A marble memorial to Mary Parsons and Elizabeth Decker, who were servants to a Hornsey family for 57 and 47 years respectively in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, has been returned to St Mary’s Tower, Hornsey High Street.
This is just in time for The Great Get Together Hornsey Community Picnic and Tower Open Day on Sunday, June 16th 12.30 – 5.00pm.
The memorial which is a slab of marble 79 cm wide, 56 cm high and 2cm thick was found in the back garden of a house in Halliwick Road, Muswell Hill, where for many years it had lain behind the garden shed with its face to the wall. Apart from some scratches and organic matter on the surface, the writing is still legible, 200 years+ after it was carved. The memorial reads:
Erected to the Memory of MARY PARSONS, the diligent, faithful and affectionate Servant of one Family, during a period of 57 years.She died, November 22, 1806, aged 85 years.
To the Memory of ELIZABETH DECKER, the Friend and Companion of the above; who, after an exemplary service of 47 years in the same family, died February 3, 1809, aged 75 years.
Their remains, at their mutual request, were interred in the same grave.
Written evidence* from several 19th century sources refer to the above as the ‘Two Faithful Servants’ memorial. It was on the wall over the Female Servants pew in St Mary’s Parish Church, Hornsey. This church was demolished in 1832 and a larger church built on its footprint. The Two Faithful Servants memorial, along with many others, was transferred to the new church. This church, consecrated in 1833 was replaced by a late Victorian church close by (1889).
This third parish church was demolished in 1969 and the ancient memorials were scattered, many disappearing without trace. Some memorials are in the current parish church, St Mary with St George, Cranley Gardens, N10. A particularly fine memorial to Francis Munsters who died in 1680 is displayed in the V&A Museum.
Victoria Midwinter who owns the Two Faithful Servants memorial contacted John Hinshelwood, HHS member, who runs a monthly Local History Surgery at the Old Schoolhouse, HHS’s Hornsey base. She and her former partner had already carried out a search on the origins of the memorial and John continues to research the histories of the two female servants. So far, he’s made progress in putting together details of Mary Parson’s story.
In her book Ivy-Mantled Tower, HHS Vice President Bridget Cherry pointed out that, ‘Domestic servants were rarely honoured by memorials within the church’.
Do go to St Mary’s Tower on June 16th to see the memorial which will be on display. Victoria intends coming to see it in situ.
Remember to visit the Hornsey Historical Society volunteers on their stall to learn more about the three Hornsey Parish Church buildings and the old Parish and Borough of Hornsey. They will endeavour to answer any queries have.
The Cottager’s Monthly Visitor, November 1822, page 496
The Faithful Servant Adorning the Christian Character, The Religious Tract, 1836, pages 294 -295
A Collection of Curious and Interesting Epitaphs, Frederick Teague Cansick, London, 1875, Monumental Inscriptions in St Mary’s Church, Hornsey section
Ivy-Mantled Tower A History of the Church and Churchyard of St Mary Hornsey, Middlesex, Bridget Cherry, HHS, 2015, page 59, part of a section entitled, ‘A Variety of Monuments’, pages 37 – 60.
The memorial in Old Hornsey Church – courtesy of Peter Barber; Old Hornsey Church – HHS.