Broad Street Wrington HISTORY
A Brief life of
by Echo Irving

The village and Vale of Wrington can boast two outstanding figures: John Locke, the great 17th century philosopher (1632-1704) and Hannah More, 18th century Philanthropist and author (1745-1833).

While John Locke left the village for a much wider stage (read about him in the matching booklet), Hannah More chose the reverse course, in leaving the exciting London society scene to work with and influence the lives of the agricultural poor in Somerset.

Hannah More lived through four reigns: George II, III, IV and William IV.She was born in 1745, the year of the Jacobite Rebellion, and she died in the year that Isabard Kingdom Brunel was appointed to make a survey and present a bill to Parliament for the building of the Great Western Railway. She lived through the Agricultural Revolution, when farming methods allowed landowners to switch from subsistence farming to profit, when the land which had become worn out by the old manorial system, was improved through drainage, manuring and the selective breeding of farm animals.

However, these ‘improvements’ included the enclosure of what had been common lands, which greatly increased the hardship of the agricultural workers.

During the early years of the 18th century there was a general fall in religious standards; the rural dioceses, in particular, were neglected and clergymen who did not have private means (many were youngest sons of the aristocracy) lived in gentile poverty were dependant on their patrons. We get a clear view of this from Mr Collins’s creeping subservience to Lady Catherine du Bourgh in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice’. It had become acceptable for a vicar, or rector, to live away from the parish (often seldom even visiting) and to engage a ‘curate’ at half the stipend to do the work and live in the parish. This abuse was known as ‘plurality’. At the same time Atheism became fashionable among the upper classes.

There was a rise in drunkenness in all classes; London boasted 17.000 gin shops in 1750. Immorality and gambling were rife and at the same time, a ferocious penal code punished trivial offences with deportation and death. You could be deported for stealing anything to the value of two pounds and it was still possible to be burnt at the stake for coining!

Acting against this decline in moral values were such great religious leaders as John Wesley (1703 – 1791), her contemporary, who initiated a protestant revival and the growth of Evangelical teaching within the Anglican Church; Robert Raikes who founded the first Sunday school, or ‘Ragged School’, in Gloucester and John Howard, tried to institute reforms in the prison system. Most influential of all, to Hannah, was WilliamWilberforce, who founded The Society for the Suppression of the Slave Trade.

As Charles Dickens says in the first chapter of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness’.

It was into such a world of violent contrasts that Hannah More was born in 1745 in Fishponds, Bristol, the fourth of five daughters. Her sisters were Mary, the eldest, Elizabeth (Betty), Sarah (Sally) and Hannah’s favourite, Martha (Patty. None of the sisters married.

Her father, Jacob More, was from Norfolk. He had lost a fortune of some £5,000 a year in a lawsuit with his cousin and was forced to move to Bristol to find employment as a supervisor of Excise. Later, on the recommendation of his friend, Lord Botteltourt, he was made headmaster of a free school in Fishponds. It had become fashionable for landowners to establish such schools for the labouring poor.

In 1758 the More sisters opened a school at 6 Trinity Street, College Green, Bristol. The staff consisted of the three elder girls (age range 17 to 19 years), with Hannah and Martha soon following. Funds were raised by subscription.

Bristol at that time was an increasingly thriving city. Profits came mainly from the slave trade but offshoots included merchant shipping interests, glass manufacture, chemical works, foundries and textile manufacture. It had a fine port and a good coach road to London. These prosperous merchants wanted their daughters educated as gentlewomen, and the More sisters were equipped to do this.

So successful was the school that after four years, they were able to have a purpose-built school, at 43 Park Street. Over thirty years, the sisters amassed a large enough fortune to retire in comfort!

The sisters always seemed to have had the gift of attracting interesting people, such as the Dean of Gloucester, James Ferguson, the astronomer, Thomas Sheridan, father of the playwright and, most significantly, Edmund Burke who was elected to Parliament for Bristol in 1774.

