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Saturday, 18 April 2015

The UK Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1912

There are several Gidleys in the asylum Admission Registers published on Ancestry, and, although some patients recovered after some months or years of treatment, there are some sad stories to tell.
The saddest story has to be that of Richard Gidley who spent over 50 years incarcerated in Colney Hatch Asylum, near Barnet in North London. He was admitted in October 1861, a pauper male (as opposed to being a fee-paying private patient) and, presumably, in those unenlightened days never left its doors until his death in January 1912. So who was this Richard Gidley? I think he must be Richard William Gidley, born on 16 February 1827 and christened at St Marylebone in London on 17 June 1827. His parents were Richard and Sarah Gidley and I have no idea where or when they married. I haven't find any trace so far of a Richard Gidley in that area of London at that time, nor any likely burial. According to the baptismal register Richard senior was in trade, residing at Augustus Street, St Pancras. But the family unit was broken up by the 1841 census when Richard junior was found in the St Pancras Workhouse. I haven't found a burial for his mother Sarah between 1827 and 1841 in London, so possibly Richard junior's illness had started to manifest itself by then and he wasn't able to live with his family. It's possible that his mother Sarah was in Shoreditch, described as Independent, in 1841, and in 1851 a widow, born in St Olave's, Surrey, living with her niece and her family, and with the same niece and a nephew in 1861, although whether this is the correct Sarah who was the mother of Richard is pure conjecture. This Sarah was buried in Abney Park cemetery in North London in 1866, aged 75.
To return to Richard Gidley, inmate of the Asylum, I couldn't find him in 1851, but he is living on his own in 1861 in Brunswick Street, St Pancras, working as a grocer. Only a few months later he was admitted to Colney Hatch.
Another sad story was the admittance of two brothers to Devon County Asylum in Exminster in the 1870s, where both died as teenagers. The two oldest sons of Richard Coulton Gidley of Beenley Farm in Diptford, Devon, were admitted as pauper males. This is strange, as their father was one of the better-off Gidleys of that time, being a farmer in the 1871 census of 175 acres, employing three men, two women and one boy. He continued to prosper locally, acting as Relieving Officer to several parishes, and by the time of his burial in 1930 in Totnes, he was the oldest resident of that town at 98 years of age. But his two oldest sons - there were ten children in the family altogether, although only two survived their father - George and Walter William Gidley, entered the asylum aged 14 and 12 years old respectively. Sadly, both only lived for another ten months to one year after their admittance, and died in the asylum in December 1877 and January 1879.
Mary Colman Gidley of the Bovey Tracey Gidleys was another sad case. She was christened in West Teignmouth in Devon in 1832, the elder daughter of George Gidley and his wife Sarah Colman. The family had moved to Dover, Kent by 1841, where George was a fly proprietor in Town Wall Lane. A fly was a horse-drawn public coach or delivery wagon, especially one let out for hire, or possibly a light, two-wheeled cab. The family stayed in Dover for several years, but had moved on to Limehouse in London by 1861 where George continued as a cab proprietor. Mary was still living at home then, described as a needlewoman. But by 1870 there were family difficulties. George died in 1872 in East London, but in 1871 his wife Sarah was working as a cook in Marylebone, West London, and was described as a widow. Their daughter Mary was admitted to Peckham Asylum in 1870, then moved to Hanwell Asylum (a place I knew well from the outside under its later name of St Bernard's, as it was near my childhood home) a few months later in 1871, described as "not improved". Hanwell prided itself on its up-to-date treatment of the mentally ill, but Mary was moved on again in 1877 to Banstead Asylum in Surrey. In 1881 she is probably enumerated as "M.C.G., imbecile, unable to follow any ocupation". She died in Banstead three years later, in 1884.

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