|Mary Waterhouse, 1871, by Samuel Lawrence|
Mary Bevan (1805-1880) was the eldest child and only daughter of Paul and Rebecca (Capper) Bevan of Tottenham. Her mother died in 1817 leaving Mary, aged 12, and five young sons. In time Mary took over the role of housekeeper to her father and brothers, greatly assisted by three of her maternal aunts, Katharine Backhouse, Mary Mounsey and Sarah Harris. Mary was described as ‘of good height, graceful in figure, with perfect features and beautiful profile’ although she had a cast in her left eye (which this portrait disguises).
In 1825 at the age of 20 Mary began to write a spiritual journal. In it she recorded among other things her thoughts, prayers and anxieties, her precarious state of health and family matters. From it we learn that when young Mary refused several suitors and had feelings for one man which were not returned. Eventually in 1829, with the encouragement of her father who knew and did business with the family, she married Alfred Waterhouse (1798-1873) of Liverpool. He came from a large family of 6 girls and 8 boys, children of Nicholas Waterhouse, the founder of a very successful cotton broking business which most of his sons joined.
|Oakfield, Aigburgh in 1848|
Mary's journal tells of the growth of her family and also of her spiritual struggles. In Liverpool meeting the prosperous young woman was sometimes reprimanded for not dressing plainly enough and as a young mother had qualms herself as this extract from 1831 makes clear - At meeting yesterday for the first time since my confinement:- the beginning of it, I felt uncomfortable – being in a cloak – the colour of which I feared might offend some who would not wear such a one - & might be occasion of offence in others, who might like to imitate it. How much better to endeavour to keep to what could take the attention of none, though I did not feel condemnation on account of the colour with regard to myself, it not being one I preferred, or exactly what I intended to buy. – But of this, enough, - except that if it still occasion me uneasiness it will be better to sacrifice the cloak.
|Mary and Alfred Waterhouse c 1872|
|Sneyd Park 1854|
|Whiteknights House from the East|
|Alfred Waterhouse Junior|
Mary was increasingly involved with her family, writing copious letters, visiting them and receiving visits, especially after Alfred junior, who had become a very successful architect (perhaps his most famous building being the Natural History Museum) built Fox Hill House, also on the Whiteknights estate, for his family in 1868. Alfred senior died while walking in his garden in 1873. After some years as a widow, cared for by her unmarried daughter Maria, Mary died in 1880 and was buried at the Meeting House in Reading.