Partner Anne Seymour Damer

Queer Places:
Strawberry Hill House, 268 Waldegrave Rd, Twickenham TW1 4ST, UK
St Peter, Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond TW10 7AA, Regno Unito

Mary Berry (16 March 1763 – 20 November 1852) was an English non-fiction writer born in Kirkbridge, North Yorkshire. She is best known for her letters and journals, namely Social Life in England and France from the French Revolution, published in 1831, and Journals and Correspondence, published after her death in 1865.[1] Berry became notable through her association with close friend Horace Walpole, whose literary collection she, along with her sister and father, inherited.[2]

Berry was born in Kirkbridge, Yorkshire on 16 March 1763. Her younger sister Agnes, who proved to be Mary's closest confidant during her life, was born fourteen months later on 29 May 1764.[3]

Their father, Robert Berry, was the nephew of a successful Scottish merchant named Ferguson. Robert received £300,000 in mid-life and bought an estate at Raith in Fifeshire. As the older son of Ferguson's sister, he began working at his uncle's counting-house in Broad Street, Austin Friars. In 1762, he married his distant cousin, a Miss Seaton. After giving birth to Mary and Agnes, she and their third child died three years later, in 1767, during childbirth. [3]

Following their mother's death, the two girls were cared for by their grandmother, Mrs. Seaton, at Askham in Yorkshire. They were moved to the College House in Chiswick in 1770. After their governess at Chiswick married in 1776, the two girls were self-educated. Their religious instruction consisted of Mary reading aloud a Psalm to her grandmother every morning, and one of the Saturday papers from the Spectator every Sunday. [3]

In 1781, the uncle, Mr Ferguson, died at age 93. He left money to both Robert and his younger brother, William. In 1783, Robert Berry and his two young daughters travelled abroad to Holland, Switzerland and Italy. Mary assumed the role of protective mother to her sister, and a guide and monitor to her father.[3]

Mary Berry began writing Journals and Correspondence while in Florence in 1783, though she would not complete the writing until 70 years later. After a long stay in Italy, her tour was completed by a return home through France to England in June 1786.[3]

Berry and her sister Agnes had a remarkable association with Horace Walpole. They first met him in the winter of 1788, when he was then more than 70 years old. A letter he wrote in October 1788 related how: “he had just then willingly yielded himself up to their witcheries on meeting them at the house of his friend Lady Herries, wife of the banker in St. James's Street”. [3] Walpole developed a deep fondness for the two girls, lavishing them with endearments and compliments. In his letters, Walpole spoke of both in terms of the strongest affection and endearment, in one instance addressing them as his "twin wives". He wrote books solely for their pleasure and dedicated other writings to them. It was solely for their amusement that he wrote his Reminiscences of the Courts of George I and II (1789). He established the sisters at Teddington in 1789, and two years later, in 1791, he prevailed upon them to move into Little Strawberry Hill, a house previously known as Cliveden, the abode of his friend Kitty Clive, the famous actress. They lived there for many years.[3]

Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham

George Walpole, died in 1791 and his titles and estate were passed to his uncle Horace. Horace became the 4th Earl of Orford. "There is a tradition handed down by Lord Lansdowne", says the Edinburgh Review, "that he (Walpole) was ready to go through the formal ceremony of marriage with either sister, to make sure of their society and confer rank and fortune on the family - he had the power of charging the Orford estate with a jointure of £2,000 a year.” [3] This did not occur.

In 1779, Mary's hand had been sought in marriage by a Mr Bowman and she wrote long afterwards that she had "suffered as people do" at sixteen "from what, wisely disapproved of, I resisted and dropped." [3]

General Charles O'Hara, governor of Gibraltar, had met Berry in 1784 in Italy, and was engaged to her before leaving England for Gibraltar in November 1795. Berry had been reluctant to leave England immediately as his bride. This led to their gradual estrangement and ultimately the breaking off of their engagement at the end of April 1796. [3]

Walpole died on 2 March 1797[4] and left both women £4,000 and Little Strawberry Hill House, where they lived. He also bequeathed to Robert, Mary, and Agnes Berry his printed works and a box containing manuscripts, to be published at their discretion. [3]

In 1802 Berry went to Paris and, during her stay, she was presented to Napoleon in the palace of the Tuileries. Returning to France with her sister and father later in the year, she went on to Nice, Switzerland and Germany, returning England in September 1803.[3]

St. Peter's, Petersham

During her life Berry suffered from only one serious illness, a near-fatal attack of bilious fever in 1825. She died of old age around midnight on 20 November 1852 at age 90.[3] Her sister, Agnes, had died in January of the same year.[5][6] Both are buried in the churchyard of St Peter's Church, Petersham.[7]


  1. "Mary Berry (1763-1852), Writer". National Portrait Gallery, London.
  2. Hartley, Cathy (2013). A Historical Dictionary of British Women. Routledge. p. 45. ISBN 1135355339..
  3. Kent 1888/a>..
  4. Book Builders LLC. (2009). Encyclopedia of British Writers, 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries. Infobase Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 1438108699..
  5. Mary Berry (1865). Theresa Lewis, ed. Extracts of the journals and correspondence of Miss Berry from the year 1783 to 1852. 1.. Longmans, Green.
  6. "The Berry Sisters". Twickenham Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  7. "St Peter's Church, Petersham" (PDF). Local History Notes. London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012.