Mary Ann Alexander, Quaker watercolourist

The Alexanders were Quakers and social reformers whose wealth came from banking. Over several generations, they were the moving spirits behind such philanthropic enterprises as the East Suffolk & Ipswich Hospital in Anglesea Road and the Ragged Schools which educated some of the very poorest children in the town.  

Mary Ann Alexander painted these water-colours around 1850. They show scenes of domestic life at Goldrood in Belstead Road which was where her branch of the family lived.  The original paintings and photograph below belong to Joan Jackman, one of Mary Ann's direct descendants who gave me permission to reproduce them when I visited her in 2017. Goldrood still stands and is now one of the boarding houses of St Joseph's College, an independent school.


Goldrood was built in 1809 and bought by Mary Ann's father in 1811. It gave uninterrupted views down to the river Orwell.




The women of the family gather at the fireside, keeping busy with handicrafts.  Some are 'plain' Quakers with their bonnets and sombre-coloured dresses.  Others have their heads uncovered and wear brighter clothes.  Mary Ann's mother, Rebecca, is sitting by the fire.




The orderly and salubrious back kitchen at Goldrood. Mary Ann shows us two servants busy at work among the pots and pans.





In 1849, Mary Ann went on holiday to Guernsey with a brother and a sister - she was one of twelve.  Here they are in a luxurious train carriage, having fallen into conversation with an older woman who is sitting in the middle of the group.  According to Mary Ann's diary, they had a very pleasant discussion about politics, ragged schools, "and education in general".



This is the dining room where the family got together for one last time  before moving out of Goldrood in 1850.  Mary Ann, the artist, has painted herself standing by the golden curtains. 





Mary Ann married fellow Ipswich Quaker, Henry Shewell Corder, later in 1850.  This photo shows her with her husband and their children: a posed but lively family photograph taken in 1858/1859.  The photographer seems to have been none other that Richard Dykes Alexander, a nationally prominent pioneer photographer and a member of Mary Ann's family.  The Suffolk Record Office holds other examples of Richard Dykes Alexander's work including a stereographic image of this family possibly taken on the same day as the subjects are wearing the same clothes as in this photograph. 



Joan Jackman, Mary Ann's  great-granddaughter, modelled an old-fashioned Quaker bonnet for me when I visited her.


Sources include

Goldrood: the History of a Quaker Family by Joan Jackman, Abernant Publishing 2012