Mary Gummry - Her Box


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Mary Gummry - Her Box

Some years ago I was contacted by an antique dealer from the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border region who had for sale a rosewood, inlaid box with small mother of pearl roundels connected by thin nickel silver lines. Inside the box in copperplate writing on the original paper lining was the following inscription:- Mary Gummry Her Box Oct 11 1840. According to the dealer the box dated from that time.

Mary Gummry Her Box


Inscription inside the rosewood box

It is the sort of box that would be given to a young girl or young woman, maybe for a birthday, and would probably have been used to keep personal precious items locked up. They box has a lock as can be seen by the top photo, but the key had been lost. There would have been a small fitted tray inside, with compartments for jewellery, which is also missing. The lid of the box where the lining is damaged (not shown) would have had a small folding envelope arrangement where letters were kept.

The Mary most likely to have owned this box was Mary Gumery who was baptised on 6 October 1822 at St John the Baptist church in Whitbourne, Herefordshire, the daughter of Timothy Gumery and his wife Mary Dutfield. Timothy was a gardener, and Mary a shopkeeper, living at Ring of Bells in Whitbourne. The Ring of Bells is an historic house dating from around 1450 and was probably the first inn in the village. It is situated near both the church and the manor house, right in the centre of the village. Parts of the house are of medieval cruck construction. The Gumerys lived at Ring of Bells for many years before moving across the road to Kennets Cottage about 1850.

At the time of the 1841 census young Mary, aged 19, was a female servant at Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire. Maybe the rosewood box was given to her as a gift from her family when she left home to go into service, somewhere she could keep a few private things safe.

1841 census ref.HO107/1201/3 f9 p4
An image from the 1841 census showing Mary Gommery, 19 years, as a F[emale] S[ervant], N[ot born in Worcestershire]


Hanbury Hall ©Craig Thornber
Hanbury Hall

Hanbury Hall is located in School Road, Hanbury, near    Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire. Today it is owned by the  National Trust, acquired in 1953 together with 20 acres of  garden, and 395 acres of surrounding park and farmland under the will of Sir George Vernon. Hanbury Hall, built by Henry Holland for Thomas Vernon (1654-1721) a wealthy lawyer, was completed in 1701 and is a beautiful example of a William and Mary style red brick house built in the style of Wren. Today is little altered from that time. It has been the seat of the Vernon family since the 15th century. The Hall has a magnificent muraled staircase and murals on the Long Room ceiling painted by Sir James Thornhill. In the Capability Brown landscaped gardens is a formally laid out sunken garden, an 18th century orangery, a cedar walk, kitchen garden, ice house and orchards.

To see more photos of Hanbury Hall visit Craig Thornber's website.

To see the exterior of the house and the garden, have a look at the BBC website which shows panoramic views using a 360° camera at

As can be seen from the census, the Vernon family was away from Hanbury Hall on census night, leaving a few servants to look after the place. Nineteen year old Mary Gumery must have been quite awe-struck working in such an environment.

On 30 April 1846 Mary Gomery a spinster of Whitbourne married Edmund Soley a mason from Bringsty Common at St John the Baptist church in Whitbourne. Edmund was born c.1818 in Whitbourne, the son of Henry Soley a cooper. Edmund and Mary Soley had several children baptised at Whitbourne:-

  1. Timothy Soley bapt. 12 Aug 1847; buried 28 Oct 1853 aged 6 years.
  2. Michael Soley bapt. 7 Oct 1849; death registered JunQ 1893 Bronyard RD 43 years.
  3. Edmund Soley bapt. 30 Mar 1851; marriage registered SepQ 1879 Worcester RD to Mary Woakes; buried 8 Feb 1902 at Whitbourne aged 60 years, from Bringsty.
  4. Emily Soley bapt. 20 Feb 1853; buried 16 Jul 1856 aged 3 years.
  5. Mary Soley bapt. 26 Nov 1854; married 12 Nov 1889 at Whitbourne to Robert Ashby.

At the time of the 1851 census the Soley family were living at Bringsty Common, and Edmund's occupation was bricklayer. Bringsty Common is a large area of unenclosed common land south west of Whitbourne village, part of the manor of Whitbourne.Today it is designated a special wildlife site. In 1861 the Soleys were still living at Bringsty Common and 40 year old Edmund was working as a stonemason employing 1 man. Ten year old son Edmund was employed as a stonemason's boy. Son Michael, aged 11, was described as insane so was most likely handicapped in some way. In 1871 both Edmund senior and Edmund junior were described as masons. In 1881 Edmund aged 63 was a bricklayer living at Bringsty Common with his wife Mary aged 59, and son Michael 29, who was described as handicapped, imbecile. Edmund now aged 73 years, a widower, was still employed as a bricklayer in 1891. His son Michael was still living with him and was described as an "imbecile from birth", and his married daughter, Mary Ashby, was also staying in the house on census night.

Judging by the route the census enumerator took in 1891, the cottage the Soleys lived in was located between the shop on Bringsty Common, and Little Common and Red House. The census enumerator noted in his description of the area that miles have to be traversed in some cases to deliver only a few schedules. The common was dotted with cottages but these could be good distances apart. According to Phyllis Williams in her book Whitbourne: A Bishop's Manor the cottage known as Little Common was at the side of Bringsty where Hogg or Hodge Lane ran towards Lower Elmsores End (was Red House). This would make sense as just east of Lower Elsmore End there was an old clay pit and brick works shown on the 1888 Ordnance Survey map of the area which could well be where Edmund Soley, both father and son, worked. Many of the houses and cottages in the parish were built of brick.

Bringsty Common 1888
Part of Bringsty Common, Whitbourne from an 1888 OS map showing the area where the Soleys lived.

Mary Soley née Gumery, probable owner of Mary Gummry's box, died in late 1887 at Bringsty Common aged 64 years. Her husband Edmund Soley, bricklayer of Bringsty Common was buried on 6 March 1899 at Whitbourne churchyard aged 81 years.

If you wish to make contact then please email me .

Photos from Susan Shaw-Cooper Antiques, May 2002
1841 census image HO107/1201/3 folio 9, page 4, from
Whitbourne parish registers consulted at Herefordshire Archives
Properties of the National Trust booklet, compiled by the National Trust
Whitbourne: A Bishops Manor, by Phyllis Williams, 1979
Photo of Hanbury Hall, copyright Craig Thornber, used with his permission
Last revised: 19 September 2006
© Linda Hansen 2006