My friend Miss Mary Ann Port

This is the third and final part of the story of my great, great, great grandmother, Mary Ann Port. You can read the first part here and the second part here.


The long, drawn-out Chancery Case, Port v. Hovil[1], had provided me with some wonderful detail of Mary Ann’s young life. I knew that she had been born in the City of London and that after her father’s death in April 1799, she had been sent to school at Miss Cox’s in Vauxhall. I also learnt that in December 1804, when she was 16 years old, she had been sent to Buckingham to live with a friend of her mother’s, Mrs Hutton.

Henrietta Hutton (née Thomas) was the wife of the Reverend James Long Hutton, also known as James Long Long! His parents had changed their name from Hutton to Long for inheritance purposes in 1772[2], leaving young James with his rather curious name. James was the vicar of Maids Moreton, a small village just to the north of Buckingham and the family also had a house in Lillingstone Lovell, a few miles further north.

Henrietta and James had four daughters, Henrietta, Mary, Ellen and Jane Lucy. The youngest was born in 1804 and it seems likely, therefore, that Mary Ann was sent to Buckingham to help Henrietta with her young family.

We know next to nothing about the next thirty years or so of Mary Ann’s life. The Chancery case was finally settled in 1817[3] and Mary Ann and her siblings inherited £606 13s 4d each – 18 years after their father died they finally got what was due them. It wasn’t a fortune by any means but it must have made a big difference to their lives.

I found a reference in a book about the Long family to an event which took place at the Long’s house in Lillingstone Lovell in 1827[4]. Apparently three of the servants (two women and a man) were dismissed and one of them ended up taking his own life. Unfortunately, no source is given for this event (I’ll have to contact the author!) and there’s nothing to suggest that Mary Ann was directly involved but she would certainly have known the people involved and she would surely have been emotionally affected by it.

The next definite sighting we have of Mary Ann doesn’t come until 1834. On 18 September that year, Henrietta Long wrote her will[5] ‘by virtue and in exercise of the several and respective powers and authorities given or reserved to me by the settlement made on my marriage…’.

In it she named her three daughters, Henrietta, Ellen and Jane. Jane must be Lucy Jane but curiously, Mary isn’t mentioned (she was still alive so more research is required!). Henrietta named a number of other beneficiaries including her half-sister Charlotte Bryant, for whom she set up an annuity of £20 and then, about half way through the will, we come to this:

And also to pay unto my friend Miss Mary Ann Port during her life a like annuity of twenty pounds to commence from the day of my decease and be payable half yearly

Later on in the will Henrietta makes another bequest to Mary Ann:

And I give my clothes of every description unto the said Mary Ann Port

It’s clear from this that Henrietta was very fond of Mary Ann and that she wanted to ensure that Mary Ann was able to support herself after her (Henrietta’s) death.

The will includes another bequest of interest to us:

And also to pay unto my friend Miss Seeley the sum of ten guineas for a ring

You may remember from the second part of this story that Mrs Seeley was mentioned in the Account drawn up by Richard Hovil as part of the suit in Chancery:

To Cash Mrs Seeley new Dresses for Miss Mary Port

Mrs Seeley, it turns out, was Richard Hovil’s daughter and the Miss Seeley mentioned by Henrietta would appear to be his granddaughter.

Henrietta went on to write no fewer than seven codicils to her will, most of them making minor changes to the original. But before we look at these, we’ll make a brief diversion and pop down to London on New Year’s Day, 1835.

St Georges Church Hanover Square detail from print dated A fashionable wedding at St George's Hanover Square

Wedding in St George, Hanover Square (detail). Engraving by Thomas H Shepherd (1845)

We’re inside the parish church of St George, Hanover Square in the fashionable part of Westminster, where no fewer than twelve weddings are scheduled to take place that day. The one that we’re interested in is the first one entered in the St George’s parish register for 1 January 1835[6]. The groom was the Reverend William Andrewes, ‘Clerk, a Bachelor of the Parish of Buckingham in the Town and County of Buckingham’ and the bride was Mary Hutton, a spinster and although this isn’t specified in the register, she was the daughter of the Reverend James Long Long and one of the girls that Mary Ann had helped to bring up. The register was signed by the bride and groom along with the minister (who turns out to have been Mary’s cousin!) as well as two witnesses. And the witnesses were James Long Long Rector of Maids Moreton Bucks and … Mary Ann Port!


