Isabella L’s story

Isabella Maria Constantia, named perhaps for her father’s fascination with Italy and its people, was orphaned by the time she was three. Her mother – her clergyman and poet father’s second wife – had died giving birth to her in 1776, and her father died in 1779 aged only 45.

She had a brother, John, who was eight years her senior, but he had been brought up by an aunt since his own mother’s death in childbirth, so the orphaned toddler Isabella was alone in the world. She’d been born in Blagdon, Somerset, where her father had been the Reverend since 1766, but he’d really made a name for himself while working for several churches in London – and it was there that Isabella was sent. He’d become friendly, while living there, with the Gillman family. Thomas Gillman, who was involved in the law (although what sort of position he held is not clear), his wife Catherine and their daughter Catherina Elizabeta were named Isabella’s guardians and protectors in her father’s will.

She was removed to their house in Great Ormond Street – at this stage a street of important people living in smart sizable town houses that dated from the beginning of that century and not the site of a famous hospital for sick children (it wasn’t built until 1852) – and began a life in London as their ward. The Gillman’s daughter and only child Catherina was in her later teens, so the age gap between the two girls was vast, and it seems likely that they all lavished their attention on the young Isabella, who would have been brought up in considerable privilege for the time. This was a great time to be a privileged child, as the period brought in huge amounts of books, toys and games aimed at children, and began to value and educate their developing minds in a far more structured way. Isabella’s father had instructed that she would benefit from the sale of his goods and chattels to help fund her life with the Gillmans, all her mother’s clothes, and a further sum of £1,000 to be held in trust for her when she reached the age of 21. He also bequeathed her and her brother a diamond ring apiece.

Two houses on Great Ormond Street at the time Isabella lived there.

When Catherina married in February 1783, Isabella was around the age of seven. Though Thomas Gilman was still in Great Ormond Street, Isabella went with Catherina to be the ward child in her new marriage. Catherina had married Esmead Edridge, the lord of the manor at Monkton House, in Chippenham in Wiltshire. The Edridge family, who were initially Quakers and had mostly been born in Bristol, had had the house since at least the 1740s. At this stage, Esmead was the eldest son, but there were many other siblings still associated with the house – his older sister Love Mary had recently married and moved to Bath, but younger brothers Thomas, John and Abraham were all unmarried and at the house, running a business as clothiers of the town. In addition to the four men, their widowed mother Love and unmarried sister Martha completed the large household that Catherina and Isabella joined.

Shortly after the marriage, Esmead had Monkton House renovated. This altered what had originally been a substantial farmhouse-style property into a grand Georgian mansion of many rooms. He appears to have made a reasonable living as a merchant, as well as being Lord of the Manor, but it may be that Catherina’s dowry brought in additional funds for the building project. Brother Abraham had a smaller house built in a similar style, possibly using the same architect and builders, in St Mary Street just across the river. The property is currently used as apartments, and has purpose-built sheltered accommodation on the land leading down to the river that may initially have been used for fulling and dyeing cloth.

Isabella, at just seven, now grew up in this great house full of people. Esmead and Catherina, who had no children of their own, considered her their daughter to all intents and purposes. They educated her, probably at home with a governess, and she was considered part of the wider Edridge family. There were no other children known to have lived at Monkton House at the time.

Monkton House, Chippenham

This position changed in 1798, when Isabella had just turned 22 and had come into her inheritance. She engaged in a clandestine marriage with Abraham Edridge, Esmead’s younger brother, who had been in the position of uncle to her throughout her childhood. Catherina and Esmead were said later to have been deeply offended by this act because of this prior relationship. Abraham was a good 15 years older than Isabella, and had also fathered an illegitimate child – John – in his late 20s who was regarded as his heir, and who became Isabella’s stepson. As an aside, Esmead and Abraham’s brother Thomas had also had an illegitimate son at around the same time, but he was not acknowledged, and John’s elevation appears to have been due to a lack of any legitimate male heir anywhere in the family.

Isabella then went to live with Abraham, probably at his house on St Mary Street and became mistress of that property. They are known to have paid hair powder tax around now, so would have been fashionable enough to wear wigs. They did not have any children together. Isabella’s marriage technically made her the social equal of Catherina and other gentry wives, but given the controversy surrounding the marriage it is unclear whether they were accepted in local society.

