Wednesday, 12 November 2014

SECRET STORY

 
I love to buy antique albums. Sometimes they are full of coloured scraps, sometimes drawings and watercolours by the owner or by friends. If you find a name and some dates it might even be possible to discover a secret story.
 
 
This one had a name,
Anne Mayers Burton.

 
Inside there was a painting of Anne's home, Taverham Rectory in Norfolk, where her father Robert was vicar - and a date, 1852. I was able to find out that Anne was born in 1839 which means she was 13 when she painted the Rectory.
 
 
 
 
She filled the album with charming pictures, some of country life and others of Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast, where she probably spent summer holidays.
 
 
 
 
There was another clue - a drawing of a genteel house in Brasted, Kent. This was owned by Anne's maternal grandfather, John Pollard Mayers who was born in Barbados, as was his daughter Sarah, Anne's mother.
 
 
Anne died in 1856 aged just 17. I wonder if she knew about her grandfather's family history? His family had owned sugar plantations and slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries and, in the early 1830s, John Pollard Mayers fought for compensation after slavery was finally abolished. He owned over 700 slaves and received at least £16,000 from the British government - which would be worth around £10,000,000 today. 
 
 
What would a well-to-do vicar's teenage daughter have thought about slavery, 20 years later, in the 1850s?
 
Perhaps she would have preferred playing with Spot to contemplating the past.
 
 
*** 

23 comments:

  1. As much as I like stories
    that can rebuild and take out
    from the past, I find them very fascinating.
    Good week Nilly
    Love Suzy x

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    1. Yes - I like this too. I hope you are finding lots of pretty things!

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  2. That's a treasure. Anne was a talented girl - so sad, but not uncommon in those days, to die so young. There's a lot of 'ifs' here - of course - and, as you say, I wonder what she was like. It's easy to judge the past with our own eyes. Quite a bit of research for you in this - great post!

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    1. Researching the things I find is great fun - and, now we have the internet, not too difficult. Though, of course, Jane Marple is my alter ego!

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  3. What a wonderful thing to find. Quite remarkable drawings for someone so young too.

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    1. I can't resist objects which have such close connections with the original owner. They tell unique stories and, for a moment, you can touch their lives.

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  4. How beautiful....and fabulous that you have managed to trace the history of this talented teenager. How can you cope with selling these treasures you unearth ? I can only imagine how many you decide have to be kept ! jx

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    1. You have a good idea what I'm like Janice! As you've guessed, some things I just have to keep. It's surprising how many stories I do discover from a lot of the things we find - sometimes you only need a name.

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  5. What an enchanting find. The drawings are so evocative. I had no idea slave owners where allotted compensation when they 'lost' their slaves.

    Jean
    x

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    1. Yes indeed, slave owners were paid and it cost the British government around £20,000,000 in the 1830s.
      It's surprising what you learn when you buy a little book at a fair!

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  6. This is such a lovely posting; both the drawings and the story. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Judie. I've never found any anti-slavery pottery, though I have seen pieces in the Wilberforce museum in Hull. That would be a find!

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  7. Just found your blog. Love the stories surrounding objects & places. Will be back for more. Thanks. Katharine

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    1. Thank you for commenting Katharine.

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  8. Absolutely fascinating and really rather moving, Nilly. Seeing these amazing sketches from such a talented young artist and then putting her sadly short life into a 'with hindsight' context - very thought-provoking. Axxx

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    1. I think her siblings all survived, but her sisters never married. It is interesting how many things I find and research are not kept by children and grandchildren, but come down through unmarried aunts. Perhaps having one's own family lessens attachment to distant relatives.

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  9. So interesting and thank you for the sound research, Tilly. What a pity she didn't paint a self-portrait!
    (My Booth's Christmas Book has just arrived and I can't resist, I'm going to order something and blow the expense - I think I'll go for a Yorkshire pie and a Harrogate loaf!)

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    1. The Booth's book is beautifully produced, isn't it - and there are some irresistible treats in it. Luckily my nearest shop is only 4 miles away in Ripon.

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  10. Oh so interesting, what a lovely post! The sketches are really beautiful and has a history...
    Warmly,
    Titti

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    1. Thank you Titti - hope you post more beautiful photographs for us soon.

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  11. This was such a poignant post nilly, she would never have imagined her small personal writings and drawings would have been read and researched with such care in the future. One thing I think we can probably be sure of is that the sea of posts on the internet will never be researched or valued like this. x

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    1. Perhaps there are so many (millions?) of us eagerly trawling the "sea of posts" that they have a value all their own.

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  12. I love how you put so much effort into researching objects you find and take us on a journey of discovery with you.

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