Hannah More was, from the first, a charmer, vivacious and attractive. She was described as having ‘Pretty, delicately refined features, rather sharply cut, with beautiful keen dark eyes which were enhanced by the whiteness of her powdered hair’ (See fig. 1: Hannah as a young woman.)She disliked this portrayal but William Wilberforce loved it.

Her first romantic attachment was to Edward Turner, of Belmont (Yes, the famous hymn tune was named after his estate) Wraxall, whose only claim to fame is that he jilted Hannah More! He was twenty years older than her and appears to have been deeply smitten. The trees on his estate were said to be adorned with boards on which were inscribed her poems. However, he appears to have been even more frightened of commitment! The wedding was postponed three times and on the fourth occasion, Hannah refused any further postponement. He settled an annuity of £200 a year on her, which was, at first, refused. This engagement lasted six years, until 1773.It was while recovering from this, at Uphill, that she met John Langhorne, then Vicar of Blagdon. Langhorne is reputed to have written with a stick in the sand:

ȁUpon the shore,
Walked Hannah More.
Waves let this record last!
Sooner shall ye,
Proud earth and sea,
Than what she writes, be past.’

Not great poetry and her reply was both sharper and cleverer:

Some firmer basis, polished
Langborne, choose,
To write the dictates of thy
Charming muse;
Her strains in solid characters
And be thy Tablet lasting
As thy verse.’

Langhorne, who was again a much older man, proposed marriage which was refused. However, they developed a literary friendship which must have helped to rebuild her self-confidence.

The More sisters seemed averse to marriage and this might well stem from the fact that the family alliance was too strong to allow any outsider into it.

Hannah’s life can be seen as falling into four stages. The first stage was as a teacher but at the same time, she was forming connections which would take her on to the London literary scene. She had links with the old Jacob Wells Theatre in Bristol, for which she composed ‘A Prologue to Hamlet’. She also wrote a ‘nice’ play for the scholars at the Mores’ own school, entitled: ’The Search after Happiness: A Pastoral Drama’. Its high moral tone was greatly praised but not I suspect by the young ladies performing it! Hannah’s first professional assignment was at the Theatre Royal Bath. It was a tragedy, ’The Inflexible Captive’, with Langhorne writing the prologue and David Garrick, the epilogue. This contact with Garrick led to her first visit to London, with two of her sisters, betweem 1773 and 1775.

London at that time was a city of about half-a-million people. While its busy streets had fashionable frontages, behind were the most dreadful slums and ‘stews’ and the sanitation, as with most cities in England at that time, was non-existent! However, what it did have were coffee houses. These comparatively new institutions were used by men as places of business and entertainment. Lloyds of London was said to have been started in one of them. It was where such eminent literary and artistic giants as Dr Samuel Johnson, the lexicographer, his friend and biographer, James Boswell and Sir Joshua Reynolds, artist and founder of The Royal Academy, met. The English novel was in its first great flowering, with writers such as Smollett, Fielding and Sterne. Themes were drawn from the lives of ordinary middle-class people. However, it would be a while before the working class would have a written voice because so few could read or write. Plays by Goldsmith and Sheridan were being performed on the stage and David Garrick was appearing in Shakespeare. These productions would not necessarily be true to Shakespeare’s text. One such production of ‘ Lear’, brought Cordelia back to life because the ending was felt to be too bleak!

Her first introduction to London Society was at a dinner given by Sir Joshua Reynolds, at which she described herself as ‘a worm, but a happy worm’. Her first meeting with Dr Johnson was through Reynolds’s sister. Johnson was a formidable man and devoid of pleasing manners and prone to make cutting comments on anyone else’s work. However, he did appear to have a regard for Hannah’s work. He read and approved of her two ballads: ‘Sir Eldred and the Bower’ and ‘’The Ballad of Bleeding Rock’ and even condescended to write an additional stanza to ‘Sir Eldred’.

