Maria Hollingsworth

Maria was born in West Friesland, Holland in 1765 and married a German soldier, probably from Hanover, who was killed in British service during the Napoleonic Wars.

She was widowed and came to England with her daughter to go to Liverpool and then to start a new life in America.

Maria was turned away from several parishes and poor law officials due to her being a stranger with no way of financially supporting herself.

Delamere Forest was a plausible place to set up a primitive home. Her life was tough especially with her daughter and she lived in the Forest for 16 years and was resourceful and skilled at living off the land.

She grew potatoes, and kept goats, and even taught local children German, French and English.

Evidence supporting her existence comes from the diaries of Frances Williams-Wynn, the daughter of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, Baronet, and Charlotte Grenville (daughter of the First Lord of the Treasury between 1763-5).

The Wynn family were one of the greatest in Wales, and descended from key courtiers and friends of both James I and Charles I.

Frances claims to have read a letter from Maria Hollingsworth, written 16 years before, in 1816, asking for permission to live in the forest as Frances was visiting Delamere at the time.

Those living on the margins of society were always the subject of rumour and suspicion and it’s no surprise that myths and legends arose about a woman living in the middle of Delamere Forest.

Maria left Delamere in 1832, in order to take up residence in one of London’s Dutch controlled Almshouses.

Maria left behind a story which is a mixture of fact and fiction who led a primitive life in Delamere Forest, between 1816 – 1832 and soon became the stuff of rumour and legend.