Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Mary Anne Martineau née Ronalds

Highbury Terrace, Islington. The old Ronalds family home (1796-1813) is on the corner of Ronalds Road and displays a green plaque commemorating Sir Francis Ronalds' work. Mary Anne and Peter's family lived at No. 16 until 1915

Sir Francis Ronalds' second sister Mary Anne (1794-1882) married one of his old schoolmates, Peter Martineau (1785-1869). Peter was the son of Peter Finch Martineau and his first cousins included the famous sociologist, author and feminist Harriet Martineau, the influential Unitarian philosopher Revd Dr James Martineau and engineer John Martineau. Peter was a wealthy sugar refiner and held an important patent for whitening raw sugar. He also invested in various international mining ventures managed by John Taylor, his second cousin.

Mary Anne and Peter enjoyed 53 years together in Highbury Terrace, Islington - the same street where she and Sir Francis had grown up. They were a popular and outgoing couple at the centre of a diverse social circle. They hosted many parties, which often involved family but were also attended by activists, intellectuals and international visitors, reflecting their interests across the arts and sciences, religion and politics. Peter also chaired large public meetings of the Anti-Corn Law League, which lobbied successfully to remove tariffs inflating the cost of food.

Two of Mary Anne and Peter's children married. There is a fountain in Warminster in honour of their daughter Catherine (1822-1891), which was erected by her second husband William Frank Morgan (1835-1907). His maltings company remains in operation. Catherine's sister Sarah (1828-1908) wed Charles Edward Flower (1830-1892), Kate Ronalds née Flower's nephew and a brewer - Flowers ale is also still sold today. The couple were important benefactors to the Shakespeare Memorial in Stratford-upon-Avon. They kept a scrapbook with newspaper cuttings about Sir Francis and assisted in gaining public recognition for his achievements. Their copy of his bust is now in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Further Information

Peter Finch Martineau and his Son (2018) - published by the Martineau Society, Newsletter No. 41

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016) - published by Imperial College Press

Description of the East London sugar-refining business by Peter's cousin once removed
- reproduced on Bryan Mawer's Sugarbakers Database

Peter and Mary Anne's son-in-law Charles Edward Flower's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography