Mary Moffat


Mary Moffat (1795-1871) was born Mary Smith at Plantation Farm (later, Dukinfield Nurseries) alongside the then unfinished Peak Forest Canal in 1795. She was the daughter of John Smith, a prosperous nursery gardener, and Mary Gray.

In 1816 Mary met her future husband, Dr Robert Moffat, who had moved into the area from Scotland. Here he obtained employment as a gardener working for John Smith in Dukinfield. Mary and Robert got to know each other and soon they wanted to marry and become missionaries. Her parents objected to this and consequently Robert joined the London Missionary Society and left for South Africa in the same year. Mary overcame her parents objections and she left for South Africa in 1819. The couple married in South Africa in Dec 1819.

Mary & Robert Moffat.

Robert opened a mission station at Kuruman, Bechuanaland (now part of South Africa), where he translated the Bible into the language of the Bechuanas and wrote two missionary books about South Africa.

The couple had 10 children and their eldest child, Mary, went on to marry the renowned Dr David Livingstone despite objections by her mother. They returned to England on leave in 1839 and went back again in 1843. In 1870 they came back to England to live and Robert visited Dukinfield for the last time. He was saddened to make comparisons between the past Dukinfield and the present.

Mary Moffat died at Brixton on the 10 June 1871, aged 75 years, and Robert Moffat died at Leigh, between Sevenoaks and Royal Tunbridge Wells, on the 9 Aug 1883, aged 88 years. They are buried at Norwood Cemetery (aka South Metropolitan Cemetery or West Norwood Cemetery) in Lambeth, Greater London. There is a memorial to Dr Robert Moffat at Ormiston, East Lothian, near Edinburgh, Scotland.

Family History
Mary, daughter of John Smith and Mary Gray. Born 24 May 1795, Plantation Farm, Dukinfield, Cheshire.
Robert, son of Robert Moffat and Ann Gardiner. Born 21 Dec 1795, Ormiston, East Lothian, near Edinburgh.
Married on the 27 Dec 1819 at Cape Town, Cape Colony, South Africa.
The couple had 10 children. Their third child, Robert, was born in 1825 and he died in the same year. Their fourth child was also called Robert after his father and brother who died.


  1. DaughterMary Moffat, born 12 Apr 1821, Griquatown, Cape Colony, South Africa. Married Dr David Livingstone, Kuruman, Bechuanaland, Jan 1845, died of malaria in 1862.
  2. DaughterAnn Moffat, born 31 Mar 1823, Lattakoo, Bechuanaland. Married Jean Fredoux, by 1851.
  3. SonRobert Moffat, born 1825, Kuruman, Bechuanaland. Died 1825, Kuruman.
  4. SonRobert Moffat, born 28 Jan 1827, Kuruman, Bechuanaland. Married Ellen Platt, 4 Jun 1851, Kuruman, died 6 Aug 1862.
  5. DaughterHelen Moffat, born 2 Feb 1829, Kuruman, Bechuanaland. Married James Vavasseur, 1847.
  6. DaughterElizabeth Moffat, born 25 Mar 1831, Cape Town, Cape Colony, South Africa. Died 4 Jan 1832, Kuruman.
  7. SonJames Moffat, born, 1833, South Africa. Died 19 Mar 1839, Table Bay, South Africa.
  8. SonJohn Smith Moffat, born 10 Mar 1835, Kuruman, Bechuanaland. Married Emily Unwin, 1858.
  9. DaughterElizabeth Lees Moffat, born 16 Mar 1839, at sea, South Africa. Married Roger Price, Oct 1861, Kuruman,
  10. DaughterJane Gardiner Moffat, born 19 Aug 1840, Flixton, Lancashire (died 1927). Jane's birth was registered in the Sep Quarter of 1840 as Jane Moffat, Manchester, XX 615. Her middle name of Gardiner was added at the time of Christening. Jane's death, aged 87 years, was registered in the Dec Quarter of 1927 as Jane G Moffat, Lewisham, 1d 1107. Lewisham is in South London.
Dr David Livingstone,
husband of Mary Moffat and
son-in-law of Mary & Robert Moffat.

1881 Census, 3/4 Apr
Piece RG 11/911, Folio 101, Park Cottage, St Mary, Leigh, Sevenoaks, Kent.

NameRelationConditionAgeOccupationWhere Born
Robert MoffatHeadWidower85Returned African MissionaryEast Lothian, Scotland
Jane G MoffatDaughterUnmarried40House KeeperFlixton, Lancashire
Emily D MorrisServantUnmarried27Domestic CookNewcastle, Monmouthshire
Lucy E HincklyServantUnmarried15House MaidWellington, Somerset
Left: Plantation Farm where Mary Moffat née Smith was born.
Right: Blue plaque commemorating Mary Moffat.