Headington history: People

Tour backwards
Tour forwards

Mrs Maria Ballachey, née Lock (1797–1884)

Mrs Maria Ballachey (née Lock) (1797–1884) was born at 6 & 7 High Street in All Saints Parish in Oxford. She was the daughter of the banker and goldsmith Sir Joseph Lock, and the family’s country estate was at Bury Knowle House in Headington.

At the time of the 1841 census, Miss Maria Lock was living with her 80-year-old father in his High Street home; two years later in 1843 she got married at the age of 46. The marriage announcement appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 13 May 1843:

MARRIED: On Thursday last, at the church of St. Giles’s, in this city, by the Rev. the Warden of Wadham College, George Baker Ballachey, of Edgefield Mount in the county of Norfolk, Esq. to Maria, only daughter of Sir Joseph Lock.

George Baker Ballachey of Edgefield in Norfolk, who was 55 at the time of the marriage, had lost his first wife on 16 November 1837 and his children were mostly grown up. He was the grandson of Panayoti Ballachey, a Greek fencing master to the University of Oxford in the first half of the eighteenth century. He was a solicitor who had been active in Norfolk and London in relation to the agricultural depression and the enacting of the Poor Law, and instrumental in organizing a significant percentage of English emigrants to Canada around 1840.

In January 1844, just ten months after the marriage, Sir Joseph Lock died, leaving his property in All Saints to his son Edward and his property in Headington to his daughter Mrs Ballachey, and she moved up to Bury Knowle House with her husband.

George Baker Ballachey died at the age of 74 on 27 October 1857. Mrs Ballachey, possibly influenced by her husband, thereafter dedicated herself to helping the poor folk of Headington.

The Return of Owners of Land of 1873 shows that Mrs Ballachey owned over 35 acres of land in Oxfordshire, which is more than her father was awarded under the Headington Enclosure Act; the extra land she owned was probably his property in Iffley. As well as the whole of the present Bury Knowle Park, she had land fronting the north end of Old High Street, and on the north-east corner of the main crossroads. She also had a large field of over five acres at the north-east end of Windmill Road. (The latter was sold soon after her death and is now occupied by shops and houses down as far as St Leonard’s Road, and by the whole of Holyoake Road.)

Mrs Ballachey died on 7 February 1884, and the following “In Memoriam” published in the Headington Parish Magazine of that month shows how much more popular she was in Headington than her father:

The parish has sustained a loss during the past month in the death of Mrs. Ballachey, one of the oldest and most generally respected of its inhabitants, which took place on February 7th. Nearly all her life has been passed at Headington, and perhaps few, if any, parishioners can remember the time when she was not resident amongst us. Had she lived one month more she would have attained the great age of 87.

Of the many acts of generosity and kindness done by her in the parish it would be impossible to speak fully. Much was done by her for the good of others so quietly and unobtrusively that often, perhaps, it was almost unnoticed or unknown. She shunned we believe any kind of publicity or notice. We cannot forget, however, how long and generously she has provided for the education of the infant children of Old Headington and Barton, by giving the school buildings and supporting the school during her lifetime with £20 a year. We shall also long remember how kindly, year after year, she has given the use of her grounds for the annual school treat, the Band of Hope treats, and the Temperance fête. Another monument of her generosity and interest in the welfare of this parish is engraved in stone on the British Workman, which it is well to remember is built on a site given by Mrs. Ballachey.

And not only in her outward acts, but we believe in her character and conduct generally, she has set the example of a Christian life. Of a simple faith, with a rigid sense of duty, with a warm attachment to the Church and its Services, and a consistent supporter of all she believed right, the parish has indeed lost by her removal a great influence for good. All we can hope is that the good she has done in her lifetime may bear much fruit in our midst, now that it has pleased God to remove her hence.

Old Headington & Barton Infant School was founded in 1840, just outside the side entrance to Bury Knowle House, and was supported by Mrs Ballachey for most if not all of its life.

British Workman plaque


Mrs Ballachey was also involved in the Temperance Movement, and in 1880 gave some land she owned in Old High Street for the establishment of a British Workman (now No. 67, but then numbered 27). Many lectures, meetings, concerts and entertainments were held there, including those of the Church of England Temperance Society (CETS).

Mrs Ballachey is buried just behind St Andrew’s Church in Headington in the same grave as her sister, Mrs Elizabeth Wilson, who died 42 years earlier in 1842. Her husband, who died in 1858, lies in a more modest grave beside them.

© Stephanie Jenkins

Headington home Shark Oxford History home