Abraham Edridge’s house in Chippenham, where Isabella became mistress

In the very early 1800s, Catherina – who was then in her early 50s – started to suffer mental health issues and in the parlance of the time was declared a “lunatic”. Descriptions of some of her behaviour put this as close to dementia. She was removed from Monkton House to Fisher House, which appears to have been a London residence. Isabella tried to work with the family to help Catherina be placed in environments that were comfortable, going through legal means if necessary.

Around the same time, Isabella and Abraham moved from Chippenham to Pockeridge House, on the edge of Corsham, which is now on Ministry of Defence land and was converted to an officers’ mess during the second world war. The property there was substantial, and Abraham’s son John lived with them there when he wasn’t serving with the Royal Navy. In this house she was able to be a gentry wife away from the house she’d grown up in, but still maintained her links with Chippenham.

Esmead, her adoptive father, died in 1812. At this stage Isabella’s care of Catherina seems to step up a gear, perhaps as he was not there to stand in the way. She goes through legal means to have access to Catherina despite the judgment of lunacy. This made the newspapers, and the scandal over Isabella’s marriage was raked over by the press. It was agreed, however, that Isabella could take Catherina out for drives in her carriage, and could look after her at Monkton House as she was more comfortable there and her symptoms reduced. Isabella argued that since Catherina had looked after her from childhood, it was now time for her to look after her guardian.

Catherina, despite her illness, managed to outlast Isabella by six years. Isabella died at Pockeridge in 1820, aged 44, and was buried close to where she’d grown up in Chippenham. Catherina died in 1826, and was buried with Esmead at Chippenham. Abraham continued to live at Pockeridge, with his son John and his first two wives (there were three in all), and died in Bath in the early 1840s. He is not buried with Isabella.

Margaret and Mary L’s story

The name Lovegrove was around in Chippenham for centuries. There’s a marriage of a Lovegrove in the records from 1611, so the family were probably the town during Tudor times. However, by 1802 the name had died out, having gone to ground with a childless widow and her unmarried sister-in-law.

Mary Dunn, from Chippenham, became Mary Lovegrove when she married Ambrose Lovegrove at St Andrew’s church in 1762. At the time, Mary was around 43 and Ambrose was around 40 – which might indicate why the couple did not have surviving children. Ambrose’s sister Margaret, who appears to have lived with the couple later on, was about eight years younger than him. They had also had a brother, William, who was younger than Ambrose but older than Margaret, but he died in the 1740s aged just 16. There were other Lovegroves in Chippenham during the 18th century, but gradually they either moved away or died out.

Very little is available about Mary and Margaret’s earlier life, but by the late 1780s they were all living in a property in Chippenham known as The Baron House. Exactly where this was located has not come to light, but with that name it is likely to have been a historical property, and tax returns and a later inventory indicate it was sizeable, and was probably somewhere in the older part of the town. Later on, it was sold to a Mr Spencer. However, it is not listed as a local seat in a list of gentry in 1791, so it clearly was not in the landed gentry realm.

The family appear to have been yeoman farmers by tradition, and Ambrose and Margaret’s father William’s earlier 18th century accounts detail land held at Rowden Down and many sales of pigs around the district. However, after he died in 1778 the pig business appears to have gone south, and daughter Margaret – who had inherited £1,500 on his death, a yearly stipend, and all his household goods – used his books for household accounts.

Directories of the late 18th century give Margaret and Mary as local gentry, meaning that they didn’t have to work for their income – bills show that they had income from a turnpike at Stanley and Stanton St Quintin, in opposite directions but just outside Chippenham, and rents from parcels of land that they let to tenants at Tytherton Lucas and off the town’s Causeway. Once William Lovegrove had died, they also rented the land formerly used for pigs at Rowden Down. They also invested large sums – at least £500 at a time – in the stock market. Ambrose was on the list of voters for parliament around that time, and also helped elect someone for knighthood.

When Ambrose died in 1788, Mary was 69 and Margaret was 58. These were considered advanced ages for the time, and they lived together and supported each other. Margaret’s detailed accounts give a full view of these two older women and the sort of life they led in the last years of the 18th century. For this pair, money was not a problem, so they were able to eat and drink what they chose and furnish their lifestyle as they saw fit. The fact that Margaret was literate (unlike many people of that time), and able to run accounts and manage their money, gives an insight into a purely female household.

She details their day-to-day expenses. There are regular purchases of meat (veal and beef were favourites), fish, butter, sugar, bread, chocolate, milk and “gardenstuf” – effectively 18th century shorthand for vegetables like potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, cabbages, and other greens.

