Mrs Isabella Collins...
Mrs Collins lived here for 40 years but did Dunham Massey ever feel like home?
Although Mrs. Collins was a part of the Dunham household for over 30 years, we know far less about her in comparison to the Mary Booth and Penelope Stamford, and have only 2 photographs of her in our collection. She was still a very important woman in Dunham’s history.
Isabella Annand Collins was born in Peterhead, Scotland on 5th April 1862 to Michael Collins and Isabella Collins (née Thompson). She lived there with her mother and 3 sisters; her father was possibly away at sea.
Her life at Dunham:
She began her first role on 4th March 1898, in the service of the 9th Earl of Stamford, but this was short-lived. Unfortunately we don’t know why she left, or where she was between her unemployment and her re-hiring but nonetheless, she is back in the job in 1903. It wasn’t until 1908 that she became the Housekeeper at Dunham, the role we know her best in.
As Housekeeper, Mrs Collins (given this title out of courtesy rather than marriage) among many other tasks, would have been in charge of the female servants – her position was highly respected. In addition to her duties, when the house became the Stamford Hospital in 1917, Isabella served as a VAD until 1919.
Did she get the vote?
The Representation of the People Act in 1918 wouldn’t have applied to Isabella as she was unmarried and didn’t own property. She became eligible to vote in 1928 when women were given electoral equality with men; and in 1929 her name was on the Electoral Register.
What happened to her after she left Dunham?
Mrs Collins left Dunham in 1936, just shy of her 74th birthday, returning home to Peterhead. She died at the age of 88 on 12th October 1950. So even after 34 years’ service with the Earl of Stamford family, including 28 years as Housekeeper in a great house such as Dunham Massey, “home” for Isabella was in a working class district close to the docks in the fishing town of Peterhead.