Frances Maria Biddulph

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About Frances Maria Biddulph

Frances Maria was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire on 5 October 1807 and christened on 18 May 1808. The family migrated to South Africa when she was 12.

She met Dr Henry Wyatt Radford in South Africa probably while he was on leave from India. There is a record of their appearance at Matrimonial Court on 5 June 1823 at Graaff Reinet, Cape Colony. They were married on 2 July 1823 in the local Church of England. This was 3 months before her 16th birthday.

They came out to Australia on the Greenock, arriving in January 1824 and having been given a grant of land settled in the Hunter Valley and started a family. Alexander Spark knew the family between 1824 and 1829, having property in the area and selling some land to Dr Radford during this period.

The Radfords returned to India in 1829 with the 62nd Regiment and suffered terrible hardship. They lost 5 children during this time – two to cholera, the two older boys drowned in the shipwreck of The Lady Munro in October 1833 whilst returning to Sydney to go to school at The Australian College (founded by Rev John Lang). A daughter was burnt to death in a fire.

The Radfords returned to the Hunter Valley in October 1834 and Dr Radford died in 1836. Frances Maria was a widow at the age of 28 and had 3 young children (5 already having died).

She moved to Sydney and in June 1837 there is a record of her living at Miller's Point. She then rented a two story house in Elizabeth Street, Hyde Park and is recorded as living there in November 1837 and April 1839. She then moved to Erskine Villa, Newtown. Erskine Villa, built by the Rev George Erskine in 1830 subsequently gave its name to the suburb Erskineville. She did not own the property but rather had a landlady (this is mentioned in Spark’s letter of proposal). The landlady was possibly the Rev Erskine's widow - he died in 1834.

Frances Maria was financially independent although it was nearly eighteen months before Dr Radford’s will was finalized. The original will was lost with The Ceres when it was wrecked in September 1836 en route from Newcastle to Sydney. Alexander Spark and Leslie Duguid (Spark's neighbour and general manager of The Commercial Bank of NSW) assisted with administering the will on 7 June 1837. It is likely that Alexander Spark looked after her interests. She often attended functions with him and moved in the same social circles. They became good friends over the next few years. This culminated in their exchange of typically early Victorian proposal and acceptance letters on 9 April 1840. Spark's letter was prompted by his understanding that Frances Maria was about to be evicted. This may have been a ploy by Frances Maria and her landlady to encourage the reluctant bachelor. They were married 18 days after he proposed, 3 days before she supposedly had to leave Erskine Villa.

Alexander Brodie and Frances Maria were married on 27 April 1840 in St Peters Anglican Church. They lived at Tempe House on the Cooks River, the country estate of A B Spark. They had 6 children

1. Alexander Brodie (Alick) (30 Apr 1841 – 21 May 1912) 2. Frances Maria Ann (Fanny) (7 May 1842 – 25 May 1908) 3. Mary Gordon (18 Sep 1843 – 4 Oct 1893) 4. Edith Burnet (16 Sep 1845 – 22 April 1920) 5. Stanley Herbert (31 Dec 1846 – 16 Aug 1929) 6. Florence Sophia (23 Feb 1850 – 22 June 1932)

Alexander Brodie Spark died from heart failure on 21 October 1856 and was buried at St Peters Anglican Church.

Frances Maria and the children had to leave Tempe House. They moved to 69 Old South Head Road after Tempe House was sold to the Maguire Brothers in 1859. (Caroline Chisholm leased the estate from 1863 to 1865 and set up an educational facility for young ladies called Green Bank. Tempe was sold to Frederick Gannon in 1884 and then to The Sisters of The Good Samaritan in 1885).

There was a name change to part of Old South Head Road and the address became 69 Oxford Street in 1875. The house was located near the intersection of Riley Street. In 1877 Frances Maria may have been running a Ladies School from the Oxford Street address. In 1879 Frances Maria moved to “Glenara” 172 Victoria Street North, Darlinghurst and stayed there until her death in 1887. Her younger daughters probably lived there with her. In her will she left a number of valuable shares in the Australian Gas Light Company to her three younger daughters and properties to her sons and eldest daughter, including shares in a private school in Newcastle.

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Frances Maria Biddulph's Timeline

October 5, 1807
May 18, 1808
Age 15
March 17, 1826
Age 18
Age 19
January 29, 1829
Age 21
October 14, 1830
Age 23
Bengaluru, Bangalore Urban, Karnataka, India
July 6, 1832
Age 24
Bengaluru, Bangalore Urban, Karnataka, India
December 30, 1833
Age 26
Machilipatnam, Krishna, Andhra Pradesh, India
October 19, 1835
Age 28