Gardenstuf, in the 18th century

More unusual items in the lists include: “a pig’s face and an ounce of tea”, and “An ounce of coffee, a brush and six faggots”. She also lists household items and other expenses – candles, occasional oranges, a pack of cards, payments of poor rates, a pack of cards, charges for using the highways, two gallons of Lisbon wine, an old cheese, cleaning and mending a clock, and five shillings to Mr Coombes the organist. Services are also recorded in the book – six months’ wages to trusted servant Mary, the weekly use of a washerwoman (it cost a shilling), ironing of garments, and whitewashing the house and sweeping the chimneys.

They also had building work done on their house in 1798, as there’s a receipt from Margaret paying the workers. While we don’t know exactly where The Baron House was – and indeed the area of Chippenham where it must have been located saw various development since the early 19th century so it may not even exist anymore – their tax returns indicate that it must have been sizable. The window tax dues show that there were up to 16 windows on the house that they were taxed upon. To give a comparison, the nearby Angel Hotel, which was in use as a coaching inn on the great Western road at the time, has 20 windows that face the street, and the current rectory (which wasn’t used for that purpose in Mary and Margaret’s time) has 22. Although not all of their house’s 16 windows would have faced the front, this gives the impression of a fairly grand property but not quite as big as others belonging to local gentry.

Another tax that they had to pay was that on hair powder, brought in in 1795, meaning that they almost certainly wore wigs.

Among her other documents, there is also Margaret’s bill from a Chippenham general merchant from 1800. Here she bought the household rush lights, candles, muslin fabric, pocket linings, sugar, cheese, butter, bombazet fabric, cotton fabric, nails, cotton stockings, worsted fabric, and tea. Fabric purchases probably mean that they made their own clothes, as there are no bills for dressmakers. At Mary Landen’s shop there were purchases of pork, bran, cakes, sugar, tea, a leg of lamb and chops, bread, and water of lye – which would have been used for washing. She bought a dozen wine from merchant John Goulten.

Bombazet fabric

There are also bills for reblackening of a tea kettle and a frying pan, and replating of metal items – sugar tongs, wine funnel, pepper box, gold rings, coffee pot, ladles, spoons, a silver snuff box. Snuff, a type of dipping tobacco that would be placed under the nose or between gum and upper lip, was often a female way of using tobacco at the time – both women and men would more often smoke it in clay pipes – and there was a stereotype of older ladies working hard outside with a lip full of snuff. Mary and Margaret, because of their class, are more likely to have used it discretely in the home – if they used it at all, as snuff or tobacco does not feature in their accounts.

Mary died in September 1800, aged 81. This left Margaret to settle all of her affairs, and there are extensive receipts for this. Mary had clearly been ill since the beginning of the year, as a doctor’s bill shows repeated instances of medical services. Dr Thomas Greensmith, who was based towards the village of Box, billed her for: pints of nervous mixture, a bottle of lavender drops, countless large boxes of pills, cardiac mixture, opening a vein, a blister on the stomach (a plaster with caustic ointment on it to draw out toxins), saline draughts, tamarind, balsamic draughts, pearl barley, attendance in the night, ointment for the blister, a pint of Imperial water, extracting a tooth, an aperient (laxative) draught, camphorated spirits of wine and port, essential oil of peppermint, a bottle of emetic mixture, febrifuge (fever reducing) balms and mixtures, and more aperient pills.

From this mixture of cures, it seems that there wasn’t one specific thing ailing Mary, and this seems like general maladies caused by old age. 81 is a particularly old age for the time, when most died much earlier. And the year’s bill came to £5.1.7d.

As Mary’s executrix, Margaret’s records also include bills for her funeral expenses at Chippenham’s St Andrew’s church. She was laid to rest next to Ambrose and his parents. Expenses ran to a grave digger, a shroud and a coffin lining. Mourners were bought hat bands, capes, black ribbons and silk and kid gloves. She left five pounds to several people, and sixty pounds to her niece Elizabeth.

As part of her affairs, Mary’s house had to be valued by solicitors. Taking place in October 1800, this gives a better idea of the sort of dwelling the Baron House was. There was a kitchen (with a spit, roasting rack, knives, toasting forks, a copper warming pan, and various other items), a hall where they ate, a parlour, three bedrooms (one with a four poster bed), a pantry, a brewhouse, a stable, a coal house, a cellar and a garden – where there was a chicken coop. On this inventory list, Margaret has written “mine” next to things that she owned rather than Mary. The household was valued at £103.16.6d.

