Death at 85 of Penrith historian and author
PENRITH historian and author Betty Brown, whose work included the book Jane Milbourn in Carlisle Gaol, has died at the age of 85.
Mrs. Brown, distantly related to Jane Milbourn, had been intrigued since childhood about the title character’s dramatic story. This involved her being imprisoned in Carlisle Gaol in the 18th Century by her husband because she would not hand over property to him.
Over many years Mrs. Brown painstakingly read through a large volume of historic papers and compiled the information which led to the book being published in 2007. It was included on a longlist for the Lakeland Book of the Year Prize 2008.
Born to a land-owning family at Low Plains, a large farm south of High Hesket, Mrs. Brown was the eldest daughter of George and Sarah Richardson. Low Plains was a farm first enclosed by the fifth Duke of Devonshire, meaning that she was surrounded by impressive history from the start. This was to prove a strong influence on her future interests.
Mrs. Brown’s love of the historic also led her to carefully preserve family artefacts and antiques and she later donated some of these to Tullie House, including a dress and shoes.
She was a weekly boarder at Carlisle and County High School for Girls from the age of six and was one of the longest serving pupils there, making lifelong friends. Later she was involved in helping to run school reunions, and contributed to literature written about the school, which later became known as St. Aidan’s.
She spent a lot of time in her early years at Sparkenhoe, her aunt’s house in Penrith, and also made lifelong friends with evacuees from Newcastle Grammar School. Sparkenhoe was full of documents, which provided her with a rich source of material for her later research.
Later Mrs. Brown studied at Edinburgh University and would proudly tell her family in later years how she ran up Arthur’s Seat, in the city, before dawn on 1st May a traditional event which was the re-enactment of an ancient pagan rite.
After leaving Edinburgh she made more friends while working in the tax office at Ripon before returning to her parents’ home in Carlisle.
It was on the dance floor at Carlisle’s Crown and Mitre Hotel that she met Tom Brown, and the couple later married. Although her husband had pursued a career in the air force and had no farming experience, he and his wife moved to her former home at Low Plains. They worked hard and diligently and made a success of the venture, researching and practising innovative new agricultural techniques. They went into beef farming and reached record prices for many years running.
Mrs. Brown began to research the farm’s history before the family, which included a daughter, Sarah, and son, Jon, moved to Penrith.
A year after the death of her husband in 1990, Mrs. Brown joined a new Penrith-based literary group, run by tutor Mary Robinson. She was also a long-serving committee member of Penrith Ladies’ Luncheon Club. She held the posts of secretary, treasurer, chairman and, from 1999-2001, was its president. Later she agreed to take a responsible position on the committee to prevent the club folding.
Mrs. Brown was a voluntary warden at Holehird Gardens, Windermere.
A funeral service was held last Thursday at Christ Church, Penrith, followed by interment at the town cemetery.
Mrs. Brown is survived by her daughter, Mrs. Sarah Hiscoke, of Penrith, and son Jon, of Banbury. She also leaves four grandchildren, Emma, Ruth, Jane and Joseph, and a cousin, Ella Thwaites, of Northumberland.