Martha Ferrar Peckard

Portrait of Martha Ferrar Peckard (by permission of the Master and Fellows of Magdalene College Cambridge)

Martha Ferrar Peckard (1729 – 1805) was the eldest daughter of Edward Ferrar, the last of the Ferrars of Little Gidding. Upon her marriage to Peter Peckard, Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, the extensive archive of the Ferrar community passed into the College Library. Peter Peckard drew upon this for his biography ’A Life of Nicholas Ferrar’ 1852, which awakened interest in this period.

The Peckards were friends of the Abolitionists William Wilberforce and John Clarkson, and active in the campaign to abolish slavery. Martha was a poet, and is thought to have written the epitaph on the outer wall of St Andrew’s church Chesterton in memory of a little African girl:

Near this Place lies Interred
Daughter of GUSTAVUS VASSA, the African
She died July 21 1797Aged 4 Years

Should simple village rhymes attract thine eye,
Stranger, as thoughtfully thou passest by,
Know that there lies beside this humble stone
A child of colour haply not thine own.
Her father born of Afric’s sun-burnt race,
Torn from his native field, ah foul disgrace:
Through various toils, at length to Britain came
Espoused, so Heaven ordain’d, an English dame,
And follow’d Christ; their hope two infants dear.
But one, a hapless orphan, slumbers here.
To bury her the village children came.
And dropp’d choice flowers, and lisp’d her early fame;
And some that lov’d her most, as if unblest,
Bedew’d with tears the white wreath on their breast;
But she is gone and dwells in that abode,
Where some of every clime shall joy in God.