Hanbury Hall: a Woman's Place?

Portrait of Lady Georgina Vernon in a purple dress, showing the back of her head as she is looking away from viewer.

To commemorate 100 years of women’s suffrage, we have delved into the past to uncover stories of the Women of Hanbury Hall. From titled Ladies to poor widows, fresh research has revealed the experiences of these women and how they carved out their own place in a challenging world.

Emma Vernon (1754-1818)

Emma was the first and only woman to inherit Hanbury Hall. However under English law, once married everything Emma owned would become the property of her husband. 

Emma’s father took steps to ensure Hanbury Hall stayed in the Vernon family, but control of the estate remained with her husband throughout his lifetime, even after their separation, a scandalous divorce and subsequent remarriages. Emma was nearly 50 before she was able to return to Hanbury and that was only upon the death of her first husband.

Lady Georgina Vernon (1840-1928)

Lady Georgina took an active interest in the welfare of women and children and used her wealth and status to help others. She organised for nurses to be employed for the care of Hanbury’s villagers and supported the founding of Red Cross groups and District Nursing Associations in the area.

Lady Georgina created a convalescent home for injured soldiers in one of the family properties and assisted in the in the training of local women in domestic work. She was also president of a home in London to teach at-risk girls the skills needed to gain employment. 

Auda Letitia Vernon (1862-1957)

Despite being the eldest sibling, as a woman, Auda couldn’t inherit Hanbury Hall.  However, this did not stop her from being an active part of village life and a passionate advocate for the future of the Hall.

Auda had interests in nursing and the WI, as well as travelling abroad whilst working with the British Women’s Emigration Association, supporting women to seek a new life and career abroad.

It was said of her by those who knew her that ‘…if she had been a man, she would have been a Major General.’


Sarah Churchill as Achilles on the Painted Staircase at Hanbury Hall
Close up of a section of the Thornhill wall paintings at Hanbury Hall, showing Achilles as modelled on Sarah Churchill
Sarah Churchill as Achilles on the Painted Staircase at Hanbury Hall

Sarah Churchill (1660-1744)

Sarah Churchill, wife of the Duke of Marlborough, was the inspiration for Achilles in the wall paintings that adorn the staircase at Hanbury Hall.  Sarah was the favourite of Queen Anne and used her position to influence to monarch and gain power for her husband and friends.

She was eventually replaced when her support of the Whigs put her in opposition to the queen in a period of political turmoil.

Jane Herne (1849-1917)

Born into dire poverty in London, Jane left behind 5 well educated children and an estate equivalent to £122,000 when she died aged 68.

Jane had become Head Gardener at Hanbury Hall upon her husband William’s death. She developed, with Lady Georgina’s help, a thriving horticulture business growing and selling vegetables, flowers and fruit from the Walled Garden.