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Louth Museum

Ruth's Blog

Franny Brant

by Ruth Gatenby

Mourning card for Fanny

Mourning card for Fanny

Cottages in Northgate. Photo: Harold Jackson

Cottages in Northgate. Photo: Harold Jackson

We are still working our way through items that were donated to the museum years ago.  A box I was recently working on contained mourning cards and other documents from the family of Herbert Broadley who worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization.

One of the mourning cards was for Fanny Brant, a name I did not recognise.  When I looked in the national records, I found that Fanny’s father was described as a pauper.  I hadn’t thought that a family living in poverty would distribute mourning cards.  I was curious to find out more about Fanny, and her relationship with the Broadley family.

Born in Louth in 1839, Fanny lived in a cottage in Northgate with her parents and two older brothers.  Her father John Brant was variously described as a labourer, porter, gardener or pauper.  Fanny was in fact the fifth child born to Jane and John - two babies had died when only a few months old.

When Fanny was five, her mother died.  This was a tragedy, but John quickly remarried.  Another loss came the following year when Fanny’s oldest brother died.

A few years later, Fanny’s only surviving brother Stephen, now age 23 and working as a roper, married.  Stephen’s wife died the following year.  Stephen remarried, and he and his second wife moved to Hull.  The same year, 1860, Fanny’s father died.

At the time of the 1861 census, Fanny was in Grimsby visiting a family who had previously lived in Louth.  But otherwise, Fanny continued to live with Charlotte her stepmother, until Charlotte died at the age of 74.  Thus, Fanny became the last remaining member of her family in Louth.

The reason why we have Fanny’s mourning card is probably because of friendship between neighbours.  Mr and Mrs Wilkinson were the great grandparents of Herbert Broadley.  The Wilkinsons lived in a house in Kidgate, and Fanny and Charlotte were in one of the small cottages in the yard behind their house.  Both families attended the Baptist Church.

Fanny died in 1883, at the age of only 43.  On her death certificate her occupation was ‘Domestic Servant’, but on no other records did I see any occupation mentioned.  Perhaps Fanny was in poor health and not able to work.  Her cause of death was ‘chronic rheumatism and exhaustion’.

Fanny was a nineteenth century woman who had a hard life.  Most historical accounts tend to focus on successful people and events.  In contrast, examination of Fanny’s life gives a glimpse of what must have been widespread - a struggling family in which many people died at a young age.