Edith Ackford was the Head Cook for Sabine Baring-Gould towards the end of c19. Her husband was the Head Coachman. They had a baby that died in early childhood and was buried in the churchyard under a wooden monument that has long since disappeared. Edith’s pregnant younger sister, Joanna, later turned up at Lewtrenchard looking for succour from her sister. Sabine Baring-Gould allowed her to stay in the Coach House with her sister and brother-in-law. The baby, Beatrice, was born in 1898. Joanna knew that she could not find domestic employment if she was accompanied by a baby so she left to seek her fortune, leaving the baby with Edith.
Childless Edith brought the child up as her own with the approval of Sabine. As the child grew older she played with Sabine’s children and attended many of their lessons with their governess. As Sabine and his wife, Grace, had fifteen children presumably one more did not make a lot of difference! There is a story - we like to think it is true - that Baring-Gould once asked Beatrice “Which number child are you?” As Sabine’s fourth child was herself called Beatrice this was presumably a case of mistaken identity! We do not know when Edith and her husband left Lewtrenchard.
Beatrice was my partner Diana’s grandmother. We do not know what became of Joanna - certainly she never came back for Beatrice - but Edith was always thought of as being Diana’s Great Grandmother and Diana knew her well. Thus this visit to both the House and the Church was an emotional one for her.
In an age where domestic servants were routinely dismissed in disgrace for being pregnant (even if the master or his son was the father!) we must admire the philanthropy of Sabine who sheltered Joanna and her baby, accepted her living with Edith and her husband, and contributed to her upbringing.
Finally, our special thanks to the hotel staff in Lewtrenchard House who made us welcome, exchanged information with Diana, and allowed us to wander around taking photographs. We could not have expected such hospitality.