1788 – 21 December 1852
Marianne Fraser was born in Scotland and was the eldest daughter of Lt. General Mackenzie Fraser. She was 14 years old when her mother Helen died in 1802. Her father wanted to try to keep all the family, her brothers Charles and Frederick and sister Helen, in Edinburgh but his plans were unsuccessful. He was therefore very grateful for the offer from Vicary Gibbs, whose wife was Helen’s sister, to have all the children at Hayes Court and look after them while he was on his military campaigns.
Marianne arrived with her younger sister Helen 12, brothers Charles 10 and Frederick 6. A governess Miss Jones was engaged for them. With her sister Helen she was amongst the 12 persons confirmed in Hayes Church on 7 August 1806. Their preparation instruction was undertaken by the Rector of Hayes, Revd John Till, whose executor she became on his death in 1827. Neither Helen nor Marianne married although Helen eventually lived in Gloucestershire. Marianne remained in Hayes and became very well known for her active interest in the health and welfare of those who lived in the village.
She read widely, studied Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Italian and French for her own improvement, kept countless diaries and commonplace books and detailed records of her accounts. She also assisted the Revd John Till as he became infirm in his old age. She kept her brother Charles informed of events in Hayes including times when John Till fainted in the pulpit. She showed great concern for the Rector who came to rely on her to handle his affairs, to ensure the money was distributed correctly to the poor in the Parish and with him she paid for the extension in 1821 to the Charity School that had been set up in 1791. She also paid the fees for several children to be able to attend that school.
On Revd Till’s death she had the task of allocating £100 to the villagers and her comments on each recipient show that she was well aware of those who needed and were deserving of a legacy and those who she felt had not tried to help themselves or indeed aggravated their poverty by their actions. She also felt that those who were wealthy, as she became after the death of her father in 1809, should use their money wisely. She administered the contributions from the wealthy for the poor stating ‘I shall therefore continue distributing it as nearly as possible in the manner in which he [Revd Till] disposed of it’.
In 1820 after the death of her Uncle Gibbs she became the owner for her life time of Hayes Grove. For many years she rented the property out whilst living with and looking after her aunt Lady Gibbs who was increasingly frail and became blind as she grew older. In 1835 Marianne’s brother Charles, his wife Jane with ten of their children came to stay at Hayes Grove while major work was being carried out at Castle Fraser which he had inherited. Sadly, eight of the children caught chicken pox and the youngest Caroline aged one and a half died and was buried in Hayes. Slowly the other children recovered and with their aunt visited Madame Tussaud’s, the London Zoo, and more locally the Bromley Horticultural Show. The house was much quieter once they returned to Scotland but Marianne continued to have responsibility for her nephews when they were sent to England for their education and also became involved in the debts which her brother Frederick and sister Helen incurred.
Marianne was 55 when Lady Gibbs died and for the rest of her life she lived at the Grove with two resident servants. In her will she left legacies to her family and to the SPCK and SPG but being uncertain of the direction in which the school was going under the Rector Revd Thomas Hussey she revoked her £60 gift to it. She left £20 each to Timothy Tilden and his wife and £50 to her gardener Benjamin Bunny. She gave clear instructions that she should be buried in the south east corner of Hayes Churchyard in the plainest manner. The undertaker should be the carpenter Thomas Smith who lived in one of her cottages and the coffin bearers were to live in the village of Hayes and each be paid £1. Her tomb includes the following inscription: ‘died Dec 21st 1852 aged 64 long known in the Parish of Hayes for her active benevolence and the genuine interest she took in the welfare of the inhabitants.’
Lavinia Smiley, The Frasers of Castle Fraser, 1988
Aberdeen University Library & Special Collections, Fraser Papers:MS3470