Burdett-Coutts: Aristocracy, Activism, Railway Investing and Alberta Place Names

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer

Back a few weeks ago, in the early days of COVID-19 pandemic response, I, like many Albertans, was closely watching news coverage. One news story that caught my attention was about the lines of traffic of returning Canadian travelers at the Coutts/Sweet Grass International Border Crossing. The story really jumped out at me because I had just read about novelist Charles Dickens’ involvement with the philanthropic work of Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts. Being the geographical names guy, I was aware that the village of Coutts and the hamlet of Burdett were named for the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, so I started to think about how was it that these two communities ended up with names honouring and commemorating a Victorian-Age, aristocratic philanthropist and social reformer.

Angela Burdett-Coutts. Baroness Burdett-Coutts, artist unknown, oil on panel, ca. 1840.  Source: National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 6181. Used under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Baroness Burdett-Coutts, artist unknown, oil on panel, ca. 1840. Source: National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 6181. Used under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Angela Burdett-Coutts, the 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts was born Angela Burdett in 1814, the daughter of radical reformist politician and anti-slavery advocate Sir Francis Burdett and Sophia Burdett (née Coutts). In 1837, upon the death of her step-grandmother, the actress Harriet Mellon, Angela inherited the entire Coutts estate of £1.8 million ($191 million in 2020 Canadian dollars) including a substantial interest in the Coutts Bank, making her the second-wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom after Queen Victoria. In accordance with the conditions of the will, Angela Burdett sought and received royal license to combine her ancestral names to become Angela Burdett-Coutts.

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Municipal Historic Resource spotlight: Lethbridge

Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS

Over the past few months, some of Alberta’s municipalities have been protecting their built heritage by designating a number of new Municipal Historic Resources (MHRs). These resources are structures and other sites that the municipality has deemed to be of significant heritage value to their community. Like Provincial Historic Resources, municipal designations are listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Municipally designated properties also qualify for conservation grants from the Alberta Historic Resources Foundation.

The City of Lethbridge recently added six new MHRs to the Alberta Register of Historic Places. As of May 31, 2019, the City of Lethbridge has 26 designated MHRs listed.

The most recent listed designations by the City of Lethbridge are:

Watson Residence

Located in the Victoria Park neighbourhood on 14th Street South between 3rd and 4th Avenue, the Watson Residence is an Edwardian Foursquare with classical revival detailing and ornamentation. It was built in 1910/11. It has heritage value as an example of residential construction during Lethbridge’s rapid expansion in the pre-First World War period, and as an excellent example of an urban foursquare home. It was also the residence of Allan James Watson, who was a long-serving superintendent of the Lethbridge School District.

Watson Residence, Lethbridge, Alberta
Watson Residence, Lethbridge, February 2019. Source: Historic Resources Management, Government of Alberta

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