Hetty’s Purse

This touching little leather, coin purse worn so thin from use, with a corner mended with black cotton was recently re-discovered in a drawer in our Watts Cottage, Ilfracombe.

Volunteer Bergliot Dallas found it when she was spring cleaning. When she brought it in to show us we all gently stroked the soft leather – it is that sort of object.

Hetty Watts' Purse

Hetty Watts’ Purse

We know from its catalogue number that this purse was owned by the third youngest daughter and sixth child born to John Francis and Jane Watts in November 1878. Christened Harriet Maria she was always called Hetty (sometimes she spelt it Hettie.)

Hetty never married and we believe her sweetheart died in WWI.  Bergliot had earlier written an interpretation of Hetty’s life based around her precious notebook safely stored in our fire proof filing cabinet. You can read Bergliot’s moving piece in the Museum – it is one of our Treasures of the Museum booklets written by volunteers in 2010.

After her mother‘s death in 1935 Hetty lived on at Ilfracombe until 1958. She died in 1962 aged 84 and is buried in Sorrento Cemetery. Her little purse is on display now.

Joy Kitch

Collection Co-ordinator