East Lulworth

A  One-Place Study and part of the Dorset OPC Network

Richard Runyard’s letter of June 1858

The letter below was written in June 1858 by Richard Runyard of East Lulworth to his son Austin Runyard and family who had emigrated to America.

The letter and photographs are reproduced with permission of John Runyard.

For more information on the Runyard Family around the world, visit www.runyard.org

June 8(?)th 1858

Dear Austin Jane Edwin and Clement
we Received your Letter and Papers and was happy to find you well which thank God this Leaves us all well excep I got the Tooth Ache which I never had before but if he dont be quiet I will let Nathen to work with him and give him a Settele (?) thank god the Fever is now quite out of our house Amelia Ann lost Nearly all her hair but it is growing out again Now your Mother your Mother is as well as When you left her all the rest is well and send their Kind love to you Ellen is still at home but expecting a place we have had a Dreadful Sicknefs (sickness) in Lullworth none of us Know how soon we may be put down I have had a wonderful escape considering how much I have been amongst it both among Sickness and Death the Docters says there is more danger of Catching from the Dead than the Sick but I took every Precaution before I put them in to the Coffin I used Camphor and Brandy and Keept up my Spirits as well as I Could it is bad to be Nervous

(end of page one)

I was happy to hear that you have got Some Land and a Cow but do not over exert yourselves this hot Weather nor expose yourselves to Sun Strokes I hope Alfred can stand it better than he did at First and I hope he will not be led away by any evil Advisers I hope all our Old Friends that is in America will not Forget their Religion if they Saw Hypocrytes in England let them not blame Relegion for it on the Free Soil of America you can Practice Relegion in its purity and without being Suspected of doing it for Worldly gain any peron who have Sincerely Followed all the preceps of the Catholic Relegion never repented of it when they was on their Death Bed after after a regulary Attending the Sacrements then the last Sacrement is Adminestered the happy Soul resigned itself to its god
Such did poor Frank Champ who was never yet Suspected of Biggoted Ignorance I hope if you are Proseperous and have good luck that you will Build a Chapple (chapel) and be the Founder of a Church Congregation (???) Blyron for all future Ages that will bring a Blessing on yourself and Family for ever
(end of second page)

I have yet another death to tell you about if you have not heard of it poor Old Friend Frank Champ he did not die of the Fever but his A Complaint of the Breath he was a good Neighbour tell Cooling about it  I have not heard where anyone have wrote before about it Mr Flavers have been a Champion among it he exerted himself Nobly both for the Body as well as the Soul he wishes everyone to send for him as soon as they are taken ill people soon get light Headed the Doctor wish people to send for him of they only feel a Slight Head Ache there is Mass at the Chapple (chapel) 2 Days in the Week one Day for the Sick and one Day for the Dead we have took every Precaution against it we have cleaned and White Washed the Houses and put quick Lime in the Privys and Gutters and Buried all Stinking Wash but it is now Abating but it Learns us a Lesson that we all ought to be Ready Prepared for the Next World for when Sicknef (sickness) and Death come all our thoughts of Independence in this World in gone 21 Days is a Short Summons
(end of third page)

there is not many sick now but now the Summer is come it seems more Fatal those that Die now their Bowel s swell a great deal and Black Spots come all about the Body but I will now tell you who have Died the First Samuel Snook Charles Fooks two Girls Mary and Elizabeth his wife have had it but is better he have stood it very well the Next was Martha Hunt and Mary Rools I hope God have Mercy upon her poor Soul the next was our poor George Hunt we mifs (miss) poor George in the Yard a Good Fellow yesterday I made a Coffin for Frank Ropers Wife I put her in the Coffin at Eleven 0 Clock and buried her at 6 by the Doctors order both of Franks 2 oldest Boys is down in it old Willian Hunt took to his Bed yesterday and it is the General opinion that he will stand no Chance at all if People live over 21 days they get Better but Hannah Roper was only 15 days Frank seems like a Wild Fellow he wont go into the House he have been a Brute to her

(the last three words were crossed out - this is all of the letter that we have)

The transcription above was made by Robert Donald Runyard born 1922 in Waverly, Iowa (great-great grandson of Richard Runyard) and his wife, Gwen.

