondence, mainly with friends and relatives.

Item date: 1821-1840

Accession date: Feb 1960

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Scope and content

The volume includes diary entries, lists of charitable subscriptions, weekly pensioners, Christmas gifts and copies of correspondence, mainly with friends and relatives.

The pages are numbered as folios, mostly in pencil, some have been written over in ink. Since the figures seem to match the writing , it is a fair assumption that they were written by the author, a fact which is further confirmed by the use of the folio numbers in the index at the back.

The volume appears to fall into fairly distinct sections; the first few pages are reflections, followed by folios 5 to 9 which refer to the Christmas gifts given by John Blake in 1830 and further entries of monetary gifts. He lists many gifts of meat, wine and money along with the names of the recipients and their role. There is mention of his gifts of food and money to the great alms house and the Elys Daveys alms houses [ folio 7]. Since such activities may not be recorded elswhere, it is of particular interest in that he lists the names of inmates to whom he gave alms.

From folio 8 there follows a series of diary/day entries beginning January 1 1831 until May 12 1832 [folio 29] in which he records personal events of note. The next section marked Private Correspondence begins February 7 1821 [folio 43] continuing until September 29 1835 [folio 80] and largely contains copies of correspondence both personal and business sent by John Blake. The volume also includes an original letter placed loosely inside addressed to John Blake from W Hexter? of Eton College dated 26 September 1841complete with seal. A further loose page, seemingly added much later, numbers the letters which total 42 most of which seem to be to a Henry Cummins.

The next part is entitled Soup making for the poor [folio 87] listing ingredients and costs, covering the period from December 12 1839 to January 5 1841and has all the appearance of yet another charitable activity that John Blake was involved in. Thereafter, follows a section entitled Miscellaneous Memoranda [folio 105] beginning in December 1820 written at intervals until December 1844 [folio 116]. Here John Blake recounts events of everyday life ranging from the death of an acquaintance and the cause [folio 114] to the purchase and subsequent sale of a horse after a bad fall [folio 114] This also includes a section marked Trusts I hold for deceased persons and survivors [folio 113] which covers the period 1832 to 1841.The final section entitled Annual Subscriptions begins at folio 120 covering the years 1820 to 1848 and includes mention of those subscriptions made to the Croydon Literary and Scientific Institution [folio 122]. The volume ends with a short index at the back.

Two further items worthy of particular note for their information and social comment are in the first instance, an account of a journey from London to Birmingham headed Journey to Birmingham by the Crown Prince Coach which leaves the Kings Arms Inn at Snow Hill at half past six am. The document lists names of places on route, along with time of arrival, distance from London, expenses and occasional remarks. The dates of the journey are verified on the reverse Birmingham journey. Left London May 20 1826 and act.d? on Tuesday the 23. The second is the note written on the inside front cover which reads 3 July/45 signed a paper against the Wandle Water Company Scheme M Wade latterly of ... A cursory view of the rest of the volume fails to offer any further explanation of this comment.

John Blakes charitable subscriptions are testament to his philanthropic activities. He appears to have been a man of some social standing living in reasonable comfort with three servants and from the contents of his letters and diary entries was often asked to assist friends and neighbours in an official capacity by acting as godfather [August 17 1832] [folio 77] , executor [April 1832] [folio 113] and trustee [April 1832 - September 1841] [folio 113]. Although many of the entries relate to personal events, John Blakes diary/commonplace book stands as a fair social comment on the time.

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  • English

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The Local Studies Library holds a copy of ATribute to the Memory of the Late Mr. John Blake of Croydon [from The Surrey Standard of 28 February 1852] printed for private circulation S70 (92) BLA

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