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Letters from friends

The Correspondence of the May and Strange Families of Ampthill 1819 - 1918

Painstakingly transcribed by Dr P H Silver throughout the 1980s, this collection of over 300 letters is now available for consultation in the searchroom is now accessible on our archives database collection reference Z699.

The family were members of the Society of Friends, and were based in Ampthill, Bedfordshire but had links throughout the whole of England, from Ackworth in Yorkshire - where they sent their children to be educated - to London, Ipswich, Malvern, Leominster and Bristol.

Arranged in chronological order, the majority of the collection dates from 1819 - 1860s. Fashion, health, education, business, local news and gossip, and, of course, moral, religious, and personal issues are all discussed. They had a wide circle of family, friends and acquaintances, all of whom are indexed by name on the above-mentioned database.

The early letters are principally the correspondence of Priscilla May, from her schooldays at Ackworth and Tottenham, throughout her courtship and marriage to Edward Harris Strange, until her premature death at the age of 40.

The sons of the family were apprenticed, mostly in retailing and commercial trades, or studied medicine. Edward Curtis May, brother of Priscilla and eldest son of Samuel and Ann May of Ampthill, became a physician in Tottenham. Several members of the family emigrated, to Kingston in Canada in the 1820s, and to New York and Philadelphia in the United States from the 1830s. Priscillas' son Theodore dismissed the United States as too unstable, and opted to move to Canada. He wrote to his brother Samuel May Strange outlining his plans in April 1868 "…after I arrive at Montreal I shall strike out for the interior, I shall take the first thing that turns up and I hope eventually by steadfastly sticking to work, & by doing what is right, both in the eyes of God and Man, to become possessed of land of my own…".[Ref. Z699/302a-b].