Sunday, 22 August 2010

Three Spinsters in Margate

At Burleigh House ,13 Cecil Street, Margate, there was a girl's school run by two sisters, Josephine Theakston Waude and Helen Waude. With their older step sister Isabella Theakston they signed the petition. In 1866 they were 36 and 32 years old. They had 24 boarders in 1861. They were interested in improving the standard of the education they could offer their pupils, because in 1864 Josephine had signed the petition to the Syndics of Cambridge University asking that girls should also be permitted to take the University Local Examinations. This petition was successful and by 1867 girls from across the country were taking the exams. However by 1871the sisters were on the move and their step-sister Isabella Theakston ( Who dwelt with them , but lived off her own means) had moved to stay with her elder sister Martha Sprunt .

These are single women who were in the fortunate position of being well provided for. They were able to start a school, but were not dependent on it for a livelyhood. Their mother Sarah had married twice, both times to coach builders in the [Old?] Kent Road, Southwark. By her first husband John Theakston she had Martha and Isabella and a boy John who had only lived 7 weeks. Martha was the only sister to marry- her husband was publican of the Coach and Horses in Greenwich Market , then worked as a clerk for a gas company before becoming a Licenced Victualler.
John Waude's two daughters were born in Southwark and their father died in 1850. He appears to have been a very successful coach maker, working in fine materials (there is an Old Baily trial where he gives evidence when his stock was stolen) The girls moved to Rose Hill, Ash near Canterbury and in 1851n census are described as Independent Proprietors of houses. By 1881 Helen, Josephine and Isabella moved to Westmoreland.

The three women lived out the rest of their lives at Raven Bank, Staveley near Kendal. The house still exists and is a substantial stone house in leafy grounds, built in 1851. Isabella died first, then Josephine- each leaving several thousand pounds to their sisters. The last sister to die left over £17,000 to a Mr Thorp.

These unmarried sisters appear to have been unusual, in that they were well provided for. Their widowed mother had made a prudent second marriage, and Mr Waude, and possibly Mr Theakston also, had invested in property which provided an steady income for the girls. They had run a school for a number of years- was this in lean times when rents were low perhaps. But unlike many of the single women who signed the petition in 1866, their lives for the next five decades were comfortable and secure (Or did they shiver in their Lakeland home, huddling in one room, economising on everything, property rich but income poor???)


  1. Hi Ann

    Thanks for writing about these ladies. They are related to me by John Waude and I have found it fascinating. I have been researching our family history for 6 and it has been a great help to us.

    Best Wishes Elaine xxx

  2. Sorry that should say 6 years!

  3. Frank Thorp was a corn merchant's clewrk in Margate!