History of the Reading Room - Founder Mrs Mary Elizabeth King

Reading Room & Mawarden Court Nov 2021 (1).jpg

Mary Elizabeth King seems to have been a remarkable lady. She was born, and lived all her life, in the Salisbury area. When she was 19 she married Charles King, 10 years her senior, and they had 8 children, all but one of whom survived to adulthood. As the vicar's wife she lived in Stratford sub Castle for 36 years and must have played a significant role in the village.

Her most lasting achievement was the erection of the Reading Room in 1881. This shows her dedication to the education and cultural life of her husband's parishioners.

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This image of Mary King has been taken from a photograph which hangs in the Reading Room. The original was presented to the Reading Room by two of Mrs King's great-grand-daughters, Dorothy Mangetts and Elizabeth King, on 17th August 1989.

The following details have been gleaned from the census returns and the birth, marriages and deaths registers. 

 

Mary King (née Hodgson) was born in about 1820 in Salisbury. We first come across her in 1839 when her marriage at Alderbury to Charles King is recorded that spring. 

 

In the 1861 census we find her living with Charles in Mawarden Court. Charles was the vicar of St Lawrence Church, Stratford sub Castle. They have 8 children, 6 girls sandwiched between two boys. The younger boy, Reginald, seems to have died as an infant. 

 

Ten years later Arthur and the eldest girl, Edith, have left home. Alice, Rosalind, Elsie, Jessie and Adeline are still living with their parents. The situation is unchanged in 1881, all the girls remain unmarried and range in age from 31 to 22. 

 

The Hermitage

Charles died in 1885 and Mary moved to The Hermitage in Durnford where she is found living with Alice in 1891. By 1901 she has moved to Wyndham Cottage in Milford and Alice and Elsie are living with her. 

 

She died on June 18th 1901, aged 81, two months after the census.

The Hermitage

Image: Google Streetview

The image shows the Reading Room and to the left Mawarden Court  which was the vicarage at the time the Reading Room was built but is now a private house.

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The Reading Room is available to hire.

Details here.

You may also be interested to read this relevant webpage: 

Older Buildings in Stratford sub Castle