september 19th 1903 Robert carter horner to mary elizabeth bowles

cape town, south africa to ingleton, gainford, durham

8527 miles


the message

"Expect to arrive at Cape Town tomorrow about noon 19 Sept in good health. Trust in you all as same. Pleasant voyage.

R C H"

the sender

Robert Carter Horner (1882-1947) was the son of William Horner (1843-1929) and Ann Withell (1850-1934). William was a blacksmith.

Robert does not appear in the 1901 census when he would have been 19. In 1903, when he sent this card, he was obviously on a ship to South Africa. In 1906 was back in England and he married Mary Elizabeth Bowles, the recipient of the card. In the 1911 census he is a Joiner and Cartwright. He does not show up in the 1939 register although his wife does, still married, and living in Barnard Castle.

the recipient

Mary Elizabeth Bowles (1881-1947) was the daughter of Henry Bowles (1851-1936) and Alice Place (1846-1929). Henry was a coal miner. In 1911 he worked at Randolph Colliery in County Durham.

Before she married, Mary was a Dressmaker, working from the family home. In 1906 she married Robert Carter Horner, the sender of the card. 

the places

Cape Town, South Africa


Ingleton, Gainford, Durham


Genoa, Italy


what the card says to us

The picture shows a watercolour of a square in Genoa, Italy and it appears to have no connection to the family or the message.

The message is a progress report on Robert's journey to South Africa. It would be wonderful if we knew what ship he was on or why he was travelling. The second Boer War had finished the year before. Is this trip related? Robert is a carpenter. Was he engaged in some post-war building? Was he with the British military? He is certainly a long way from home.

The other feature of this card is of course the love story. Robert is letting his future wife know that he is safe and well.

The card is stamped PAQUEBOT which means it was transported on a mail steamer. No air mail in 1903. How long would it take for mail to reach County Durham. 

The one penny stamp is British.