Three Men and a Bradshaw: An Original Victorian Travel Journal

Written by John George Freeman Ronnie Scott (ed.)
Review by Douglas Kemp

From 1873 to 1877, the author enjoyed various holiday jaunts with his two brothers and other family members within the United Kingdom. John Freeman wrote detailed travel diaries of these trips, which remained in manuscript form until they were bought at auction and published, edited by Ronnie Scott. John visited Jersey, north Devon, north and south Wales and Scotland. He provides an engaging, humorous (lots of bad puns!) and articulate description of the places and scenery the family visit, as well as some wonderful line drawings of places seen and characters met. The Freemans were experiencing the start of the British tourist industry, able to use the relatively new and still-expanding railway network, and staying in the hotels and other hostelries that grew up to support travellers such as these.

The family were strict Baptists and thus teetotal and Sabbath churchgoers, wherever they happened to be on the Sundays—the descriptions of the Sunday services they attended are occasionally a little tedious, as is his moralising about the dangers from the demon alcohol. The accounts are steeped in a thoroughly Victorian milieu, revealing fascinating insights into the culture and society of the times.