MRS MARY ANN COOPER AND THE PERRINS

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos


Mrs Mary Ann Cooper
Mrs Mary Ann Cooper
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

This was to be a very short piece about Mrs Mary Ann Cooper, who, in 1861, lived at Number 2 Tintern Villas, Station Road, Epsom. She was a widowed proprietor of houses, with just two daughters, a son-in-law, two visitors related to the latter and a servant on the premises - everything looked straightforward, except that there was a large gap between the ages of the daughters, which usually means there are other children in between, and it turns out that there were seven offspring altogether (seven that I can name anyway, and I know very little about most of them). However, the trail eventually extended nearly three thousand miles from Epsom.

Mrs Cooper was born in about 1800 in Ottery St Mary, Devon, maiden name unknown. The children, all born in London, seem to have been Mary Ann (1821), Collingwood (c.1824-65?), Frances (c.1824), Robert (1826), Emily (c.1827, married Robert Pilling Drinkwater, cotton manufacturer/commission agent), Louisa (c.1828) and Helen (1841/2). The names have been taken from Mr Cooper's will, so we know at least that they are correct.

Robert Cooper Senior was a silk and velvet manufacturer in Spitalfields (the firm being Cooper & Wilson of 8 Cateaton Street, which has since become Gresham Street - I suspect that the Wilson of this company may have previously been connected with sometime Epsom resident and silk manufacturer Ambrose Moore, who had offices in nearby Milk Street), although the family lived in Effra Road, Brixton. Robert died in 1845, but seemed to leave the family decently provided for. I imagine that, since his wife became a proprietor of houses, she received a reasonable income from rents. In 1851 she was at Marylebone in what looks like part of a house; only daughter Mary Ann was with her. In 1847 Frances had married William Snow, who kept a Temperance Hotel in York; where and how she met him is anyone's guess. In the 1871 and 1881 censuses Frances was in the clifftop village of Stoke Fleming, Devon (near Dartmouth), described as a widow, Her second child, Alice, had been born in Devon (1864) and the first, Frances Mary, in York (1850). Mr Snow probably died in 1866, and the Snow ladies seem to have disappeared after 1881.

It looks as if the only Cooper children who came to Epsom were Mary Ann and Helen. Helen married Frederick Perrin at St Martin's, Epsom on 12 July 1860. I wondered initially how/why the Coopers had gravitated to Epsom from London, but I think it may have been some of the Perrin family who came to the area first. Frederick's father was Joseph Perrin, mercer, draper and woolstapler (i.e. a dealer in wool), and this branch of the Perrin family came from a village called Temple Cloud in Somerset, although it originated in Marlborough, Wiltshire. Some of them were in the silk trade in London and a cousin of Frederick's, Joseph, settled in Epsom and Ewell: he ended up in Eagle Cottage, East Street, Epsom and died, aged 88, in 1917, unmarried. His occupation was always given as Secretary to a landed proprietor, which is singularly unhelpful. Frederick and Helen Perrin were with Mrs Cooper in Tintern Villas in 1861, as were two of his sisters, Sarah Warman and Matilda Beaven Perrin. Frederick's brother, Christopher Beaven Perrin, was then living at Nutfield, but moved to Epsom (West Hill) subsequently and died on 27 November 1867.

There are claims that Frederick was part of the Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce family, although as far as I can see they were surnamed Perrins rather than Perrin. Nevertheless, the condiment was invented by chemists and in 1861 Frederick was a dealer in chemicals. Perhaps more significantly, Christopher Beaven Perrin was a spice merchant. All I need now is a Perrin who specialised in decomposed anchovies, which is apparently a vital ingredient.

Let's get on. Frederick and Helen had two children in Epsom and these were Mary Beaven (1862) and Joseph (c.1865), named after their father's parents. At a later stage another child turned up - Frederick Perrin, born c.1859 London, so he pre-dated the Perrin/Cooper marriage - but I lost him after one census appearance.

We are now off to Temple Cloud, as that is where the Cooper/Perrin contingent went next.

Temple Cloud


Temple Cloud
Village sign, Temple Cloud 2010
Photograph by Maurice Pullin © (cc-by-sa/2.0) via geograph.org.uk

The name sounds rather exotic and, indeed, the Temple part apparently comes from the Knights Templar, who held nearby manors in around the year 1200. This is a village, near to the villages of Cameley and Clutton and not very far from Bath and Bristol. In the 1871 census Temple Cloud had just under 500 inhabitants, including Frederick Perrin's father and assorted other Perrins. Frederick had moved his household back there at some point in the 1860s (I think he had retired, even though he was only in his thirties). It was the kind of small village where the census enumerator didn't write down any addresses, but in 1881 the Frederick Perrin residence was a house called The Refuge, which is still there and Grade II listed. There is also now a Perrin Close fairly nearby.

Unfortunately, Mrs Cooper died at Temple Cloud on 28 April 1867, followed by Helen in 1868, the latter being just 27 years old.

