I have a soul to be saved...........

On Monday 18th December 1826 a middle-aged women, in state of distress walked into a shop in the Northgate area of Leicester, bought a bonnet, walked out and was never seen again. The shopkeeper was so concerned about her, she told her to go home for fear she might drown herself in the canal. The mysterious women replied “No, I shall not do so, as I have a soul to be saved”…..



Twelve years later in September 1838 a letter was sent to Mr Daniel Ward a grocer in Great Wigston (now Wigston Magna) in Leicestershire.

The letter was written by a Miss Elizabeth Hart (later to become the Honourable Elizabeth Maria Margaret Cavendish), a banker’s daughter. She had been given the job of writing to a Mr Ward telling him that his housekeeper, a Miss Jane Vann was alive and living in Uttoxeter. She was unwell and feeling that she was on the brink of death she revealed her real name to Miss Hart and requested she wrote to Mr Ward telling him where she was living.

Sadly Mr. Ward had passed away some years before and the letter was delivered to one of his executors, who passed the letter onto Miss Vann’s relatives, her brother Mr Thomas Vann an overseer from Hinckley, and Mrs. Burbidge, landlady of The Plough in Wigston.

The siblings immediately set out for Uttoxeter and on arriving there they found their sister Jane Vann, under the assumed name of “Harriet Hewardine" who had managed to evaded discovery for nearly twelve years. Mr Vann had offered rewards of ten guineas and advertisements had been inserted in the newspapers.


When Jane had left Wigston on that December night in 1826 she was fifty-six years of age and had been working for Mr Ward and his family since she was sixteen years old. Never married, she worked tirelessly as a housekeeper for the Wigston grocer.

Mr Ward’s residence was described as a roomy house with a large orchard, borders of forest trees, brick slated barn, stable and a cow house with twenty-two acres of land adjoining the lane which goes from Wigston to Newton Harcourt.


Why she just vanished without word is unclear, but suffering from heaviness of heart, monetary loss and a disappointment of a delicate nature were said to have been the causes of her leaving home and her subsequent silence. When Jane first reached Uttoxeter, she had only two and half pence her possession, but through hard work and perseverance she managed to furnish a house and let out her rooms by which she not only lived comfortably, but

saved money.

When Mr. Vann and Mrs. Burbidge found their sister in Uttoxeter she was in a very weak state of health, but as Mr. Ward had left her a legacy of £300 in case she should return to Wigston they brought her back home. Jane passed away a few years later.