Emily Shore was an observant and precocious diarist. She was born and brought up in Suffolk, but in 1831, as she explains in a preface to her journal from this year, she and her four siblings were ‘taken ill at once with a most dreadful fever, and were all very dangerously ill. When we were all recovered in some degree, so as to be able to walk, and were nearly as strong in health, papa and mamma determined to take us to Broadstairs, to spend the summer holidays by the seaside.’1

Emily’s first impressions of Thanet were not entirely favourable. On 6 July she writes, ‘The country about Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate is odious. The soil is chalky, scarce a tree is to be seen, and a hill would be a wonder. The cliffs of chalk have not a broken edge anywhere, and are perfectly the same for miles’. But if the countryside was disappointing and the journey ‘very hot, dusty and fatiguing’, Broadstairs itself offered a more picturesque view and Emily was immediately captivated by the sea, which none of the children had ever seen before, ‘indeed it broke most beautifully on our sight, of the brightest blue, and perfectly calm.’2

The journal includes detailed accounts of flora and fauna, a healthy interest that was actively encouraged among middle class girls of the time despite its scientific basis. Emily enthuses:
A great deal of seaweed is to be found here. One sort is of a shining red brown, or a little like damson colour; it is shaped like a long strap of leather; the consistence of it is also leathery. Another grows like a plant on rocks; its peculiarity is that the leaves are covered with a singular kind of ball inflated with air, which when broken, snaps with a loud hollow noise. Another sort has similar excrescences, but which are oval and juicy, and of a jelly-like substance. A third sort is of nothing but a multitude of long, fine red hairs, unbranched, and growing from the same root all together. An extremely beautiful species looks like a collection of very small pink ribbons; this, if I remember right, is a little branched. Some of the hair-like kinds are branched, and there are some which are composed of jointed tubes.3

She is equally conscientious about recording the flowers she finds, remarking somewhat unnecessarily that ‘I am very fond of botany.’ Despite her convalescent state, Emily is clearly an active scrambler over rocks and cliffs, writing in detail about her investigations:
Though I have looked in vain for samphire and eryngo, which grow near the sea, yet the wild mignonette, which I never saw before, is plentiful on the rocks, as well as another flower, called the little Bermedick. It is a papilionaceous flower, of a yellow colour, and unbranched; the flowers grow in a large woolly tuft on the top of the stalk. The yellow toad’s-flax is also to be found, and I once saw, on the rock, a splendid scabious, or a rich crimson-purple colour, which is often seen in gardens, and has a strong sweet scent. Lastly, a sort of red valerian, a very pretty flower, grows on the cliffs.4

Mrs Shore appears not to have shared this fascination with the natural features of Thanet, her only recorded comment on Broadstairs being that ‘it has not enough company to make it lively, but it has too much to make it retired.’5

She may have preferred Ramsgate, described by Emily as ‘a large and rather handsome town, with a noble harbour and a great deal of shipping’6 and where they went to see the printing going on at Burgess’s Library. Again Emily gives a long and detailed description of the process, from the wooden compartments containing letters, which she notes ‘are not arranged alphabetically, but according as they are most wanted, to the ‘roller, composed of glue, isinglass, and some other elastic materials’ used to ink the types which are then pressed on to the paper.7 On her return home Emily expended time and money on pasteboard and paints to make a model of the Broadstairs steam-packet, which she furnished and painted in punctilious detail.

It comes as no surprise to find her back in Kent in 1835, eagerly following the work going on in Chatham Dockyard, from the hammering of the fluke of an anchor to the steam-engine in the suffocatingly hot saw-room. She comments too on a visit to Cobham Hall and the sentimental story of the widowed heron who ‘used to walk for hours before the windows of the orange-house, looking at itself in the glass.’9 But it is the machinery rather than the tame bird that has captured her imagination, and the dockyard that features as ‘perhaps the most interesting and wonderful place I have seen since I left Woodbury’.9

References


  1. Journal of Emily Shore 

  2. 6 July. 4. 

  3. 7 July. 5-6. 

  4. 8 July. 6. 

  5. 6 July. 4. 

  6. 12 July. 6. 

  7. 31 August. 7-8. 

  8. 6 June. 1835. 103. 

  9. 6 June. 1835. 103.