Marriage of Rev. William Andrewes and Mary Hutton, St George, Hanover Square, 1835 with the signature of Mary Ann Port, one of the witnesses, bottom right

I only found this entry today while doing some further research for the blog and I have to confess that the discovery has left me feeling quite emotional. The idea that the family – that Mary Hutton in particular – wanted ‘my’ Mary Ann to be at her wedding and more than that, to be her witness, has genuinely moved me. Apart from anything else, I’d never seen Mary Ann’s handwriting before, but there it is in the register. A nice firm hand, clearly well-educated (thank you Miss Cox of Vauxhall!). A little piece of Mary Ann preserved for eternity…

Back to Henrietta’s will and those codicils. Mary Ann was mentioned in no fewer than four of the codicils and it all tells a rather depressing story:

On 10 August 1835 Henrietta cut Mary Ann’s annuity of £20 in half, giving the other £10 to ‘my servant Ann Malins’ with the whole going to the survivor on the other’s death. Then on 2 June 1836 Ann Malins gained an additional annuity of £20. Ann was still living with the family at the time of the 1841 census and seems to have become Henrietta’s favourite. But there’s more. On 3 June 1840 Henrietta wrote another codicil directing that Mary Ann’s annuity be paid ‘into the hands of my daughter Henrietta Hutton and by her in her discretion applied in food clothing or other necessaries for the benefit of the said Mary Ann Port or otherwise to be so applied by my said Executors in their discretion’. She goes on to say:

And whereas I have by my said will given all my clothes to the said Mary Ann Port now I do hereby revoke that bequest and do give and bequeath all my clothes to my said daughter Henrietta Hutton requesting (but not directing nor intending hereby to raise any trust) that after retaining what she chuses for herself she do dispose of the rest as she shall think fit to the said Mary Ann Port and my servant Ann Mailins first giving to each of her sisters anything she may deem acceptable to them

And finally, later the same year on 28 November, Henrietta made one further change. It seems that she had advised Mary Ann to invest part of her property in a government annuity which was due to expire in 1860. Realising that if Mary Ann should live beyond 1860 she would lose that income, Henrietta now set up a further and additional annuity of £20 to commence from 1 January 1860.

Again, we see that Henrietta was keen to ensure that Mary Ann was able to live comfortably. We also get the impression from the earlier codicil in June 1840 that Mary Ann was increasingly unable to look after her own affairs and the next episode in the story confirms this view. The 1841 census finds Mary Ann living in an asylum in Northampton. The returns give Mary Ann’s age as 50 and her occupation as governess.[7]


1841 census of Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Northampton showing Mary Ann Port, a 50-year old Governess. The National Archives

Governesses ending up in mental asylums is not that unusual. They lived a difficult life, neither part of the family they were working for, nor one of the servants. It was a lonely existence and they would often become emotionally attached to children who in later life had little or no affection for them. This was clearly not the case with Mary Ann but nevertheless it’s not too surprising that she ended up where she was. In 1860, Harriet Martineau, quoted by Ruth Brandon in Other People’s Daughters, her fascinating study of ‘The Life and Times of the Governess’, stated that “governesses, along with maids-of-all-work, constituted by far the largest number of women in asylums.”[8]

The Northampton General Lunatic Asylum (pictured in the heading of this post) was opened in 1838 and it was what we might call the ‘better sort’ of asylum. The poet John Clare was an inmate from late 1841 until his death in 1864 and he was apparently encouraged to continue writing by the superintendent of the Asylum, Dr Thomas Octavius Prichard. Prichard, it seems, was a humane man and a pioneer of the non-restraint movement, which he saw as “a system of kind and preventative treatment, in which all excitement is as much as possible avoided, and no care omitted”. It’s quite reassuring to know that Mary Ann’s asylum was run by a man with enlightened views such as this.