Robert provided the following explanation of the conditions that existed during that period of time to help us better understand the situation:

Richard Runyard, b.1805, was a carpenter employed as the head of maintenance by the Weld family who owned Lulworth Castle and the surrounding estate. Richard's position was third in importance among those employed at the estate. The estate was comprised of approximately 20,000 acres which included farm lands, grazing land, the castle, and many homes that were provided for the workers. Because of the labour intensive nature of the work at the estate, the work force was several hundred strong.

Richard's son Austin, to whom this letter was written, was apprenticed as a carpenter. When I first visited Lulworth Castle in 1970 I met Joseph Albert "Bert" Runyard, whose grandfather was Richard.

Bert, incidentally, was employed at Lulworth his entire adult life. He told me that the reason Austin decided to go to America was the person to whom he was apprenticed did not pay him enough to properly take care of his family. Had Austin stayed he might of been appointed to the relatively high position then held by his father Richard as head of maintenance.

According to Len Runyard, Lulworth was originally owned by the De Lullworth family, but the original castle was owned by Henry de Turberville, indirect ancestor, c.1200. He was an eminent general in King John's, direct ancestor, army. The Newburgh family, direct ancestor, bought Lulworth and the castle in 1338. In c.1580, the Lord Howard, an indirect ancestor, bought the castle. They were decended from the Dukes of Norfolk, our direct ancestor. In 1608 this family built the present castle.

(In my notes, made during 1970 visit, I said: “Castle foundation laid 1588, completed in 1677. Terrace added in 1776, Burned Aug.29,1929”). Kenneth Runyard, whom I met in 1970 and again in 1972, saw the castle burning and turned in the fire alarm. He told me of Christmas parties at the castle, to which the estate workers were invited. The Weld family, who lived in Hertfordshire, and were rich merchants from the City of London, bought the castle and estate in 1642. The Weld family were the owners of the estate and castle at the time our forefathers lived and worked at Lulworth.

The “yard” that Richard speaks of was the maintenance yard. This yard was still in use in 1970 when I visited. It consisted of an office, a carpenter shop, a place where lumber was cut from timber, and a blacksmith shop, and was surrounded by a stone wall.

Bert told me that Richard was the foreman of the “yard” and used the office at the yard. Richard's home was located just behind the office. My son, Robert Carl Runyard, and I visited the yard in 1972 and got to go through the “home” that Richard (b.1805) had lived in. It was occupied at that time by one of the relatives of the Welds. The Weld family still manages the estate. The home is of stone structure with brick having been used for some of the remodeling. The roof is a thatched roof.

Bert died the year after I met him in 1970, but in 1972 his son Louis was still working for the estate, and Robert Carl and I stayed at his home (owned by the estate). Bert's daughter, Teresa ‘Tess’ Runyard Burt also worked for the estate in 1972, but lived with her husband at Wool, which is about 6 miles from East Lulworth. Tess was in charge of the estate business office which is located in the old Castle stables.


Consulted with a couple of doctors as to what they thought the disease mentioned in this letter might have been. The letter states, “Those that Die now their Bowel s swell a great deal and Black Spots come all about the body”. Both of these symptoms point to Bubonic Plague (also called Black Death). In the “World Book” it says, “The black death caused spots of blood which turned black under the skin”. Bubonic Plague is transmitted by the fleas that live on infected rats, and it is found today in America - chiefly on the West coast and the Rocky Mountain areas. Today it is carried by ground squirrels, chipmunks, and other wild rodents.

The Runyard Family

If you have any information about The Runyard Family which you would like to share, be it stories or old photographs etc., please email us at info@eastlulworth.org.uk

Austin Runyard (1831-1904) Richard Runyard (1805-1866)

Gravestone of Richard Runyard’s son Austin Runyard (1831-1904) and his wife Jane Runyard nee Symonds (1828-1903) in Waverley, Iowa, USA

Photograph courtesy of John Runyard