Miss Susannah MILLS (c.1792–1874)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 14, Grave D67
to the memory of
who departed this life
October 12 1874
Well done, good and faithful servant
S. Matt. XXV.21
This is one of the terracotta gravestones in the cemetery sculpted by Thomas Grimsley. The image of the Good Shepherd on front of the winged roundel on top of the gravestone is typical of his work, as are the intertwined letters “IHS” (“Iesus Hominum Salvator”) on the reverse (shown below)
Susannah Mills was born in London in 1792/3, the daughter of John and Sarah Mills, and was baptised on 7 February 1793 at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster.
She spent all her life as a servant, and never married. In the 1820s/1830s she was employed by Professor Stephen Peter Rigaud and his family (see below), and from 1810 she probably moved between London and Oxford with them, eventually settling with them permanently in Oxford in 1826. When Mrs Rigaud died the following year, Susannah became their housekeeper.
Susannah remained in Oxford for the rest of her life, and although by 1841, when she was about 47, she had become the servant of Professor Charles Daubeny (a bachelor who lived at the Oxford Botanic Garden near Magdalen Bridge and who was then Professor of both Chemistry and Botany at the University), the Rigaud children, especially Jane and Christian, never forgot her. She was still working for Daubeny at the time of the 1851 census, and was now named as his housekeeper (the other two servants being a butler and housemaid). The situation was unchanged in 1861, except that Daubeny was now Professor of just Botany and had a fourth servant (a page).
When Jane Rigaud’s youngest sister Christian died in 1862, it was Susannah Mills who registered the death, giving her own address as the Botanic Gardens; and Christian left £19 to “Susanna Mills, my Father’s late housekeeper in acknowledgement of her faithful services to my Father’s family”.
In the later 1860s Susannah presumably became too old to work, and by the time of the 1871 census, when she was 78, she was living with Miss Jane Rigaud (53) at the south end of Walton Street (which was in St Mary Magdalen parish) as her companion rather than her servant. Miss Rigaud described herself in the census as “Gentlewoman & Independent (Dividends)” and stated that Susannah was a former servant, although she had not worked for her for over thirty years.
Susannah died in 1874 at Miss Rigaud’s home:
† Miss Susannah Mills died at 155 Walton Street at the age of 81 on 12 October 1874 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 15 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).
Her effects came to under £450, and her executor was Major General Gibbes Rigaud, one of the motherless siblings she helped to bring up.
Miss Jane Rigaud must have paid for Susannah’s grave and gravestone (which is appropriately inscribed “Well done, good and faithful servant”), and she also inserted a death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal.
Footnote on Miss Jane Rigaud (1817/18–1892)
Jane Rigaud was born on 25 July 1817 in Richmond, Surrey (probably at the at the Demainbray/Rigaud family house at 21–22 Richmond Green), the daughter of Stephen Peter Rigaud and his wife Christian Walker Jordan, and was baptised at St Peter-in-the-East Church in Oxford, with the family address given as New College Lane. As well as being Observer at the King’s Observatory at Kew, her father had since 1810 been Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, and the family split their time between their home in Richmond and Edmund Halley’s former house in New College Lane, Oxford.
In 1826 the family moved permanently to Oxford when Stephen Rigaud was appointed Savilian Professorship of Astronomy, and initially they continued to live in New College Lane. On 26 March 1827, Jane’s mother Christian Walker Rigaud died at that house at the age of 35, and was buried at St Peter-in-the East churchyard on 31 March. Her husband was left with seven young children to bring up, and it seems likely that Susannah Mills was the main servant who looked after them, which would explain the special relationship she evidently had with Jane, the eldest daughter, who was then ten.
Rigaud was automatically appointed the Radcliffe Observer in conjunction with his Professorship in Astronomy, and the family must have moved the Observer’s House attached to the Radcliffe Observatory soon after Christian’s death.
Stephen Peter Rigaud died on 16 March 1839, and at the time of the 1841 census Jane Rigaud was aged 21 and living in Magdalen Street with her siblings Stephen (23), Mary Isabella (18), and Christian (16), looked after by two servants. Her sister Mary died at the age of 23 in St John Street, and was buried at St Peter-in-the-East Church with her mother on 1 October 1846.
Jane’s brother Stephen Jordan Rigaud, who had been a schoolmaster, was appointed Bishop of Antigua in 1857, but died there of yellow fever on 17 May 1859.
Miss Rigaud remained on her own in Walton Street after the death in 1874 of her servant/companion Susannah Mills. Her two unmarried brothers predeceased her: Major General Gibbes Rigaud died on 1 June 1885, and the Revd John Rigaud, Fellow of Magdalen College and Curate of St George’s Church in Oxford, on 27 July 1888.
In about 1890 Miss Rigaud moved to 17 St Giles’s Street, where she was looked after by her niece, Mira Antigua Christian Rigaud (presumably the daughter of her deceased brother Stephen). Mira was married at St Giles’s Church on 28 July 1892, and Miss Rigaud died at the age of 75 less than two months later on 25 September 1892, and was buried with her mother and sisters. Her wealth at death was £20,896 12s. 5d.
There are biographies of her father Stephen Peter Rigaud, her brother Stephen Jordan Rigaud, and her maternal grandfather Stephen Charles Triboudet Demainbray in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.