|Carr End Farm|
|Countersett Meeting House|
|Dr John Fothergill in 1740|
Ann arrived in Gracechurch Street in 1750 and although she found life in London a great contrast to what she was used to she also found her brother a kind companion. She wrote to her eldest brother that John 'often orders some little thing or other to recruit my constitution, and endeavours to inspire with cheerfulness and ease, as he apprehends, and not without grounds, my spirits has long been borne down with various causes to my, he thinks, great disadvantage.'
The circles in which her brother moved were cosmopolitan and quite different to those Ann had been used to and although wishing to please him she was determined not to change too much. As she wrote to Alexander, 'Singular I am and so I hope to continue in my dress. The antic folly I observe does not excite me to imitate. Brother's extensive acquaintance and esteem exposes me at present to a pretty deal of company.'
Ann soon settled down and took charge of her brother's comfort, cooking Yorkshire oatbread and other dishes, looking after the running of the house and entertaining his many visitors, both Quakers and others. She also kept up an extensive correspondence with her family and friends from which it is evident that, as her spelling reflected her speech, she retained her Yorkshire accent even after many years in London.
|Silhouette of Samuel preaching|
|Lea Hall, Middlewich|
After another two years Ann and the Doctor made another move, from Gracechurch Street to Harpur Street in Bloomsbury. They hoped that this would allow John to take a greater part in the business of Friends than he had been able to before but fitting out and decorating a new house meant a lot of work for Ann. She wrote to Samuel that nothing was finished when they moved in and 'we share our house and is long like to do so with different classes of workmen, joiners, carpenters, painters, plumbers, smiths &c.' However Ann was happy with the move and content with her lot, grounded in calm stillness which allowed her, as she told Samuel, to 'be in solitude in the streets of London'.
Ann needed her inner calm as the daily life of the Fothergill household remained frenetically busy with visits from family, friends and visiting dignitaries such as Benjamin Franklin. The Doctor found it impossible to rest or to work less as he grew older. As the years went by both he and Ann became more prone to illnesses and family difficulties such as Alexander's debts and Samuel's death in 1772 hit them hard.
|Winchmore Hill Meeting House|
Ann took charge of her brother's considerable estate and arranged for Upton and Harpur Street to be sold as well as the Doctor's extensive collection of books. She was also concerned to settle her 'family' of servants into new employment. Ann herself was comfortably provided for and moved into a smaller house, 68 Great Russell Street, just opposite the British Museum. Here she had the companionship of her nieces and also kept up her tradition of hospitality, providing dinner twice a week for strangers who attended Westminster Meeting. In 1790 she was one of the subscribers to the new Meeting House at Winchmore Hill and when she died in 1802 at the age of 84 she was buried there beside her brother.
The story of the Fothergill family has been told through their correspondence in the aptly titled book 'Chain of Friendship' and Ann's place in it has been fully researched in an article by Christopher C Booth on which I have drawn extensively for this blog post. Ann and her brother were mutually dependent and allowed one another to live fuller lives than might have been possible had they remained alone. Ann's extensive surviving correspondence and references to her in the writings of others are witness to the lasting value of her life.