Lily Jane Whiting 1877-1920

Parents:         Horace Odessa Whiting and Harriet Backler (1,2)
Born:                6th December 1877 in Haverhill (1,2)
Baptised:       11th July 1880 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill (1)
Married:          Gustav Borstel, St Giles, London, 3rd Quarter 1897(4).
Children:        Charles Albert Edward Borstel b.1899 (died in infancy), Harry Gustave Borstel b.1901, Edward William Borstel b.1903 (died in infancy)
Died:                 4 Aug 1920 at 278 Cambridge Road, Bethnal Green, London. 


Bio:                 On the 1881 census Lily is living in Eden Row with her mother and two sisters Kate and Ethel. Her father had died the previous year in an accident at Gurteens.

Her mother remarried, to Charles Brown, and Lily and her sisters were integrated into the growing Brown family.

At the time of the 1891 census Lily and her older sister Kate are living with the Browns at 4 Waveney Terrace, Haverhill.

What happened to Lily after this point was a bit of a mystery, and like quite a few family history puzzles, it turns out that clues to the answer are present on marriage entries and census entries connected with the close family of the individual. Credit goes to Judy Stratford for locating her marriage, and finding out where she lived.

It turns out Lily Jane Whiting married Gustav Borstel at St Giles, London, in the third quarter of 1897(4).

On the 1901 census, we see Lily and Gustav living at 118 King's Cross Road, Clerkenwell, London(6).

Gustav was a hairdresser, 34, and he was said to have been born in Tuscany, Italy, but was a German subject.

Lily was 23, and her birthplace is given as Haverhill. Also living with them is Lily's brother-in-law Charles Brown (a son of Lily's mother's second marriage to Charles Brown snr), 18, a railway porter, also born in Haverhill. Boarder, Joe Thorogood, 20, another railway porter and Lily's sister Catherine Agnes' future husband is staying in the household, too.

Gustav Borstel, 25, said to be born in Germany, here, appeared ten years earlier on the 1891 census at 7 Kings Street, St Botolph Aldgate, London, as a hairdresser's assistant to John Bormanns, 51, widower, a British Subject born in Germany(7).

Later in 1901, Gustav Borstel appeared as a marriage witness at the marriage of Lily's sister Catherine Agnes Whiting to Joseph Thorogood in July.

Just after this, Gustav visited his homeland alone on two occasions and both times we get a useful sighting of him on Hamburg Passenger Lists returning from Hamburg for London. Firstly on 13th August 1901 aboard the ship Vesta, and then on 9th November 1901 aboard the ship Nerissa. Both times he gave his status as married, his age as 30, his profession firstly as 'Friseurgehilfe' (Hairdresser's assistant) and then on the second trip as 'Barbiergeselle' (Journeyman barber), and his place of origin as Hamburg(8).

On the 1911 census, Lily and Gustav and their 9 year old son Harry can be seen living at 34 Myrtle Street, Dalston, Hackney(5).

Gustav Borstel, 44, was a hairdresser, born in Germany. Lily's age is (about) right, at 32, and she was said to be born in Suffolk.

Also living with them were lodgers Martha Frolich, 52, a widow, born in London, but presumably was married to a man of German origin, Catherine Coker, 39, and Catherine Douglas, 36, the first a married woman, and the second a cashier born in Bavaria.

However, it looks as if Gustav may have been leading a double life as a Gustav Borstel, 40, barber's assistant, 'widower', was shown working for German barber Paul Arpert at 30 Seven Sisters Road, Islington, also on the 1911 census. It is less easy to believe that two men of identical name, origin and profession and closely matched in age were living near to each other in London at this time(15)

Three years later, the start of the First World War would have put Gustav in an awkward position. Gustav Borstel, 50, was listed in a General Register of Aliens in the UK in 1916, and it was noted that he was married to a British Citizen(9).

Further research may uncover what happened to Gustav during WW1.

In a sad conclusion, Lily committed suicide on 4 August 1920 at 278 Cambridge Road, Bethnal Green, London.

A newspaper entry appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette of 7th August 1920:

"MOTHER'S FAREWELL. Postcard for Soldier Son, and Suicide. 