Once Margaret was alone, her household bills continued unchecked. She invested in the stock market, and commissions, which gives an indication of how finances for them worked once the pig business stopped. Their various parcels of land were rented to others, and they had a share in a dwelling at the Kings Head inn, next to the church.

She had been left a house and decided to sell it. She put adverts in the Bath newspapers and on handbills around the town. It was bought at auction by a Mr Spencer, and the paperwork drawn up by local solicitors. Whether this was actually The Baron House or a separate dwelling is not clear, as she appears to have spent the rest of her days in the house they had lived in together. Mr Spencer would appear to be surgeon Thomas Spencer, and his wife Alice.

Part of the reason for the sale is that Margaret appeared to be making provision for her eventual demise. Her will, written around this time, says that she leaves all her plate to Miss Thermuthis Ashe – daughter of Squire Ashe of Langley Burrell – and Mrs Sarah Randall, formerly Miss Sarah Goldney, daughter of town clerk and bailiff Gabriel Goldney. “Plate” in this case included a coffee pot, a set of teaspoons, a cream jug, pepper box and sugar plyers. She also left a silver teapot to Sarah’s mother.

The list of Margaret’s friends who were in line to receive five guineas to enable them to buy a mourning ring – a strong 18th century tradition – when she died shows the circles she moved in. They are mostly widows and spinsters, with nobody carrying a title. She also left her trusted servant, twice-widowed Lucy Gawen, ten pounds in her will.

18th century mourning ring

Margaret died in June 1802, aged 70. She was buried with her parents, brother and sister-in-law at St Andrew’s Church. Her affairs were wrapped up by solicitors, with her household re-inventoried. Their multiple bills and Margaret’s meticulous record keeping paint a very vivid portrait of life for elderly women at the tail end of the 18th century.

Charlotte Marvelous’ story

Charlotte Marvelous sounds like a rather fantastic stage name for a Victorian circus performer. Or possibly a burlesque dancer.

In reality, however, she was the faithful housekeeper to a Sheffield bookseller, and almost certainly never saw as much as a prancing pony or a nipple tassel. But Marvelous wasn’t her real surname, and was probably a mark of deep affection given to her by her employer.

She’d been born in Eydon, a rurally-set village in Northamptonshire, towards the end of the 18th century. She was her parents’ seventh child of at least eleven, and not the first to have the name Charlotte – there’d been an older sister called Charlotte who’d died at a year old a few years earlier. While calling a child after one who’d died might seem a little morbid, this was relatively common at this time, with a far higher rate of infant mortality than today. Charlotte was not even the only child in the family for this to happen to – she had two brothers named John, one being born just over a month after the first one died at the age of seven.

Her parents, William and Maria Hunt, don’t appear to have been anyone particularly of note in the village – which mostly had a mixture of agricultural workers and house-based weavers – although towards the more well-to-do end of the scale given the professions of the men their daughters married and the fact that many of them were able to write their names on their wedding records so were at least partially literate. Charlotte was a witness to her sister Lavinia’s wedding in 1808, and was able to write her name.

In 1812, at around the age of 23, Charlotte married James, an agricultural labourer, in her home village of Eydon. James’ surname was Marvesley, so she became Charlotte Marvesley. There are no children in the baptismal records that fit, so it’s likely that their marriage was childless. As a farm labourer’s wife, it’s likely that Charlotte stayed at home doing domestic duties – which would have been considerable at the time – but it’s possible that she may have had some duties on the farm too.

However, after 13 years of marriage, her husband James died and was buried in their home village. With no children, and no visible means of support, Charlotte would have had to find work of some kind. Her mother died a year later, so she may have supported her father until his death in 1833. Her sisters Lavinia and Maria had married, as had her sister Diana, and her surviving brother John was living in Oxfordshire with his wife. What exactly happened to Charlotte next is unclear until she appears on the 1841 census in Sheffield, in her forties and in the employ of a bookseller.

What is likely is that she somehow came across George Brown, the book seller, through her brother in law Thomas. Thomas, also a book seller although formerly a tailor, had married Charlotte’s sister Diana. They’d moved around Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire, after leaving Eydon and the clothes business behind, and it’s probably that Thomas came across George through his work, and knew that George needed a housekeeper as much as Charlotte needed a comfortable position.

