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Local newspaper article dated August 1900, transcribed by Sarah Gilbert.

Death of Miss Harper of Burton Latimer

It is with profound regret that we have to announce the death of Miss Harper of Fern Bank, Burton Latimer, which occurred somewhat suddenly on Monday evening. Miss Harper attended the divine services at the Parish Church on Sunday week but subsequently she was seized with heart affection, and her medical attendant Dr. J. P. Roughton, of Kettering, was called in. The patient, however, rallied for a time, and was again able to go out into the village on Tuesday. Miss Harper was again forced to take to her bed, symptoms of bronchitis having appeared, and during the following week reports as to her condition were eagerly awaited by her many friends. On Sunday special prayers were offered at the Parish Church for her recovery. In spite of all medical skill and home comforts, Miss Harper passed away on the following evening soon after eight o’clock.

The news of her death created a painful surprise throughout the village and neighbourhood, for the deceased lady was beloved and respected by a very large circle of friends. The villagers of Burton have lost a great and staunch helper and friend, and a great gap has been caused in the parish which will not be easily filled. Miss Harper, who was 71 years of age, was the eldest child and only daughter of the late Mr. Latimer Harper and was born at Burton Hall, living there until her father’s death. She then removed to Fern Bank, at which place she lived up to the time of her death (to read more about Fern Bank, click here).

Fern Bank, the last residence of Miss Harper, as it was c1888. Hannah Williamson, Miss Harper's housekeeper, is pictured in the foreground.
The Fern Bank residence of Miss Harper c1888 with housekeeper Hannah Williamson standing at the gate
Although of a somewhat retiring disposition, Miss Harper was always a leading spirit in parochial matters, and her generosity and kindness in this respect has been one of the chief characteristics of her well-spent life. Her kindly sympathy for the afflicted and bereaved endeared her to the hearts of everyone, and many families in the village have lost the truest of friends. From her childhood days up to the week preceding her death, Miss Harper has been a devoted and constant worshipper at the Parish Church. For many years prior to the erection of the organ Miss Harper officiated as choir mistress, and accompanied the singing on the harmonium. Deceased, who had considerable musical ability and possessed a good voice, rendered great assistance to the choir. Miss Harper was treasurer of the local branch of the Church of England Temperance Society, and for some years conducted the meetings of the Juvenile Branch. For many years deceased was an earnest and energetic worker in the Sunday School, while her efforts in connection with Church work always received her kind and generous help.

The great strides and growth of the Latimer Habitation of the Primrose League in recent years can be attributed in a large measure to the untiring efforts and liberality of Miss Harper, who as Hon. Secretary and Dame President has always shown a keen desire to further and help forward the principles for which the League was formed. Deceased, recognising the advantages derived from a penny savings bank, officiated for a long time as treasurer and secretary, receiving the contributions every Saturday at her own residence. The Executive Council of the Primrose League met on Tuesday evening, and passed a vote of condolence and sympathy with the family in their sad loss and bereavement. A similar resolution was passed at a meeting of the Conservative Association. Deceased has two surviving brothers, the Rev. H. Harpur, of Ivybridge, South Devonshire (and late of Burton Hall) and Mr. Latimer Harpur, of Addington.

The mortal remains were laid to rest yesterday afternoon in the presence of a large assemblage of relations and sympathising friends. At two o’clock the funeral cortège left the deceased lady’s residence, situated under the shadows of the church in which she so regularly worshipped. The coffin, which was heavily laden with beautiful floral tributes, was borne on the hand bier, and was met at the churchyard gates by the Rev. W. B. Jacques, rector, and the surpliced choir. The organist played “O rest in the Lord” as the cortège entered the church. The chief mourners included the Rev. H. Harpur (brother), Miss Marion Harpur (niece), Mr. Latimer Harpur (brother), Miss Newman (Baldock), Miss Williamson (housekeeper), and Miss Dicks. Amongst the large congregation were noticed Mr. A. de Sales Turland (Ruling Councillor of the Latimer Habitation of the Primrose League), Mr. F. W. Preston (representing the Conservative Association), Messrs. T. Collins, F. G. Ball, W.W. Attfield, J. Boardman and J. B. Nutt (representing the Parish Council), Mrs. and the Misses Preston, Mrs. W. B. Jacques, Mrs. and Miss F. Walker, Mr. and Mrs. D. James, Mr. J. Osborne, Mr. and Mrs. E. E. James, Miss James, Miss Burdett, Miss Barritt, Mrs. Stalker, Miss Loveday, Messrs. Haddon, A. Downing, F. Norton, W.H. Henson, J. F. Partridge, J. Dunkley, and many others. After the coffin had been deposited near to the entrance to the chancel, the opening prayers of the Burial Service were read by the Rev. W. B. Jacques. This was followed by the singing of the 90th psalm by the choir and Lesson read by the Rector commencing with the words, “Now is Christ risen from the dead”. The beautiful hymn “Peace, perfect peace” was sung, after which the body was removed to its last resting place, the solemn strains of the “Dead March” resounding through the sacred edifice in the meantime. The closing scenes at the graveside were very impressive, many in the large assembly being visibly affected as the coffin, containing the remains of one so dearly loved and respected, was lowered into the grave. The Rector read the remaining portion of the service, and the hymn “Brief life is here our portion” was also sung. The coffin was of polished oak with brass fittings, the breastplate bearing the inscription, “Augusta Harper, died July 30th, 1900: aged 71 years.”

Many handsome floral tributes were placed upon the grave, these including:-“In loving memory of our Dame President and with a deep sense of our great loss. From the Latimer Habitation of the Primrose League” ; “ In loving  and affectionate memory from Latimer and family” ; “In loving memory of my dear mistress and true friend - Hannah” ; “In loving memory of my dear godmother, from Gwennie” ; “With sincere affection, from Mrs. and Miss F. Walker” ; “With much sympathy from Mr. Charles Villiers and Miss Gwendolin Villiers, Burton Hall” ; “In loving memory from James Osborne” ; “In affectionate remembrance from Mr. Stalker” ; “In loving memory of my dear mistress, from Polly” : “Deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Ball” ; “With fondest love from Muffett” ; “In affectionate remembrance from Mr. and Mrs. Talbutt” ; “With much sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Ball” ; “With Miss Stockdale’s kind remembrance and sympathy” ; “ Mr. and Mrs. D. James, with very kind remembrances” ; “With very deep regret from the members of the Conservative Association (Mr. E. Carter, hon.sec.)” ; “With affectionate love from all her dear friends at Baldock, Rev. F. B. Newman and family” ; “With deep regret from Rev. W. B. and Mrs. Jacques” ; “From the Rev. H and Mrs. Priestland, in loving memory of a real friend” ; “In affectionate remembrance from Mr. and Mrs. Preston and family” ; “With sincere regret from Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Nutt”.

Mr. T. Downing was the undertaker.

Editor's Note: The spelling of the family name changed over the years from Harper to Harpur, its present day form.

In his memoirs 'Memories of a Villager', Mr. Albert Granger (born 1884) recalls: "Miss Augusta Harpur at Fern Bank used to drive out in a carriage drawn by a donkey. George Hickman used to walk in front of this donkey as far as the Cranford Road bridge and back, otherwise it refused to move. On May Day, we would go round the village knocking on doors and singing, and would be given pennies and half-pennies. At a given time we were to go to the Hall, the Rectory and Fern-Bank where pennies would be put in our boxes. "

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