Sunday, January 24, 2016

Was Lucy Swait insane? or the importance of reading census entries fully

Hanwell Lunatic Asylum 1848 from Illustrated London News, January 15, 1848, p. 27

That got your attention didn’t it?  Nothing like a cheeky headline to make you read my blog.

So, this weekend I have been delving into the Forfar line again.  FindmyPast were having a free-for-all this weekend, so I thought I would take advantage of it and look as much as I could into the Forfars in Bannockburn and the Forfars in London.

I am particularly interested in fleshing out the story of Robert and Lucy Forfar and their son, George, who was my great-great-grandfather.  He was the father of Walter William Forfar who I have blogged about a bit here and here and here.
This weekend produced a lot of data, so it’s a bit difficult to know where to begin.

First of all and most importantly, it has finally sunk into my thick skull that Lucy’s maiden name is SWAIT and not SMART as I had originally thought.

This realisation comes about from actually seeing the marriage register where Lucy’s name and the name of the two witnesses (her father and step-mother) are quite definitely SWAIT.

In the process of confirming that (looking up SWAITs in the Census), I also discovered two new names to the list of names I am researching: RAVENHILL and REMNANT.  Aren’t they great names??

So let me explain…

All Saints' Church in Isleworth The London Apprentice Public House and Garden is to the left of the picture- Picture courtesy of Maxwell Hamilton on Flickr

Lucy Swait was born 21 December 1820 and baptised at All Saints Isleworth (a new-to-me place name) in 1821 on 28 January.  Her parents were John SWAIT and Sophia RAVENHILL and they were married 12 September 1811.  

John and Sophia also had the following children:

1814 George born 5 September and baptised 2 October

1817 Maria born 3 May and baptised 6 July

1822 John born 20 November 1822 and baptised 29 December.  John died in 1829 and was buried 22 January.

1825 Henry born 5 April and baptised 19 June and

1829 Harriet Margaret born 27 August and baptised 18 October.

Sophia Swait died 1834 and was buried 26 January when Lucy would have been just 13.  January must have been a bit of a sad old month for poor Lucy being the anniversary of her baby brother's and then her mother’s deaths.

After Sophia died, John Swait remarried, this time to Deborah REMNANT in August later that year.  The 1841 census shows them living with Harriette aged 12, John aged 5 and Margarita who is 4 months old at Silver Hall. Hmmmm - lots of food for thought there.  John is described as a Coachman.  You can read more about Silver Hall here under U for underground.  Deborah's parents James and Mary were living at Figgs Marsh at the time.

On the right is Sarah Robinson, Orphanage Laundress. On the left is her sister-in-law, Mrs Gaskell. Margaret McLellan, Mrs Dixon's sister, site between them from Flickr Child Action North West 

In the 1841 Census I found Lucy at the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum in the Parish of Norwood.  Hence the title of this blog post.  Her occupation is described as Laundress.  I ponder and ponder over this, because she married Robert Forfar the very next year. How did she get out of the asylum to marry Robert?  Were laundresses going through a rough time - was she a pauper rather than a lunatic? 

I don’t really have the answer to the mystery of how Lucy met Robert but I am here to tell you that when I looked more closely at the Census records for the asylum, I did realize that Lucy was working at the asylum, rather than there as an inmate.  I included the photo above which I found on Flickr to remind us that even though she was a laundress, dress standards were probably still very strict.  Imagine doing the laundry dressed like this today.  Aren't we lucky??? I found all sorts of glorious information about the Asylum with the aid of dear old Google.  Lucy was working in the men’s section of the asylum where there were about 380 patients and 120 staff to look after them.  There were all sorts of inmates. Their occupations ranged from stableman to schoolmaster, sailor to pirate, watchmaker to juggler.  I kid you not!

And yes I looked for a Forfar and yes I found one, but not Robert.  It was a John Forfar aged 55 and an upholsterer.  Not too far-fetched an occupation not to be a relation of some sort to Robert (his family were weavers and drapers) so that bears further investigation.  

Hanwell Asylum was pretty brand spanking new, having only opened in 1831.  It was the “first purpose-built asylum in England and Wales” according to Wikipedia…and at one time the world’s largest, so of great interest.  

