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Kirkman, Maria Louisa (1815 - 1880)

Biographical notes

Maria Louisa Kirkman was a medal winner in the RHS's 1864 Botanical competition. At the time of the competition Maria was employed at the Hampshire County jail in Winchester and was the only female medal-winner to be gainfully employed.

Her family background had been decidedly prosperous with her father and grandfather, both Joseph Kirkman, being involved in the brewing trade in St Giles, London. Perhaps surprisingly in view of the alcoholic association, the family seem to have been non-conformists. She was the sixth in the family of nine children although most of her older siblings appear to have died young. Her father died intestate in 1831 and, although having acted as a trustee of his own father's estate, had made no provision to enable his own family to benefit from the inheritance. A dispute with the original executors of her grandfather's estate continued until brother William, acting also for Maria and sister Sophia, brought a case for breach of trust against the executors estates (they were all dead by now) Kirkman v Booth, finally resolved in the Rolls Court in 1848. It seems that in view of the length of time that had elapsed there was little chance of any financial redress.

Altough initially earning a living as a school mistress, by 1855 she was working at the Hants. County Prison at Winchester, eventually being employed as matron, where she is known to have worked for at least 16 years more.

Of particular interest is a well annotated volume of dried plants collected in 1835. This collection is now held in the RHS Lindley Library, London, along with her 1864 silver medal. An inscription suggests that it was at some time in the posession of her great-nephew Ebenezer William Diver.


1851 Census - 6 Nelson-terrace, Twickenham
1855 Winchester, Hants.
1861 Census - visiting sister, Richmond
1865 Westhill, Winchester, Hants.
1871 Census - County Prison, Hants. (matron)
1880 Twickenham

Additional links

Annotated family tree of the Kirkmans (includes Diver and Tatham). link
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1815 August 8 : Birth Born in London, daughter of brewer Joseph Kirkman and his wife Ann Coupees. Her parents had been married for ten years and had already had six children.
1835 : Plant collection A volume of pressed plants in the Lindley Library, annotated "Miss Kirkman 1835" is associated with the RHS silver medal awarded to Maria Louisa Kirkman in the 1864 Botanical Competition.
1840 May 20 : Baptism Maria was baptised, as an adult, at St Mary Magdalene, Holoway Road, London. The register gives her date of birth and confirms her parent's names. She was baptised at the same time as her year-old neice, Elizabeth Maria Kirkman.
1848 November 21 :
Kirkman v Booth
The protracted case of her Grandfather's will was discussed at length in the Court of Rolls. This article from The Jurist 13 part 1 gives the details [Google Books] link
1855 : Appointment 1Dorset County Chronicle - 1855 October 25
Mr STANLEY read the report of the Visiting Justices of the County Prison, by which it appeared that great improvement has recently been made in the ventilation of the wards, that prisoners are healthy and have been orderly, and that the conduct of the officers had been perfectly satisfactory. That to fill the vacancy of principal warder Charles House had been selected, and as to the vacant office of matron, the Committee were unanimous in recommending Miss Maria Louisa Kirkman for the appointment ...

The Hampshire Chronicle adds that this was a temporary appointment until Mrs Barber's (the late matron) sucessor was appointed.
1864 : Silver medal Miss Kirkman was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Horticultural Society, in their Botanical Competition, for her collection of pressed plants from Hampshire.
1872 March 16 :
Willie Diver
A dated inscription in her 1835 bound collection of plants suggests thet it was given to her great-nephew Ebenezer William (Willie) Diver. He would be nine years old.
1880 March 30 : Death 1London daily news - 1880 April 6
DEATHS. KIRKMAN. - March 30, Maria Louisa, daughter of J. Kirkman, late of Twickenham, and formerly of Pilkington Manor House, Berkhamstead, aged 64.

1 Transcription reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive

Managed by Richard Middleton : last updated 2016 March 13