Mary Ann Blackwell (1771 – 1862) was the daughter of John Bodimede, owner of a brick-making business with extensive farmlands, and Mary Waller. The families had roots in the area from the mid-16thCentury. When Mary Ann was 19, her father was killed in a horse-riding accident so the business was taken over by her mother. By this time Mary Ann had fallen in love with a handsome but penniless brewery worker called Charles Blackwell. The widow Brodimede decided that such a match for her daughter was not ideal, but rather than breaking the couple up she offered to make Charles a partner in the family firm, clearly making a success of it he took over full control when his mother-in-law died in 1802. Business boomed but Mary Ann – who had ten children between 1798 and 1814 – did not sit on the sidelines, she was noted for having had eight cottages built at Harrow Weald Common in 1805 for their employees. Charles lived to 80 years of age and Mary Ann continued to run the works aided by her eldest son, also called Charles, who took over the business when she died. Their story did not end there though. Charles and Mary Ann’s fourth child called Thomas made a success on his own. As a youngster he was apprenticed to a William Wyatt who retired in 1829. Thomas bought the business and went into partnership with his friend, Edmund Crosse, and hence the firm Crosse and Blackwell was formed.
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