Maria Menzies Anderson/Oldfield

(18 February 1827-28 August 1907)

Maria (CR) was David and Martha’s firstborn. She was named after a Maria Menzies (to be precise, an MM) but I haven’t found anything about this person. Traditionally, the firstborn daughter was named after one of her grandmothers but Maria’s grandmothers were Janet/Jessie and Martha. ScotlandsPeople offer births of two Maria Menzies prior to 1800 - I can’t imagine why our Maria would be named after somebody born in the C19th, i.e., in either the generation before her or a contemporary, although it’s possible. Both were born in Edinburgh and were named Maria Terresia (1766) or Maria Theresa (1795). I have no information about either of these Marias. Menzies could have been the mysterious Maria’s married name which would make the birth records irrelevant. I thought I’d read somewhere about a legendary Scottish Maria Menzies but several requests of Mr Google have brought nothing. In the 1809 Dundee Directory, a Miss Menzies lived in one of the city's main streets, Nethergate. I have woven a fantasy about the possible source of our Maria's name but that's all it is, a fantasy.

Aged nearly 30, our Maria married James Oldfield (1829-1871)(CR) in Dundee on 24

January 1856 with Alexander Forbes, the Episcopalian Bishop of Brechin, officiating. As an aside, Bishop Forbes was tried for heresy in 1860. His crime appears to have been his spirited defence of the Scottish Communion in the face of English and other Scottish bishops who wanted it to mesh with the Church of England. Interestingly, when he first moved to Dundee around 1847, his congregation was so small they met in a room above a bank. Mmm…. Unhappily, the archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of Brechin has advised that Bishop Forbes officiated in St Paul's Chapel which was on the first floor, above shops, in Castle Street until the building that became St Paul's Cathedral opened for business in 1853, in High Street. Bang goes another romantic fantasy.

James was a wool merchant and landed proprietor (property owning landlord), and a scion of a well-known, old Yorkshire family.

James’ father, Thomas, had been a tanner/shoemaker and may have been a partner in Murgatroyd & Oldfield for whom James had worked as a wool stapler. At the time of Maria’s marriage, her father-in-law was a man of independent means most likely generated from rents, which, from a C21st jaundiced perspective, makes him (and James) an early precursor of today’s rent-seeking neo-liberals. The couple lived in Halifax, West Yorkshire, where they became parents every 18 months or so to another child.

Maria and James

 Jessie Elizabeth    Marion Vida    Louis Anderson    Eveline    Florence    Ellen Mary    James Robertson

        (1857-1905)                (1858-1935)                 (1860-1897)             (1861-1930)    (1862-1899)         (1864-1941)                (1866-1942)

During the years of her marriage, Maria’s household was also home to her sisters. First Louisa then Elizabeth came to stay, probably

to help manage Maria’s rapidly expanding family. After 15 years of marriage, James died, aged 41, of congestion of the lungs associated with chronic hepatitis. He may have been ill for some time, given the regularity of each new baby that stopped in 1866 although Maria was nearly 40 when her youngest child was born. James died at Brunswick House, which I thought might have been a hospital because the informant of his death was a woman whose name is unknown to me and who signed the death entry with her mark rather than a signature. However, an 1892 newspaper announcement of Maria and James' daughter's (Ellen) wedding advised her late father's address was  Brunswick House, Halifax, so I’m now assuming that it was the family home. In 1889, long after James' death, Brunswick House in Halifax was advertised for rent. By its description, it was a private house.

Maria was still in Yorkshire in 1881, in Hipperholme cum Brighouse, with Louis, Florry and James Jnr. Her address was 13 The

Crescent, which was a block of 28 houses put up by a building society in 1863 with an annual rent per household of £15. By 1891, she had returned to Broughty Ferry where she was living, a woman of independent means, with her daughter, Marion, and two granddaughters. Her address was variously 5 and 10 Louisa Terrace, West Ferry. She was living alone in 1901 although Marion lived beside her at no. 7 and was with her when she died, around daybreak on Wednesday, 28 August 1907, after 10 days suffering “apoplexy, left hemiplegia” (i.e., a stroke that paralyzed her left side).  While there is a record of probate to Marion, the entry is “sealed” so that details of Maria’s estate remain private. Maria and her daughter, Marion, are buried in the Anderson plots with her parents in Barnhill Cemetery.

I think Maria must have been a strong, independent woman. She was

widowed comparatively young, aged 44. She returned to Broughty Ferry in her 60s after more than three decades in Yorkshire. Two of her daughters were with her in Broughty Ferry, two others were living in England and another had died prematurely. It may be that something happened at the beginning of the 1880s for both sons to migrate, one aged around 21 who gave up his law studies, the other aged around 16. Many of her grandchildren also migrated. Not uncommonly, widows with means choose not to remarry. Both Maria, and her daughter, Marion Vida, who was also comparatively young when widowed,  stayed single again for the rest of their lives.

© 2019 by Andrea Shoebridge. All rights reserved.