the Autumn of 2002, Mr Jamie Harper was carrying out extensive renovation
work on his shop in the Square, Caerleon. (26 High Street, later to
be occupied by L'erba and then Burlesque.) A letter was found hidden
in the very fabric of the building. It had been so well concealed that
it had not seen the light of day for over 143 years. It is not surprising
that the recipient, Mr Samuel Matthews, had hidden it thus, for the
"I need not ask you to destroy this, I
feel sure you will do so, as it would not be pleasant for either you
or myself that any one else should read it, I cannot help remembering
that there is one in your house, ever ready to calumniate and speak
falsely respecting me."
The letter was from Mary Ann Willey in Bristol. 'Sam' Matthews could
not bear to part with it as Mary was writing to explain why she could
not accept his hand in marriage.
We feel it is not intruding into the lives of those concerned, or their
relatives, to read the words Samuel kept secret as nearly 150 years
have passed. So here you will find photos of the letter and envelope
and the full text. This surely is real history. Maybe not Britain's
most famous people, nor a momentous event in the country's past, but
for a group of people an episode that shaped the course of the rest
of their lives...