Lucy Clover c.1835-1914

Transcription of Hackney Union Workhouse Records: Certificate of Medical Practioner, HABG 201/21

Transcription of Hackney Union Workhouse Records: Order of Reception for Lucy Whiting, HABG 201/21

Lucy Whiting: death certificate (1914)

Parents: George Clover and Ann Siggs (1)
Born: c.1835 in Haverhill
Baptised: ?
Married: Edmund Whiting, 23, batchelor, shoemaker, of Crowland, Haverhill, son of Joseph Whiting, weaver, on 13 May 1855 in St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by John Walter Amey and Eliza Scott.(3,4)
Children: Minnie Anne Whiting b.1856, Sophia Whiting b.1858, Elizabeth Whiting b.1860, Christiana Whiting b.1863, Caroline Whiting b.1865, Eliza Whiting b.1867, Frances Whiting b.1870, Joseph Jabez Whiting b.1873 and Ruth Whiting b.1878
Died: 5th March 1914 of aortic valvular disease of heart and senile decay at London County Asylum, Banstead.(13)

Bio: We first see Lucy on the 1841 census, living in Chauntry Croft, Haverhill. Her parents, George Clover and Ann Siggs had married on 24th November 1834 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.(1) George is a Hostler, or Ostler - a groom. Lucy was their firstborn. Lucy had been born around 1835, and their next child George was born on 26th March 1837 at Bull Lane, Haverhill(2). He is also on this census.

The Clovers remain in Chauntry Croft on the 1851 census. George is a groom, and Lucy is now working as a needle woman. Lucy's brother George is not present.

Four years later, Lucy married Edmund Whiting, a shoemaker of Crowland, Haverhill.

She moved to London with Edmund, and we find her on the 1871 census living with him and their first six children at 1 Lees Court, Islington. They moved around in London fairly frequently over the next few years as their children's baptism records testify, but just prior to 1876 they elected to head back to Haverhill.

We know this because Lucy had a stillborn child who was buried at the local cemetery on 21st August 1876.

The 1881 census shows the family still living in Haverhill, in Burton End. Shortly after, they decided to move back to London.

Lucy, Edmund and the children lived at 3 Virginia Row, Tower Hamlets for several years.

On 26th June 1883 Lucy was admitted to Waterloo Road Workhouse, Tower Hamlets.(5) Records show she was living at 30 Gosset Street at the time. She was discharged on 10th July 1883, so this was a reasonably short stay. What was she doing there? No mention is made of why she was put there, but in time it becomes clear she was considered by those around her to be of 'unsound mind'.

The next time she was admitted was on 16th March 1887, and her address is given as 14 Chambord Street.(6) This time she was transferred on 7th April to Banstead, which was a London County Asylum at the time.(7) Lucy was discharged to the care of her husband on 23rd December that year.(8)

There was a gap of around two years before she was next admitted to Waterloo Road Workhouse. Her residence was 53 Austin Street at this time. She went in on 17th July 1889 and came out on 3rd March 1890.

Later that same year, on 25th September 1890, she was admitted once more and transferred to Hanwell Asylum on 10th December 1890.

There is a popular misconception that in Victorian times, people of 'unsound mind' were locked up and forgotten. Although this may well have been the case in some instances, Lucy is a clear example of someone who was frequently repatriated with her family between spells in the workhouse or asylum, and this must have been at least preferable.

Although Edmund was mentioned on the 1891 census as being married, Lucy was not present in the household at 53 Austin Street. Now we know why.

The census return for the London County Asylum at Norwood (Hanwell) shows an 'L.W', married, aged 57, place of birth not given.(10) I am sure this is her.

After a stay in the Asylum, Lucy was back at Waterloo Road on 7th August 1891. She was discharged on 19th November 1891.

It is not clear where Lucy was from the end of 1891 to 1897. It was in 1895 that her husband Edmund died, and at this time he resided at 5 Essex Place, Hackney Road, Shoreditch. There is no mention of her here, so presumably she was back in an Asylum or Workhouse.

When we next see Lucy, she is briefly made chargeable to the Hackney Union. This took place because she was released from London County Asylum, Banstead, on 6th November 1897. What we get from the Settlement papers(11) is a unique description of her condition from an examining doctor.

She was examined by Dr John Joseph Gordon, and described thus:

'She is depressed and melancholic. She sits in the same position all day, wringing her hands and declining to enter into conversation with any of the other patients. She cannot be induced to answer questions, she was in a filthy and neglected condition when admitted to this infirmary and she is unfit to take care of herself.'