George had never married, it appears, so as a 19th century bachelor would have needed some help around the house – both in terms of housework and food preparation. A Victorian housekeeper would also have run the financial aspects of the household, so Charlotte would have had some financial nous and book-keeping skills. It’s also likely that she would have kept the books for his business, a role that many wives took on in small businesses at this time. So, to many intents and purposes Charlotte was George’s wife, without the benefits.

Housekeeper-3-220x300

In 1841 they are living in Arundel Street, in the centre of Sheffield. Her sister Diana and her husband and children are nearby. Both men are working as booksellers. Diana died in 1847. By 1849, Charlotte and George had moved to Eyre Street, and it’s there they can be found on the 1851 census. On this record George claims to be married, but there’s no sign of a wife.

It appears to have been George that coined the name Charlotte Marvelous, as she’s not referred to as Marvesley after she enters his employ. It would almost certainly have been George that provided the information for the census enumerators, so using the name Marvelous perhaps speaks of the great esteem he held Charlotte in. So, rather than a stage name, the moniker refers to her personal traits and how well she supported him in his life, and speaks volumes for their relationship. The first use of Marvelous occurs when she witnesses her niece’s wedding in Eydon in 1830.

In 1851 one of Charlotte’s sisters, Maria, left the UK with her husband and children to join the Latter Day Saints in America, settling initially in Missouri and then in Illinois. Another sister, Lavinia (by this stage a widowed lacemaker still based in Eydon) did the same in 1854, and was eventually claimed by the LDS. Her sister Diana, while she was alive, had been a member of the Moravian church – so it appears that many of the family, despite being baptised into the Church of England, questioned the traditional way of faith. Whether this was Charlotte’s way is open to question, but like most people of the time it’s probable that she had deep Christian faith.

By 1857, trade directories show that George – and therefore Charlotte – had moved to Bridge Street, and he had taken up bookbinding in addition to selling tomes. However, both of them are elusive on the 1861 census – it’s always possible that they’d gone to visit her family in America, as shipping records are unavailable that early. Their Bridge Street premises has a brewer in residence instead.

Later that decade Charlotte and George were living at Park Wood Springs, a piece of woodland and open space just outside central Sheffield at that time. This may have been a deliberate move on George’s part to help Charlotte’s health – as she was now in her mid-70s, considerably aged for the time – which was starting to fail. By 1863 she was suffering from a liver complaint, which was recorded as hepatitis, but is unlikely to have been the sort of hepatitis we would recognise as such today. It’s possible that Charlotte could have been an excessive drinker, but it seems unlikely that she’d have lasted to a ripe old age if she had, so it is more likely that she had a viral type of hepatitis that was passed on somehow – possibly infected blood – which would have led to jaundice.

Charlotte died at Park Wood Springs in early October 1864, aged 78. George registered her death, and said that she’d suffered chronic hepatitis for a year, which had led to anasarca – a liver-based problem associated with the condition that finished her off. Very telling is that he registered her as “widow of ________ Marvelous, farm labourer”, which indicates that she never referred to James by name to George and instead called him “my late husband”. This may indicate that the relationship between Charlotte and George, who were around 12 years apart in age, was very proper and more like mother and son than anything else.

George buried her in Sheffield’s Burngreave cemetery, at the time a new and extensive facility outside the rapidly growing town, and marked her grave with her place of birth to tie her forever to the place she grew up. In many ways he was the only family she had left, particularly locally. He also had “she was faithful in all her dealings” carved on the stone, which again speaks of the affectionate partnership they must have had for many years.

George continued to run his book business in Sheffield’s Orchard Street for a few more years, but died himself in 1868 and was buried alongside Charlotte. Dear friends of his, John and Elizabeth Parr, also took the same grave when their time came, leading to a rather disparately related monument in the cemetery that shows the ties and bonds that were made as the industrial nature of the 19th century took hold and many – like Charlotte Marvelous – came to the big city for work leaving family behind.

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Theodosia F’s story

The current special exhibition at Chippenham Museum, in Wiltshire (WWMM’s home town, if it wasn’t obvious) is:

What’s in Store: Behind the Scenes at Chippenham Museum

They have on display many objects that people have donated to the museum over the years, which reflect the history of the town but are not always the sort of object that you might associate with a display, alongside information on the history of the museum and how they care for its objects.

