Matilda Robb: lady’s maid?

Since writing the last post about Matilda Robb, I’ve been following up the possibility that she spent much of her adult life as lady’s maid to Lady Frances Basset, baroness, heir to the Basset tin mining fortune, and owner of  Tehidy Park in Illogan, Redruth, Cornwall. As mentioned in that last post, the 1851 census has a Matilda Robb, born in Scotland, living at Tehidy Park with Lady Frances and described as a ‘ladies’ maid’. The only fly in the ointment is Matilda’s age. Although the printed transcription gives her age as 47, and thus born in about 1804 – only a year off the date for her birth (1805) given in the family Bible – closer inspection of the original census form reveals that she actually gave her age as 42, which would mean that she was born around 1809 or 1810. Searching for other records for Matilda, I came across a Matilda Robb living in Devizes, Wiltshire at the time of the 1841 census. She is mentioned alongside a Mary Basset aged 70 and Baroness (?) Basset, aged 60 (both of ‘independent’ means) – and again is described as a servant. I thought this was too much of a coincidence, especially as the baroness’ age matched that of Lady Frances, but I was initially confused by the location. However, scrolling through the other entries on the page, it would appear that the ladies were probably staying at an inn or hotel in the market-place in Devizes: perhaps caught away from home on the night of the census? This time, Matilda’s age is given as 30, which would mean she was born in 1811. If this is indeed ‘our’ Matilda, then there may be a number of reasons for these inconsistencies. It may be that she, or those who spoke for her, were unsure of her precise age and the year of her birth (she can’t have been 30 in 1841 and 42 exactly 10 years later). It may be (though one doesn’t wish to speak ill of one’s ancestors) that Matilda, or her family, falsified her age – downwards – when she applied for employment with Lady Frances. I’ve been doing some research on Lady Frances and the Bassets and hope to have more to report in due course. However, I have managed to find details of Lady Frances’ will online. She died in 1855, and the Basset line died out with her. In her will, she left Matilda an annuity of £100.The baroness’ death would explain why Matilda left Tehidy Park and perhaps moved to London, where the surviving members of her family were living. More needs to be done to fill in her ‘missing years’ between 1855 and 1860. It would also be interesting – if this is indeed ‘our’ Matilda – to discover the age at which she went into service. She would have been a child of 4 or 5 when her father and mother moved the family from Scotland to Yorkshire, but 15 when her youngest sibling Elizabeth was born there in 1820 (this is assuming that 1805 is her correct birth date). Does her absence from the 1841 census return in London mean that she did not follow the family there, but perhaps went away into service before then – and if so, directly to Lady Frances or was she employed elsewhere before that? Of course, Matilda Robb, lady’s maid, may turn out to be a completely different person, unrelated to this branch of the Robbs. But I haven’t been able to find anyone else of that name in either the English or Scottish census records for this period.From what I’ve managed to discover, the role of lady’s maid involved close personal care of one’s employer: dressing and undressing, brushing her hair, looking after her room, acting as a companion: rather like a personal assistant. 

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2 Responses to Matilda Robb: lady’s maid?

  1. Pingback: Elizabeth Robb (1821 – 1860) « Martin Robb’s Family History Blog

  2. Pingback: The death of Joseph Boden « Martin Robb’s Family History Blog

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