Married and widowed young, Lady Mary Elizabeth Margaret Gillford bestowed generous gifts to charities - and her name to the Cumbria Archive Centre in Carlisle.  

The daughter of an Earl, the Lord Home, Mary left her family home when she married Richard Meade - a Royal Navy Lieutenant and then a Captain in the Border Regiment.

Widowed Young

Married life amidst the six thousand acres of Snittlegarth, beneath Binsey Fell appeared idyllic until Richard's early death from consumption.

Burying Richard in Torpenhow churchyard, Mary was left with a 7 year old child - the Hon. Theodosia Beatrix Catherine Mary - and a lonely life ahead of her.   

Lady Gillford's House

From then on Mary chose a base in town, along with her terriers and a dozen servants, taking a £150 a year lease on Petteril Bank House, on the southern outskirts of Carlisle.  

Locals called it Lady Gillford's House, and a century on, Petteril Bank House now officially carries Mary's name.  Her extended and now ultramodern Carlisle home houses the Cumbria Archive Service.  

In Carlisle Mary threw herself into the life of an Edwardian Lady, supporting good causes and local charities.


Cumbria Archive Service

Documents and records preserved there tell Mary's story as well as tales of other folk from Beneath the Beacon. If we can't know for sure all of Mary's feelings, we can find insights into her life and times in the Archive collections.  

Visit the Cumbria Archive Service website here


Aside from Theodosia and her terriers Mary was devoted to God and the church of St John the Baptist, Upperby, just a short walk away across the mainline to London.  A visitor to the archives recently recalled her grandmother showing off a shawl knitted by Lady Gillford; the shawl had been given in gratitude for looking after her dogs while she was at church.  

Knit Your Bit

During the Great War she responded to the Kitchener Call's appeal for 150,000 pairs of socks for the war effort.  Leading by example she challenged the locals to knit all manner of woollen accessories.

Mary and Richard - Gillford and Meade - are commemorated across south Carlisle in street names, buildings and sports clubs.  



Stalwart of the Community

Mary's duty went well beyond the confines of the church.   She was a patron of local charities and appeals and organised needlework and crafts. She held sports days for the local community in the grounds of her house, entertaining them with the rarity of records played on an early gramophone.  

But she was also disposed to travel, crossing the Atlantic to New York by ocean liner on more than one occasion.  This was in the era of the Titanic and she donated generously to the Benevolent Fund when that vessel's maiden voyage ended in icy tragedy.  

Theodosia was seldom far from Mary's side, perhaps struggling to establish her own identity, but after her mother's death, at the age of 63, she married and the couple adopted three children.  

Illustrious Nephew

Mary's nephew Sir Alec Douglas-Home served at 10 Downing Street as British Prime Minister for just a year between Macmillan and Wilson.