Anne Whiting 1845-1928

Parents: Joseph Whiting and Rebecca Cole.
Born: c.1845 in Haverhill
Baptised: ?
Married: John Nunn, full age, batchelor, labourer of Harts Lane, son of James Nunn, deceased, on 14th August 1870 at St James the Great Church, Bethnal Green. Witnessed by Esau and Adelaide Giles.(3,4)
Children: John Nunn b.1873, Henry Nunn b.1875, Jane Nunn b.1877, Harriet Nunn b.1881 and Alfred Nunn b.1884
Died: 20th April 1928 in Cane Hill Asylum, Croydon.(8,9)

Bio: I can find no reference to Anne before the 1851 census, where she is living as a 6 year old with her parents and siblings in Chauntry Croft, Haverhill. There is no baptism, or GRO birth register entry that I can trace. On the censuses where she is mentioned her birthplace is given as Haverhill.

We know that her family moved to London around 1858, and it seems she found work there, because on the 1861 census(1) there is an Ann Whiting of the same birth year and birthplace working at 25 Fore Street, in the parish of St Giles, Cripplegate, as a nurse-maid for the household of John W Brown, a linen merchant and auctioneer originally from Wales.

There is another sighting of Anne, and that is as a witness to her brother Boaz' marriage to Harriet Hughes on 2nd November 1862 at St James Church, Shoreditch.(2)

Some confusion arises between the identity of Anne and her eldest sister Hannah going forward from this point.

In 1870 the marriage of Hannah Whiting, spinster, full age, daughter of Joseph Whiting, deceased, to John Nunn is recorded in Bethnal Green. They are both living in Harts Lane at the time.

At first glance this looks like a possible fit for Anne's sister Hannah, although her age and birthplace are not given.

Then the 1871 census gives us with another clue. It shows John Nunn, labourer, living with his wife Hannah Nunn, at 11 Broadwall, Christchurch Southwark. 'Hannah' seems to have the 'H' crossed out and then a small version added again which is confusing, but the most interesting thing is that they are both born in Haverhill. At this point our instincts are telling us that there must be a connection.

Especially as, at 34, the age of John Nunn on this census strongly suggests he was John son of James Nunn and Sarah Farrant born on 19th August 1834 in Beggars Lane, Haverhill.(6) Although this would make him 36, not 34, it ties in with the status of his father on the marriage certificate as James Nunn died in 1863.

The problem here is that Hannah's age on the census is given as 25. We know this Hannah was born in 1827 which would make her 44.

There is no other Hannah Whiting born in Haverhill with a father Joseph who was dead by 1870. The age on the census, however, is very close to that of Anne Whiting, Hannah's younger sister. Maybe the person who married John Nunn is in fact Anne Whiting? However, it seems strange that Anne would suddenly be consistently known as Hannah, her elder sister's name. It does not seem likely somehow, but could be explained if elder sister Hannah had in fact died in infancy or died young, and the younger sister had been given the same name.

The 1881 census shows Anna Nunn, born around 1845 in Haverhill, living in Tiverton Street, Newington, London. Her husband's name is unclear but appears to be George, although his age is the same as John Nunn. A census error perhaps? the person immediately above her husband is also called George. A theme seems to be emerging around a confusion with names. George or John is a bricklayers labourer born in Haverhill. The interesting thing here is that the names of four children are given: John, 6, Henry, 4, Jane, 3, and Harriet, 1 month.

The reason why the names of the children are especially useful is because they allow us to match up a Poor Law Union record from five years later with this exact same family.

On 14th September 1886, an examination took place for Hannah Nunn at Bethnal Green Poor Law Union. In this process, a brief history of her whereabouts and details is recorded so the workhouse could tell which Union she was, or would be, accountable to.

This examination record(5) gives her age as 42 and her children as John, Henry, Jane, Harriet and Alfred, who is 18 months old. It also says that her husband died on 21st December 1885 at 23 Burnham Street, London (6), although it does not give his name. It gives the names of several of the places that the family lived and crucially, it mentions Newington and St Saviour, Southwark. However, the most revealing bit of information is where it says 'After husbands death came to my sister Mrs Wood 41 Virginia Rd'. This must surely be Anne's older sister Ruth Wood nee Whiting, who we can place in Virginia Road very close to this address on the 1891 census.

Another examination entry at Bethnal Green workhouse dated June 1887 states that 'Anna Nunn, 42, widow' was admitted after having been at St Saviour poor law union along with her four children Harriet, 9, Jane, 10, Henry, 12, and John, 14(7)

No record has been found for Anne or Anna on the 1891 or 1901 censuses, but it has been possible to trace what happened to her in later life.

The admission and discharge records for Waterloo Road, Bethnal Green, show that at this point, Anna was referred to as a 'lunatic' in the registers, and was admitted on 4th July 1892 and then transferred to Cane Hill Asylum on 28th June 1892(10). It seems that she had recovered and was discharged from Cane Hill on the 1st December 1892(11).

'Hannah or Anna' Nunn as she seems to have been known in asylum records, was admitted to Netherne-on-the-Hill Asylum, Coulsdon, on 10th January 1911 and then after being labelled 'not improved' was discharged on 15th November 1911(9). As this record suggests, she was there at the time the 1911 census was taken on 2nd April. 'H Nunn', 64, widow, formerly charwoman, born in Haverhill(12), was shown as an inmate at Netherne Asylum and under the column labelled 'infirmities' she was described as being a 'lunatic at 62', implying her condition started around 1909 although the admission and discharge records examined previously suggest otherwise.

It appears that in old age, for whatever reason her status became that of 'pauper/lunatic' and she was permanently transferred to Cane Hill Asylum, in Croydon, on 15th November 1911. She died there, aged 82, on the 20th April 1928. When her death was recorded, her name was entered as 'Anna or Hannah'(8,9).

As we know that Anne was known as both Anna and Hannah in later life, it seems that a likely explanation was that she adopted the name of a previous child of her parents, Hannah, who died young or became removed from the family for whatever reason after the 1841 census.


(1) 1861 Census, Class: RG9; Piece: 214; Folio: 146; Page: 22; GSU roll: 542593.
(2) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint James, Bermondsey, Register of marriages, P71/JS, Item 015
(3) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint James The Great, Bethnal Green, Register of marriages, P72/JSG, Item 033
(4) Marriage Register. 3rd Quarter 1870, Bethnal Green District, Volume 1c Page 495
(5) London Metropolitan Archives, Board of Guardians Records, Bethnal Green Poor Law Union, Examinations, 1886., selected poor law removal and settlement records.
(6) Death Register, Dec 1885, aged 49, St Saviour Southwark, Volume 1d Page 52.
(7) London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Poor Law Registers; Reference: BEBG/267/038.
(8) Death Register. Anna Nunn. Aged 82. 2nd Quarter 1928, Croydon District, Volume 2a Page 331.
(9) The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Lunacy Patients Admission Registers; Class: MH 94; Piece: 46.
(10) London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: BEBG/289A.
(11) The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Lunacy Patients Admission Registers; Class: MH 94; Piece: 31.
(12) Surrey County Lunatic Asylum, Netherne, Merstham. 1911 Census, Class: RG14; ED: 12, RD: 37; Piece: 3207.