our dickensian ancestors

Today was a productive day spent at the LMA. I was on the trail of the Bolton Great Great Grandparents having located the various documents relating to their deaths.

The coroner’s inquest into the death of John Henry Bolton was held on 22nd December 1894 at St Giles and the papers are currently housed at the LMA before being transferred back to the Guildhall Library. There were three witnesses: the man who dragged the body out, the investigating police officer and the deceased’s daughter, Alice Gale, wife of Henry Gale a printer.

I was most interested in the daughter as I know that John and Mary Ann Bolton had two children, George Henry [my Greatgrandfather] and Alice Elizabeth but I did not know Alice’s married name. I found the GRO reference for the marriage of a Harry Gale and an Alice Elizabeth Bolton in St Saviour, Southwark and a search through the parish records turns up the marriage at Christ Church, Southwark on 4th December 1887. According to the marriage entry, Alice’s father is indeed John Henry Bolton, printer so I can say absolutely that the John Henry Bolton who drowned in the Thames in December 1894 is our John Henry.

I transcribed Alice’s testamony which reads as follows:

Alice Gale 51 St Albans Buildings Grays Inn wife of Henry Gale Printer by sworn truth I am Daughter to Decd John Henry Bolton he resided at Donnington Street Leather Lane Printer 51 years of age. I last saw Decd on Monday eve near 11 o’clock he called upon me. His wife who is paralysed is in the workho’. Decd was very depressed. He had not [could not transcribe the next word as writing too difficult to read] to take away his life. He was not always sober and he had been drinking the week before. He was in a lunatic asylum 25 years ago. Decd lodged at a lodging house.

So, from this we know that he had a history of mental illness and that Mary Ann was in the workhouse with paralysis which leads me into the information I found about her.

According to the 1891 Census, Mary Ann Bolton and George Henry Bolton were living in St Oswin Street, Elephant and Castle and she was a widow. She is also down as a widow in Newington Workhouse, which she entered on 25th September 1894, just over two months before John Henry ended up in the Thames. However, I am almost certain that she was calling herself a widow when she was in fact still married. We shall never know what occurred between her and John, but I imagine some sort of breakdown in relations had happened between 1881 and 1891.

Anyway, with this information I had the patient records for the Colney Hatch Asylum brought up so I could see if there was anything in them that might make it definite that the Mary Ann Bolton who died there was the wife of John Henry Bolton. The alpahbetical admissions register show that she was admitted to the asylum on 3rd June 1896 and that the parish chargeable for her care was St Saviour Southwark. Her patient number was 12777 and she was on ward 4. Her death date was also added later, 13 March 1897, so she spent just under a year in the asylum. With this informarion, I moved to the patients medical records to see what else could be gleaned.

This has turned out to be the most affecting thing I have found so far. The medical records are a huge book with four pages to each patient. They include a photograph taken at the time of admission. Mary Ann’s diagnosis is of Paralytic Insanity [which corrolates with Alice’s testamony at John Henry’s inquest], her weight noted as 10 stone 6 pounds and her complexion said to be somewhat pale and anaemic. She had apparently previously been at a place called Peckham House.

Her records state that her son George Bolton was her next of kim and give his address as 44 Strathnairn Street, Bermondsey. I can get the birth certificate of one of his chldren [who were all born in Bermondsey] to confirm that this was where he was living at the time but it seems that this is indeed the correct Mary Ann Bolton.
Her notes contain the following statements:

She says her head is full of fire that she wants a knife to open her skull and let it out. She is dull depressed and melancholic and is frequently crying.

Ellen Henry Nurse says that she has broken two plates on her head in order to let out the fire that is inside that she has become lately very dull and depressed.

I have ordered scans of the pages which include the photograph of her.

It’s actually very upsetting and strange to be looking at these documents. Needless to say that when the scans are ready I shall upload them.







2 responses to “our dickensian ancestors”

  1. Helen Burdon Avatar
    Helen Burdon

    How did you manage to get records from Colney Hatch? My great grandfather died there. I have his death certificte but have not been able to locate any records from his time there.


  2. Linda Avatar

    Looking for admission/death records for
    the years 1843 – 1849 at Colney Hatch.

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