One of their objects is this lovely sampler:

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Beautifully stitched, it was made by Theodosia Faulkner, who was seven in 1788. This gives her a birth of around 1781, so WWMM couldn’t help but investigate.

It turns out that Theodosia wasn’t from Chippenham at all. She was born to John and Rebecca Faulkner in Birmingham – over 100 miles away – and baptised at St Phillip’s Church in the July of 1781.

She appears to have been their third child. There were brothers called John and Joseph born before her to the same parents, and a younger brother James followed a couple of years later.

At this date very little was recorded about jobs and economic conditions of the family, so it is unknown what her father did, but in later life one of her brothers was an accountant – which speaks of a fairly wealthy family. The fact that Theodosia made a sampler of this quality also indicates a fair amount of money in the family – rather than having to help with domestic work, wealthier girls at this age were taught decorative needlework, mostly cross stitch, and produced work like this as a test of their skill. They demonstrated the knowledge and accomplishment of the young girl – hence why her tender age is usually included – and were seen as a sign of virtue, achievement and industry. More history and information on samplers can be found at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Without a visit to Birmingham records office, it’s hard to find out much more about Theodosia’s family. It’s possible that there may be further record of her father there. But what is possible to deduce is something of what happened to the family later through church records.

Theodosia’s brother James died in 1790, aged around six. He is one of many children on the burials page, often given with their parents’ names, showing that loss of a young child in this area at this date was far from a rare occurrence.

Her brothers John and Joseph grew up and married, and had children of their own. It was Joseph who became the accountant.

Theodosia herself died in May 1798, when she would have been nearly 17. As she was under the age of majority, her parents’ names are also given on her burial record. Her brother John had a daughter called Theodosia in 1808, probably named to remember his sister.

How did this young woman’s work happen to be in the stores of Chippenham Museum though? It would have been donated by someone local to Chippenham to be preserved – which they have done – and looked after, and it’s in the nature of all museums to care for any object they’ve had donated, regardless of where it originated from.

Birmingham to Chippenham at this time does seem a little bit far though, until you read some of the town’s street directories – published since 1877 by local printing firm Spinkes – and census records, and realise that there have been Faulkner families in the town for at least 150 years. Perhaps Theodosia and her family were relatives of these families, and her work and legacy was passed down through the generations, and now is cared for in the capable hands of Chippenham’s museum.

Essex L’s story

Born in the 1770s in Buckinghamshire as the third daughter of a landed family, Essex – who was named after her grandmother, an heiress from a prominent banking family – grew up in a large house with many servants in the late 18th and early 19th century. There were several daughters born after Essex. This was the Pride and Prejudice era, full of genteel society and strict governance of manners, with daughters encouraged to make good and advantageous matches with upstanding gentlemen.

Her father – who had changed his name from William Lowndes to William Selby in order to inherit a property called Whaddon Hall – had been MP for Buckinghamshire, as had his father before him, and her brother also held this job from 1810 to 1820. His children often used the name Selby-Lowndes to reflect their heritage and their inherited property. They lived at Winslow Hall in Buckinghamshire, another inherited property. Her mother died when she was a child, and she and her siblings were brought up by her father and servants.

It was under the name Lowndes that Essex married Robert Humphrys, the son of the Chippenham clothier Matthew Humphrys, who owned Chippenham’s central Ivy House. The marriage took place, as all best society weddings did at the time, in London in 1811. Robert’s father had died the year before, so he owned the house, and Essex came into some inherited money from a spinster aunt at the same time, so the marriage would have been considered a good prospect from both sides.

However, she was 38 when she married, and by the standards of the time this was very late – she would have been viewed as a confirmed spinster in the eyes of the society that she moved in. As an adult she had lived at home with her father and several unmarried sisters, and would have lived a sheltered and gentle life with the help of their servants.

After she married she came to live at the Ivy House with Robert, and was thus mistress of the property. Her father-in-law had acquired the house from the Northey family in 1791 after using portions of the land from the 1770s onwards, and had adapted the grounds to suit his business. There were outbuildings and cottages on the land which housed dyeing and weaving works and workers – and it was into this busy world that Essex arrived. Spinning, carding, weaving, and warping all took place on a small scale in homes, whereas cloth works would have done the finishing. The cloth and textile trade was still Chippenham’s main industry at the time, and to maintain the Ivy House Robert would have been successful in this business – although it was still a far cry from being a fully mechanised industry in the early part of the 19th century, and already was under threat from the power looms being installed in factories in the north of England.

