The girl poses on the steps of a grand Victorian house, dressed in a white maid’s uniform.
Next to her is the lady of the house, her wealth is reflected in the exotic Japanese dog she is holding and the parrot in a cage.
The photograph appears staged – almost to show off the woman’s high standing. The maid’s name was Lizzie Browne.
Born in New Ross, County Wexford, in 1892, she had left Ireland to work as a servant for the woman, who was the owner of a Manchester factory.
Now Lizzie’s granddaughter, Kathleen Merryweather, hopes the ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ image of a lost era will unlock the full story of a Titanic mystery. But she needs to identify the rich businesswoman pictured with Lizzie, and the exact location of the house – thought to be in Salford or Manchester.
Before her death, over 25 years ago, Lizzie told her family a fascinating story about her time working for the woman – but she didn’t give her name.
The well to do lady to whom Lizzie was a servant bought a ticket for the maiden voyage of the doomed ocean liner, Titanic.
It left Southampton for New York on April 12th 1912, but in a strange twist of fate she was not on board.
Kathleen said: “The lady asked my grandmother to accompany her on the Titanic, but she said she did not want to go.
“The lady went alone anyway and took a wooden trunk with leather straps with her.
“When she got on board she unpacked it. But then something spooked her. She repacked the trunk and got off the ship.”
At the time it was common for the well to do to travel on ships with servants. On passenger lists they were often an anonymous appendage to the names of their masters, and had small quarters.
Kathleen said: “When she got back to Manchester she gave my grandmother the trunk (from the trip) saying she had no further use for it.
“We still have the trunk. My grandmother used it for storing blankets, and later another member of the family used in the potting shed, but I retrieved it from there.
“We took it to an episode of Antiques Road Show and an expert said the story was amazing, but, and I admit he was right, we have no proof of the provenance.
“They said it was worth about £75-£100. But if we could prove its history it would be worth thousands. I don’t want to sell it, I just want to find out more about who the owner was, and what happened to her.”
The White Star liner, RMS Titanic, built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, struck an iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, and sank two hours and twenty minutes later, just under 400 miles from Newfoundland. An estimated 1,500 passengers and crew died.
Kathleen, who was raised in Ellesmere Port, but now lives in Bristol, said: “At the age of 16 Lizzie (Elizabeth) and two other women, Ellen (Nellie) Roche and Margaret Murphy, thought to be cousins, left Ireland for England .
“They arrived at Liverpool on St Patrick’s Day. Nellie Roche went to Liverpool, Margaret Murphy went to the Isle of Man and Lizzy went into service in Manchester.”
While doing her own research Kathleen came across a story in the Manchester Evening News from 2018 about a Victorian house, dating from 1870, which was the subject of a planning application.
It was proposed that an empty building, at the junction of Park Lane and Upper Park Road in Broughton Park, Salford, should be demolished and the one acre site used for a Jewish boarding school.
The planning application, which was approved in 2018, only consented to partial demolition works and that permission expired in April 2021.
The mansion is still standing, and Kathleen believes it could be the former home of the lady who gave her grandma the trunk.
“From the picture of Lizzie outside on the steps with the lady of the house, it could be the same property.
“I just hope someone can help us put a name to the lady, and identify the house. My grandma told me that she owned a factory in Manchester, but we don’t know what kind.”
Lizzie was married at St. Chad’s Catholic Church in the District of Manchester, on the 9th May 1923.
She wed Patrick Green, then a 22 years old, bachelor, living at 36 Stock Street East, Cheetham.
On her marriage certificate it says of Lizzie: “Elizabeth Browne 25 years old, spinster, domestic servant, residence 200 Cheetham Hill Road, Cheetham, father Martin Browne – Shoemaker, Master. Witnesses were James O’Rourke and Lilly Browne. Ellen, known as Lilly, was Elizabeth’s sister.”
Lilly was born in 1900 in New Ross and left Ireland to join Lizzie about 1923/4.
Both later worked together as servants at large homes in the Manchester area.
At one point Lizzie worked for retired publican, Samuel Rudiman at his home in Talbot Road, Stretford.
Lizzie and Patrick had four children, Daniel, Patrick, Martin, and Bridget. Their son, Patrick was Kathleen’s father. He died in 2017.
It is thought Lizzie’s employer, who got off the Titanic may have lived in the Bury New Road area – possibly Broughton Park.
At the time it was a suburb made up of large Victorian homes to those making their fortune from textiles and other industries in the city centre.
Lizzie, died in 1986, having made her home in Ellesmere Port.
Do you have an idea who the lady of the house might have been? Contact [email protected]
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