Who was Ann Collier of Topsham, wife of Benjamin Collier? The answer lies in two wills, both attributed to Ann Collier of Topsham. The first, dated 1738, is that of Ann Collier née Were. The second, dated 1784, is the will of Ann Collier née Nichols. In a codicil to the 1784 will, Ann Collier (née Nichols) gives Robert Were’s eldest son “the picture of Ann daughter of Peter Were late of Uffculme, first wife of Benjamin Collier“, and then adds in a separate codicil: “to Ann Mitford, I also give my picture“. This confirms that Benjamin Collier had two wives called Ann, and both had a portrait painted. The picture in Tate Britain is Benjamin Collier’s second wife born Ann Nichols. A remaining mystery is the whereabouts of the portrait of the first Ann Collier, née Were.
Both Ann Colliers lived many years in Topsham. This paper explores the life, families, properties and friends of these two women. Their network of friends and family were within the Quaker community, and locations of some Topsham places in which they lived and worked are identifiable today.
Author: Penny Bayer Ph.D