Vauxhall Victor 152 FLV 1959Vauxhall Victor 152 FLV 1959

The Royal Albert Asylum And A Little Boy

September 16, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Two photos I added to my collection recently really brought home to me changes in our society over the last 100 years. They were of two brothers Fergus Kay Crook and Laurence Gilmer Crooks taken in the 1920s. The sons of Robert Kay Crooks and his second wife Edith Margaret Crooks (Nee Smith) they were born in Wigan Lancashire at a time after so many families had been torn apart. Sadly the eldest son Fergus was born with what would be called today a learning disability. In the 1920s however, it was a different time. He must have been so loved. His parent took him to the same studio as his brother to have his portrait taken but over the next few years the bothers paths separated. Lawrence lived with his parents but by the time of the 1939 register Fergus was registered at the Royal Albert Asylum. The hospital was built between 1868 and 1873 and was originally called "The Royal Albert Asylum for idiots and imbeciles of the seven northern counties" It's hard to even imagine a time when this was considered an acceptable title for an institution. The hospital was established under the Lunacy Act 1845, at a time when there was little understanding of the difference between learning difficulties and mental illness but by 1909 it had been renamed "The Royal Albert Institution, Lancaster". There was no mainstream schooling for children such as Fergus in those days and there would have probably been little choice for his parents but an institution. 

Royal Albert Asylum LancasterRoyal Albert Asylum Lancaster
By the time of the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 the hospital had 886 patients and it was renamed "The Royal Albert Hospital", and by 1968 on it's 100th anniversary there were over 1,000 patients. It wasn't all bad though, many of the staff worked very hard and there are records of an annual staff play, a toy jazz band, football and cricket teams and children’s shows. The implementation of the ‘Care in the Community’ policy in the 80s meant that mentally disabled people were to be treated and cared for in their homes rather than in an institution, Royal Albert Hospital’s patients started relocating back into the community. However it was too late for a new start for poor Fergus. He died in the hospital that had been his home his whole adult life, in August 1981 aged 62 years. The hospital closed in 1996.

Fergus Kay Crooks Dec 1924Fergus Kay Crooks Dec 1924Read Fergus's story here

Fergus's younger brother Laurence appears not to have married or had children. He lived in Wigan all his life coincidentally dying exactly three months to the day, in December 1981, after Fergus aged 60. Both brothers are buried in Lower Ince Cemetery in Wigan. I really hope they are together.

Laurence Gilmer Crooks Jan 1925Laurence Gilmer Crooks Jan 1925Read Laurence's story here

Remembering Rose Bourne

May 27, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

 One of the memorial cards I have had in my collection is to Rose Bourne, a 21 year old young woman who died in 1921 aged just 21 years old. When Rose Bourne was born in January 1900 in Eastbourne, Sussex, her father, Spencer, was 32, and her mother, Jane, was 30. She had four brothers and three sisters. The family lived at 15 Carlton Road in the town. The house still stands, a pretty well tended terraced house, minutes walk away from the seafront. Rose lived with her father Spencer, who on the 1911 census is listed as a refuse destructor. This role appears to literally mean he was responsible for the destruction of the waste after it's collection. Rose was an 11 year old at school on this census and there was no record of any disability for her. She must have been a normal happy young girl, with the fun of living at the seaside and lots of brothers and sisters to play with.

The Wish Tower Eastbourne 1920sThe Wish Tower Eastbourne 1920s
At some point after this census was recorded Rose must have become ill. The family's carefully chosen words on her memorial card give a hint to how much poor Rose must have suffered. 

Memorial Card Rose Bourne FrontMemorial Card Rose Bourne Front Memorial Card Rose Bourne Inside 1Memorial Card Rose Bourne Inside 1 Memorial Card Rose Bourne Inside 2Memorial Card Rose Bourne Inside 2 Rose died on the 31st May 1921 and was buried in the family grave at Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne with her mother who only died the year before at the age of 50. It seemed all so sad but searching on Ancestry the large family seem to have produced many descendants to remember Rose. At a time in the country of the great loss of the First World War this family certainly seemed to have their own heartache.

The 102 Year Old Man And His Secret Of Living A Long Life

May 25, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

I am lucky enough to have in my collection this photo of Alfred James Stubbs with his daughter Winifred, taken on 27th November 1959 at Great Witchingham Norfolk. The more I researched this elderly man the more impressed I became.

Alfred James Stubbs Aged 101 With His Daughter Lucy Winifred Chilvers (Nee Stubbs)Alfred James Stubbs Aged 101 With His Daughter Lucy Winifred Chilvers (Nee Stubbs)Taken on 27th November 1959 at Great Witchingham Norfolk.

  Alfred was born on the 28th March 1858 in Norwich, Norfolk. He was the tenth of 11 children of Charles and Sarah Stubbs (Nee Smith). The family lived at no 3 Woolpack Yard, Golden Ball Street, Norwich and Alfred's father Charles worked as a poulterer. After his father's death in 1878 Alfred took over the family business. In 1887 he married Jane Louisa Smith and the couple had six children, four surviving to adulthood.  For nearly 80 years he ran the family business. When their home was bombed out during World War 2 and they moved out to Great Witchingham, Alfred continued to travel into work until he was 95.

