Kelly, Miss Margaret

Kelly, Miss Margaret, Kelly House, Kelly, Lifton

Margaret Kelly (1877 – 1974)[1], born in Salcombe, was the eldest daughter of Rev. Maitland Kelly and his wife Agnes Clare. She had three full brothers and sisters. Her mother died in 1885 and Maitland married again, two years later, Elfreda Carey, with whom he had a further four children. The Kelly family moved to Ottery St Mary, where Maitland became vicar. Elfreda, whose stepchildren were very fond of her, died in 1891, shortly after the birth of her son Reginald. Although her father’s sister-in-law Ella came to help look after the family, Margaret gradually took on responsibility for the running of the household. Margaret and her sisters were educated at home by a governess.

In 1899 Maitland Kelly inherited Kelly House at Kelly in West Devon from his brother Reginald. He came to live at Kelly as squire and rector, although the church was also served by a vicar. The family had six indoor servants in 1901, in addition to the governess.

The Launceston branch of the NUWSS was established in 1913,[2] after an abortive attempt to launch one in 1911,[3] and covered parishes and communities in West Devon as well as in Cornwall. Alice Wevill of St Mary’s Vicarage Launceston became the secretary[4] and Miss Kelly of Kelly House the treasurer.[5]There is little recorded about the activity of the branch: Frances Balfour was due to speak at a public meeting there in November 1913, and Common Cause advertised a branch garden-party to be held on June 11 1914.[6]

When the war started in 1914 Kelly determined to keep a diary of daily events. One of the first items she records is a branch meeting on 6 August 1914 when she and her sister Dorothea went over to Launceston. Kelly says: ‘I had to take the chair. We decided to discontinue all suffrage work and use the small funds we have to help the distress in Launceston which will be caused by high prices and loss of work.’[7] A meeting is also reported in Common Cause on 7 Aug 1914 when ‘Miss Mathieson explained the policy of the NU and the reasons which led to its adoption’.[8] The time lag for publication suggests, however, that this had been an earlier meeting and may have referred to a different policy.

Kelly’s diary records that enrolled to train as a Red Cross nurse and was called up to work in Exeter’s Hospital No 2 in January 1915 She left the hospital after a year serving there to return to housekeeping at Kelly and involved in organising women’s work on the land. Her diary gives one more reference to women’s suffrage when in January 1917 she went over to Launceston for a meeting. She was again asked to preside. The meeting was addressed by Mary Willcocks (q.v.) who provided information about NUWSS hospital units work and other aspects of the war.[9] Willcocks congratulated the Launceston Society on its continuing existence and urged members to ‘keep up with’ social and political events in preparation for the vote.

After the war the Kelly family resumed their everyday lives. Rev Maitland Kelly died at Kelly, aged 86, on 15 Jun 1929[10]. It appears that Margaret stayed on at Kelly House for several years, but by 1939 she and her sister Dorothea were living at West Hill, close to their childhood home in Ottery St Mary. Margaret died in the Cranford Nursing Home, Exmouth, on 1 Jan 1974, leaving almost £42,000.



Entry created by Julia Neville, October 2018

[1] Family and census information from and from the Margaret Kelly blog available at , accessed 21 Oct 2018.

[2] CC, 26 Sep,1913. First payment of affiliation fees.

[3] CC, 28 Sep 1911.

[4] CC, 7 Nov 1913

[5] Women’s Library 2NWS, Annual Report of the South West Federation in 1914.

[6] CC, 14 Nov 1913; 5 Jun 1914.

[7] Margaret Kelly Diary, entry for 6 Aug 1914. See footnote 1 for reference.

[8] CC, 7 Aug 1914.

[9] Margaret Kelly Diary, entry for 10 Jan 1917. See footnote 1 for reference.

[10] WMN, 17 Jun 1929.


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