Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814 – 1906) was an immensely wealthy nineteenth-century philanthropist who worked with Charles Dickens on a number of charitable projects, including Urania Cottage, a home for the redemption of ‘fallen women’.
Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, born Angela Georgina Burdett, was the daughter of Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Baronet and the former Sophia Coutts, daughter of banker Thomas Coutts.
In 1837 Angela Georgina Burdett became one of the wealthiest women in England (after Queen Victoria) when she inherited her grandfather’s fortune of around £1.8 million pounds sterling, following the death of her stepgrandmother, Harriot Mellon. She joined the surnames of her father and grandfather, by royal licence, to become Burdett-Coutts.
Burdett-Coutts spent the majority of her wealth on scholarships, endowments, and a wide range of philanthropic causes. These included eradicating slum housing and giving funding to poor schools. Amongst other projects Angela funded David Livingstone’s expeditions to Africa, helped set up the NSPCC and was closely involved with the RSPCA for many years.
Angela Burdett-Coutts and Charles Dickens.
Angela Burdett-Coutts first met the Victorian author Charles Dickens in 1839 and soon became close friends. They worked together on a number of charitable projects, most notably the Field Lane Ragged School in the early to mid 1840’s and Urania Cottage in the mid to late 1840’s.
Urania Cottage was a home for fallen women on the then western outskirts of London, Dickens’ involvement with Urania Cottage ended in 1858. Around this time he had been having an affair with a young actress, Ellen Ternan and he acrimoniously split from his wife, Catherine. It would seem that with his private life becoming a source of public scandal, Charles Dickens‘s friendship with Angela Burdett-Coutts was strained so much that ties were broken.
During her life Angela Burdett-Coutts spurned the many men who wanted to marry her, some for her money. But in 1881 she married 29-year-old William Ashmead Bartlett. Bartlett was the American secretary of her former governess Hannah Meredith, who had died in 1878
Angela Burdett-Coutts died of bronchitis in her cental London family home in Stratton Street, near Piccadilly, in 1906, aged 92. She was buried in Westminster Abbey at a service attended by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
Further Reading (external sources).