Appeal over letters from notorious Sunderland killer Mary Ann Cotton

Mary Ann Cotton
Mary Ann Cotton
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CAMPAIGNERS are gathering cash as they make a bid to keep killer Mary Ann Cotton’s letters in public ownership.

Victoria House and Christine Cunningham have launched an appeal to raise £4,000 to keep the notes Cotton penned in her prison cell in the public domain.

The eight letters are in the hands of an antique dealer after they were sold for £2,000 last year at auction by the descendants of a Mr Lowry, who lodged with her for just a week before she was arrested for murder on July 18, 1872.

Low Moorsley-born Cotton, who lived in South Hetton and Hendon during her years, was hanged the following year for the murder of her seven-year-old stepson and it is thought she was responsible for the deaths of up to 20 others.

The campaigners, who met via Facebook when Victoria, originally from Hartlepool and now of Oxford, launched a support page, say they want to pass on the documents to Durham County Record Office or a similar archive in the North East so they can be preserved for future generations.

They are negotiating with the dealer and hope to hit their target as soon as possible to safeguard the letters, written while Cotton was in Durham Jail.

The women say Cotton’s actions are important for all family history buffs, as it was her crimes that brought about a change to the law on registration of births, marriages and deaths.

Christine, who lives in Peterborough, said: “It would be great if we could raise the £4,000 before these letters are sold off to the highest bidder, and wonderful to know that the genealogical and local history communities have come together to save something for the nation.

“There is just no funding around for museums, libraries and archives to purchase items like these.

“Obviously every individual £1 helps towards our target but if any other corporate sponsor were to come forward and make an offer we would welcome this also.”

The campaign page can be found at, with the Facebook page online at Mary Ann Cotton Letters from Jail 1873.