Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Felsham Philanthropist: Mary Montgomerie Anderson 1836 to 1914

A hundred years ago, a woman who closely involved herself in improving the conditions of Felsham’s inhabitants over many decades, died at Kilmarnock in Scotland at the age of seventy-eight.  Her name was Mary Montgomerie Anderson and she was the niece of the Rev Thomas Anderson who lived at the Felsham Rectory from 1822 until his death in 1872.

Felsham Rectory

On her uncle’s death she married his eldest son, John, who was also her first cousin.  They lived first in Bury St Edmunds and then at Yewlands (now called Felsham House).  After her husband’s death in 1894, Mary continued to live in Felsham but eventually retired to live near her birthplace in Ayrshire.

Annick Lodge, Ayrshire

During the first thirty years of her life, Mary and her mother frequently travelled to Felsham from Scotland to stay at the Rectory.  She was quite an accomplished artist and during her twenties she made numerous sketches of local landmarks including Gedding Hall, Felsham Hall and the cottage now called Swallow’s Nest.

While living at Yewlands, Mary closely involved herself in village life and in activities connected with the Church.  Along with the then rector, she made a significant contribution to the restoration of the church that took place during the last three decades of the 19th century providing money for a range of projects including the re-roofing of the nave in copper and the provision of a modern organ in the chancel (1899).

Bury & Norwich Post 17 Dec 1878

  In 1897, she provided land on which a new village school was built (now the Village Hall) and made a contribution to the building costs.  In the summer of 1900, Mary attended the annual school treat in the new schoolroom, where “cheers were given for the Rector, Mrs Anderson and other kind friends, who assisted the children to spend a happy day.” (Bury & Norwich Post, 14 Aug 1900)

Felsham and Gedding School undated photo

After the death of her husband, Mary spent more of her time in Scotland but she still took a close interest in Felsham.  In 1906 she paid for the construction of a small Reading Room situated next to the Rectory and which was used by villagers for many years before it was demolished sometime in the mid-20th century.

Felsham Reading Room undated photograph

In her will, Mary left £100 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts which in today's money was the equivalent of around £10,000.  A very generous woman indeed.


Note 1: Mary Montgomerie Anderson and Sir John Tilley

Mary Montgomerie Anderson was the sister of Susanna Anderson Montgomerie, Sir John Tilley's mother.

In her will, Mary left Yewlands with all its furniture plus a lump sum of £5,000 to her nephew (Sir John Tilley).  On his retirement from the diplomatic service, Sir John came to live in Felsham and renamed Yewlands, "Felsham House".

    Note 2: St Peter's Church and Mary Montgomerie

After her death, a copy of Raphael's "Charge to St Peter" was placed above the Altar in her memory.

Read about Mary's husband - John Thomas Anderson - and local politics here.

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