Tottenham remembers

In 2018 two Tottenham residents developed a website that highlights many aspects of Priscilla’s life.

Priscilla Wakefield: Tottenham Activist

Follow the associated Twitter account @TottenhamQuaker

Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Online Priscilla

When I first began researching Priscilla Wakefield I had to scour the national libraries to locate print copies of her publications. I had to make appointments and take time off work to visit research libraries. I had to take hand written notes in pencil or pay for expensive photocopies. Times have changed. Internet sites such as this bring together digitized copies of Priscilla’s works

Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 7:47 am  Comments (1)  

Sancho & slavery

The development of the character of Sancho marks an important point in Priscilla’s writing about slavery. In previous books she had included the abolition message but with Sancho she creates a character that had experienced slavery and brings that story to the reader.

But for Priscilla this is just a half-way point in bringing the abolition message to the fore.  In the Traveller in Africa published in 1817 her travel hero Arthur Middleton (along with Sancho) is enslaved by Moors.  Slavery, in whatever form it took, was abhorrent to Priscilla.

For a detailed discussion of Priscilla Wakefield’s writing on slavery and the role of Sancho see:

Johanna M. Smith. ‘Slavery, Abolition, and the Nation in Priscilla Wakefield’s Tour Books for Children’ In Discourses of Slavery and Abolition: Britain and its Colonies, 1760-1838, Ed. Brycchan Carey, Markman Ellis and Sara Salih, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Published in: on April 3, 2010 at 11:10 pm  Leave a Comment  


A closer examination of the BDM Registers (see Babies post) suggests an alternative to what is known about Priscilla.

We know she had three children that lived to adulthood and two that died. It is also possible she had another baby that died.

The following has not been verified. Note the difference in the spelling of the two children born in 1775 and died 1779 – possibly a transcription error?

A search using Priscilla’s name only seem to locate births of her children and not burials whereas a search using Edward’s name reveals both.

Edward Wakefield & Priscilla Bell marry in 1771.

1772 – burial – Edward died aged 2 weeks father named as Edward Wakefield

1773 – birth – Isabella – survived to adulthood

1774 – birth – Edward – survived to adulthood

1775 – birth – Barclay

1775 – birth – Banlay

1776 – birth – Daniel – survived to adulthood

1779 – burial – Berkley- died aged 3, on 18 April 1779, father Edward Wakefield 

1779 – burial – Berkler – father Edward Wakefield

Note: Jonathan Bell’s memoir states that ‘two or three of Priscilla’s infants died’.

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 7:19 pm  Comments (3)  

The Journals

Following is a description of Priscilla’s journals by (it is assumed) Lady Georgiana Chapman.

‘The diary for the first year is written in a small paper book about the size of a penny account book, but all the subsequent ones are in marbled covered exercise books, without lines. Every page is carefully ruled into spaces for each day of the week, with a margin an inch wide, ruled off for a record of the weather.

The entries for each day are brief, but very much to the point, and although they are a record of facts rather than emotions, reflections or expressions of feeling occur often enough to give the chronicle of events a living interest and to reveal the character of the writer so fully that we seem to know her intimately.

The Journal for most years is preceded by a summary of the events of the previous twelvemonths, and this retrospect is sometimes the occasion for more copious reflections than appear in the daily entries.’

Micro MS-0972-02 ‘Priscilla Wakefield’, Chapter 1, p.7. TS manuscript. 122 p. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  


A search of the Official Non-Parochial BDM Serivce for Priscilla Wakefield reveals the names of the two children that did not survive. Both boys were born in the year 1775 and were Priscilla’s 3rd and 4th pregnancy. It appears that Barclay Wakefield was born early in the year and Banlay Wakefield later in the year.

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 8:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Going our separate ways?

Part way through the book A Family Tour through the British Empire the company of travellers separate. When they reach the Lake District Mrs Middleton decides to rent a cottage where she, Catherine and Louisa stay while Mr Franklin and the boys complete a circuit of the Northern part of England.  

Of all the events in Priscilla’s books this seperation has received considerable interest from researchers in terms of gender roles.

Aindow, Rosy. ‘Priscilla Wakefield (1751-1832)’. In The Literary Encyclopedia, updated 18 April 2006.

Kroeg, Susan M. ‘Class Mobility: Priscilla Wakefield’s A Family Tour through the British Empire (1804)’,  Kentucky Philological Review 19 (2004): 24-29.

Labbe, Jacqueline M. “‘A Species of Knowledge both Useful and Ornamental”: Priscilla Wakefield’s Family Tour Through the British Empire’, In Romantic Geographies: Discourses of Travel 1775-1844, edited by Amanda Gilroy. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000.

Norcia, Megan A. ‘“X” Marks the Spot: Victorian Women Writers Map the Empire’. Ph.D diss., University of Florida, 2004.

Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Biographical sources

To date these has not been a major biography of Priscilla Wakefield. Most researchers (whatever their focus) refer to aspects of her life in their study and ultimately most of that information is derived from Priscilla’s Journals and other primary sources such as her Library Journal and family letters. The biography by Ann B. Shteir in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has a useful list of sources. Some of these refer to the Hazel Mews papers. In her article ‘Priscilla Wakefield as a Writer of Children’s Educational Books’ Bridget Hill also refers to the Hazel Mews Collection.

The Hazel Mews Collection is held at the Library of the Religious Society of Friends in London. She was an academic and librarian. In the 1960s she began research for a biography of Priscilla. Hazel Mews did not complete the work and died after 1975. Her notes are available to researchers but some parts of the collection are restricted. It appears that most if the material consists of photocopies.

For his book The Wakefields: a Sort of Conscience’ Philip Temple accessed the Mitchell Papers in Devon. His notes refer to the TS version of the Journal and also a hand-transcription. This may have been made from the original and is possibly the source of the more widely circulated TS version.

While researchers are fortunate these materials are still in existence the gaps of some years in the Journal and the selected nature of the entries are a frustration. However, in the prefaces of Priscilla’s books the careful reader can sometimes find an additional insight.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 2:10 am  Comments (1)  

Mitchell Collection

The Mitchell Collection of Wakefield family papers belonged to Mary Priscilla Mitchell (1907-2007) who was known as Priscilla. She was the great-great-niece of Edward Gibbon Wakefield and last descendent of Daniel Wakefield his brother. She lived in Totnes, South Devon but visited New Zealand regularly and funded scholarships and other initiatives in connection with the Wakefield family. Like her namesake she was involved in many philanthropic activities. In her obituary, written by Philip Temple, it is stated the Wakefield family papers will one day reside in the Alexander Turnbull Library. Source: ‘Priscilla had ties to NZ’ Dominion Post, 29 November 2007, B 9.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 2:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Priscilla’s Journal – content

Recent researchers seem to only be be able to locate the TS excerpts of Priscilla’s journal. The location of the original remains unknown.

The TS version begins on 1 January 1796. At the time she was 45 years old and had been married for 25 years. It is not clear if Priscilla had kept a journal prior to this time or whether she made a decision to begin one at this stage in her life.

The early entries reveal a woman who lead a very active life and was highly intelligent. Family matters feature highly especially during the ‘years of storm and stress’, 1802 to 1810.

The journals have daily entries and also annual summations of events. Although selected extracts they are important in understanding the life of Priscilla Wakefield and in them she revels many inner thoughts, fears and hopes.

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment