Quaker reformer Elizabeth Fry died on 13th October 1845. She was staying at Arklow House in Ramsgate where she and her family occasionally took holidays by the sea in an effort to improve her failing health. In the early hours of Monday after a long, sad weekend with her family around her, she slipped away.
She had suffered ill health for a number of years but refused to let this get her down. She attended Quaker Meetings, family events and wrote copious letters plus her precious diaries almost to the last.
On Thursday 9th October she wrote to her youngest daughter, Louisa from Ramsgate:
‘My dearest Louisa,
I think that a visit from thee and thy dear husband would be highly acceptable to us; but much as I should like to see the dear boys, I fear that the house is now too full to take in more than we should have with Raymond and thyself.
I feel so shaken and so broken down, that I wish to see as much of my beloved children as I can; my love is very strong, and my flesh is very weak, I think increasingly so…indeed my heart is drawn very near to you all, and deep are my desires for your present, and above all, your everlasting welfare.
I am, with dear love to Raymond and the boys, and love to all the dear Plashet family…
thy tenderly attached mother,
Although weak and frail she managed a short note the following day to a friend who wanted her autograph for a child. Throughout the final days of her life, her children and their families and other relations and friends visited her regularly. Some were close by at the end when she died, aged 65, of a suspected stroke: ‘serious effusion of the brain, 36 hours, partial paralysis, 1½ years certified’ is written on her death certificate. She may have suffered minor strokes, TIAs, towards the end of her life and then died at 3.40am of a more serious one.
Her death was registered in Ramsgate by her son in law Francis Cresswell who was married to her second daughter Rachel. She was very fond of Francis and supported the marriage although by marrying him, Rachel married ‘out’ and was disowned by the Quakers, a practice long since abandoned. Elizabeth’s last child, Daniel Henry [known as Harry] was born on the same day as Rachel’s first which created a close bond between mother and daughter.
Gradually the different members of the family left Ramsgate and Elizabeth’s eldest son, John and a brother in law, followed her hearse to Upton travelling through the night. Her funeral took place at the Friends’ Burial Ground at Barking. A grave was prepared for her near to that of her beloved daughter Betsy who had died three months before her 5th birthday in 1815.
On Monday 20th October, the funeral procession passed by the grounds of her former home, Plashet. It also passed Plashet Cottage where her husband Joseph would live until his death, aged 84, some 16 years later. At the burial ground, over 1000 people stood in silent respect. Her brother Joseph John offered a solemn prayer and when a Meeting for Worship started, the immediate family slipped away to grieve privately at the house in Upton Lane where Elizabeth had lived since 1829.