The ‘Widow from Ipswich’

Before delving into this mysterious lady, I will need to fill in some background.

As a strange coincidence back in the 16th century, the Lucas Family sold ‘New Hall’ and ‘Old Hall’, Mistley; A village in North Essex on the River Stour.

Fast forward to the 18th century and Mistley Hall and its estate was acquired by Richard Rigby. Rigby had made vast fortunes out of slavery in the West Indies (Jamaica in particular). Having bought the Hall estate he spent heavily converting it into a magnificent mansion. He also bought addition lands and acquired many properties in the surrounding Essex villages.

Mistley Hall was subsequently inherited by his son also Richard (February 1722 – 8 April 1788). Richard junior made use of his wealth and position. Early on in his career he became MP for Castle Rising in Norfolk, making his way up the political ladder ending up as ‘Paymaster to the Forces’. He made full use of this position, dipping into the military funds to finance his extravagant life style.

It is rumoured that he sat at the card table with the infamous Lord Sandwich (the inventor of the bread snack). Mistley Hall became one of the most popular country retreats for the rich and famous. These wild parties held there were also rumoured to be frequented by members of the Royal family. Richard also had grand plans for Mistley and Manningtree – to develop the area into a river Spa resort. He employed the Adams Brother to design many of the features. Many examples can still be seen to this day. He shipped in tons of sand to convert the muddy shore line into an artificial beach.

Into this mix comes our ‘Sarah Lucas - Widow from Ipswich’.

Apart from the obvious I have not managed to find out much more. Sarah became mistress of Richard and they had a daughter (also Sarah) together. Richard made no secret of his relationship or his daughter. I cannot find any reference to him taking a wife.

In his will he made good provision for the mother and left a small fortune to his daughter.

Sarah (the mother) was buried in Mistley Church on 24th September 1797. In the register she is still referred to as ‘Widow from Ipswich’. There is so far no trace of the daughter, she certainly had enough funds to go anywhere and do as she liked. There is not even a baptism in the name of Sarah Lucas or Sarah Rigby (which may have been the case as he fully acknowledged the child).

So who was this ‘Widow from Ipswich’?

Can I assume as a widow she married a Lucas and was therefore born with a different surname or was she a Lucas and reverted back to her maiden name?

How did she come to the attention of Richard II? Did she live locally and was invited to the parties, could she equally have been a servant or domestic of the Hall. She could of course been a poor widow who ‘supplied favours’ and was employed to entertain the visitors.

She clearly assets which made her stand out.

I can’t find a Sarah Lucas that would fit neither can I find a Sarah who married a Lucas in the right area in the right period.

I know that there were family members living in the area during this time, there were also family in Ipswich and surrounding villages.

This is a mystery still waiting to be solved.

………………………………………………………………Back to more research. Watch this space !!