The last wishes of Mary-Anne Rawson

Last wishes of Mary-Anne Rawson 1887

Several days reading in Sheffield Archives has shed dazzling light on the distant and dusty years of the chapel’s history. Tucked amongst the papers of the Sheffield Smelting Company lie letters, documents, accounts and records, waiting for someone, one day to find them. Once pieced together with our working knowledge of the chapel, originally a school, it all begins to make sense.

Mary-Anne, in her will, leaves £400 to be invested to provide an income for the school. In a  handwritten note, written in 1885 she adds the furniture and stove from the chapel in the laundry for use in the room in the school building that will be “appropriated” for worship. This brief note helps clarify our confusion as to the original function of the building. It seems it was built as a school for multi-purpose use when Wincobank Hall and the outbuildings were sold off. What foresight – how modern!

In addition to the £400 left to the school trust that she had set up, Mary-Anne planned that the proceeds from the sale of Wincobank Hall should be invested in an annuity fund so that the school master and his wife would have a permanent income and so would never have to leave Wincobank. They were also bequeathed the rights to live in the School House for their lifetime. Mary-Anne estimated that the Hall was worth the £4,000 specified in her will, but by the time she died the building had fallen into such a state of disrepair that it could not be sold.

Despite the fact that they themselves, only received a quarter share of the sale of furniture from the Hall worth £59, her nephews, Henry Joseph Wilson and John Wycliffe Wilson seem to have honoured the commitment anyway. Records show that there were outstanding debts for the school and that it was at least temporarily closed while they sorted out what can only be described as a well intentioned mess.

Like her father before her, Mary-Anne had been ambitious, innovative and a compulsively generous risk-taker. It was just as well that her sister’s descendents proved to be people of great integrity and conviction who honoured their respected aunt’s intentions and acted as trustees of the charity well into the next century. Well done the Wilsons!

We should love to make contact with any direct descendents of HJ or JW Wilson and show you how hard we are working to carry on their good work.

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