The grave of Elizabeth Grant in the churchyard of St Nicholas’ Church, Elmdon suggests to the casual reader that she was a local servant as the inscription mentions 43 years of faithful service. However, she seems to have been a wealthy and literate woman and the “faithful service” may be a description of her work on behalf of the church rather than in domestic service.
The inscription on the gravestone is now rather worn but it reads:
This stone is erected to the memory of
In testimony of faithful service
For forty three years
She died January 4th 1823
In the peace which springs
Only from faith in Christ The Saviour
And in the joyful hope of obtaining him through eternal life
My flesh shall slumber in the ground
Till the last trumpets joyful sound
Then burst its chains with sweet surprise
And in my saviour’s image rise
As she died in 1823, this pre-dates information on census returns. Without more information, we have been unable to find details of her birth, so it’s not known whether she was born in Elmdon or elsewhere. Her will gives her status as “spinster,” so the assumption is that the surname “Grant” was her maiden name.
The announcement in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette on Monday 13th January 1823 of her death, simply says: On Saturday, at Elmdon, beloved and respected by her relatives and friends, Mrs Elizabeth Grant, aged 57.
The title of “Mrs” – or “Mistress” – does not necessarily mean that a woman was married. The term was often applied to all adult females of higher social status, regardless of marital status.
Information from Elmdon Church is that she was buried on 8th January 1823 and that the address given in the burial register was “Elmdon House” which is what Elmdon Hall was known as at that time. It wasn’t until the burial of Abraham Spooner Lillingston in 1834 that “Elmdon Hall” first appears in the burial register.
Last Will and Testament
Elizabeth Grant’s will, dated 23rd February 1821, is available on the Ancestry website (access to which is available free of charge from all Solihull Libraries) and gives some clues to family members and friends, as well as to her status. The beneficiaries named were:
- Ann Bates, wife of Edward Bates of Elmdon, who was named as Elizabeth Grant’s executrix. Ann Bates was bequeathed two large silver table spoons and eight silver tea spoons, and was also the residuary beneficiary of the estate.
- Edward Bates, son of Edward and Ann Bates, who was described as Elizabeth Grant’s godson. He was bequeathed £150 pounds, plus all of Elizabeth Grant’s books.
- Mary Bates, daughter of Edward and Ann Bates was bequeathed £30.
- Jane Tomlinson was described as Elizabeth Grant’s aunt and was bequeathed £50.
- Ann Allwood Meddows [sic] was described as Elizabeth Grant’s cousin. She was bequeathed £50, plus all of Elizabeth Grant’s sheets, pillow cases, towels, table cloths and bed quilts, as well as bed hangings and all of Elizabeth’s “wearing apparel of every description.”
- Sarah Ovirin (?) was described as Elizabeth Grant’s first cousin, and was to receive £20.
- Charles Brooks, another first cousin, was also to receive £20.
- Mary Connouls, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Connouls of Tanworth was bequeathed £50.
- Elizabeth Battin, described as Elizabeth Grant’s “Fellow Servant,” was bequeathed £30, plus Elizabeth’s mahogany writing box.
- Ann Gibson, the wife of Thomas Gibson, was bequeathed £20.
Elizabeth Grant also left £20 to be laid out in flannel and given to the poor in or about Elmdon, at the discretion of her executrix. Bequests of £20 each were also made to the Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society.
The monetary value of the named bequests amounts to £440 – a staggering sum for the time, which seems to confirm that Elizabeth Grant had private means and was not a working class domestic servant. The Measuring Worth website indicates that wealth of £440 in 1821 would be the equivalent today of over £44,000, if measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI).
The fact that Elizabeth Grant owned books and a writing box also suggests that she was literate, which was an unusual accomplishment for a woman born in the mid-18th century, and indicative of a well-to-do family background.
It has been estimated that in 1800 (when Elizabeth would have been about 35 years old) about 60 per cent of females in England and Wales were illiterate (see Education, Literacy and the Reading Public by Amy J. Lloyd, 2007).
In an effort to trace more about Elizabeth Grant and her origins, we have tried to trace the beneficiaries named in her will.
The Bates family appear to have been in Elmdon for over 30 years. Elizabeth’s executrix seems to have been the Ann (née Hanson) who married Edward Bates at Elmdon on 30th March 1796. Both were recorded as being “of this parish.” Edward died on 13th March 1830, aged 73 and is buried in Elmdon. His widow, Ann, died in Liverpool on 16th September 1833, aged 74. Although she is commemorated on her husband’s gravestone, she is buried in Liverpool.
The gravestone also commemorates one of their children, Thomas Bates, who died on 3rd May 1819, aged 15 years.
The couple’s eldest son, Edward Bates, who was baptised at Elmdon on 17th April 1797, died in London on 28th August 1829, aged 32.
We haven’t been able to trace Elizabeth Grant’s aunt, Jane Tomlinson, or most of her cousins as, without knowing ages, places and, in the case of some of the women, maiden names, there are just too many possibilities.
There is an Ann Allwood Meadows, of Belmont Row, Aston, who died in March 1833, aged 70, who may have been the cousin mentioned in Elizabeth Grant’s will. There is also another Ann Allwood Meadows, born about 1786 – presumably her daughter – living at Belmont Road, Aston in 1841 and 1851. This Ann was unmarried and described as “[of] independent [means]” on the 1841 census, and as “Lady” on the 1851 census. She died in November 1860, aged 74.
The Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society
It seems likely that Elizabeth Grant’s “faithful service” was linked to her support of religious organisations, although given that she was living at Elmdon Hall at the time of her death, we can’t rule out that the “faithful service” was to the Spooner family who were in residence at the hall.
The bequests to the Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society, as well as the quote on her gravestone from Congregational minister and hymn writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748) all suggest that she was a person of Christian faith.
Interestingly, the Birmingham Church Missionary Society (founded 1814) had Richard Spooner (1783-1864) as one of its founder members. Richard was the son of Isaac Spooner (1736-1816) of Elmdon Hall. Richard and his father are both buried at St Nicholas’ Church, Elmdon, as is Richard’s brother, the Venerable William Spooner (1778-1857), who was Rector of Elmdon for 55 years until his death. It was Rev. William Spooner who conducted the burial service for Elizabeth Grant, and signed the burial register pictured above.
Richard and William’s older sister, Barbara Ann Spooner (1771-1847) married the anti-slavery campaigner, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) who was also involved in the establishment of British and Foreign Bible society, the Church Missionary Society, and the Sunday School Society. We’re told by Elmdon Church that the Ven. William Spooner was also involved in the Church Missionary Society.
If you have any further information about Elizabeth Grant, please let us know.
Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies
© Solihull Council, 2023.
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