Frances DICKINSON 1785 - 1870
Third child and oldest daughter of Thomas DICKINSON (Capt. R.N.) 1754 - 1828 and Frances de BRISSAC 1760 - 1854. Twin of William b./d.1785.
Born 23rd June 1785, London
Died 17th January 1870, London
Frances was known as Fanny for most of her life. She was the much-loved ‘Aunt Fanny’ to innumerable nephews and nieces, their friends and the wider family generally.
Fanny was born in London when her parents and two older brothers lived at Searle Street. After a number of moves in the London area the family finally moved in 1803 to Bramblebury, Plumstead, their permanent home. Fanny was then eighteen years old. She was to live there for the next fifty years or so.
Bramblebury was then situated in beautiful Kent countryside. Gentle chalk downs giving way to plum orchards. With the coming of the railways and the housing needed for workers at Woolwich Arsenal, Plumstead became a Victorian outgrowth of Woolwich. Its rural charm became part of we now call Outer London. By the end of the 19th Century, almost all of the district was covered with housing and attendant amenities. Fanny saw the beginnings of all that change.
Fanny was a lively, intelligent and knowledgeable person. As the one remaining unmarried daughter, however, certain expectations fell on her shoulders. These expectations she carried out in an exemplary manner. Her father died in 1828 and then onwards she became constant companion and carer for her mother into old age and death.
She ably managed Bramblebury, alongside her mother, in making the place a haven of welcome to members of the family home from abroad.Phelps, Evans, Dickinsons all had their ‘home’ there even though Madeira, India, school, college, the military and more besides, also claimed their loyalties.
Part of a letter from Frances Dickinson to her nephew, Arthur Phelps (1837 - 1920) who was at school with the Evans family in Bosworth. He was aged twelve at the time. Arthur’s parents lived on Madeira.
Transcribed from a photocopy of the original in July 2012 by Penelope Forrest, born Phelps, great granddaughter of Arthur.
Bramblebury 17th February 1849
My dear Arthur,
I must discharge from my mind the obligation of writing a few lines to acknowledge your kind note which claimed an answer before this, but I always find so many little matters press upon my attention, that what admits of delay is generally put off till a leisure moment presents itself.
We were much delighted to see young Joey1 who is greatly improved in manner & appearance, though the habitual use of spectacles detracts from the expression his countenance could otherwise have. I would wish him to bear up rather than yield at so early an age, to a necessity that seems hardly to warrant an entire dependence on artificial means of relief.
I have heard from him twice since he has been at Canterbury.......
I was glad to hear a good account of all dear friends at Madeira though Bella evidently dreads the effect of a Funchal summer on dear Papa. But the lofty range of mountains that surround the Town will always afford a retreat and a cool temperature.
Aunt Grover (Fanny’s sister Harriet) came on Thursday but a detention of half an hour at the Termini of the Blackwell railway contracted her visit sadly. She was in excellent spirits and had left Mr Grover (Hemel Hempstead) quite comfortable. I accompanied her down in her Fly to effect her retreat by the North Woolwich - and on my return found Mr Hobson, Mrs Hare and Patrick Campbell enlisted in our family dinner party, my Mother having pressed them into the service in making a morning visit.
The Railway is making great progress and the demolition of old houses is going on rapidly.
My Mother continues quite well. She and I concur in hoping you try to combat a disposition to laziness - it will obstruct your advance in life if not counteracted by your own good sense and steady resolution. Industry must go hand in hand with ability and talent to make head in the race of keen competition.
I will trouble you to give the enclosed receipt2 to dear Mrs Evans (her sister Anne) and as I am going to start to Greenwich to make morning visits, I will only add our united kindest love to your dear Uncle & aunt & cousins & Staffie.
Ever your affectionate
1. This must refer to Arthur's brother, Joseph, who became a priest.
2. receipt = recipe