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Matlock Bath: Mrs. Mary Widdowson
People who lived in the Matlocks : Photographs, Postcards, Engravings & Etchings
Mary Widdowson
Photographed by John Wiliam Hilder
Mary Widdowson
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Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers

Upper Wood, about 1890

Upper Wood

Zoo Tea Gardens,
Upper Wood

Heights of Jacob,
Fluor Spar Cavern

Jacob's Ladder or Jacob's Steps

Romantic Rocks

Cumberland Cavern

An old envelope and its contents helped Chris Dewey research information about his great great aunt, Mrs. Mary Widdowson.

Born in St. Pancras, London, Mary (nee Boot) and her husband William set up home in Matlock Bath, living near Masson Mill and also in Matlock Dale[1]. They spent a many years living in Upper Wood on the Heights of Jacob, next door to Jacob Raynes. She would undoubtedly have used Jacob's Ladder (linked on the right) as the quickest route down into Matlock Bath.

It was here Mary was visited by her very young great niece about 1918; Mary is remembered as a very elderly lady who ran a tea room in Matlock Bath. William and Mary had one daughter, Bessie (b. 1858)[2], who died in childhood. Bessie was buried at Holy Trinity Church in 1861[3]; her father was buried there in 1907 but it is not yet known when Mary died. She wasn't in Matlock Bath in 1911, but there were two uninhabited properties in Upperwood at the time of that census[8].

William Widdowson was mostly described as a labourer in the census returns. However, in the 1880s he also worked as a tout to persuade people to visit both the Cumberland Cavern and Romantic Rocks. In 1882, whilst visiting the cavern proprietor's house to obtain tickets for six visitors, he appears to have had an altercation with another guide called Richard Hallam[4]. It transpired that it was Hallam's turn to "chaperone" the party but in the event another guide took over. The matter did not end there; William Widdowson was attacked a number of times by Hallam later that day, the second time with a red-hot poker. Then Hallam attacked Mr. Widdowson with "a ragged piece of limestone" whilst Mrs. Hallam joined in, hitting him with a stone ginger beer bottle[5]! Police Inspector Brettle corroborated the injuries the Mr. Widdowson had sustained, described as severe wounds, and there were three eye witnesses to the incident[4]. At the petty sessions Hallam was committed to trial at Derby Assizes, with £50 bail allowed and 2 £25 sureties[6]. He was later imprisoned for four months, with hard labour[7]. Curiously, Hallam's home was not far for the Widdowsons' house[1].

Mary's photograph was taken in the studio of the photographer John William Hilder on South or Museum Parade. She is holding a book in her right hand. Although he didn't advertise in Kelly's 1887 Directory, Hilder set up in business in Matlock Bath some time between then and 1891, continuing to advertise until 1899. He was still in the village in 1901, described as a "Photographer Stationer Domestic".
See 1901 census transcripts.

Envelope addressed to Mary, sent in 1895,
which the photograph was kept in.

There is more on site information about
Part of Upperwood is shown in an 1890 picture
Matlock Bath Golf Club

Images of the photograph and envelope kindly provided by and © Chris Dewey, who would like to hear from anyone either with more information about Mary or who knows anything about her possible family connection to Jesse Boot.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] See 1861 census | 1871 census | 1881 census | 1891 census | 1901 census. It is probable that the couple married about 1855, although Mary had possibly been married before as no Widdowson/Boot marriage has been found. William was not the child baptised at Chesterfield on 11 Apr 1832. His parentage is unknown at present.

[2] GRO Indexes show a birth for an unnamed child with the surname Widdowson and the mother's maiden name as Boot in Q3 1858. Derbyshire Registrars Birth Index shows her as the "Daughter of William Widdowson" who was registered in the sub-district of Matlock.

[3] See Matlock Bath : Holy Trinity Church Burials. Mary possibly died in 1921, aged 82 - but this has not been verified.

[4] "Derbyshire Times", 8 July 1882. Unlawful wounding at Matlock.

[5] "Sheffield Independent", 6 July 1882.

[6] "Derby Mercury", 6 Jul 1882. The Petty Sessions had been held the previous day.

[7] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 4 August 1882. Hallam was once more in trouble the following year, when he was again fined for using threatening language towards Daniel Bryan ("Derbyshire Times" 15 September 1883). He was in trouble again in 1888, when it was said that he had been a touter for 37 years ("Sheffield Independent", 27 September 1888).

[8] The 1911 census is available on FindMyPast - see Links in the footer.