In 1777 she had ‘a great triumph’ at Covent Garden theatre. Garrick supervised her writing of a play,’ Percy’. He brought all his knowledge of stagecraft, promotion and patronage to bear and the outcome was that the play was performed to ‘enthusiastic’ audiences between 1777 and 1778. Today, we would find it static and without dramatic incident but its moral message suited the times. The famous actress, Mrs Siddons appeared in it in Bath and Bristol and Hannah received the large sum then, of £600.

She had started to write her third play, ‘The Fatal Falsehood’ when, quite suddenly, in 1779, Garrick died. Most reluctantly, she allowed the play to be performed but it ran for only three nights. On the second night, a rival woman writer fainted in her box, but only after shouting at what was the climax of the play, “That’s mine!’ She later wrote that, “by some wonderful coincidence, Miss More and I have one common flock of ideas between us”. Although her claim was refuted by Hannah, this, combined with the death of Garrick, caused her to turn her away from the stage.

Although there is not the slightest suggestion that the relationship between Hannah and Garrick was anything other than platonic, there is no doubt that the feelings she had for him were strong and deep. She remained a friend of his family for the rest of her life.

During the 1770’s she became interested in ‘The Bas Bleu’ or ‘Blue Stockings’. These gatherings of English women of good social position to discuss literature and the Arts, were a new thing in English society; perhaps with a wistful glance towards the salons of France. Through them, she met such powerful public figures as Edmund Burke, Lord North and John Wilkes. In 1780, she met Horace Walpole and a friendship developed which lasted until his death in 1797.

What finally brought this London phase to an end was the sad affair, between 1784/5, of Ann Yearsley, a Bristol milk woman. Some verses written by this uneducated woman excited Hannah. She wrote to her friend, Mrs Montagu, ‘The verses excited my attention for though incorrect, they breathed the genuine spirit if poetry and were rendered the more interesting by a certain natural and strong expression of misery, which seemed to fill the heart of the author’. She decided to raise a subscription through her friends to publish the verses and spent months coaching Ann in the rudiments of composition. When the first volume of poems appeared in 1784, Ann expected that the subscription of £360 would be handed over, but a trust had been formed which invested it to provide a permanent income. Ann’s disappointment resulted in angry recriminations. Hannah resigned from the trust. When Anne demanded the return of the manuscript, Hannah had to admit that it had been destroyed at the printers. Ann then wrote slanderous articles claiming that Hannah intended to use Ann’s money to buy a house in the country for her own use, and ridiculing Hannah’s broken engagement. Hannah felt wronged and humiliated and refused any reconciliation. This incident shows the limitations of Hannah’s character. In line with the age in which she lived, she demanded gratitude and submission from the ‘lower orders’. She dismissed Ann’s ingratitude as ‘an excess of human pride undisciplined by the influence of religion’.

This sad episode, while ending this exciting period of her life also set her on course for the most important third phase; the establishment of schools for the rural poor in Somerset.

Hannah’s attitude towards the evangelical revival in the Church of England was, above all, extremely practical and effective. She approached it first through her interest in the abolition of the Slave Trade.

She initiated the printing and sale of a portrait of a ‘negro boy’; urged her friends not to use West Indian sugar and distributed a plan of a typical slave vessel, showing the terrible overcrowding and degradation of ‘the middle passage’. Slavers had two policies – to pack the slaves in tightly and run the risk of losing many to disease or pack them less tightly and therefore, although starting with less having more in proportion surviving! Bristol was committed to ‘The Triangular Run’: they took glass and other products out to Africa to purchase the slaves, transported the slaves to the West Indies to work on the sugar plantations and brought back spices, sugar etc., back to Bristol. Jane Austin, Mansfield Park’ indicates that it is Sir Thomas Bertram’s plantations in Antigua which are the basis of his fortune. She also hints that it was his eldest son seeing drawings of the sufferings of the slaves which caused his moral and physical decline. However, it was seen by many as a ‘respectable trade’ (certainly by the Bristol merchants).

