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The Banks and Higham Family

Mary Ann Banks and her future husband Mark Higham worked for the Haigh family at Whitwell Hall, Malton, North Yorkshire, she as lady’s maid to Louisa Haigh and Mark as a groom. 


When Louisa married Sir Edmund Anthony Harley Lechmere in 1858, they both relocated with her to Hanley Castle. The 1861 census shows Mary Ann aged 32 as head schoolmistress at the Training School, Turnpike Rd, Hanley Castle, and Mark as the butler at The Rhydd, the home of the Lechmere family, who were absent on the day of the census. Mary Ann Banks looked after her brother's daughter, also Mary Ann Banks, aged 6 in 1861, when he left for the Gold Rush in Australia. She boarded at Harcourt Cottage, Rhydd Green, with Samuel Claydon, a retired coachman, and his daughter Sarah, a schoolmistress. The young Mary Ann joined her father in Australia 20 years later.


In a book by John Noakes published in 1851, 'The Rambler in Worcestershire', the Training School is mentioned as being founded in 1840 by Lady Darell to train female servants. She was the mother-in-law of the vicar, Anthony Berwick Lechmere, with whom she was living at the time of the 1861 census. Noakes comments that the school catered for thirty-three girls, dressed in green and white, and taught them to bake bread, wash and iron linen, clean furniture, and knit among other accomplishments.


After Mary Ann and Mark married in 1864, they became tenants of The Oak Inn, Rhydd Green, where their three children were born. But on 24th March 1876 they sold up, the auction notice stating, “The Oak Inn is situated midway between Upton on Severn and Malvern and includes livestock, trade implements, casks, brewing equipment, a canal boat, the property of Mr Mark Higham who is leaving”.  Everything was sold except the oak grandfather clock which Mary Ann would not part with. Made by the country clockmaker Vincent Smith around 1725, it had one dial and a brass pendulum. Mary Ann and Mark returned to the Durham/Yorkshire border where her family had originated.


Their granddaughter, Winifred (b.1899) often recalled the family story that when Mary Ann accompanied Louisa on her Grand Tour, she was given permission to sit as a model for an artist painting of the Madonna and Child.


Source: Val Metcalfe 

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