At an unknown date after October 1853, Jacob Fletcher Fletcher, with his wife and daughter, embarked on a Grand Tour of Continental Europe, returning to England in 1855. The Grand Tour was a traditional exploration of Europe, primarily associated with Britain, undertaken by young men belonging to the British nobility and wealthy gentry. Jacob Fletcher Fletcher's place in society was with the wealthy gentry but what is, perhaps, unusual in this instance is that he went on tour with his wife and daughter.
The custom of the Grand Tour originated in c.1660 and it continued into the 1850s when it was curtailed by the advent of mass railway transport. The Grand Tour can best be described as an educational right of passage to provide a cultural polish to young men and to reinforce high standards of taste. During a tour, a participant could fraternize with the high society of the Continent; improve his language skills and possibly commission paintings or other works of art. Lessons in horse riding, fencing and dancing were also undertaken. A tour could last from several months to several years. The normal practice was to be accompanied by a knowledgeable tutor/guide and servants. The itineraries followed were varied but typical places visited could include: Paris, Geneva, The Alps, Lausanne, Turin, Florence, Pisa, Padua, Bologna, Venice, Rome, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, Sicily, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Potsdam, Munich, Heidelberg, Holland and Flanders.
Jacob Fletcher Fletcher's return to Denton Colliery
The following is a transcript of how the event of Jacob Fletcher Fletcher's return to Denton Colliery after his Grand Tour was reported on Saturday, 13 October 1855:
The Return of Jacob Fletcher Fletcher, Esq.
A meeting of the clerks, tenant farmers, and workmen took place at the Denton Colliery, on Wednesday the 10th instant, when the following address was read and presented to Jacob Fletcher Fletcher, Esq.: - Denton Colliery Office, October 10th, 1855.
Sir, - We, the undersigned, clerks, tenant farmers, servants, and workmen employed by you at the Denton Colliery, have long felt a desire of showing our gratitude to you, when we consider the many and great changes which have taken place since we last had the pleasure of seeing you.
Sir, - There are a few amongst us to-day who were employed by your late ancestors, and who feel proud that they have been spared by Providence to join with us in congratulating you, your much esteemed lady, and promising young daughter, on your safe return from your long tour of the continent.
When we call to mind the many favours which you have shown us, and the very affectionate manner in which you have always met your workmen, we consider that we cannot show too much respect to such a worthy patron and master, and your name will long be remembered for the liberal manner in which you and your esteemed lady have supported the various charitable institutions in this neighbourhood.
We this day rejoice having you once more among us, and give you a hearty welcome to your estate at Denton.
We hope that you may long be spared to enjoy it, and that a good understanding and the best feeling may always exist between you and ourselves as employer and employed.
Sir, we now beg leave to conclude by wishing you, your good lady, and Miss Fletcher, long life, health, and happiness.
To Jacob Fletcher Fletcher, Esq. Peel Hall and Denton.
Mr. Fletcher, in reply, said it afforded him great pleasure to see them assembled that day, on his first arrival at the Denton Colliery, after a long absence. He had not the least knowledge that he was to receive so hearty a reception. A great change had certainly taken place in the death of his late brother, Ellis Fletcher. He felt grateful that he had been spared to see that day so many of the old men who were employed by his ancestors, one of whom stood before him, and he had been told that he had been employed on the estate as collier and underlooker for the last fifty years. They had given him a hearty welcome upon his safe return from a long tour on the continent, but, he assured them, of all the grand and fine sites they had seen, none had given them more pleasure than witnessing this day the hearty welcome from the workmen on visiting the Denton estate. He would always be ready to help those of his workmen who had not the power, by misfortune, to help themselves. He was sorry to hear that a partial turn-out had taken place amongst a few. He would leave this matter to Mr. Bain, his agent, who was perfectly qualified to deal with it. He strongly recommended them to send their children to the Denton schools to receive education, which would be very useful to them in after life. - The men were next addressed by Mr. Bain, and afterwards by the Rev. Walter Nichol, rector of Denton, who strongly recommended the parents to send their children to the day and Sunday schools, where they might receive a sound and religious education. - Afterwards, the men were regaled with plenty of strong ale and bread and cheese.
In his reply, Jacob Fletcher Fletcher hinted that conditions at Denton Colliery were not completely to his satisfaction. It seems that some of his workmen might have boycotted the event, maybe in protest at their poor wages that helped to finance his recent Grand Tour. Possibly, Mr Bain dealt with the matter by dismissing the workmen concerned.