The Rev. John Newton , a’ born again’ evangelical clergyman, had been a slave trader He is best remembered today as the author of ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds…’Despite not approving of drama, even in Hannah’s innocuous form, he became one of Hannah’s greatest friends and spiritual mentors.

However, the abolition of slavery in Great Britain dragged on to 1807 and the trade itself worldwide, was not abolished until 1833. It is said to have cost the life of William Wilberforce, who died in the same year as the Act was passed. He was probably the man who had the most influence on Hannah of any of the great men she encountered. She first met him in Bath in 1787, when she was 42 and he was 28. He introduced her to ‘The Clapham Sect’ which claimed, and was, ‘a brotherhood of Christian politicians’.

Among other things, they wanted to establish a Sunday School Society for ‘bettering the condition and improving the comforts of the poor.

In 1787, she wrote a tract: ’Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society’. This was unusual, in that she sought to improve morals from the top downwards, rather than blaming it all on the poor. It was a bestseller. Although it was published anonymously, she was well enough known for her identity to be uncovered. She published a further two such tracts: ‘Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World’ (in 1789) and a third: ‘Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education with a view to principles and conduct of Women of Rank and Fortune’ ( in 1790). While hardly the snappiest of titles, it established her as a women with thoughts in her own right and showed her feelings that moral reform had to come from the top of society. It received both Royal approval and storms of abuse. It also showed a gradual change in attitude and a determination to be an instrument of change in her own right.

In 1790, the More sisters retired to Bath, after giving up their Bristol School. They occupied one of the first houses to be built in Pulteney Street. Some five years earlier, Hannah had had a cottage built at Cowslip Green. Although, like Jane Austin, she disliked Bath and declared herself to be, ‘Tired of visiting and quite tired of assemblies’, she did not live in the cottage in winter, because the damp affected her asthma and bronchitis. She wintered in Bath for the next twelve years.


                                                            The original cottage at Cowslip Green

In 1779, William Wilberforce visited her at Cowslip Green. They toured the area but when they visited Cheddar, it was not the magnificence of the great Gorge which impressed him, but the poverty and degradation of the inhabitants. Famously, he is supposed to have said to Hannah, ‘Something must be done about Cheddar’. This seems to have started a process of thought in Hannah which resulted in her decision to establish schools for the agricultural poor which became known as ‘The Mendip Schools’.

She knew enough about rural society to know that there would be fierce resistance from landowners and farmers, so, though some of the things which she said seem quite appalling in the 21st century, they must be understood within the times in which she lived. She was attempting something which had never been done before – the education, however basic, of the agricultural poor: ‘My plan for instructing the poor is very limited and strict. I allow of no writing. They learn of weekdays such coarse works as may fit them for servants. My object has not been to teach dogmas and opinions, but to form the lower classes to habits of industry and virtue…principles not opinions are what I labour to give them.’ The journal of Martha More: ‘The Mendip Annals’ is a record of the difficulties faced and surmounted by these sincere and resolute women. Her sisters supported her in her labours. Hannah’s own diaries and letters can be seen at Bristol Central Library. These are well worth studying and give us a very clear view of this determined woman who never lost her sense of humour!

It was decided to establish the first such school in Cheddar. In a letter to Wilberforce (1789) written from The George Hotel there, she describes the leading landowner as, ‘very rich and very brutal’. He warned her that educating the rural poor would be, ‘the ruin of agriculture and a very dangerous thing’. He even harped back to the monks of Glastonbury as having ‘produced much mischief’ by this means!’ The ‘Mendip Annals’ described Cheddar as ‘A village where there was not any dawn of comfort, temporal or spiritual’.

A local landowner’s wife, one Mrs Barrow, wrote: ‘The poor were intended to be servants and slaves. It is pre-ordained that they should be ignorant. We cannot alter what is decreed. If a school were to be set up it would be all over with property and if property is not to rule what will become of us?

Hannah had no need to establish a school in Wrington because one already existed.