There is not a physical description of Lucy as such, only that she had two large moles on her back and rear of right leg, and she was very thin with nits on her head!

Her occupation was described as 'charing', which means she was a Charwoman or house cleaner. She was said to have lived with her youngest daughter Ruth at 35 Holmbrook Street, Homerton. To get a flavour of the area we can read Charles Booth's description of Holmbrook Street from his survey taken during 1886-1903 (at the same time Lucy was there). It was 'still very rough and low, its inhabitants - wood choppers, bone gatherers, bottle merchants. Some of the men are employed on the dust shoot. The houses are two storied. Many children were about in the street. Women talking with babies at the open doors. Carts tipped up against the pavement. Litter of paper. Some slatternly girls. No brothels, but there used to be'(14)

We are also told in the Hackney Union settlement records that Lucy was 'unsound of mind' as opposed to a lunatic or idiot, and that this had first occurred when she was around 50. This fits in with what we already know. She was not known to be suicidal, or at risk to others.

The cause of her condition was given as 'not known', but I suppose we have to conclude that whatever it was her family didn't feel able to or maybe could not afford to look after her full time. It does not seem that severe, and to be honest - if you felt depressed and were placed in a Victorian lunatic asylum, it was hardly going to turn you into a sparkling conversationalist! You probably would quietly sit there wringing your hands, thinking 'when am I getting out of here?'. Whether the unresponsiveness was symptomatic of something other than just depression, I guess we'll never know. The onset of her unsound state of mind did not coincide with her husbands death, but at around 50 would have coincided with her menopause. Depression as a result of this would have been something the Victorian medical profession had little understanding of, or sympathy for.

She was deemed fit enough to return to Banstead, and this happened on 11th December 1897. It is unclear whether she ever returned to 35 Holmbrook Street.

On the 1901 census we see her at the Banstead London County Asylum as 'L.W' a widower aged 66, place of birth unknown.(12)

Again for the 1911 census we see her still there.

Lucy died at Banstead Asylum on 5th March 1914.(13) She was 78, and the cause of death was Aortic valvular disease and Senile decay. Her last residence on her death certificate is given as 35 Holmbrook Street, which ties in with other records.

Death Certificate courtesy of the GRO. © Crown Copyright.


(1), Bishop's Transcripts for the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, 1834, Batch No. M132521, Source No. 0989594
(2) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1813-1900.
(3) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p25 of 37
(4) Marriage Register. 2nd Quarter 1855, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 462
(5) Board of Guardians; Religious Creed Registers, Reference Number: BEBG/290/006, Parish: Bethnal Green, Borough: Tower Hamlets, Workhouse: Waterloo Road. Workhouses and Institutions 1880-1883. Image 205.
(6) Board of Guardians; Religious Creed Registers,; Reference Number: BEBG/290/007, Parish: Bethnal Green, Borough: Tower Hamlets, Workhouse: Waterloo Road. Workhouses and Institutions 1884-1887. Image 246.
(7) Board of Guardians; Register of Lunatics,; Reference Number: BEBG/289/001. Parish: Bethnal Green, Borough: Tower Hamlets, Asylum: Banstead, Lucy Whiting admitted 7th April 1887 discharged 22nd December 1887.
(8) Board of Guardians; Religious Creed Registers,; Reference Number: BEBG/290/008. Parish: Bethnal Green, Borough: Tower Hamlets, Workhouse: Waterloo Road. Workhouses and Institutions 1887-1891. Images 268, 278, 284
(9) Board of Guardians; Religious Creed Registers,; Reference Number: BEBG/290/009, Parish: Bethnal Green, Borough: Tower Hamlets, Workhouse: Waterloo Road, Workhouses and Institutions 1891-1894. Image 282.
(10) 1891 Census Record: Middlesex, Norwood, District London County Asylum. Piece 1022. Folio 105. Page 5. Name: L W, married, aged 57. Place of Birth: Not Given
(11) Board of Guardians; Register of Lunatics, Settlements 1897, p551. HABG/201/21
(12) 1901 Census Record: Surrey, Epsom, Banstead, London County Asylum. Piece 578. Folio 145. Page 25. Name: L W, widowed, aged 66. Place of Birth: Not Given
(13) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1914, Epsom District, Volume 2a Page 33.
(14) London School of Economics and Political Science 2001, Booth B346, pp242-243