When Lucy worked there John Conolly would have been Superintendent. Conolly is famous for abolishing mechanical restraints at Hanwell.  Here is a map of the asylum.  

Asylum layout" by John Weale (1791-1862)
As mentioned, Lucy and Robert marry 30 January in 1842 at St James Westminster (also known as St James' Piccadilly according to Wikipedia), the same church that John and Deborah Remnant married in.  This time John is described as an Omnibus Proprietor.  John Forfar – Robert’s father is listed as deceased. William Blake was baptised in this church in 1757 - just so you know.

Interior St James' Piccadilly by Steve Cadman on Flickr

On 23 October 1848 George, Robert and Lucy’s son is baptised at the Episcopal Church Bannockburn, Stirling.   Robert and Lucy don’t seem to stay in Scotland – perhaps it was just a visit.

The next time I find a record of them is in the 1851 Census.  George seems to be staying with his step-great-grandfather James REMNANT (remember Deborah who married Lucy's father?  James is Deborah's father and Lucy's step-grandfather - I know, weird) in Mitcham, Surrey.  In turn James seems to be staying with his sister-in-law Elizabeth FRANKS.  James is described as being on Parish Relief, a former Ag Lab aged 90.  How come he is left holding the baby? Well maybe he isn't holding the baby.  Maybe it is Harriet Franks aged 28 unmarried who was looking after George.  Anyway - it's all very odd.

In the same census (1851) Lucy is working as a Nurse at 56 Grove Terrace in Barking, Ilford for the solicitor Edmund Griffin.  

I can’t really find Robert at all at thist time.  I did find a Robert Forfar in an 1852 Poll Book working as a printer in Pitt Street.  The only reason I am paying attention to this record is that his name is right alongside someone called Robert Galloway and Galloway was Robert’s grandmother’s maiden name.  I am wondering if perhaps he changed occupation from stone mason to printing.  Just a thought.

In the 1861 Census, George Forfar is a school boy at the Byron House School in Ealing.  This became Ealing Grammar School and closed in 1917 according to this website.  I have written to the Ealing Local History Library to ask if there is any further clarifying information about Robert or George Forfar as they hold the letters and accounts for the Byron House School as per this listing on the National Archives catalogue here.

Once again – no sign of his father anywhere and Lucy is now working as a servant at 152 Westbourne Terrace Paddington for Mr Ballin, a gentleman of independent means,and his three sisters.  Read the census more closely Alex - Roseth (Rosetta in later census) Ballin aged 56 of independent means and her three sisters!

Lucy’s father John SWAIT and his second wife Deborah seem to be going from strength to strength.  In the 1861 Census, John is now a Victualler at Twickenham Road running the Chequers Inn.  He is living with Deborah, Mary Ann aged 25 who is helping her parents run the business, Amelia aged 15, Susan E aged 12, Arthur aged 11 and Helen aged 8.  You can see what the Inn looked like here.

Death notice Lucy Forfar Morning Post 6 October 1866

Lucy died in 1866 and her name can be found on the register, the probate calendar as well as a death duty register.  It is worth looking at all three documents.  The death duty register gives me her address – Harrow Road. William Wise was the executor of her will.  I assume he was a fellow employee from his occupation described on the census at the time.  She is described as a widow in the probate calendar so we can assume that Robert had died by this time.  She leaves a modest inheritance of effects under £200.  And yes, I have ordered a copy of the will in case it gives more information.

In the death notice we learn that Lucy was 46 years old and Robert is described as being from Bannockburn.  Perhaps he returned there.  I have joined the Central Scotland Family History Society.  There seem to be some members already researching Forfars in Bannockburn - perhaps they can help too.

In the 1871 Census, at the age of 80, John Swait is still running the Chequers Inn with Deborah and their daughter Helen aged 18 and John Cooper the Ostler. What a survivor! I found a burial notice for him the following year on 28 March 1872.

I’d like to tell you more about the Forfars in Bannockburn but I’d better leave that for another post.

Please tell me if you have any bright ideas about how I can find out more about Robert Forfar.  Are you as mad about family history as me?

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