Catherine 'Kate' Williams (28 July 1797 - 11 July 1881) was the mistress of Elmfield House and a socialite of Southwell for over fifty years.

Early LifeEdit

Catherine Williams was the daughter of Thomas Williams, a dissenter and his wife Mary Marsh. Thomas was a hosier. Thomas remained successful, but died suddenly when Catherine was only seven. When Catherine was sixteen, her widowed mother moved to Southwell and opened a gifted school for girls. Catherine followed her mother dutifully to help out with the school, as well as care for her elderly mother. Catherine was known as 'Kate' and her name was sometimes spelt as 'Katherine.'


Edward Heathcote and Catherine fell in love with each other in 1817. However, they were both too young, and Catherine decided to reject him until they were a little older. They were finally married on 9 October 1827. The Heathcote family were very well-respected in the area. Edward's grandfather, Ralph Heathcote was appointed Minister of Sacrista in 1768, after previously having been canon. His son, The Reverend Godfrey Heathcote lived his life in Southwell. His son Edward was the Organist and Ruler of the Choir. Sydney Williams, Catherine's nephew, met Edward once and described as a 'thorough gentleman' although he was 'lame.'

Elmfield HouseEdit

After Mary Williams' death in 1831, Catherine inherited her school, Elmfield House. For the next fifty years until her death, Catherine ran the school with competent management, keeping the finances and academic levels high. During it's early years, Elmfield House taught primarily English, History and Geography, as well as the use of globes. There were between eighteen and twenty-three students at the school at most times, and only a couple of very talented and selected teachers.


Catherine was well-known locally for her charity and philanthropy. She made quite a fortune from the successful school, and put the money to very good use. Edward died in 1835, and after that Catherine never remarried, but devoted the rest of her life to Elmfield House and philanthropy. She held many garden parties, and gave most of her money she earned to charity, she did not live the luxury life she could have. Through this, she became well-known in the area as both a socialite and a philanthropist. The poor of the town loved Catherine and at her death it was reported that they had lost a friend.


Catherine Heathcote held a garden party in July 1881. However, the extra excitement of the garden party led to her body being shocked. She passed away on Monday morning, 11 July 1881 in her home at Burgage Green. It was just seventeen days before her birthday. She was the last surviving child of Thomas Williams and Mary Marsh, dying three years after her brother William in New Zealand. Her death seems to mark the end of an era.

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