Hail! genial season of the year
To faithful lovers ever dear
Devoted be this day to praise
My Anna’s charms in rustic lays
Now billing sparrows, cooing doves
Remind each youth of her he loves
My heart and head are both on flame
Whene’er I breath my Anna’s name
These lines were penned by a Captain Bennett in a Valentine poem written in 1818 to Mrs Wyndham, also named as ‘Anna’. The poem can be found in our Fonmon Castle collection (ref. DF/V/133) and runs to 78 lines of rhyming couplets, far weightier than the snappy valentine messages found in cards today. In the poem Captain Bennett gives full vent to his romantic side, evoking images of Cinderella and her Prince, praising Anna, including her ‘fairy feet’, as well as casting doubt on the suitability of her other suitors, one of whom he names as ‘Tredegar’s Lord’. He also describes writing Anna’s initials or ‘cypher’ in the sand with a walking stick, which although the waves may wash away ‘the darling name’ could not ‘blot that cypher from my heart!’
So who were Captain Bennett and Anna, and did their story have a happy ending? Although the poem is part of the Fonmon Castle collection it also has references to Dunraven, an estate near Southerndown owned by the Wyndham family. A little detective work has revealed that Anna was the daughter of Thomas Ashby of Isleworth, London and Charlotte, daughter of Robert Jones of Fonmon (hence the Fonmon connection).
Anna was first married to Thomas Wyndham of Dunraven and Clearwell Court in the Forest of Dean (MP for Glamorgan), but he died in 1814. However, Anna remarried in July 1818, only months after the poem was written. Her new husband was a John Wick Bennett of Laleston, presumably ‘Captain Bennett’ the sender of her Valentine. It appears his poetic efforts had not been in vain and perhaps helped sway her towards accepting his proposal!
Finding references to ‘love’ and ‘romance’ in the archives can be a difficult task as they are not terms usually found in catalogue descriptions! However, there are many stories of romance to be found, whether hidden in private diaries or in letters, especially those written when lovers were parted and they were the only means of contact between them. Wartime, especially, led to the separation of many and we have several stories of romance which blossomed during difficult times.
Sister Isabel Robinson found love when she worked at the Red Cross Hospital in Cardiff in 1916.
Whilst she was nursing there she met and married Daniel James Dwyer of the Australian army. He was recovering in the hospital from a head wound he suffered in action in France.
The couple later settled in Australia at St. Kilda, Victoria but returned to England where Isabel died in 1965. Isabel’s photograph album is held at the Archives and includes photographs of staff and patients at military hospitals in Bridgend and Cardiff (ref. D501).
One of our most important collections relating to the Second World War are the many letters written by Pat Cox of Cardiff to her fiancé, Jack Leversuch, who was serving overseas in the forces (ref. DXGC263/2-32). Throughout the war Pat sent regular letters to Jack giving him her news. Jack kept all the letters he received from Pat and brought them home with him when he finished serving overseas.
The letters give personal details of the couple’s courtship as well as describing how Cardiff was dealing with air raids, the black out, evacuation and rationing.
Valentine cards also appear in our collections. Many nineteenth century cards were handmade and beautifully coloured, sometimes decorated with intricate cut outs. During the latter part of the century commercially printed cards appeared, although to our modern eyes these are also beautifully decorative. Here are two examples of Victorian valentines (ref. DX554/18/3,9), both edged with feathers.
Do you have any old documents, photographs or valentine cards? Please let us know as we would love to add them to our collection.