 The couples second daughter, Lucy Winifred is pictured here with her father in 1959. Lucy was born on the 25th Jan 1894. On the 15th August 1915, at 21, Lucy married Henry Chilvers, a 21 year old young man who also lived in Norwich. Henry had volunteered to become a soldier in the Norfolk Regiment during world war one and Lucy served herself in France during the war with the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Tragically Henry was killed in action in France, less than two years after their marriage, on the 23rd April 1917. Like so many young widows at the time Lucy never remarried and she lived with her parents until her mother's death aged 95 in 1951 and with her father until he died on 12th December 1960 at the incredible age of 102. Because of his longevity Alfred had been quite a local celebrity giving interviews to local papers. Only retiring six years before his death he gave the secret of his long life to eggs and more eggs. So maybe that should be a lesson to us all! Lucy died four years after her father in 1964 aged 70 years old. This photo was taken outside their home at 2 King's Head Terrace, Great Witchingham Norfolk where the family lived in the final years of their lives.

The Mayhew Family Remembering A Boer War Soldier

May 23, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Following on from the post two days ago, the other photo in my collection with identical writing on the back is this one of the Mayhew family. On the back is written "Mayhew family c.1900 Mother Edna (nee) Edwards". Edna Ellen Edwards was the elder sister of Alice Edwards and the third child of nine children of Harry and Kate Edwards (Nee Durden). She was born on the 30th March 1870 in Birmingham. On the 8th October 1898 she married Frank Martin Mayhew. Frank was a local man, being born in Birmingham in 1873, son of John Smith Mayhew and Caroline Mayhew (Nee Smith). In 1900 their son Harold Clarence was born, named after Edna's eldest brother Harry Clarence who was a colour sergeant killed on 14th May 1900 in the Boer War, and in 1904 the couple had a daughter Doris Edna.

Frank Martin Mayhew And Edna Ellen Mayhew Nee Edwards c.1910Frank Martin Mayhew And Edna Ellen Mayhew Nee Edwards c.1910Frank Martin Mayhew was born in 1873 in Birmingham. He married Edna Ellen Edwards at Christ Church, Sparkbrook, Warwick on the 8th October 1898. Edna was also born in Birmingham on 30th March 1870. They had two children who are in this photo Harold Clarence (Born 22nd April 1900) and Doris Edna (Born 15th Dec 1904) . Frank died on 9th Aug 1924 age 64 and Edna on 29 Apr 1959 age 89.

The family lived at 64 Doris Road Sparkhill Birmingham.

Although it is written on the back c.1900. I think this photo would have been taken around 1906. Little Harold looks about six and Doris about two. In 1911 the family lived at 64 Doris Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham and Frank was working as a travelling salesman in the brass and iron industry. Frank died in 1924 aged 51 and Edna lived another 35 years as a widow until her death in 1959 aged 89. Harold remained unmarried and died in 1976 and although Doris married twice she died without any children aged 89. 

 I think this rather serious little family photo, typical of the time, was probably taken on a family holiday as the children are holding spades and there is a bucket on the floor. It has captured one tiny moment in their family life, that has now been preserved in the future. 


The Travels Of A Young American Man

May 21, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

 Two of the photos in my collection have the same handwriting on the back and I have managed to work out the connection. The first photo, is of a young boy. On the back is written : Edward Bernard Butler b. 6th Sep 1919 Garfield Park Hospital, Chicago, USA. Son of Alice (Nee) Edwards. 

Young Boy Named Edward Bernard ButlerYoung Boy Named Edward Bernard Butlerb. 6th Sep 1919 Garfield Park Hospital Chicago USA
Son of William Bernard Butler and Alice Butler (nee Edwards)

When I started researching the little smiling boy in the photo I was amazed at what an interesting life he had led. I found out so much, but annoyingly there are still so many gaps I couldn't fill in. Edward's mother Alice Edwards was born on 7th March 1881 in Birmingham, England. She was the seventh child of nine children of Harry and Kate Edwards (Nee Durden) . In 1910 she married Bertram Alcock, also from Birmingham, and the couple emigrated to Chicago, Illinois where Bertram worked as a toolmaker. Sadly in 1917 Bertram died leaving Alice a widow at only 36 years old. 

  The following year, Alice married William Butler a 56 year old grocer, nearly twenty years her senior, who was also originally born in Birmingham, England and who had emigrated to Chicago in 1889. William was the eldest of seven children to Richard and Frances Butler (Nee Sneath). I love to think of them meeting at some sort of ex-pats group! How nice it must have been for them both to talk about home. In 1919, their son Edward Bernard was born and it should have been a new beginning for the little family, but tragically in 1925, at 44 years old and when her little boy was only 5 years old, Alice died too. 

Poor William, alone in America with a five year old. By the following year he had returned to England with Edward, giving an address in Cleethorpes, where is younger sister lived, as his destination. It must have been a very different England to the one he had left in 1889.

The next reference I could find to the family is on the 1939 register, when William and Edward were still living in Cleethorpes. William had retired and Edward gave his occupation as a clerk at a fish merchants. The next document I came across was from 1943. It was a draft card, for a 24 year old Edward who had returned to America to join the army during WW2. He gave his father's address as 9, Prince's Road, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire and his occupation as a student at Hull University. What happened next to Edward I am unsure of. His father William died in Cleethorpes in 1946 but sadly I can find no other definite mentions of Edward after he joined the army. An Edward Bernard Butler with the same birthday died in Croydon Surrey in 2001. I wonder, could this be the little boy in the photo. I can find no other mention of this name in the area or any family links so I can't just presume. Even though I have moved on to the next family photo, I'm not completely giving up. I will keep going back to the records as I would love to complete the journey of the life of the little smiling boy in the photo.



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