Emma Quinton/Barton – Isle of Wight in 1874-78
Emma was the eldest child of George Quinton and Sarah Fielder of Newport on the Isle of Wight. She was the mother of Alfred Quinton Barton and the grandmother of Helen Barton/Kegie. In later life, Emma moved to Dunfermline in Scotland to live with her daughter Evelyn Kate Barton/Silvester (known as Lyn) and died there in 1931.
Amongst her possessions was this diary, which is now in the possession of Ann Silvester/Thorp in Scotland, one of her granddaughters. The original diary was written in a hard-backed notebook in lavender ink, as that was her favourite colour. It is now very faded, but this typescript was produced “…with all the spelling and punctuation of the original manuscript” by Erich J.J.M. Lichtenberg at Salzburg, Austria, in November 1989. Erich married Helen Silvester, another of the granddaughters in Scotland.
The diary begins on 1st January, 1874, just six days before Emma’s nineteenth birthday.
Emma’s attitude to life is clearly guided by her deep religious faith and her entries abound with references to religion. It is immediately apparent from her very first diary entry that her faith is central to Emma’s way of life when she refers to “My Heavenly Father” and the “Celestial City”. In fact, Emma’s social life seems to revolve mainly around the activities of the church. Emma attended the Baptist Chapel while her father, sister Nettie (Annetta) and their friend Fred (Alfred Barton, who she later married) are members of the Plymouth Brethren. Emma’s father, George Quinton, who was a grocer and tallow chandler, also seemed to have been a lay preacher in his spare time and he travelled to other villages to preach the word.
On a Sunday Emma attended church in the morning, took a Sunday School class in the afternoon and went to chapel again in the evening. During the week she regularly attended Bible classes and united prayer meetings and was clearly moved by their religious fervour.
Infant mortality was very high at the time and Emma was no stranger to early death. She comments on her siblings who had already “gone to Heaven”. Her sister Alice had died aged two in 1860 and her sister Nellie (Ellen) had died in 1869 aged thirteen, with only one year between Emma and Ellen. She had also lost two brothers: Alfred had died in 1866 soon after birth, while Frank Fielder had died in 1872 only one year old.
Central to Emma’s diary is the development of her relationship with Fred Barton, who was a frequent visitor at Emma’s home, calling in most evenings. Emma explains how it was due to the influence of her father that Fred had been converted to his religious faith.
What is particularly interesting in Emma’s entries is her description of her feelings towards Fred and how they gradually deepened. At first she seemed almost embarrassed by his attentions and especially the remarks made by other people. She was also unsure at first about how she felt about him and thought carefully about whether she should accept his birthday present of a “beautiful book” in case it might be construed as her making some sort of commitment.
Emma describes vividly and poignantly the variety of emotions they both experienced as their relationship progressed including Fred’s misplaced jealousy of Joe Pearless, their gentle teasing of each other, their lovers’ quarrels, their doubts about the depth of each other’s feelings, the happy times they spent together and Emma’s sadness and disappointment when she discovered that Fred had lapsed in his abstinence from alcohol and had gone for a drink in the Watermans Public House.
They became engaged on 5th July 1875 and married on 20th September 1876, beginning their married life living in Sandown, which neither of them liked. However, Fred soon found a job and they moved back to Newport in early March 1877.
On Tuesday 19th February Emma confides that she is expecting a child that summer: “God is going to give us a dear little baby”.
The final entry in Emma’s diary is dated 21st March 1878 and it ends with Emma once again reaffirming her religious faith by expressing her thanks and gratitude to God that her prayers to move had been answered.
Emma lived and worked in a shop in Newport owned by Mr and Mrs King and when she finished work at 7.30p.m. in the evening she would then go and visit her family. As well as mentioning the family members, Emma also referred to individuals in her local community, her friends and neighbours.
In Emma’s diary we also find reference to topical issues of the time such as the marriage of the Grand Duchess Marie of Prussia to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria, which took place on 23rd January 1874 at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg. To celebrate this occasion there was a torchlight procession through the streets of Newport and trees had been planted and arches had been erected up the High Street.
Emma also mentions the new tune ‘Penitentia’, which had been written to the hymn ‘Abide with Me’, which was composed by Edward Dearle.