Mary Jane Heath was born in Burton-on Trent, Staffordshire, in 1862, the younger daughter of Henry and Mary Heath. Her father was a Copper Smith. In 1871 Mary (aged 9) lived with her parents and older sister Rose, a Milliner, in Horninglow Road, Burton. It is not known where she taught at the beginning of her career, but in 1884, she came to Somercotes to take up the position of Mistress at the Girls School. This was on the same site as the Boys School on Nottingham Road. Records show that she boarded with Thomas and Elizabeth Exon in Bramley Street, Lower Somercotes in 1891. They had a daughter, Elizabeth Exon, who was a Pupil Teacher at the school. During her eleven years as the Certificated Mistress of Somercotes Girls School she wrote about all aspects of school life in the Log Book including moving into the new premises on Victoria Street in 1894.
It was in Somercotes where Mary Jane Heath met John (Jack) Merriman, perhaps through John’s niece, Annie Merriman, who was a Pupil Teacher at the Girls School. The Merriman family were well established in Somercotes as John’s father, William Grayson Merriman was a Railway Wagon Builder and the family lived in Swiss Cottage, New Birchwood. John Merriman was the Mining Surveyor at the Birchwood Collieries, which was an important job. He was Secretary for the Somercotes Institute and Reading Room (which Charles Seely established by converting two cottages on Seely Terrace) and the Secretary for the Cricket Club. Mary Jane Heath married John Merriman in 1895 and so gave up teaching. Local newspapers at the time reported on their wedding and that the members of the Institute on Seely Terrace bought them a Marble Clock as a wedding gift.
John and Mary Merriman were wealthy compared to most people in Somercotes and were prominent members of Somercotes society. In 1911 they lived at “The Knoll”, 1, Nottingham Road, Somercotes. It was a very grand house with nine rooms and a large garden. Maps of the time show that the house stood entirely alone as no other houses had been built on that part of Nottingham Road then. Their nearest neighbours were the Armstrong family who occupied the farm next to Seely Terrace. The Census form showed that John and Mary Merriman had one child, Philip Heath Merriman aged 9.
Mary Jane Merriman died in 1932, her death being reported on January 8th in “The Ripley and Heanor News”:
“There passed away last week a highly -respected lady in the person of Mrs Mary J. Merriman, wife of Mr John Merriman who has been Surveyor at the Babbington Company’s Birchwood Collieries for many years. The Merriman family have been actively connected with the Birchwood collieries for one hundred years. The deceased lady came to Somercotes fifty years ago as Miss Heath to be headmistress of the Girls School. Many have been the expressions of sympathy and respect by women of Somercotes and district who were girls in her school fifty years ago. The funeral took place at Somercotes Parish Church and there were many floral tributes.”
John Merriman died in 1945 still living at “The Knoll” along with his son, Philip and daughter-in-law, Ada Merriman.