Who was Miss Molly Bacon?


There were a number of prominent Bacon families in Norfolk with whom William Jermy may have been familiar through his own family connections. The difficulty is in discovering which one Molly (or Mary) Bacon belonged to. Perhaps the greatest clue can be found in the list of subscribers to the book An Enquiry into the Morals of the Ancients written by George England in 1735. The Rev. England was rector of Woolterton, vicar of Hanworth, and chaplain to Lord Hobart, as well as the first cousin of William Jermy. Together with the names of William Jermy, his father John Jermy, and grandfather John Jermy, the list of subscribers also includes Sir Edmund Bacon, Miss Bacon and Miss Molly Bacon of Garboldisham. The village of Garboldisham is mentioned in one of William Jermy's poems, so it is reasonable to assume that this is the correct Molly Bacon.

Sir Edmund Bacon was the Premier Baronet of England and a Member of Parliament for Norfolk between 1728 and 1741. He had married Mary Kemp in 1712 and they had four daughters: Letitia, Mary, Sarah and Elizabeth. Letitia Bacon subsequently married Sir Armine Wodehouse, Sarah married Pryse Campbell and Elizabeth died unmarried. Sadly, what happened to Molly (or Mary) is not recorded in any of the histories of the Bacon family. She was born around 1717 and was obviously alive in 1732 - 1734 when William Jermy wrote his poems about her (when she was about 16 years old and he was 18). She had possibly died by August 1735, when William Jermy married the Honourable Elizabeth Richardson. Sir Edmund Bacon died without a male heir in 1755.

Molly Bacon would have brought a large dowry to her marriage since there were no direct male heirs to the Bacon estate, but Elizabeth Richardson had also inherited a significant amount of property after the death of her brother, Lord William Richardson, who had died in July 1735, aged 20. Perhaps it was this that influenced William Jermy's choice of a wife? The fact that he married Elizabeth Richardson rather than Mary Bacon may also explain why an attempt was made to conceal the authorship of the above verses.

It is however now clear that Molly (or Mary) Bacon did not die at a young age, but remained a spinster and died at Park Street, Saint George Hanover Square, Middlesex in late 1790. She acted as sole executor of her father's will in June 1755, and in her own will dated 31st May 1780 she left property and some muniments of the Bacon family to her nephew Thomas Wodehouse, the third and youngest son of Sir Armine Wodehouse, who had married Mary's sister Letitia. These documents eventually passed to Edmond Wodehouse (1835 - 1914), who was MP for Bath between 1880 and 1906. There are transcripts of some letters written between 1745 and 1750 by the Rev. John Nixon to Miss Mary Bacon in the appendicies of the above web page about the Bacon documents and deeds. Most of the letters are about his travels around England and Europe.

Judging by these facts, Mary evidently outlived both William Jermy and his first wife Elizabeth Richardson, who had died in 1752 and 1751 respectively, as well as all her own sisters.