In one letter, Hannah speaks of the ugly children she had ‘fondled’, the hunting dogs she ‘had caressed’ and the cider she had ‘commended’ just to get permission to establish a school. She described the Incumbent as ‘having something to do, but what I cannot find out, in the University of Oxford where he resides’. However, she had her way and the school proved a success. It was followed by others in Shipham (the inhabitants of which were all engaged in Calamine mining) and at Nailsea in 1792.

The situation in Nailsea was quite different. There was plenty of comparatively well-paid employment, mainly in the glass houses. She was shocked by ‘the numbers of profligate poor’. She described ‘the wages as high, the eating and drinking luxurious, the body scarcely covered, but fed with dainties of a shameful description. One if not two joints of the finest meat were roasting in each of these little hot kitchens’. The problem here, to her, was not poverty but ignorance and the opportunity for sin!

She went on to establish smaller schools in Sandford, Banwell, Congresbury, Yatton and Axbridge. She described the latter as ‘an old beggarly town’ with an ‘ancient and unfeeling hard corporation’ who spent the town’s money on riotous living. She claimed that ‘the Prebend Mr G is intoxicated about six times a week, and very frequently is prevented from preaching by two black eyes, honestly earned by fighting’.

The school at Blagdon was opened in 1797 and the following year, it was described as ‘full and flourishing’. The school and ‘Sunday reading’ ‘prospered beyond hopes’ and although the village had previously been notorious for crime, no one had appeared at the Assize and Quarter Session since its establishment. She noted that ‘even pilfering was out of fashion’.

However, things were not going as well as it appeared. In 1798, the Curate of Blagdon preached a sermon at Axbridge criticising the school. Although on the surface, it was no more than a dispute between the curate and the schoolmaster, underneath ran the ongoing question of whether any education should be available to the poor and, if so who should control it? The Church of England regarded the growth of Methodism or ‘enthusiasm’ with apprehension. The curate accused her of knowingly employing a Methodist teacher. It was seen as a working-class religion and for this reason, if nothing else, Hannah would have been unlikely to openly supported it. Mrs Gaskell, the wife of a Unitarian Minister, who lived and worked in Manchester, in her novel ‘North and South’ has her heroine, Margaret Hale, express doubts about the ‘euphoria’ this new expression of Christianity induced in the poor factory workers. This dispute gave rise to twenty-three pamphlets written for one side or the other, many scurrilous. The mildest accused her of knowingly employing an ‘enthusiast school-master, while the most extreme called her ‘a she-bishop! It became known as ‘The Blagdon Controversy’ and, by 1803, it had become a ‘cause celebre’. The curate (the vicar lived away) accused Hannah of having ‘Methodistical enthusiasm’. On another occasion, he went so far as to stick a bill on the turnpike, proclaiming against, ‘the menageries of five female savages of the most desperate kind’. People did not pull their punches in those days!

Continuous, quite vicious, attacks in the Press wore her out and left her dispirited. She wrote to Wilberforce saying: ‘I have prayed earnestly but I cannot command my nerves and though pretty well during the bustle of the day, I get disturbed and agitated nights that I cannot answer for my lasting if the thing were to go on much longer.’

Although it was finally settled in her favour, it left her physically and emotionally shattered.

One should also consider that the effort of travelling round to visit the schools must have been great. She was a familiar sight on her cob. Many places, such as Wedmore became islands in winter. It is shown on contemporary maps as ‘The Isle of Wedmore’ and remained like that until the Duke of Bridgwater drained ‘the levels’. Today, with comfortable cars, we cannot imagine the difficulties of such journeys on horseback in all types of weather.

The Mendip Annals’, of 1791, recounts an attempt, with some success, to introduce morning and evening prayers at the poorhouses in Wrington, Rowberrow, Churchill and Winscombe. They could not do so at Shipham, ‘for the sad reason – no one could read; but alas, everyone could, and did, swear’ Her despondency can be judged by the remark, ‘In one parish where I opened a school of 108 on Sunday, there were not any boys or girls of any age whom I asked, who could tell me who made them.’

