The Women of Geddington: Mary Ann Saddington

My name is Mary Ann Saddington. I am known as Ann and I was born in Geddington in 1817 into the Haddon family. I never learned to read or write and I was not able to teach my children but I went to lace school as a girl and was well known for the work I did, though I never gave this as my profession in any of the census documents.

We learned our skills in school in a private house in Northampton and produced work of such good quality that a buyer came from Kettering regularly to collect our work to sell on at the lace markets of the area.

I married William Saddington who was nearly 12 years older than me. William and I lived in Nelson Square in Northampton and were married there in July 1840.

I have lived in Queen Street in the little cottage by the bridge for many years and had my 12 children there; my son Joseph was a horsekeeper for a while. In 1871, when he was 67, William  was listed as a pauper in the census. For a time I took in lodgers to make a little extra money. There was no old age pension then!

My William died in August 1887; he’d been ill for some time but was 82; a good age to reach after a hard life as a labourer  ….  but now ten of my children are gone too, including my baby twins and I am a widow with just a housekeeper to bear me company.

My little cottage by the bridge is roomy enough, but quite dark, so I like to sit outside with my lace bobbins if the weather is calm. Sometimes the children playing in the street can be cheeky, but I can catch up with my neighbours as they pass; I have lived near to the Daintys, Winsors, Clipstones and lately, the Swinglers and have seen their families grow up. They are very kind to me and the warmth from the bakery next door and the smell of the newly baked bread is part of everyday life for me.

I believe I am the oldest woman in the village, but at 94, I take life more slowly now and leave the hard chores to my housekeeper Ann Collyer who is a widow too …. but I do make sure I feed the old swan each day who comes waddling up to my front door every morning!


In the 19th century, lace schools replaced apprenticeships. The schools taught children aged five to fifteen in the homes of their teachers. Children were there for up to twelve hours a day and had strict targets to meet. At the Spratton lace school, for example, students were expected to place 600 pins on patterns per hour. In order to help them count, children recited ‘tells’ or rhymes. Tells could also tell stories, which varied by region. This is the beginning of a Northamptonshire tell called ‘Wedding Song’:

Nineteen long lines hanging over my door,

The faster I work it’ll shorten my score.

But if I do play it’ll stick to a stay;

So ho! little fingers, and twink it away,

For after to-morrow comes my wedding day.


Try a recipe from Ann Saddington’s time, courtesy of Mrs Beeton’s 1909 cookery book


    1. Peter Goode

      Fri 20th Mar 2020 at 8:23 am

      Such an insight into very different times, excellent work, thanks.

    2. Brenda McCraith

      Fri 20th Mar 2020 at 3:19 pm

      Very interesting piece. Now, if I can get the ingredients, I’ll make the cake!

    3. Brian Freestone

      Sun 22nd Mar 2020 at 8:48 am

      Very interesting life. I enjoyed reading about Ann who lived in the village at the same time as my paternal ancestors. No doubt she would have known them Thank you.

    4. Sandra

      Wed 01st Apr 2020 at 8:40 pm

      Well written and creates mental images, thank you.


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