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(Ralph, 1694-1764, Postmaster and Philanthropist, Squire Allworthy of Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones’)
Autograph Letter Signed to “Dear Sister”
annotated in another hand as being Mrs Buckeridge, saying that “under this Cover I do send you the counterpart of the Lease to Price your Tenant in Herfordshire; the writing, are too many to be sent at one by the post so that I will either send them by degrees or bring them up when I go to London, therefore do reply you wil tel me which you do choose to have done. I order’d my clerk by the last post to (tell) you what hinder’d me from sending of the Lease sooner, our Services attend all my family...”, 2 sides 4to., Bath, October
Ralph Allen was a British entrepreneur and philanthropist, who was notable for his reforms to England's postal system. He was born in Cornwall but moved to Bath to work in the post office, becoming the postmaster at the age of 19. He made the system more efficient and took over contracts for the mail system to cover England to the borders of Scotland and into South Wales. He bought local stone mines from his postal profits and had Prior Park built as his house to show off the versatility of the local Bath stone, using the old post office as his town house. With the architect John Wood the Elder, the stone he mined was used in the building work for the development of the Georgian city. However, the mines did not consistently make a profit and Allen subsidised them from his postal profits. He was a close friend of Alexander Pope, who wrote of him in his ‘Satires of Horace’, “Let humble Allen, with an awkward shame / Do good by stealth and blush to find it fame”.
The reply was written on the conjugate blank but has become completely illegible.
Ralph Allen married Elizabeth Buckeridge in 1721. Elizabeth Buckeridge died in 1736. Ralph then married Elizabeth Holder of Bathampton House. Presumably he is writing to either a maiden sister in law or one of his wife’s sisters in law.
Allen was instrumental in improving the navigability of the Avon canal between Bath and Bristol. Shares in the company were held by, among others, his wife Elizabeth (Buckeridge), mother Gertrude, nephew Philip (son of his brother Philip Allen), sister-in-law Sarah Hudson (his wife Elizabeth Buckeridge’s sister, mentioned in her father’s Will), and brothers-in-law Anthony Roderick Buckeridge (his wife’s brother, mentioned in her father’s Will). This letter could relate to this.
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