Three years after the marriage, Essex’s sister Elizabeth Selby Lowdnes married Rev Robert Ashe – part of a prominent Chippenham landowning family, as his second wife. This meant that she had her sister close by, as she lived at Langley House, and they were probably introduced by Essex as they would have moved in the same social circles – with balls and hunts and card parties. Elizabeth died in in 1829, childless.

Essex and Robert also appear to have had no children – they lived in the era before civil birth registration, but there are no christenings recorded in local churches. This is supported by the fact that when Robert died in 1838 he left everything to Essex.

Her inheritance included the house, farms, cottages, aqueducts (presumably providing water for the cloth works), and all of his land. However, all his mortgages and debts were passed to her as part of this inheritance, so she would have had to manage much of his remaining business in her widowhood. His works did not fall apart, so she appears to have been successful at this.

Shortly after this, her eldest brother died and another brother sold her childhood home for it to become a school. Finances may also have been eased by more inheritance from another childless aunt. A trade directory of Chippenham from the early 1840s lists Essex among the local gentry.

Essex continued to live at Ivy House throughout her long widowhood, supported by servants. There are five in the house with her in 1841, and ten years later she only has one less. These were a cook, a lady’s maid, a housemaid and a butler. The property was vast for just these five people, and probably took a lot of work on their behalf to maintain. There appears to have been no shortage of money though – she refers to herself on census records as a “land and funded proprietor”, meaning that she drew income from tenants and other funds.

Essex died in 1868, aged 96. Her executors were a nephew based in Buckinghamshire and the local MP Gabriel Goldney. She left nearly £25,000 – a vast sum for the time. The Ivy House, with no children to inherit it, was auctioned and acquired by the Rooke family, who lived there until 1973.

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The Women Who Made Me actively welcomes submissions from anyone who has a story to tell about women from their family. To submit a woman from your family for inclusion in The Women Who Made Me project, contact Lucy of Once Upon A Family Tree. If you don’t think you have anyone, she begs to differ and can help you discover your female relatives’ lives.

Mary Tuke’s story

Born in York in 1695, Mary came from a prominent Quaker family – her grandfather was one of 4,000 imprisoned for their beliefs in the 1660s.

The death of her father in 1704, followed by her mother in 1723, left Mary as the head of her family, undoubtedly with many mouths to feed. One option at this time, for women in this situation, might have been a quick marriage. However, as a Quaker Mary would not necessarily have adhered to the conventions of the time as readily as her peers, and this was not the path she chose.

As a 30-year-old spinster she opened her own grocery shop in Walmgate, York – towards the south-eastern end of the walled city – in 1725. Alongside the basic diet of the time, this shop sold tea, coffee and chocolate – all increasing in popularity as foodstuffs at the time – but also sugar, spices, tobacco and snuff.

However, the York of the time was not as widely accepting of women bucking conventions as the Quaker society that Mary came from. Permission to trade in the city of York was only granted if you were a member of the Society of Merchant Adventurers, and as a woman Mary was not permitted to join.

Despite the lack of a licence to trade, Mary’s business continued. She was faced with opposition from the Society of Merchant Adventurers, with many threats of fines and imprisonment that continued until around 1733. She was not cowed by this, and her business thrived. Eight years after the business was established Mary paid a small fine to the Society, and was allowed to carry on.

She took on her nephew William Tuke, the son of her younger brother Samuel, as an apprentice in 1746, and the business moved to a more prominent spot at the corner of Coppergate and Castlegate.

Mary died, childless, in 1752, and William inherited the extremely successful business that she had built. In turn, the business was taken over by the Quaker Rowntree Family, and became part of York’s chocolate history.

Mary’s founding of this business, and its involvement in the start of the chocolate business – which, at her time, was imported and sold in hard cakes to be boiled in milk or water to make a fashionable drink – has led her to be referred to as “The Mother of York’s Chocolate Industry”.

To find out more about the women in your family, contact Once Upon A Family Tree for female-oriented genealogy.

To find out more about Mary Tuke, visit:

https://womenofyork.wordpress.com/mary-tuke/

http://www.rowntreesociety.org.uk/mary-tuke/

http://www.on-magazine.co.uk/yorkshire/yorkshire-history/mary-tuke-mother-of-york-chocolate-industry/