Fanny Heigham and Hunston Hall

Fanny Heigham

Fanny Heigham was a twin. Her sister, Henrietta, and herself were baptised on 7th September 1834 or 1835 (depending on the source). The baptism took place at the family home of Hunston Hall, Suffolk, where Fanny appears to have lived until her marriage to Rev. Henry Raymond Smythies in 1872; see previous post. Henrietta on the other hand, never married and lived on and off with her sister until 1919, the year in which they both passed away.

Fanny and Henrietta were the youngest children of John Henry Heigham and Maria Catherine Gould. Their mother died in November 1837 when the twins were just three years old, and their father remarried nine years later, to Lydia Birch. Much of the family tree is documented in ‘Visitation of the County of Suffolk’ by William Hervey and the book is freely available online. According to this document, Hunston Hall originally belonged to a parcel of land that was granted by King Henry VIII, in 1538, to Richard Codington and was subsequently purchased by John Lurkin in 1614 from the Ashfield family who resided there. Mary Lurkin, great granddaughter of John Lurkin, married into the Heigham family in 1701, thereby associating Hunston Hall and the area around it with the Heigham name for roughly the next two hundred years.

An entry in The Ipswich Journal dated 10th May 1884, describes Hunston Hall in some detail: Hunston Hall, which is most pleasantly situated in a picturesque country of a purely English character, well wooded, stands on the border of park-like pasture, and the surroundings have that charm of peacefulness and freshness often so characteristic of fine old country mansions. Some parts of Hunston Hall date several centuries back, but the hall has been added to from time to time, and now possesses a front of an Italian order, with the enrichment and effective appearance peculiar to that style, and nestles very cosily behind the fine timber, some of which appears to be nearly as old as the family itself. A pleasant parterre has been made on the park-side, and altogether there is a charm about the ancient building and its delightful surroundings.

Bury Free Press - 4 Aug 1917 c

It is a great shame, therefore, that tragedy struck in the form of a fire, and in early August 1917 the Hall was burnt down. A report in the Bury Free Press states that though it had been the home of the Heigham family for many years, it was unoccupied and unfurnished prior to the fire. The article concludes by saying: The cause of the fire is a mystery. We understand that the property is insured.

Fanny and Henrietta ended their days in Somerset, dying within a short time of each another. Fanny died 18th February 1919 at 6 Henrietta Street, Bath, according to her probate record, and Henrietta died at the same address on 10th April 1919. Their feelings about the fire at Hunston Hall will remain unknown, although they must surely have formed some attachment to it over the many years they lived there.

Fanny Smythies

Newspaper clippings are from The British Newspaper Archive  © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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