Fletcher and Ann Partis: Separated in Death

Fletcher and Ann Partis anticipated being buried together in Bath Abbey. Fletcher died in 1820 and was buried in the Abbey, but by the time Ann died in 1846 burials in the Abbey had ceased the year before. Ann was buried in the new Abbey cemetery with a large and elaborate memorial to her name. Their exact ages are uncertain because neither of their birth dates can be confirmed.

 

We know very little about their lives, but their names will be remembered forever in their adopted city of Bath, because together they endowed, and Ann managed, from initial planning to day to day running, Partis College in Weston. In the words of Fletcher’s memorial in the Abbey it was to be: ‘…an Asylum for thirty decayed Gentlewomen being Widows or Daughters of Clergymen, Merchants, or Professional Men, whom adverse fortune had deprived of brighter prospects….’.

 

Fletcher was a member of the legal profession in the Inner and Middle Temple in London and became very wealthy as a conveyancer. He lived on Upper Titchfield Street in London, before marrying Ann Ramsay in 1795. He and Ann had no children. However around 1811 Fletcher suffered from partial paralysis (probably a stroke) and from then on was unable to speak. Ann recounts that he could only communicate by means of the pen.

 

The couple retired to Bath, living first on The Paragon and then Great Pulteney Street. In 1820 Ann persuaded Fletcher that his wealth should be used to provide dwellings for gentlewomen who had fallen on hard times. A plot of land was duly purchased in Weston, but six weeks later Fletcher died. He left his entire estate to Ann, who used this wealth to bring their plans to fruition. This was an exceptionally rare feat for a woman in the Georgian era.

 

Ann commissioned the design of the college and then selected the final design. She chose which ladies were admitted or rejected. She took every decision about the day to day running of the college until her death in 1846. (There were fourteen male trustees, but they took little part in decision making until after her death.) The college cost almost £20,000 to build. She paid for all additional expenses whenever the endowment was insufficient. In addition Ann regularly withdrew large amounts of cash from her bank and donated these to numerous charities locally and nationally. She lived very simply herself.

 

Partis College is a splendid Georgian complex of thirty small houses and a central chapel built around three sides of a rectangle. It continues to this day to provide charitable accommodation for women. Throughout their lives both Fletcher and Ann gave generously to many charitable causes in addition to Partis College. It seems appropriate that Fletcher’s memorial includes a relief of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (one of two in the Abbey).

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