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Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts

Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts
Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts

Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts (born Angela Burdett 24 April 1814 in Piccadilly, London - 30 December 1906) was the daughter of Sir Francis Burdett, Baronet, a Whig MP, and Sophia Coutts, who was the daughter of Thomas Coutts , the wealthy banker who founded Coutts bank .

In 1837 she became the wealthiest woman in England when she inherited her grandfather's fortune of nearly two million pounds sterling via his wife Harriot Mellon, joining the names of her father and grandfather to became known as Burdett-Coutts, for which she required a Royal License, becoming widely known as "the richest heiress in England". Rev. Richard H. Barham , in a ballad he wrote under the penname "Thomas Ingoldsby" for the queen's coronation as part of the Ingoldsby Legends referred to her as 'Miss Anjaley Coutts' and she became a notable subject of public curiosity, receiving numerous offers of marriage.

She also inherited the country house at The Holly Lodge in Highgate where she was famous for throwing large parties however she spent the majority of her inherited wealth on scholarships, endowments, and a wide range of philanthropic causes. One of her earliest was to establish a home for young women who had 'turned to a life of immorality' to escape from Censored page.

Burdett-Coutts carefully avoided taking any side in party politics, but she was actively interested in phases of Imperial extension which were calculated to improve the condition of the black races, as in Africa, or the education and relief of the poor or suffering in any part of the world. Though she made no special distinction of creed in her charities, Burdett-Coutts was a notable benefactor of the Church of England, building and endowing churches and church schools, endowing the bishoprics of Cape Town and of Adelaide (1847), and founding the bishopric of British Columbia (1857).

Other projects included:

  • the building of Anglican churches
  • church bells for St Paul's cathedral
  • cotton gins for Nigeria
  • drinking fountains for dogs
  • help for Turkish peasants and the refugees of the 1877 Russo-Turkish War , receiving the order of the Medjidieh , the only time it was conferred on a woman
  • housing schemes for the working-class
  • lifeboats in Brittany, France
  • low-income housing
  • The Ragged Schools Union
  • a sewing school for women in Spitalfields when the silk trade declined
  • soup kitchens
  • support organisations for the aboriginal peoples of Australia and for the Dyak s of Borneo
  • The Temperance Society
  • in Ireland she helped to promote the fishing industry by starting schools, and providing boats, also advancing 250,000 in 1880 for supplying seed to the impoverished tenants
  • placement of hundreds of destitute boys in training-ships for the navy and merchant service

She also established the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in 1883, the Westminster Technical Institute in 1893 and was closely involved with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Angela also founded Columbia Fish Market in 1869 in Bethnal Green in the East End of London, the district where much of her work was carried out. Through her support of missionary and nursing efforts she was associated with Louisa Twining and Florence Nightingale

Charles Dickens dedicated his novel Martin Chuzzlewit to her and she had many royal and eminent friends. In recognition of her philanthropic work, in 1871 Queen Victoria conferred a peerage on her under the title Baroness Burdett-Coutts of Highgate and Brookfield. She was the first ever woman to be created a baroness in her own right. On 18 July 1872 she became the first woman to be presented with the Freedom of the City of London at the Guildhall and in 1874 was Edinburgh's first woman Burgess also being presented with the Freedom of that city.

In 12 February 1881, when she was age 67, she shocked polite society by marrying the American William Lehman Ashmead Bartlett, the MP for Westminster and her secretary, who was only 27. Even more surprising for the times, her new husband changed his name to Burdett-Coutts, although he did not become a baron. They had no children.

Angela Burdett-Coutts had, by the time of her death at her house in Stratton Street, Piccadilly of acute bronchitis in 1906, given more than 3m to good causes. She is buried on 5 January 1907 near the West Door in the nave of Westminster Abbey.

King Edward VII is reported to have said "After my mother, (Queen Victoria) the most remarkable woman in the kingdom."

Last updated: 02-19-2005 07:02:13
Last updated: 05-02-2005 20:13:16