Mrs Swinburne was born Friederica Frances Entwisle on 24 September 1842, the fourth of six children, and only daughter, of William Entwisle and his wife Hannah (née Loyd).
The family home was Rusholme House, a substantial property to the south of Manchester, set in its own grounds, which now form Whitworth Park. William Entwisle, a barrister, was MP for South Lancashire from 1844 to 1847. In 1848 he joined his wife’s family bank, which was renamed Loyd, Entwisle & Co. By 1861 he was also a Deputy Lieutenant and magistrate.
On 8 April 1863, Friederica Frances married Charles Alfred Swinburne. She was not yet 21, he thirteen years older. Her father, who died four months later, gave her a marriage portion of £10,000.
C. A. Swinburne was a Glasgow-born solicitor. In 1863 he was living at Boydon, south-west of Manchester, but by 1869 the couple were living in London, near Swiss Cottage. By 1875 they had moved to Upper Hamilton Terrace, in St John’s Wood.
The Swinburnes’ marriage was childless, and in the 1880s they separated. Mrs Swinburne had a marriage settlement, and the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 may also have made it easier for her to contemplate separation. By the 1891 census Mrs Swinburne, now 48, was living at 46 Devonshire Street, just off Portland Place, as ‘co-tenant’ of the head of the household, Lady Holker, the widow of Sir John Holker, a Lord Justice of Appeal, who gave her age as 38. How Mrs Swinburne met Lady Holker is unknown. Like the Swinburnes, she came from Manchester, and when Sir John died in 1882 Mr Swinburne acted as her solicitor. In 1894 Lady Holker re-married, but her friendship with Mrs Swinburne continued. On the night of the 1901 census she was staying at Mrs Swinburne’s home, 57 Whitehall Court, as a visitor.
Mr Swinburne died in 1904, leaving his estranged wife unmentioned in his will. It may perhaps not be completely coincidental that it was during the Revd George Holden’s brief incumbency at All Saints, Margaret Street, which began in 1905, that Mrs Swinburne became more closely associated with the church’s life, her somewhat embarrassing status as a separated wife having been replaced by that of a widow. In 1907 Mrs Swinburne’s mother also died, leaving her, as her only surviving child, £14,280 in government bonds paying interest at 3.25%, from her marriage settlement. Electoral registers indicate that by now Mrs Swinburne had moved to Floor D of 48 Sloane Square. The 1911 census found Mrs Swinburne (now aged 68) living in Flat D at 48 Sloane Square (with a cook, parlour maid, housemaid and lady’s maid). Her friend and fellow-worshipper at All Saints, Miss Eleanor Marcon (49), was staying as a visitor. At some point after 1912 Mrs Swinburne made her final move, to 5 Portland Place – doubtless in order to be closer to All Saints.