Anna Maria Fox - Quaker, promoter of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society and the artistic and cultural development of Falmouth, philanthropist

Anna Maria Fox

Anna Maria Fox was born on 21st February 1816 the eldest child of Robert Were Fox FRS and Maria Barclay, his wife.

Her father was a member of the Quaker Fox family of Falmouth and maternal grandmother was a first cousin of Elizabeth Fry.

The family lived at Rosehill and Penjerrick.

Anna never married. With her sister, Caroline, she raised the four sons of her brother, Barclay, after the death of their parents.

Anna outlived her sister by sixteen years.

For several years between 1820 and 1860, the iron foundry of Perran was partly owned by members of the Fox family and the workmen of the foundry frequently, brought models of machines and other inventions to Anna's father for his advice and opinion.

Anna recorded, 'What an advantage it would be to those men if there could be some fitting arena provided for all this inventive talent: if the really useful inventions could be at once recognised and rewarded, and if those clever men who are only wasting their time by trying to do something which has already been done, and has proved useless, could by conference with more experienced mechanicians be saved from thus squandering their energies!'

The idea for the foundation of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society was created by Anna,Barclay and Caroline Fox, in 1832, when they were just 17, 16 and 13, respectively. Their parents, uncles and aunts and their friends took up the idea with enthusiasm.

This was the kind of scheme which appealed to the mind of Anna Maria Fox, then a girl of only 17 years of age, and which was warmly approved by her father. It must be remembered that many of Anna's Cornish neighbours also saw the merits of her suggestion. The names of Lord de Dunstanville, Sir Charles Lemon Bart., M.P., Mr. Davies Gilbert, P.R.S., Mr. John S. Enys, as well as those of Miss Fox's uncles, Mr. George Croker Fox and Mr. Charles Fox were added to the growing list of those supporting the idea.

So was founded 'The Polytechnic of Cornwall'.

In 1896, Anna Maria Fox was elected as Vice-Patroness of the Poly, sharing this role with Albert Edward, Duke of Cornwall. Prince of Wales and son of Queen Victoria.

The Poly in Church Street, Falmouth hit serious financial problems in January 2010 and closed its commercial arm.

Anna's keen interest in the results of modern scientific investigation and her alertness in grasping the leading features of recent discoveries continued.

Other aspects of Miss Fox's active life, included the establishment of a local British School, The Royal Cornwall Sailors' Home, The Falmouth Coffee Tavern on the Quay; The Convalescent Home at Penjerrick Garden and many similar undertakings.

She had a desire to benefit her fellow men and women and especially to help those who were less fortunate than herself. All her works were as a result of a deep and strong religious faith.

She died at Penjerrick near Falmouth, after a very short illness, on 18th November 1897, aged 82 years, leaving behind her a name which will long be loved and venerated in Cornwall, and especially by the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

This article has been kindly provided by Kernow Matters to Us and is part of the series on Famous Folk of Kernow (Cornwall).