I looked at some records of the Asylum at the Northamptonshire Archives back in 2014 but I realise that I need to have another look at what I found – I suspect that there’s more to be discovered. I know that Mary Ann was in the Asylum as early as July 1840. The records show that her fees were being paid by Rev. James Long, but in July 1843, this changed and there was a new name against the payments: Miss Henrietta Hutton.


Ledger, Northampton General Lunatic Asylum – Northamptonshire Archives & Heritage

This ties in with the death of Henrietta Long on 25 March 1843. I suspect that although the payments for Mary Ann were made in James’s name, it was actually Henrietta who was looking after her, and that when Henrietta died, her namesake daughter took on the responsibility.

On 25 April 1845, Mary Ann Port was removed from the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum and just over a year later, she died in Buckingham. A death notice was published in the Bucks Herald of 23 May 1846, describing Mary Ann as ‘late of Missenden’.[9] Had she really lived in Missenden for the last year of her life or was ‘Missenden’ a cover-up for her time in the asylum in Northampton?

Mary Ann Port died on 19 May 1846 and was buried in the parish churchyard of St Peter & St Paul in Buckingham on 25 May. No gravestone survives and there may never have been one. The stones were cleared from the churchyard some time ago. She was described on her death certificate as a gentlewoman and the cause of death was given as Icterus (a type of jaundice).[10] The informant was Martha Pipkin, ‘present at Death’; Martha was the wife of a Gardener and has no apparent connection to Mary Ann.

Mary Ann Port was only 57 when she died. As the daughter of a wealthy merchant and a governess to an influential landed family, you might imagine that she would have had an easy life. And compared to many it was probably a comfortable life but after losing her father when she was only 10, waiting over 18 years for her inheritance while working as a governess and then, when she was about 50, being admitted to a mental asylum, it was certainly a life of ups and downs.


If you’ve been paying attention you might have noticed something that doesn’t quite add up here. I’ve referred to Mary Ann Port throughout this three-part blog post as my great, great, great grandmother – but I haven’t mentioned anything about her having any children. If you want to know the answer to this conundrum, watch out for the fourth part of the trilogy (thank you, Douglas Adams!) in which I will reveal all…

© David Annal, Lifelines Research, 15 August 2020

[1] Bill of Complaint of Elizabeth Port and others. Port v. Hovil – The National Archives (TNA) reference: C 13/70/5 and other documents
[2] Private and Personal Acts of Great Britain. 1772 c. 48 – Mary and William Hutton and others: licence to take the name, arms and crest of Long, pursuant to the will of James Long, deceased. – accessed 15 August 2020
[3] Port v. Hovil. Master’s Report – TNA reference: C 38/1145
[4] Inheriting The Earth: The Long family’s 500 year reign in Wiltshire by Cheryl Nicol (2016) p.352
[5] Will of Henrietta Long of Buckingham, 18 Sep 1834, Prerogative Court of Canterbury – TNA reference: PROB 11/1990
[6] Marriage of William Andrewes & Mary Hutton, 1835, St George Hanover Square, Westminster – City of Westminster Archives Centre reference: STA/PR/2/2 p.454
[7] 1841 Census, Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Northampton – TNA reference: HO 107/814/20 f.14 p.7
[8] Other People’s Daughters by Ruth Brandon (2008)
[9] Bucks Herald, 23 May 1846, page 4, column b – British Library Newspapers Collection accessed via Findmypast 15 August 2020
[10] Death certificate of Mary Ann Port – General Register Office reference: JUN 1846 Buckingham vol 6 page 236

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1 Response to My friend Miss Mary Ann Port

  1. Pingback: Humbly complaining | Lifelines Research

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