While some of the schools failed, others continued and by 1840 had become the first National Schools which would form the basis for today’s village and urban primary schools. Therefore, she paved the way for something far greater than her initial limited aims. She died not knowing how greatly she had succeeded.

Freed from the day-to-day administration of the schools, she was able to move on to other ventures .She still had much she wished to accomplish.

One of the things she helped to establish were friendly societies for women. There were already friendly societies for men, particularly farm labourers. These had come about because of the hardship caused by enclosures and the decline of the woollen industry in the area. They had a unique welfare function not matched by any other organisation at the time. However, there was nothing for women. She wanted them to be run on the same lines as those for men. The first were at Shipham and Rowberrow (1792). These were followed by one at Wrington (1797). The objective was ‘To secure by means of a small quarterly payment, medical and pecuniary assistance to married or single females in the event of illness, and a pension for old age’. In addition, each woman received 10s.6d when she gave birth to a child. When a member died, each living member gave 6d and the Fund contributed £1.1s.0d. The idea which the sisters had was that these clubs would form a social centre for the villages.

Annual feast days for the clubs and schools commenced in 1791, when a dinner of beef, plum pudding and cider was given to, ‘not quite 600 children’. Two tents were pitched upon Callow Hill on Mendip. Cloths were spread on the ground and an area was enclosed for children to sit. Hannah wrote, ‘We all went in wagons and carried a large company of our own to carve for the children, who sang Psalms very prettily in the intervals’. She claimed that curiosity had drawn ‘Five thousand’ and wondered where such a number could have come from in such a thinly populated area! She managed to get nearly all the clergy in the neighbourhood and asked a minister from each parish to say Grace. She wrote, ‘We fed about 900 for less than a fine dinner for twenty costs’. One can only imagine what such an occasion must have meant to the poor rural community.

Girls who attended her schools were under her special protection. Those who continued in its instruction, when grown up, had married in the past year, with a good character, were presented at the feast with five shillings, a pair of white stockings and a new Bible.

The ‘Church-Goer’, reported in the 1850’s, ‘She had a hundred little arts for enticing them to school….she had 2,000 at a time to drink tea with her on top of Mendip’. There is a delightful final comment that, ‘from her faith in their moral efficacy, one would have thought she contemplated reforming the world by means of flowery Pekoe’ (china tea).

In 1804, the sisters sold the house in Great Pultney Street, Bath and moved to the house which they had had built at Barley Wood, Long Lane, Wrington.


                                    Barley Wood as it was originally before later extensions

The threat of an invasion by the French became very real in the early years of the 19th century and in 1804, Hannah wrote to the Commanding Officer of the troops stationed in Bristol offering to put Barley Wood entirely at their disposal in the event of a French landing at Uphill! With this threat of invasion, she became concerned that some of the people she had taught to read might use their learning to get ideas from the French Revolution, so she wrote what became known as the ‘Repository Tracts’. The first was ‘Village Politics by Will Chip, a country carpenter’. This was followed by ‘The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain’. In which the hero was an actual person who earned 6s.6d a week and raised sixteen children! The idea was to counter what were seen as cheap and nasty ballads with wholesome Sunday reading. Good always triumphed and the bad went to jail or were hanged. This is seen in ‘The Story of Sinful Sally: Told by herself: Showing how from being Sally of the Green she was first led to become Sinful Sally, and afterwards Drunken Sal.’ She becomes melancholy and almost to a hopeless end but is saved. They were very successful and thousands were sold.

Then came a series of personal losses which were to affect Hannah profoundly. In 1807, John Newton died at the age of 82. In 1813, the Sisterhood was broken by the death of Mary on Easter Sunday. Hannah wrote, ‘I thought it something blessed to die upon Easter Sunday, to descend into the grave on the day Jesus triumphed over it’.

