The Kinneir family has a long history in Cricklade, members being recorded in the baptism registers over the past 300 years.
In the early 19th century, their ranks included landowners and professional men, members of the rural gentry. They lived off annuities and investments, secure in both finances and love, being a close family, in regular touch with each other.
Richard Kinneir, born in Cricklade in 1814, continued this successful trend. He trained as a doctor in Edinburgh, was able to benefit from family investments, moved to Cirencester to practice, and in 1839 married an independently wealthy woman.
His wife, Maria Mackelyne, was from Oaksey Park, near Ashton Keynes. The National Archives has a copy of her marriage settlement (ref 700/138/1) showing that her family’s property included the manor house and farm of the Leigh estate at Ashton Keynes and the Hailstone estate at Cricklade.
The Kinneirs were in Cirencester – living at Dollar Street – until around 1847, when they moved to Devon. They were there for at least four years, but by 1858 had moved closer to their families, living in Purton, not far from Cricklade. Another move, this time to Sherborne in Dorset, occurred by 1871. This seems to have been the final home for the Kinneirs, as Maria died there in 1892.
The Kinneirs appear to have had a privileged life, living in comfort with their children. Yet appearances can be deceptive.
One thing money couldn’t buy in Victorian England was your children’s health. Children of all backgrounds could be struck by illness or disease, and recourse to the best medical attention of the time – even from a caring father – couldn’t always save you.
The Kinneirs had ten children, born between 1840 and 1858, with the five eldest all born in Cirencester before the move further south. There were five girls and five boys.
Seventh child Hester Anne died in Devon in 1873, aged 22. Fourth child Arthur Wellesley died soon after the family moved to that county, at the age of two.
But perhaps the saddest fact about the Kinneirs is the death of their second son, Walter. Alone amongst their children, he lies in the graveyard in Cirencester – but not forgotten.
Over his grave is a copper plate, now turned green with time. The elegant, beautiful inscription on it is as clear to read today as it was when it was first placed there nearly 170 years ago; and so it can be read by anyone who walks round the churchyard, and who stops to read:
Sacred to the memory of Walter Frederick, son of Richard and Maria Kinneir of this Place, who died October 14 1843 aged 2 months.