Perrin family grave
Perrin family grave at St James, Cameley.
Helen Cooper/Perrin is buried therein,
along with her in-laws and various others.
Image courtesy of Gravestone Photographic Resource

In 1871 Frederick married widow Emily Jane Hunt (nee Steane) and inherited a further batch of young children. Emily was born in Oxford in about 1833 and married brewer and maltster James Hunt, of Holt, Wiltshire, in 1863: he survived only until 1868. Mary Ann Cooper Junior remained with the Perrin family until she died, unmarried, on 31 December 1878.

So, to take an inventory of the various Perrins and Hunts, we shall go to the 1881 census, where the household consisted of Frederick and Emily, plus the following offspring (ages in brackets).

  • Mary Beaven Perrin (18)
  • Joseph Perrin (16)
  • Reginald James Joseph Hunt (16)
  • Horace Edward Steane Hunt (14)
  • Warman Edward Hayward Perrin (13)
  • Kathleen Emily Jessie Hunt (12)
  • Ivan Ethelwyn S Perrin (5)
  • Elsie Madeline Perrin (4)

McNabs Island


There is something that we didn't know about the seemingly retired Frederick Perrin, long listed as 'of no occupation' in censuses, which is a passion for botany and horticulture and he chose to settle somewhere very interesting to leave his mark on the world. McNabs Island is in the harbour of Halifax, Nova Scotia (it doesn't seem to have an apostrophe, which perhaps it should).

McNabs Island
McNabs Island 2011
Image courtesy of Dr. Blofeld Maps for Free (OSM) (CC BY-SA 2.0) via wikimedia.

Wikipedia will tell you that the island was all about a family called McNab, but part of its legacy in today's world was originally fashioned by Frederick Perrin, who, in 1885, bought the Hugonin Estate and set about developing an English garden there. This description of it comes from an account by Doris Butters, which appeared in 'The Griffin' (a publication of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia) in 1986.

'An old photograph and a small sketch map … showed the Hugonin-Perrin house above a neat, terraced lawn surrounded by native and exotic plantings. Linden, European elm and horse chestnut have now reached majestic proportions, their rich massed green offset by a shapely, wide-spreading copper beech and two unusually large red Japanese maples on either side of the lawn. Native red pine, hemlock and cedar were also planted and now stand straight and tall. Alongside the path up the hill are black locust, and nearby the remains of an old cherry and apple orchard. Near the top of the rise Virginia creeper has wound its way up to a considerable height and formed a dense tangle on several tree trunks.

A variety of roses, mock orange, common and large-flowered Japanese barberry, English hawthorn, lilacs and other shrubs are now almost buried beneath a wild growth of weeds, spruce and alder. At one point we had to push our way through a huge thicket of Japanese knotweed. Wrinkled rose thrives in the salt air near the beach and the open hillside is thick with raspberry, blackberry and blueberry.'

You will gather from the above that over the years the garden had gone to rack and ruin, and it was completely abandoned in the 1930s, but that is no longer so. The island has been designated a provincial park and a charity called The Friends of McNabs Island has for many years now been working tirelessly to reclaim it from dereliction as a haven for flora and fauna and, as far as possible, to maintain the remaining structures. I suppose one could speculate for ever on why Mr Perrin picked this place over all others, but perhaps it was because the year-round climate and seasons were much like those in England, so that he could grow familiar plants, and the island offered the space to achieve a dream.

Frederick Perrin and friend at the house on McNabs Island
Frederick Perrin and friend at the house on McNabs Island
Photograph from The Bill Mont Collection, reproduced by kind permission of Bill Mont ©

So, what of the family?

We don't have to look far to find Mary Beaven Perrin, Frederick's daughter by Helen, since she married Reginald James Joseph Hunt, the eldest son of the second Mrs Perrin. Unfortunately, Mary died on 19 April 1897 and was buried at St Peter's Cemetery, Eastern Passage, Halifax (Eastern Passage is just across the water from the island). Reginald lived on until 1943 and is also buried in St Peter's. Helen's elder son, Joseph, died in 1936 and was buried with Horace Edward Steane Hunt (died 1931) in the same cemetery. Helen's second son, Warman Edward Hayward Perrin, married Kathleen Emily Jessie Hunt (they liked to keep things in the family), but I am not sure where they went or what happened to them.

Ivan Ethelwyn Perrin died at the age of 21 in 1897. Elsie Madeline Perrin married an American called Arthur Seeton Harrigan in 1906 , but it looks as if that didn't work out, with Arthur returning to the USA: this would explain why he is not buried in St Peter's, although Elsie (died 1958) is.

I have a child left over, who is Henry Perrin, born May 1880 in Temple Cloud: he wasn't on the family's 1881 census form (perhaps the enumerator got confused with all the different Perrins and Hunts). Be that as it may, Henry died at the age of 15 and is also interred at the aforementioned cemetery.

As you will have gathered, most of the Perrins and Hunts did not stray far from McNabs Island/Eastern Passage, which suggests that they liked the life. Mrs Emily Perrin died in 1918 but Frederick stuck around until 30 April 1930, by which time he was well into his nineties. Both of them are in St Peter's too. The house mysteriously burned to the ground in 1948.

Photograph from The Bill Mont Collection
Photograph from The Bill Mont Collection
Reproduced by kind permission of Bill Mont ©

Linda Jackson 2018
With thanks to Royce Walker of the Friends of McNabs Island and to Bill Mont.