Anna Maria Fox

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Anna Maria Fox (21 February 1816[1] – 18 November 1897[2]) was a promoter of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society and the artistic and cultural development of Falmouth in Cornwall, UK.

Family links[edit]

Anna Maria Fox was the eldest child of Robert Were Fox FRS (26 April 1789 – 25 July 1877) and Maria Barclay (1785–1858), his wife.

Her father was a member of the Quaker Fox family of Falmouth and her mother of the Quaker Barclay family of Bury Hill, near Dorking. Her maternal grandmother was a first cousin of Elizabeth Fry.

Her siblings were Barclay Fox (6 September 1817 – 10 March 1855) and Caroline Fox (24 May 1819 – 12 January 1871). The family lived at Rosehill[3] and Penjerrick

She never married. With her sister, Caroline, she raised the four sons of her brother, Barclay, after the death of their parents.

Anna Maria outlived her sister by sixteen years, which Thomas Hodgkin[4] described as a "widowhood". She died aged 81 on 18 November 1897 and was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground in Budock, in the same plot as her sister, Caroline[5]

The Journals[edit]

In their teenage years, Robert Were Fox challenged his children to keep journals, offering a guinea reward for the first year completed. All three kept journals for many years.

Anna Maria commissioned a relative by marriage, Horace Pym, to edit and publish her sister's journal. The book Memories of old friends was published by Smith, Elder & Co. ten years after Caroline Fox's death. It sold well.[clarification needed] Before her death, Anna Maria arranged for all the original volumes of Caroline's journals to be burnt. A further selection from Memories of old friends, edited by Wendy Monk, was published in 1972.

Barclay Fox's journal, edited by Raymond Brett, was published in 1979.[6]

Anna Maria gave instructions that "no word of my journal is to be published".[4]

View of the "Poly" building in Church Street, Falmouth

Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society[edit]

The idea for the foundation of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society was created by Anna Maria, Barclay and Caroline Fox, in 1832, when they were 17, 16 and 13, respectively. Their parents, uncles and aunts and their friends took up the idea with enthusiasm.

In 1896, Anna Maria Fox was elected as Vice-Patroness of the Poly, sharing this role with the Prince of Wales.[7]

The Poly in Church Street, Falmouth hit serious financial problems in January 2010 and closed its commercial arm.

Scary Little Girls[edit]

A project about her was undertaken by Scary Little Girls in 2016; there was a year of community-centred events celebrating her 200th birthday. The project gathered oral testimonies from members of the Fox family, local residents with ties to Anna Maria's legacy, and people associated with the gardens, arts school buildings and societies she founded. These histories were then commemorated around the time with special blue fox plaques, linked together into a heritage trail by an app developed in partnership with Falmouth Arts School and University. Through the project, Scary Little Girls collaborated with The Poly, Falmouth University, Falmouth School of Art, Mawnan Church of England VA Primary School, the Fox family, Falmouth History Group and heritage volunteers to document Anna Maria Fox.[8][9]

Painting and art education[edit]

She was a good amateur painter and organised of the Art section of the Annual Exhibition at the "Poly". The Cornwall Art Union was formed in 1852, associated with the Poly.[10] Art classes run by the Poly were a precursor of the Falmouth School of Art.

The first purpose-built building of the School, in Arwenack Street, was given in memory of Anna Maria Fox.[11] The building, officially opened in August 1902 was refurbished in 2007.

Gallery: Falmouth School of Art's first building[edit]

Gallery: Wellington Terrace Primary School building[edit]

Pets and personality[edit]

She kept a variety of exotic pets – including marmosets, parrots, love-birds, cockatiels, canaries and avadavats. Thomas Hodgkin notes that whilst her sister Caroline was prone to sarcasm, Anna Maria always had an optimistic and less critical attitude to other people.[4]


Robert Were Fox usually took his children on his journeys out of Cornwall. The family often attended the annual Quaker gathering in London, held in May, and met their relations and friends. Robert also took them the meetings of the British Association, held in towns around the United Kingdom and Ireland. In 1880, she visited Palestine[4] In August, 1884, she visited Canada and the US, with her nephew, Howard Fox, to attend the British Association meeting in Montreal and the meeting of the BAAS with the American Association in Philadelphia, organised by Lord Rayleigh.[12]


The portrait of Anna Maria Fox by Henry Scott Tuke, reproduced in the 1897 Poly Annual Report, is currently on display at the Falmouth Gallery, in the Moor (28 June 2012). A photograph of Tuke painting Anna Maria is at the Tate Gallery.[13] In Old Falmouth Miss Susan Gay reproduces a full-length photographic portrait "at Penjerrick Garden", opposite page 15.