The remaining sister continued with their tasks but, by 1818, the three other sisters had died and she was left alone and in poor health. In 1827, when she was eighty-two, she wrote to Wilberforce telling him that she wished to sell Barley Wood, but privately and without publicity. She had spent £1,000 on putting the house and grounds in complete repair. Her own health continued to decline and there were times when friends found her to be confused. She felt, rightly or wrongly that her domestic staff had abused her goodness.

On a bleak winter day in 1828, she left Barley Wood and removed to Windsor Terrace, Clifton. She remarked, ‘I am driven like Eve out of Paradise; but not like Eve by angels’.

Barley Wood is currently a treatment centre for drug and alcohol abuse. I feel that she would have been content with this. The Walled Garden has been restored as an organic garden, craft centre and restaurant.

She died, aged eighty-eight on the 7th September 1833 in the same year that Isombard Kingdom Brunel was appointed Chief Engineer of The Great Western Railway.She is buried in the churchyard of All Saints, Wrington, with her sisters. Her funeral is recorded in the church register. Typically, she stipulated that the vault should be plain and not decorated. Over the south door of All Saints is a monument to her memory with a rather long inscription, composed by John Scandrett Harford, the father of Henry Harford who was the new owner of Barley Wood. A writer in the 1850’s remarked, ‘There was so much of it I despaired of carrying away even a tenth part of the fine things said; but I have a sort of misty impression on my mind of a cloud of superlatives’.

Although fourteen years younger than Hannah, William Wilberforce died in the same year.

What is left today? Her name is still attached to the schools at St Philips, Bristol and Cheddar; she has memorial windows in Wrington Church and at Shipham and there is a Hannah More cottage at Cheddar. Her bust is to be seen in the gardens of Barley Wood and there is a rather poor copy in the North Porch of All Saints, facing a bust of John Locke on the other side.

She was held in high esteem by some of the greatest men of her age. Every five years, an historical pageant is held in Broad Street Wrington, commemorating the six hundred years of the village and a big element of this is the present school children re-enacting the great feasts on Mendip.

Although she never travelled further than Wales, her name is well known in Canada and the New World and the village receives many visitors wanting to see her grave. A ‘Barley Wood’ school was founded in Ceylon and The Church Missionary Society had a policy of naming orphaned African girls after her.

In a time when life was difficult for single women, she and her sisters managed to maintain themselves by their own efforts. According to the Bristol Mercury of the 2nd September, 1833, she left £27,500– nearly all to charity: Bristol Royal Infirmary and Bible Society - £1,000 each; £200 to the Burman Mission; The Jew Society - £200; the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge (this was the school portrayed so adversely by Charlotte Bronte in ’Jane Eyre’ in as ‘Lowood’!); £50 – to the Shipham poor; £5.00 and £50 to the Shipham and Cheddar Female Clubs. The balance was taken up with bequests of money and personal effects to various relations and godchildren.

By the standards of the day, therefore, she and her sisters lived unconventional lives in that they did not marry and were able to support a good life-style by their own industry. They should be seen as a team, with Hannah as the leader. Between them, they accomplished a huge amount and pointed the way, in terms of education for all and welfare clubs for women, towards a new age. Quite rightly, Anne Stott in her biography has the sub-title: ‘The First Victorian’.


JONES M G: Hannah More. 1952.
HILL Bridget: Eighteenth Century Women: An Anthology. 1987
HOWSE: Saints in Politics: the ‘Clapham Sect’ and the growth of freedom. 1953.
McLEISH John: Evangelical Religion and Popular Education. 1969.
ROBERTS William: Memoirs of the life and correspondence of Mrs Hannah More. 4 vols. 1838
ROBERTS William: Mendip Annals, being the Journal of Martha More. 1859
SMITH Hugh; Lecture on The Life and Times of Mrs Hannah More.
STOTT Anne: Hannah More: the First Victorian.
YONGE Charlotte M: Hannah More. 1888.