Biographical notesMaria Louisa Kirkman was a medal winner in the RHS's 1864 Botanical competition. At the time of the competition Maria was employed at the Hampshire County jail in Winchester and was the only female medal-winner to be gainfully employed.
Her family background had been decidedly prosperous with her father and grandfather, both Joseph Kirkman, being involved in the brewing trade in St Giles, London. Perhaps surprisingly in view of the alcoholic association, the family seem to have been non-conformists. She was the sixth in the family of nine children although most of her older siblings appear to have died young. Her father died intestate in 1831 and, although having acted as a trustee of his own father's estate, had made no provision to enable his own family to benefit from the inheritance. A dispute with the original executors of her grandfather's estate continued until brother William, acting also for Maria and sister Sophia, brought a case for breach of trust against the executors estates (they were all dead by now) Kirkman v Booth, finally resolved in the Rolls Court in 1848. It seems that in view of the length of time that had elapsed there was little chance of any financial redress.
Altough initially earning a living as a school mistress, by 1855 she was working at the Hants. County Prison at Winchester, eventually being employed as matron, where she is known to have worked for at least 16 years more.
Of particular interest is a well annotated volume of dried plants collected in 1835. This collection is now held in the RHS Lindley Library, London, along with her 1864 silver medal. An inscription suggests that it was at some time in the posession of her great-nephew Ebenezer William Diver.
|1851||Census - 6 Nelson-terrace, Twickenham|
|1861||Census - visiting sister, Richmond|
|1865||Westhill, Winchester, Hants.|
|1871||Census - County Prison, Hants. (matron)|
|Annotated family tree of the Kirkmans (includes Diver and Tatham).|