Michael Thomas Cummings (standing left)

Agnes Phelan (aged 10)

Petworth Cottage Museum

Mrs. Cummings

Mary Cummings was born Mary Gilgeish in Manchester. Mary’s mother was born in Co. Galway in Ireland.

Michael Thomas Cummings was born in Clerkenwell. He signed on to serve in 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars, under age, in August 1854 and rose to the rank of farrier sergeant-major. He served in Crimea (after the charge of the Light Brigade) and in India.

Mary and Michael Thomas married in Gort, Co. Galway in 1873. Michael Thomas was then a widower aged 36. Mary was then 20 and is described as a milliner. Michael Thomas left the army in 1876 after 22 years service.

The couple came to Petworth with their first child, Saint Michael Angelo, in 1877 and took the tenancy of 328M Percy Row. Michael Thomas was employed as a shoeing smith at Petworth House from 1877 to 1884.

They had three further children, Alfred, Arthur and Edith. By the early 1880s the marriage was in difficulty, and Michael Thomas moved away from Petworth. He died at Wimbledon in 1917.

Mary lived in Egremont Row where her son, where Alfred died in 1901. She then moved to 346 High Street and remained the tenant until 1930, when she moved to Somerset Hospital, a Leconfield Estate almshouse, where she died in 1935. Mary, Alfred and her mother were buried at Duncton Roman Catholic church.

Saint Michael Angelo had two daughters, Veronica and Blanche, who came to 346 for a fortnight in 1919, with their close friend Agnes Phelan. Shortly after the opening of the museum in 1996, Agnes visited the cottage again and her memories have been carefully recorded in the museum’s guide book. Agnes died in September 2011, aged 102.

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