After writing to her soldier son on a postcard, showing a street in her native village of Haverhill, Suffolk, and a few words on a scrap of paper to a man friend, Lily Borstel, forty six, a tailor's machinist, Cambridge Road, E., committed suicide in the early hours of the morning by leaning over a gas ring. 

At the inquest held at Bethnal Green to-day, it was stated that she married a German twenty years ago, but he deserted her. On the mantel-piece was the postcard, on which she had written 'Thank God I am at rest. Your mother.' A verdict of suicide while of unsound mind was returned."

Lily had been living with Benjamin Lawrence, a metal-worker, who was presumably the 'man friend'. Probate with effects of £283 8s 6d was granted to Benjamin Lawrence on 22nd July 1921 in London (10).

Lily and Gustav's son Harry Edward Borstel was serving as a soldier when he married Cora Young on 30th March 1922 at St Luke, Victoria Docks, Essex(16). Interestingly, he said his father Gustav Borstel, hairdresser, was deceased. 

After serving in the army, Lily's son Harry Gustave Borstel became a policeman in Bradford, Yorkshire.

Further tragedy saw him commit suicide himself on 21st November 1939: "CONSTABLE SHOT AT POLICE H.Qs. Found with head wounds and a revolver near him in the storeroom of Bradford City Police headquarters today, Constable Harry Borstell (38) of Killinghall Drive, Bradford, died later in hospital."(11)

Another article went on to say "Yesterday Borstel was a witness in a case at Bradford West Riding Court, in which a woman was committed for trial charged with the manslaughter of a 35-year old Post Office Telephonist. Borstel admitted he had been intimate with the telephonist, but he had no knowledge of her visit to the woman charged. He was storekeeper in the City Police Force of which he had been a member for 18 years. He was married with no children."(12)

"Borstel... gave evidence... in a case in which Clara Louisa Hardy (62), widow, of Moorfield Avenue, Shipley, was committed for trial to Leeds Assizes charged with manslaughter of Vera Stonehouse (35), of Bradford, and with using an instrument to procure abortion. 

He said in evidence that he had known Miss Stonehouse for about 18 months, and in June intimacy took place. Two months later she told him of her condition [she was pregnant with his child]. He had no knowledge of her visit to Mrs Hardy's house. He did not know Mrs Hardy." (13)

"...the Coroner (Mr R. S. Bishop) said, 'He appears to have been very straightforward in admitting his connection with another matter, and the fact that he was overcome with shame and remorse is, in my opinion, no discredit to him...  The widow [Cora Borstel nee Young] said that her husband had been in good health of late. He told her in May of his association with Miss Stonehouse. She forgave him, and he had seemed 'ever so much happier'. She did not know he had been called in to give evidence." (14)



(1) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p14 of 37

(2) Birth Register. 4th Quarter 1877, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 475

(3) Marriage Register. 1st Quarter 1921, Brighton District, Volume 2b Page 399

(4) Marriage Register. 3rd Quarter 1897, St Giles, London, Volume 1b Page 1308

(5) 1911 Census. Series: RG14; Enumeration District: 18; Registration District: 11; Piece: 1123.

(6) 1901 Census. Class: RG13; Piece: 252; Folio: 144; Page: 49; Enumeration District: 10.

(7) 1891 Census. Class: RG12; Piece: 283; Folio: 5; Page: 7; GSU roll: 6095393.

(8) Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934. Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 122; Page: 1622; Microfilm No.: K_1770 and Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 125; Page: 2342; Microfilm No.: K_1771.

(9) The National Archives, Central Register of Aliens in the UK: Policy of Internment and Repatriations of Alien Enemies, HO 45/11522 PART 2,

(10) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) 1858-1995.

(11) Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 22 Nov 1939, p.1.

(12) Edinburgh Evening News, 22 Nov 1939, p.3.

(13) Yorkshire Evening Post, 22 Nov 1939, p.12.

(14) Yorkshire Evening Post, 24 Nov 1939, p.11.

(15) 1911 Census, Series: RG14; Piece: 997; Enumeration District: 27; Schedule: 67; Registration District: 10.

(16) Parish Marriage Register. St Luke, Victoria Docks. Essex Record Office. D/P 602/1/33, p.67.