Anne Browne 1813-1914

Anne Brown was born at Whitstone in 1813, when Wellington was still fighting Napoleon’s armies, two years before the final battle, Waterloo. She celebrated her hundredth birthday with a ‘street tea’ in Lime Street, sitting proudly upright in her black bombazine and bonnet.  Apparently at the time her memory of the past was still good and she recounted stories in her life.  One was of her and her husband walking from Moreton to Plymouth and back to spend a week with her sister there.

Domestic service at the age of nine at Dunsford was the beginning of her working life, then at Holcombe, Christow, Okehampton and Drewsteignton before becoming cook-dairymaid at Leign and then cook at the Ponsford’s in Cross Street, by which time she was twenty three. She married George Browne, a quarryman, who died of tuberculosis, as did their son when he was twenty-one, a common story in those days.  She lived on in Moreton, presumably as a cook or domestic, becoming an expert needle-worker and quilter.  She died in 1914 three months after World War One had begun.  A memorial stone was subscribed by thirty of her fellow-worshippers at the Unitarian Chapel which surely must show in what respect she must have been held. 

(an excerpt from Harvey Neck’s Diary)

The Birthday, July 6, 1913

Mrs Ann Browne attained the age of one hundred years.  The King’s private secretary, Mr Clive Wigram, sent the following telegram:  ‘I am commanded by the King to offer His Majesty’s congratulations on the Anniversary of your 100th birthday.’   There is no record of anyone ever before reaching such an extraordinary age in this parish, and to celebrate the occasion the ringers rang merry peals on the bells on Sunday afternoon, whilst during the dinner hour on Monday the fife & drum band of the Council School played a selection of music in Fore St outside the residence of Mrs Brown.  In the evening the brass band also rendered a musical programme in honour of the occasion in the presence of a large crowds of inhabitants.

Domestic Service.

She possesses an extraordinary memory, & she has just recently narrated some of the incidents of her life.  She was born at Whitstone & when about 3 years old her parents came to reside at Dunsford.  At the age of 9 she went out into domestic service to Mr & Mrs Taverner of Holland farm, Dunsford.  At the age of 12 she went to Holcombe Burnell where she first received wages & she subsequently went to Christow where she only stayed twelve months because she had a most miserable mistress who wanted the clothes washed without soap & she was told to fry the hake’s head for the workmen’s supper.  After going to Okehampton & Drewsteignton, she went to Leign Farm, Moreton, then in the occupation of Mr & Mrs Richard Germon.  She acted as cook & dairymaid & part of her duties were to milk from 10 to 12 cows & make cheese weekly.  On leaving Leign farm at the age of 23, she entered the service of Dr Ponsford, of Ponsford House, Moreton as a cook, but her mistress was an invalid & she gained much experience in nursing which proved very valuable to her in after life.


Her record of domestic service here ceases as she married a quarryman named George Brown & they continued to live at Moreton.  Her husband, however, became ill, & after lingering many years died of consumption.  Their only son died in the same way at 21 years.  During her widowhood Mrs Brown has been a great needlewoman, & was noted for her quilting at which she was very active up to 80 years.  She says she well remembers her first day’s dinner in domestic service.  She could not all the meat & her master told her ‘she must eat the meat & leave the pudding & potatoes as she would have plenty of work to do’.  Her mistress kept her scantily clothed & her mother complained & also because she was not allowed to go to Church.

Walking to Plymouth

She remembers well the incidents of a walk to Plymouth to see her sister which her husband & herself took, when she was 28 years old, before railways were heard of.  She says: ‘We started off on a Sunday morning at 5 o’clock, & we reached the Powder Mills on Dartmoor at 8 am where we obtained a breakfast of eggs & bacon, supplied by a waggoner named Marks who resided in a cottage with his wife.  Leaving here we walked on to Two Bridges where I delivered a parcel & my husband had a glass of beer, & I obtained some biscuits as we did not stay to dinner.  Our next stop was at Dousland, & we tried to get a cup of tea, but the people had no fire & they were just locking their doors to go to Church.  Then we went on to a place called Jump [now Roborough] and there we could get no tea, so we walked on to Plymouth & arrived there at 5 pm.  I wore an old easy pair of boots & I took them off & put them up in the hedge & put on another pair before I entered Plymouth.  We came back the following Thursday, & when I reached the spot where I had hid my boots I found that they were missing so I had to wear my best ones & these were not so thick nor so comfortable as the old ones, but we arrived back at 7 o’clock & we were very glad to retire early that night’.

Home in Moreton

Mrs Brown has now resided in Moreton for about 77 years & has always been highly respected & esteemed in the parish.  She is now living with Mr & Mrs Symons in Fore St, both of whom take a personal interest in the old lady’s welfare & try to make her as comfortable as age & circumstances permit.  She said that when she was married, the recognised wages of farm hands was 9s per week, & that Mr Crump was the first in Moreton to raise the standard of wages to 12s per week.

[Ann Browne died on Nov. 9th, 1914, aged 101 years & 4 months].