Pencil & watercolour portrait of Mrs. Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881), by Daniel Maclise R.A. 1833

Anna Maria Fielding was born in Dublin in 1800. She moved with her widowed mother to London in 1815 and married the journalist and art critic Samuel Carter Hall in 1824. Her mother lived with the couple until her death in 1856, aged 83 years.

Anna and Samuel purchased Firfield House in Addlestone in about 1851. Both were celebrated writers and entertained many of the literary personalities of their day, including Charles Dickens who planted a tree in their garden. Samuel had long been friends with Dickens and was present at the christening of his first child.

Anna produced an immense quantity of novels and plays, directing her literary energies in all directions. Together with her husband, she wrote the well-known ‘Book of the Thames’ (displayed here). Her ‘Stories of Irish Life and Character’ are regarded as some of her finest work, although they were never popular in Ireland itself. As well as containing fine rural descriptions, they were animated with moral feeling, failing to please either Orangemen or Catholics.

Samuel befriended and helped the young artist, Daniel Maclise, when he came to London from Ireland in 1827. Maclise’s first portrait drawing of Anna was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830. Maclise went on to produce a series of illustrations for Samuel and Anna’s books.

Throughout her life she and her husband were believers in spiritualism and she was also instrumental in founding the Hospital for Consumption at Bompton, the Governesses’ Institute and The Home for Decayed Gentlewomen. She worked for the temperance movement and for women’s rights. She also supported local charities, publishing the booklet ‘Chertsey and its neighbourhood’, which was sold to raise funds for the building of an infants’ school in Addlestone. In 1868 she was granted a Civil List pension of £100 a year.

Anna died at Devon Lodge, East Molesey, in 1881. She is buried in St Paul’s Churchyard in Addlestone, together with her husband and mother, where there is also a memorial plaque.