An insight into the daily life of Lady Mordaunt (Marianne Holbech)

1777 - 1842


The daughter of William Holbech and his wife Ann(e), née Woodhouse, she had been born in 1777, according to a number of public family trees on "She was christened Mary Ann after twin sisters Mary and Ann who had died previously in infancy, and only later adopted the spelling Marianne.......In her diary Marianne wrote that when still in her teens she enjoyed "much friendship at Walton," and when she was twenty two the attachment began which was to end in marriage" to Sir Charles Mordaunt, 8th baronet, on 30th June, 1807, at Farnborough. (Quoted from "The Mordaunts, an Eighteenth Century Family", Elizabeth Hamilton, 1965). She was widowed 30th May, 1823, and died 9th June, 1842.

The following two extracts are both from the same "The Mordaunts, an Eighteenth Century Family," by Elizabeth Hamilton, or Lady Hamilton, published in 1965. The will of Sir Charles Mordaunt, the notorious 10th baronet, specified that the Walton estate should pass, not to his son and the heir to the baronetcy, but to the eldest son of his second wife's eldest daughter. This was Sir Richard Hamilton, bart. who inherited the estate in 1961. In an empty room, Sir Richard's wife, Elizabeth, found a carefully preserved collection of family letters and documents stretching from the last years of the seventeenth century to the 1820s, which she used to write her book on the family.

"'Our mutual attachment,' Marianne wrote after her husband's death, 'was no common one.' Their happiness was marred by the ill-health of both, but adversity bred great affection. Charles's sense of humour must have helped him to surmount some of his difficulties, while Marianne's deep piety and years of probation under 'the Divine Teacher' taught her to submit to the trials she had to undergo:
...without them what would my life have been? with them how mitigated every trial, how enhanced every joy.
She prayed frequently for strength to face her own failing eyesight, her mother's state of nerves. Her exquisite water colours bear witness to her talent in the artistic field, and her list of pious readings show how seriously she applied herself to the improvement of her mind."

"Sensitive and deeply introspective, Marianne poured her thoughts out on to paper - her anxieties about her children, her prayers for patience, her remembrances of childhood, her good resolutions for old age - 'I should like to remember not to fidget away the precious time of the young' - and her sorrow following Charles's death. He had been grieviously ill for four years and on 30 May 1823 after a particularly bad asthmatic attack she knew that the end was near. He seemed resigned, almost happy; at length:
....he leaned heavily back on my right arm & all was over.
Marianne found room in her heart only for gratitude that his sufferings were finished; the blessings of God I so continue!"

This strong, religious piety is very much evident in the diaries of the Rev. Richard Seymour, of Kinwarton, Warks. These diaries, held on microfim by Warwickshire County Record Office (M12936), have been partly transcribed by Kelly McDonald, as part of her own study into the Smiths of Suttons, Essex, Richard having married a member of the family, Frances (Fanny) Smith. Kelly kindly wrote to me in early 2013 with the references to 'Lady Mordaunt.'
Kelly explains:

Fanny Smith married Richard in 1834. Within a few years, Richard is making brief mentions of a Lady Mordaunt. He once clearly refers to her as Dowager Lady Mordaunt, but as there are references to "Lady Mordaunt and her two daughters" -- and one is finally ID'ed as "Miss Emma Mordaunt", I therefore believe he *consistently* refers to Marianne (Mary Anne?) and not her daughter-in-law when mentioning Lady Mordaunt.... Richard's diaries go up to the 1870s, so I cannot say how far he discusses the family. But these early pictures are endearing, and I thought you would find them useful.

Although his high praise of the Mordaunt ladies is a little reminiscent of Mr Collins in "Pride and Prejudice", in fact, he was the son of a Rear Admiral and his wife Fanny was the daughter of an MP and the grandniece and later sister of a baronet and so they were very much social equals.

Apart from a couple of insertions by the webmaster, all the explanatory notes are Kelly's.

The earliest entry seems to be the 31st of October, 1836.
"Fanny and I went to Avonhurst to stay till Wednesday with the Dow:r Lady Mordaunt: found there herself & two daughters and a cousin Mrs. M. {Mordaunt, presumably} Sir John & wife dined there & Cap:n & Mrs Harding --"
(Webmaster's note: Avonhurst was the name of a house and estate in village of Tiddington, a mile or so north east of Stratford-upon-Avon. The parish of Kinwarton is about 5.5 miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon while Walton Hall is about 4.5 miles east. The house was privately leased by Marianne and the lease bequeathed to her daughter Emma in her Will.)

November finds him "doing the duty" in Alne, one of his parishes (in addition to Kinwarton); and on 12th November "Capt Harding & the Miss Mordaunts called"

7th February 1837 (he's headed the page Kinwarton):
"to Lady Mordauntís, where I dined: met there her two Brothers, Mr. Barton and Mr. & Mrs. Brackridge(?), staying there; the last have been in Syria and much at Athens, and are well informed & religiously disposed and agreeable - Rode home at night" (Webmaster's note - Wow! That would have been a 10 mile ride!)