Gravestone of Caroline and Anna Maria Fox in Budock Quaker Burial Ground, Falmouth

Sources and references[edit]


The Journals

  • Fox, Caroline (1881) Memories of Old Friends: Caroline Fox of Penjerrick, Cornwall (edited by H. N. Pym, 1881; 2nd edition, 1882).
  • Fox, Caroline (1972). The journals of Caroline Fox, 1835–1871: a selection, edited by Wendy Monk. London: Paul Elek. ISBN 0-236-15447-8.
  • Fox, Robert Barclay (1979). Barclay Fox's journal, (edited by Raymond Brett). London: Bell and Hyman. ISBN 0-7135-1865-0. U.S. edition, Rowman & Littlefield (1979), Totowa, N.J. ISBN 0-8476-6187-3

Other Sources

  • Gay, Susan E. (1903) Old Falmouth: the story of the town from the days of the Killigrews to the earliest part of the Nineteenth century, London, Headley Brothers.
  • Harris, Wilson (1944). Caroline Fox. London: Constable..[14]
  • Hodgkin, Thomas (1898) "Anna Maria Fox", Friends Quarterly Examiner, Vol. CXXV, 1st month 1898. pp. 115–136.
  • Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society Annual Report for 1897, pp. v–ix Obituary of Anna Maria Fox. A photogravure of her full-face portrait by Henry Scott Tuke forms the frontispiece.
  • Tod, Robert (1978). Caroline Fox, Quaker bluestocking: 1819–1871. York: William Sessions Limited. ISBN 0-900657-54-5.
  • 'Dictionary of Quaker Biography': Huge typescript resource at the Library of the Religious Society of Friends, Euston, London UK, known as "DQB".


  1. ^ Barclay Fox's journal. See Sources above for bibliographical details.
  2. ^ 'DQB' See Sources above.
  3. ^ Carrick District Council description of Rosehill garden (accessed 18 November 2007). Archived 10 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c d Biographical article in Friends Quarterly Examiner,1898. Bibliographic details in Sources, above.
  5. ^ Cornwall Record Office Document ADD447: Blueprint plan of the Burial Ground. Caroline and Anna Maria Fox were buried in Plot 90.
  6. ^ Bibliographical details of these books given above, under Sources
  7. ^ The role of Vice-Patroness is listed in the Poly's Annual Report, 1896.
  8. ^ "The Anna Maria Fox Finale: A Cornish Christmas Celebration - Theatre - What's on - the Poly at Falmouth".
  9. ^ "Picnics at Glendurgan Garden to celebrate legacy of Anna Maria Fox".
  10. ^ Miss Susan Gay's Falmouth chronology
  11. ^ Gay, Susan E. Old Falmouth page 238 Bibliographic details in Sources, above.
  12. ^ Gutenberg text Lady Rayleigh's Account of travel to Montreal (Accessed 9 December 2007) Archived 29 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine: Clara, Lady Rayleigh's account of travel to the British Association for the Advancement of Science Meetings in Canada and America in August 1884:

    Sunday, 24 August: "However, the sun broke forth and lifted the curtain of fog, and within a quarter of a mile we saw a beautiful iceberg twelve or fifteen hundred feet deep, they said, and so beautiful in its ultra marine colouring. The shape was like a village church somewhat in ruins. Miss Fox, a sister of Caroline Fox, is on board and sketched the icebergs and the waves during the storm very cleverly." . . .

    "A scientific man asked questions as to whether we could prove answers to prayer would be given for physical blessings, or what we consider such; or whether prayer was only a sentiment (as Tyndal thinks)? Professor Barrett and a dear old clergyman, Canon Rogers (who, in my ignorance, I had thought, at first, was a "dry stick") argued the matter with him, and also Dr. P. Smith and his son, and Miss Fox and I said a few words. Now, about nine o'clock, they are all singing hymns, very much out of tune. I must finish this up now for it must be posted to-morrow, or may miss the mail on Tuesday. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last three days, and am almost sorry the voyage is over, and so, I think, are many of my fellow passengers. Some of them are very good and nice. Miss Fox is delightful—upwards of eighty, and yet so full of interest in everything good and beautiful; she is like a piece cut out of the old past, and a very wonderful old fossil, full of energy and cleverness." (Clara, Lady Rayleigh was the mother of Lord Rayleigh, (President of the BAAS), whom she accompanied in this journey).

  13. ^ The personal papers of Thomas Cooper Gotch (1854–1931) and Henry Scott Tuke:TGA 9019/1/4/2- Photograph of Henry Scott Tuke painting Anna Maria Fox in the garden at Penjerrick (accessed 8 November 2007).
  14. ^ (Henry) Wilson Harris (1883–1955), journalist and author (Biographer of Caroline Fox), is the subject of an article in ODNB: Derek Hudson, 'Harris, (Henry) Wilson (1883–1955)’, rev. Marc Brodie, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1]. Retrieved 10 December 2007. His parents were Plymouth Quakers.