ANN COTTLE (1807-1884)


The very extensive stained glass in Christ Church Epsom Common was installed in the 30 years after the building's consecration in 1876 - predominantly to remember recently deceased parishioners. Almost all these stained glass memorials were for those in the upper classes of Victorian society.

As a domestic servant, Ann Cottle - remembered in the middle three of the north aisle's nine windows - is one of only two exceptions. (The other exception is the coachman, William Nunn.)

Ann Cottle's memorial windows.
Ann Cottle's memorial windows.
Photograph © Nishi Sharma of Light & Shade Photography, 2015

Ann's windows - shown above - were installed in 1884, the year of her death. Probably manufactured by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, they show from left to right:
  • the parable of the widow's mite (Mark 12:41-44);
  • Jesus with some of his disciples (no obvious single source); and
  • Jesus washing the disciples' feet (John 13:1-17)
The brass plaque under the central window reads:
"TO THE GLORY OF GOD / IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF MANY BLESSINGS RECEIVED / DURING A LONG LIFE, THIS WINDOW WAS BEQUEATHED BY / ANN COTTLE, WHO DIED AT HORTON MANOR 25TH JANUARY 1884, / FOR 44 YEARS A FAITHFUL NURSE AND VALUED FRIEND."
Ann was born in 1807 in Bathford, Somerset. From her 1881 Will, we know that she had two sisters, Mary and Charlotte, both of whom later married. However, nothing is known of her life until, a year after she started in service with the family, she was captured in the first modern census of 1841 at 34 Woodhayes, Wimbledon, as one of the domestic servants of William and Mary Elizabeth Brown.

By 1851, the Brown family were living in Penhurst, Kent. That year's census describes Ann as a "nurse" whose main task (assisted by an "under nurse") would have been to look after the eight children, then aged 0 to 14. The 1861 Census found the family in Wateringbury, also in Kent.

In 1868, Mary Elizabeth Brown inherited Horton Manor from her aunt Miss Elizabeth Trotter, to whom she was the closest living blood relation. As a condition of that inheritance, the family changed its surname to Trotter. They moved to Horton Manor in 1869, where William was then instrumental in delivering the new Christ Church, for which Miss Elizabeth Trotter - known as "the founder of the parish" - had left provision in her Will.

The 1871 Census lists Ann - still as "nurse" - among the 17 domestic servants at Horton Manor looking after the family and house. (There would also have been many other employees, housed elsewhere, to look after the extensive estate grounds and farmland.)

Horton Manor House July 1890
Horton Manor House July 1890 - but as Ann Cottle would have known it.
Image courtesy of Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre

By the time of the 1881 Census - three years before her death - Ann, now aged 74, was listed as "domestic servant old nurse". The count of domestic servants had reduced to 15, but eight of William and Mary Elizabeth's 10 surviving children (now aged 28 to 44) were still at home.

Ann, who never married, was clearly very fond of the family for whom she had worked for so long. Her Will - which was drawn up in 1881 by one of her earlier charges, Ernest Balfour Trotter, who had become a Solicitor - appointed Ernest and his brother the Revd Henry Eden Trotter (Vicar of Northam, Southampton) as her Executors and Trustees. The Will's first substantive provision was to direct them:
"as a thank offering for the many years during which I have enjoyed a home in the service of their father and mother to lay out such sum or sums of money as they think fit (not exceeding in the whole eighty pounds) in filling with stained or painted glass three of the small windows or lights in either the North or South Aisle (as my trustees may think fit) of Christ Church Epsom Common".
The three windows in Christ Church's north aisle are the result.

Almost immediately after that instruction, she bequeathed
"to such of the children of my master William Trotter Esquire as shall survive me sixty pounds equally among them in order that they may respectively purchase some article of jewellery or ornament as a memento of me."
(After various other cash legacies from her surprisingly large estate of £ 1,071 - about £ 120,000 at 2017 prices - she left the residue to her two sisters.)
This affection for the family was clearly reciprocated. (As usual in upper-class households of the time, the children would, when growing up, have had much more contact with Ann than with their parents.) The Will did not specify the terms of any memorial, and while the first phrase on the plaque under the windows - "In grateful recognition of the many blessings received during a long life" - is in line with Ann's sentiments in the bequest, the closing words - "for 44 years a faithful nurse and valued friend" - must have come wholly from the grateful family.

The family's warmth is further underlined by their letting Ann's 1884 burial be the first in the recently acquired family plot in Epsom's relatively new Cemetery (it had opened in 1871).

The Trotter Family plot in Epsom Cemetery.
The Trotter Family plot in Epsom Cemetery.
Photograph © Roger Morgan 2017

Her grave marker (arrowed in the picture above) is now very worn, but the obviously heartfelt words "faithful nurse and valued friend" can still just be discerned on it.

In the foreground are the only other burials in that quite large family plot - being, from left to right: Ann's mistress, Mary Elizabeth Trotter (1812-85); her master, William Trotter (1800-87); and their son and heir, who would have been one of Ann's earlier charges, William Sampson Trotter (1839-1907), even though he and his family had long moved away to Somerset.

Roger Morgan © April, 2017