A Stray: Mary Prior

Saving ‘fallen’ women1) was a key concern for philanthropic women in the late 18th and 19th century, but help often came at a heavy price for the women concerned: incarceration in a ‘Magdalen’ asylum and a heavy diet of punitive religiosity, penitence and deprivation. A book (bound together with Burke’s Landed Gentry) was probably a fund-raising publication for one such institution in London. The book is The Hymns, Anthems and Tunes with the Ode used at the Magdalen Chapel set for the organ harpsichord, Voice German-flute or Guitar, Book I (published c. 1790).2) An inscription in the front reads:

'- Mary Prior – to whom this Book belonged died unmarried at an advanced Age at No 5 in the West Mall Clifton on 18 December 1868 and was buried (according to her own desire) in Clifton Church yard, under a Stone[?] and monumental Inscription 24th of the same month. E[l?] Byam her Executor – Ellen Byam her sister.'

Where do Mary Prior and her sister fit in? Presumably they are family members as her book ended up in the family collection; the best guess is that they were daughters of Lodge Morres M-P, but this needs research. At time of writing, the Death Registration Index (incompletely transcribed by volunteers) doesn't show anyone that fits the above description. As intriguing is why the Magdalen book was bound together with Burke’s Landed Gentry - an ironic comment?! This book presents us with another mystery that awaits further research and speculation. Over to you for ideas, comments and further research…

Any woman who had sex outside of marriage - including prostitutes, incest and rape victims, and single mothers.
Provenance: J. Godden.
  • a_stray.txt
  • Last modified: 2018/09/10 21:50
  • by judith