The Two Milliners

This is the third in a series of four posts about the family of William Smith of Melmerby (1781-1857) and his wife Mary Longrigg.

The two milliners are two of William Smith’s four daughters: Mary Sutton and Agnes Scott.  Mary and Agnes were first cousins of my great-grandfather Lancelot Smith of Corballis (1824-1899).

Mary and Agnes did not marry farmers – unlike their older sister Ann and probably most of their aunts and great-aunts before them. Instead, their lives took a different, more urban, path.

Mary Sutton (1821-1882?)
Mary was the sixth child in the William Smith family of 11 children. She was baptized on the 30th of May 1821 in Melmerby Parish Church. Mary appears in the 1841 census as Mary Smith, living in Penrith with her younger sister Agnes Smith. Mary’s occupation was listed as milliner. Her age was given as 20 but this is not necessarily reliable because in this first full census people were asked to round their age down to the nearest 5 or 0. Actually, Mary would have been just 20 years old when the census was taken on 6 June. In the same household, Agnes was listed as aged 15 when she would actually have been 17 years old. It is not clear from the census record if Agnes had an occupation but I expect she was also a milliner or learning to be one. There was also a third girl living with them called Ann Errington; she too was listed as being 15 years old.

When I first saw this census record, I felt badly for the two sisters having to leave their family home in Melmerby and go to live in Penrith, about 9 miles away (15 km). Presumably their income from the making or selling of ladies’ hats was small.

In the following census of 1851, Mary Smith was still living in Penrith as a milliner, with her sister Agnes and now with her youngest brother Lancelot. He was aged 17, working as a draper’s apprentice. Both sisters were milliners. The census record says Mary was aged 27 (actually 29 or 30), and Agnes was 24 (actually 27). I felt even worse having found the three siblings living together in 1851 and thought their prospects were dim.

In 1857, when Mary’s father William died, she received a legacy of £140 in his will. Mary was still unmarried at that time. The legacy would be worth about £12,260 in today’s currency.

In the 1861 census I was interested to find Mary was visiting family members in Islington, London. She was recorded in the household of her youngest sister Elizabeth, who had married William Harrison (more on them in a later post). This particular census record was especially interesting because it listed in the same household: William Harrison, lace manufacturer employing 50 persons, aged 33; Elizabeth Harrison his wife, aged 30; Lancelot Smith, unmarried, partner (in above business), aged 28; Mary Smith, widow, aged 67 (Elizabeth’s widowed mother), annuitant; Mary Smith, unmarried, aged 32, retired milliner; and a house servant. So by this time, Mary was able to retire from millinery (on the strength of her legacy?) and her brother Lancelot was in business with his brother-in-law – a business that was clearly an impressive size. I no longer needed to picture Mary eking out a miserable living in a small Penrith house!

In 1871, Mary was recorded in the household of her brother Lancelot Smith in Islington. From this record, it seems that Mary was by then living with Lancelot and his family (a wife and two sons) with three domestic servants.

Then, in November 1873, Mary Smith married James Henry Driver Sutton in St. Augustine’s Church Highbury in the Parish of Islington. Her husband (known as Henry at this time) was a widower. Witnesses at the wedding were Lancelot Smith (Mary’s brother) and Maude Harrison.

This marriage was quite a surprising discovery because Mary was 52 at the time. Her husband Henry was about six years younger than her. I wonder how Mary met Henry Sutton. He was living in Islington at the time of the 1871 census but mere propinquity would not likely have been enough. I think they may have met through Methodist social circles. The Smiths were Wesleyan Methodists of long standing and, in the 1881 census, Henry was identified as a local Methodist preacher in Reigate. However, the Wesleyan connection is speculation on my part.

In the 1881 census, Mary was recorded as Mary Sutton, living with her husband Henry  in Reigate, Surrey. Henry Sutton was listed as a printer and stationer  and also a Methodist preacher. He had been born in Gosport, Hampshire. The 1881 census record is also helpful regarding Mary’s sister younger Agnes who was visiting her. Agnes was listed as Agnes Scott, widow. At this point, I thought I knew who Agnes had married but nothing else about her after 1857 when she was mentioned in her father’s will.

I believe that Mary Sutton died in early 1882 in Reigate. She would have been about 60 years old. I have not found a will or probate record for her or her husband Henry.

Henry continued to live in Reigate and, in the 1891 census, he can be found living there with his son Bertram Henry Daniel Sutton (listed simply as B Sutton), who was also a printer. Looking into the story behind Bertram, I have found that he was born in late 1866 and that his mother Elizabeth Monk died in that same quarter so I assume she died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. In 1901, Henry was living with his widowed sister Matilda Jones and her two daughters in Bracknell, Berkshire, but after that I have lost sight of him.

Agnes Scott (1823-1898)
Agnes was the seventh child in the family of 11 Smith children. She was baptized in Melmerby Parish Church on the 27th of August 1823. In describing Mary Smith, above, I referred to the fact that Agnes was living with her in Penrith in 1841 and 1851, according to the census records. Agnes was two years younger than Mary.

In her father William’s will of 1857, Agnes – like her three sisters – was given a legacy of £140. When she was mentioned in the will, she was referred to as being the wife of Joseph Scott. Actually his name was Francis Scott.

Agnes married Francis Scott in 1856 in Penrith District (which could mean in the Parish of Melmerby or the town of Penrith). Francis was born in Kendal, Westmoreland, in 1829. He was a linen draper in Penrith, where his business was at Long Front, Penrith.

In the 1861 census records, Agnes and her husband can be found living at 23 Arthur Street in Penrith. No children are listed.

In the 1871 census, Agnes and Francis were still living in Penrith; this time they were living at Ashley House, Union Street. Also living with them was William Smith, a draper’s assistant, aged 20. I think this William Smith was the eldest son of Agnes’s older brother John Smith of Melmerby. I assume that William was working for his uncle and learning the drapery business. (This work may have been short-lived because William Smith was back in Melmerby at the time of the 1881 census.)

Francis Scott died in late 1880 in Penrith. For his widow, he left what I think was a considerable estate of close to £4,000. The sum of £4,000 at that time would be worth around £360,000 in terms of today’s standard of living.  It would be safe to say that Agnes Scott was then comfortably well-off as a widow in Penrith.

As already mentioned above in my comments about Mary, in the 1881 census Agnes Scott (widowed) was staying with her sister Mary and Mary’s husband Henry Sutton in Reigate, Surrey. This was a temporary visit, perhaps following on the death of Agnes’s husband Francis Scott in late 1880. I say this because, in the 1891 census, Agnes was again living at Ashley House, Union Street. This time she was living with her niece Hannah Smith (one of the daughters of John Smith of Melmerby). Agnes was “living on own means”; Hannah had no stated occupation or means of support. Possibly she was living as a companion to her aunt.

(Meantime, when Agnes was in Reigate in early 1881, her house in Penrith called Ashley House was occupied by Agnes’s niece Hannah Smith with Hannah’s own niece Elinor Smith (George Hardy Smith’s daughter), aged 2. Clearly, there were strong connections between various members of the Smith family.)

Agnes Scott died in 1898. Hannah Smith was the executor of her will. Effects as stated in the probate record were £2,270 15s. That would be worth about £232,100 in today’s currency. I wonder if Agnes bequeathed her house and other assets to her niece Hannah.

There are three other children in William Smith’s family to be described but I will leave them for the final post in this series of four posts. They are: William, Elizabeth and Lancelot.

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