Retro: Sheffield woman who witnessed Battle of Waterloo

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Retro contributor Lyn Howsam has uncovered the amazing story of a Sheffield woman who followed her husband to battles including Waterloo 200 years ago.

Lyn has sent in a newspaper cutting that states: “The death in 1888 of Polly Prince, the Fir Vale centenarian who resided in the Fir Vale Workhouse, was reported in the local newspapers of the day as well as far afield as the Hawkes Bay newspaper in New Zealand.

“Mrs Prince was born in March 1787, at Paisley, near Glasgow, and for some years was employed as a domestic servant. She married a Sheffield soldier named George Prince, and accompanied him through the Peninsular war, and witnessed the battle of Waterloo. Soon afterwards her husband obtained his discharge, and a pension was allowed him.

“The pair returned to Sheffield and (George) Prince followed up his old occupation as a cutler, but eventually was obliged to become an inmate of the Fir Vale Workhouse.

“A year ago the celebration of her 100th birthday took place in the workhouse, in the shape of a tea party, to which the old ladies of the institution were invited. She died on March 29. The chief mourner was the youngest and only surviving daughter of the deceased, and herself between 50 and 60 years of age.”

Lyn has fiound that George Prince appears on the Waterloo Medal Roll 1815. He was a private 1st Battalion 95th Regiment of Foot Captain E Chawner’s Company.

She added: “Polly, aged 59, whose real name was Mary, can be found in the 1851 census living with her husband George aged 76, a cutler and her only daughter Jane, aged 15, who was a button cutter, at Law Street in the Park district of Sheffield.

“By 1861 George had died and Polly was working as a charwoman. Although George had supposedly been awarded a pension, this was not perpetual so did not pass on to his wife on his death.

“In 1871 Polly was working as a laundress. Ten years later and then aged 87, she was living with Jane and her husband at Hague Lane and was classed as a pauper claiming relief. At some point after this she must have been admitted to the Workhouse at Fir Vale.

“Mary Prince, widow aged 101, died at Sheffield Union and was buried on March 13, 1888 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 13, Section U6 of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.”

Another press cutting from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent reproduced here gives more details of Polly’s later years.

A tough life as well as an adventurous one.