Personal etching discovered at Little Moreton Hall
Reflections of a Victorian tragedy have recently been discovered in the windows of Cheshire’s best-known Tudor home.
An unusual inscription on one of the windows in the famous long gallery at Little Moreton Hall has been identified as a very personal etching in memory of a young Congleton girl who sadly died in 1892. The discovery has come light after Jennifer Edwards, a National Trust volunteer room guide at the hall, took a closer look at one of the 12,500 tiny panes of glass in the gallery.
The pane, known as a ‘quarry’, is located high on the gallery’s end-window. Scratched into it, virtually unnoticed over the years, are the words ‘Mary Martha Gee waskild Nov 22 1892’. Jennifer said, “I had difficulty making out the fourth word. So I took a photograph and realised it must translate as ‘was killed’. I also thought there may be a connection to an inscription on another quarry on the side windows of the gallery, several metres away from this one.” Several workmen who were involved in extensive repairs and restoration to the gallery in 1893 scratched autographs into the glass. One of these workmen was a local plumber called ‘William Gee’.
Jennifer searched various census returns and found that Mary Martha Gee was a girl who lived in Congleton until her death in November 1892 at the age of eight. She established that William Gee was her grandfather. He was a master plumber contracted to carry out specialist work on the lead which holds the glass together in the gallery windows. A check on the death certificate for Mary revealed that she was involved in a tragic accident with a baker’s van. Little Moreton Hall’s historian, Jill Owen, then located a newspaper cutting about the inquest. The ‘Congleton and Macclesfield Mercury and Cheshire General Advertiser’ was the fore-runner of the Congleton Chronicle. On 26 November 1892 the newspaper reported that May Hankinson, a friend of Mary, gave evidence that they were playing in Spragg Street. Mary ran across the road with another girl. A baker’s van had come along the street and knocked Mary down.
Jennifer explains, “It’s obvious that William Gee was still grieving for Mary when he was working on Little Moreton Hall a few months later. He inscribed the quarry in memory of his little granddaughter. I hope he would be pleased that now we have discovered the tragic story behind the inscription, and her name still lives on at Little Moreton Hall.”