12th February 1837:
"Finished ďa true storyĒ for Lady Mordauntís Bazaar". (I've no idea what Richard's true story was about or how this fit into the bazaar...)
A notation of Sir John Mordaunt's address being 32 Upper Grosvenor St., London.

15th July 1837
"Went with Fanny to Lady Mordauntís."

17th July 1837
"Met Sir J Mordaunt & Mr. Shirley at Alcester."

20th July 1837
"Lady & Miss Emma Mordaunt and Mr. & Mrs. Barton came over and passed several hours here - a very pleasing party all."

22nd September 1837
"Drive Fanny to call on Lady Mordaunt: found that Miss M: (Webmaster's note: "Miss Mordaunt," by the conventions of the time, would refer to the eldest daughter, Mary) had had a most dangerous 21 days fever. Recovering."

19th March 1838
"Fanny, Baby and I &c went to pass two nights at Lady Mordauntís."

21st September 1838
"Returned home: more pleased than ever if possible with Lady M: {Mordaunt} & her two daughters - so much good sense, information and high refinement, combined with and richly enhanced by that soberness, delicacy of feeling & true kindness, w:h real religion can alone under Godís blessing generate. Thankful for such friends --"

26th September 1838
"The Miss Mordaunts came to stay with us --"

29th September 1838
"{Cameron} left us and the two Miss M:s {Mordaunts} with them we are especially pleased - what a charm has that high refinement and sound education w:h is the privilege of gentle birth & riches, when sanctified and adorned by the graces of true religion! Such is their charm: and therefore I am thankful that we have the prospect of enjoying their friendship & esteem, with that of their ever estimable Mother--"

9th April 1839 he rode to Lady Mordaunt's

14th June 1839 he rode "to see Lady & the Miss Mordaunts"

(Webmaster's note: The first national census lists Lady Mordaunt at Avonhurst with her one unnmarried daughter Emma and a niece, Mary Erskine, the daughter of her husband's sister Mary. Among the seven servants was 13 year-old William Page. He was the son of Fanny and Richard Seymour's housekeeper and correspondence about him in an undated, but probably early 1839, letter from Fanny to her mother, also forwarded to me by Kelly McDonald, shows the responsibility wealthy families felt they had to their servants.

"We have the offer of the place for him I mentioned, it is at Lady Mordauntís to live under a very nice butler, if he behaves well at M.D.M. (a family abbreviation for Mapledurham House, Herts., Fannny's mother's home) from this time, we mean when you go to tour to let him come here for a month or two & learn a little house work & by that time Lady M. will be ready for him, but it must depend entirely on his behaviour, if you are kind enough some time to speak to him again would you impress this on him, it is just the sort of place every boyís parents want, & they are just the people one would wish any one to go to, but we will not recommend him if he is not deserving."

Kelly further wrote:
Searching my Smith collection of letters, I see Fanny Seymour, 1 July 1839, had this to tell her youngest sister Maria:
"When I see Lady Mordaunt I will not fail to give her your message, our horses lameness will incapacitate me from visiting her at present..." (Hampshire Records Office)

21st September 1839
"Drove to Stratford & Alcester - saw Lady & the Miss Mordaunts"

24th September 1839
"Went to Lady Mordaunt's with Fanny to dine - sleep"

15th October 1839
"Lady Mordaunt and her two daughters, came to dine & sleep-"
and next day "This charming trio departed."

22nd October 1839
"Rode to Avonhurst, thence with Miss Emma Mordaunt to call on L:d Holmesdale and then to Walton to Sir John Mordaunt's"

Fanny's elder sister Emma (Mrs James Edward Austen Leigh; with Mary Lady Smith my other chief person of interest) writes another sister, Eliza,
"2 Jan 1841: "I think Miss Mordaunt's intended marriage seems a very promising one" (Hampshire County Reference Office) (Webmaster's note: This would have been Mary Mordaunt's marriage to Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, bart., on 14th April, 1841.)

This was as far as Kelly had had time to transcribe at the time of her contacting me in January, 2013. She had, however, looked for the dowager Lady Mordaunt's death in 1842:

10th June 1842
"Began to cut my grass, the continued drought having stopt its growth. Went to Alne to meet candidates for Confirmation. On our return, I found a letter from Capt:n Holbech, with the most sad announcement that our dear kind & most respected friend Lady Mordaunt died last night! She was indisposed on Saturday - on Tuesday inflammation of the lungs was manifest, and on Wednesday a sleep commenced, w:h terminated in the deep sleep of death on Thursday at 9 PM. Happy, most assuredly, most happy is her truly Christian Spirit; May the God & Savior whom I believe She so faithfully served, comfort her poor children, sister, brother and friends. I shall ever feel it an honour & a privilege to have enjoyed her esteem, w:h I believe she gave me to a far greater extent than I deserve --"
He notes the following day that he "answered Capt:n Holbech's letter. Both Fanny & I feel that we lost a truly beloved friend."

The results of Kelly's research into the Smiths of Sutton family can be seen in her blog: