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Birth and marriage in Ireland

Agnes was born Agnes Regnell (Wregnell) in Naas, Co Kildare, Ireland in about 1857. No Irish census information remains following a fire which destroyed nearly all the documentation; however we find her marriage in 1874, it took place in the registration district of Naas, Co Kildare, Ireland when she married James Ames, she was just 17 years old. 

Agnes’s husband, James

James was considerably older than Agnes, born 1839 making him 35 years at his marriage. James was born in 1839 in Stepney, Mile End Old Town and baptised along with his brother John on 26 January 1840 at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney High Street.

His parents were John, a ‘Tinman’ born in Canterbury, Kent and Mary Ann Gage born in Southampton, Hampshire.

The I841 Census finds the young family living in Lyme Regis in Dorset  which surprised me but their two boys John and James, are both shown as born in Stepney so I believe it to be correct and there are a large number of Gage and Ames families in the town.

In the 1851 Census John and his wife Mary Ann are living in Nelson Street, Mile End Old Town with their children John 13 years, James, 11 years, Eli 7 years, Caroline 5 years, Sophia 3 years and Mary Ann 1 year.

James’s army service

James joined the Army in 1857 aged 18 years and served 21 years 13 days, he spent nearly 9 years in India, nearly 3 years in Gibraltar and finally in Ceylon, from where he was demobbed. He also served 3 years in Ireland and during this time he was garrisoned at the Carragh in Naas, Kildare, Ireland where he met and married Agnes Regnell (Wregnell), they appear to have had at least one child whilst still in Ireland.  

Naas and Carragh

Joseph was born on 12 March 1875 and was baptised in Naas and Carragh, Kildare. His name is spelt Eames as is his father James so perhaps this is an Irish spelling; his mother is named as Agnes Wraggnall.  Sadly Joseph died in 1877.  His death is registered in Naas under the name of Aymes.

Naas was a market and garrison town and was one of the royal seats of the ancient province of Leinster.

At the outbreak of the Crimean war the British Army recognised the need for additional training grounds and camps were established in Aldershot Hampshire, and the Curragh of Kildare. The army finally withdrew from the Curragh in 1922.

An interesting history can be found at  https://www.historyireland.com/the-curragh-army-camp/

A move to London

After leaving the army James brought his family back to London where he had been born and in the 1881 Census we find them at 3, Queens Place, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, Middlesex.  James aged 41 years has got himself a steady job with the GPO where he is a Porter.  Agnes aged 24 years is said to be a Laundress and they have one daughter, Agnes Mary who is just 1 year old, born in Whitechapel.

At the same address we find Benjamin R Ames 29 years, Gen Lab, born Stepney, married to Mary A  22 years and an unnamed 1 month old son. Presumably he is a relative of James’s.                

I believe Queens Place to be the area behind Angel Alley. It is shown as either very poor (dark blue) or across Old Montague Street, poor (light blue) but surrounded by the worst areas in black. Queens Place was built in 1807 and demolished in the 1890’s as unfit for human habitation. 

The 1891 Census

In the 1891 Century the family is still living in Whitechapel at 230, Brunswick Buildings, Goulston Street.  James, now 51 years is a Mail Sorter, GPO.  Agnes presumably is looking after her children, Agnes M 11 years, Robert J 8 years and Mary Emily just 10 months old, all born in Whitechapel.  

Brunswick Buildings were opened in 1886 and are rated Mixed, comfortable /poor on Booth’s Poverty Maps and must have been a big improvement on their previous accommodation. The flats were largely destroyed by a V2 rocket in WW2 and finally demolished in 1979. 

In Sept 1888, just three years before the 1891 Census, Goulston Street hit the headlines. It was situated just a short walk from Mitre Square, the site of the murder of Catherine Eddows , a victim of Jack the Ripper, and a vital piece of evidence was found in Goulston Street, the missing portion of her bloodstained apron.

Read the story on  https://www.jack-the-ripper.org/goulston-street-graffito.htm  

We know that between the 1881 and 1891 Censuses Agnes gave birth to a daughter Lillian in DQ 1887, she was baptised on 24 October 1887 at St Augustine’s Church, Stepney but she lived for less than a year, dying in SQ 1888. The family address was given as 74, Settles Street, Stepney which is situated between the Whitechapel and Commercial Roads

The 1901 Census

The final census we have for the family is in 1901 when they have moved across the river and are living at 150, Ponsonby Buildings, Southwark, Surrey.

James is 61 years and a Bagman GPO, Agnes 44 years, Agnes M 20 years born WC, Walter 8 years and “grandson” Ernest T Ames 2 years born Southwark.

I believe that Ernest was in fact the son of James and Agnes’s daughter Agnes M



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Ernest was baptised at St Saviour’s Church ,Southwark age 6 years, no parental Christian names were given but the address is 139, Ponsonby Buildings, which is the same address given for Agnes’s husband James when she was admitted to the workhouse. 

His birth had been registered in JQ 1898 and he was named Ernest Tourell Ames which I believe gives us a clue to his father.

Ernest Tourell

If Ernest TOURELL Ames was the son of Agnes Mary then it is possible that his father was Ernest Samuel Tourell born 1878 in WC to William and Martha Tourell. 

He married in the same year as Agnes Mary, 1907, and became Superintendent of the “Shoeblacks” Home 1911 Census.  It is possible that this is just my fanciful idea but he was referred to as “grandson” in the 1901 census, and with the Christian name of Ernest, and being similar in age to Agnes May, and living in the same area you have to wonder.  It might also have been the reason they moved away from Whitechapel.

Ponsonby Buildings, Charles Street, Southwark, again rated as mixed, comfortable/poor on Booth’s maps. 

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The death of James – and Agnes is admitted to Long Grove

In March Q 1911 James sadly died, although he was 70 years old, a good age in those days.  He seems to have held down a steady job since leaving the army and provided for his family, we later hear that his wife Agnes had “glasses for reading” which makes me feel that they were leading a reasonable life. Possibly James became ill prior to his death causing problems in the family and at some point Agnes Senior had been admitted to Newington Work House, probably the infirmary, an “Alleged Lunatic,” and from there she was sent to Long Grove Asylum, Epsom on 13.April 1910, chargeable to Southwark Union. 

We find her there in the 1911 Century although patients were only recorded by initials.

 According to the Lunacy Register she was eventually admitted to the Ewell Epileptic Colony on 21 Oct 1911 but their records state that she was transferred from the Manor Asylum. Long Grove records were all destroyed but we may, at some point, find records of her time in The Manor.

Agnes’s case notes

On her admittance to “The Colony” in 1911 the details shown on the reception order were signed by J.W.Horsley, 8 April 1910, presumably from the workhouse.

He states that she is Epileptic (no cause known), onset 52 years, she is now 54 years old, but that she is not suicidal or dangerous.

The medical certificate says that she is restless, spiteful, and destructive at times, she is sometimes apathetic, sitting about doing nothing – she has no idea where she is or how she came to be here. 

Unusually there are no personal or family details except her husband’s name and address, James Ames, 139, Ponsonby Buildings, Blackfriars, Surrey.  

There are also no physical examination details which are usually very detailed

The Doctor’s notes from the Colony state that Agnes is just less than 5’2” tall and 

8 s 4 lbs 11 oz in weight. She is in fair physical condition with no tremors. 

Her hair is grey, most of her teeth are missing and she has reading glasses. 

Other physical checks were unremarkable, she had no underlying problems. 

On 23 January 1912 a letter was sent to her son Walter asking for details regarding his mother, but his reply states he has no information and that his father had died in 1911 (presumably he means he cannot ask him, one wonders why he could not speak to his sister?) All he can say is that his mother had 3 fits prior to going into the infirmary.

Agnes says that she has had 13 pregnancies with 3 children still living. No still births and no miscarriages.  I have accounted for only seven children if you include Ernest, and the three still living would be Agnes M, Walter and Ernest.

Possibly there were other children born in Ireland between 1874 and 1876 who, like Joseph, did not survive, but from James’s discharge papers (more about that later) we know that after their marriage he served abroad from 1876 – 1879 and that at this time wives of soldiers were not allowed to accompany their husbands so Agnes was left alone for three years. Hopefully she was supported by her family as in 1877 she lost her first born child.  

James’s army medical records show that he was treated several times for Gonorrhoea, not uncommon in young soldiers of this time. However, I wonder what long term affects this may have had on their ability to produce healthy children? 

Agnes’s mental condition on admission.

Her “consciousness is clouded and she cannot yet orientate and is demented, apathetic and very quiet.” Her memory is impaired, confusing past and present.

“She is depressed at times and cries but denies this and also that she is epileptic.

She is clean, tidy and tractable and willing to assist.”

By January 1912 Agnes is reported as “demented, weak minded and irrational, speaking little to anyone else.  There have been no fits and she is “doing some mending.”

As the months pass her lack of understanding of where she is, or the names of any of the staff continues and she is said to “blame her husband for sending her here.”   Agnes remains very quiet and only speaks when she is spoken to but she continues to be in “fair health” and has increased her weight to 11st 11llb, quite heavy for a woman of 5ft 2”.

In October 1912, one year after her admission she had her first fit but afterward still denies that she has suffered a fit. She complains of pains and is depressed and is sent to Laurel Villa where she remained, still complaining of “great pains in the head and back. She was groaning last night (6.10.12) and wandering the dorm declaring that “people were working trickery on her.”  She was put to bed and placed on a milk diet.  There seems to be a gap in her notes here of approximately 3 months

January 1913 report states “No further fits or depression.  She does not worry so much about going home. Demented, and thought her sister promised to take care of her.  She seems to take very little trouble about this or interest in it.”

Throughout that spring Agnes suffers no further fits, seems less depressed and begins to take an interest in her surroundings. She seldom if ever, reads or writes to friends, is not quarrelsome and easily managed.

Summer comes and still she has had not fits and is little changed. She is deluded and often thinks she is to go home stating the “Dr Collins has ordered her discharge,” she is now working in the kitchen of the villa. Agnes is now 12st 3lbs.

Agnes continues to keep physically well with no fits throughout that year and in January 1914 she is still working well in the kitchen. She is still deluded at times but is less depressed and is “just now at her best.”

Agnes’s deterioration and death

Sadly, in March 1914 Agnes suffered a major fit and afterwards was restless, confused and deluded for several days. She remains dull, depressed with her memory much impaired.  It is noted here that she “presents arterio-sclerotic changes.”   Agnes remains in this depressed state throughout the summer although she is still “a good worker and gives not trouble,” 

In the early morning of 21 September 1914, she has a fit whilst in the bathroom.  “When the nurse saw her she was still convulsed.  Her condition was not thought to be unusual until 10am when she did not look well and Dr Petrie was summoned, she was by then semi-conscious.”   

By 4.30pm her coma had deepened with distinct paralysis of her right arm and complete paralysis of her right leg.  Bruises are noted on her brow and the nurses last to see Agnes are spoken to but say that her head was not severely bumped.

On 21 September 1914 Agnes’s coma deepened progressively and she died at 7.50pm

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Agnes was buried on 25th of September 1914 in the Horton Estate cemetery in 

Grave number 1237 b.  Her burial was incorrectly registered under the name of Agnes Mayes but careful checking of sources has proved that this is actually Agnes Ames.

Agnes’s family. 

The name Mary/May seems to be used variously in birth registers, baptisms and censuses.

Joseph: Her first child was born whilst they were in Ireland. At his baptism his birth is shown as 18th March 1875, sadly he died in 1877 when he is said to be 1 year old, and birth “about 1876.”  This kind of mistake in dates and ages is very common and perhaps Agnes lacked much of a basic education.

Agnes Mary was born on the 21 April 1880 in Whitechapel, Middlesex. Aged 5 years she was admitted to the Lower Chapman Street School, at this point the family were living at 29, Greenfield St, Tower Hamlets. She remained at home with her family until her marriage to John George Bone at the Mile End Old Town Registry Office on 6 Nov 1907.  

When they married John’s occupation was shown as a Police Constable but, like her father, John had joined the army aged 18 years. He served in The Rifle Brigade in the South Africa War, Egypt and Malta before coming home in October 1906.  In the three years following their marriage there were many changes and upheavals in Agnes and John’s lives.  

Between 1907 and 1911 Agnes and James had three children. John George born 1908, Doris Agnes born 1909 and Sidney Walter born 1911. 

Agnes Mary’s mother had been admitted to the workhouse and then on into the Asylum system in 1910 and her father, James, had died in January 1911. 

Following these events Agnes’s two youngest siblings, Walter and Ernest moved in with their sister in Notting Hill and appear in the 1911 Census living at 4, Gorham Place, Mary Place, Notting Hill, London.

In February 1912 John attested or was recalled to serve in section D reserves, and in December 1912 we find John and Agnes, John junior, Doris and Sidney applying for ‘relief’ to the parish of Kensington, who took Doris and Sidney into the Infirmary. 

Before he was posted with the British Expeditionary Force in August 1914, two more children were added to the family. Herbert Chester born 1913 and Lillian Florence M, who arrived in November 1914, after her father had left for the war.

As part of the BEF we can assume he was sent to France and by the end of August he is listed as a “Prisoner of War” but there is no mention of how long this lasted. 

He served in France for over four years and was finally demobbed in February 1919.   Tragically Agnes Mary died in DQ 1919, possibly a victim of the ‘Spanish flu’ epidemic?

At some point after Agnes’s death John remarried to a lady called Mary who appears with him and daughter Lillian on the 1939 Register living in Boscombe, Hampshire, and again on his army record when he died 1964.

Robert James: Born in Whitechapel on 24 June 1883 Robert was admitted to the Lower Chapman Street School in 1885.  The family were still living at 29, Greenfield Street but by the time of the 1891 Century they had moved to 230, Brunswick Buildings Goulston Steet, Whitechapel, where Robert is shown as a scholar aged 8 years. Sadly Robert died in JQ 1896 aged just 13 years.

Lilian: A second daughter was born on 12 October 1887 and baptised at St Augustine’s Church, Stepney on 30 Nov of the same year, they were living at 74 Settle’s Street, Stepney.   Lilian lived just a few months more and her death is registered in the SQ 1888 in Mile End Old Town, Tower Hamlets

Mary Emily: Another daughter, born about June 1890 (10 months at the 1891 Census taken in April)

Mary was baptised at St Ann’s Church, Stamford Hill, on 14 September 1893.  They were living in Brunswick Buildings, Goulston Road, Whitechapel.

I think it highly probable that Mary Emily died very soon after her baptism, SQ 1893. Perhaps , if she was ailing, that is why they rushed to baptise her after leaving it nearly three years. She does not appear on the 1901 Census.

Walter: At last, another son. Walter was born on 8 August 1892.  On 4 April 1898 he was admitted to the Orange Street School, in Southwark, the family were living at 

134 Union Street, Southwark, again a reasonable area.

It is probable that Walter served in WW1 as a Sergeant in the 6th East Surrey Regiment spending his entire service time in India. The address given is 

20, Sandilands Road, Wandsworth Bridge SW6 https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/9283/images/gb1372-00012?pId=110  

He was demobbed in January 1919 and in April the same year he married Ethel Annie Hobbs in Hammersmith.

The 1939 Register shows Walter and Ethel are living in “The Curve” Hammersmith with their daughter, Dorothy. Walter is shown as a general labourer. 

Walter and Ethel had three children, Dorothy, Walter James and Agnes May, perhaps a tribute to the big sister who had taken him in after losing his mother and father.

Walter died on 29 October 1962 and is buried in Mortlake Cemetery along with two of his children. Agnes May who died in December 1942 and, Ordinary Seaman Walter James  Ames of the Royal Navy who died 22 September 1943.  Ethel died in 1966 still living in Hammersmith.

Ernest Tourell: Ernest was born on 8 May 1892 in Southwark and you will have read my theory regarding his parentage.  However, apart from his baptism he never seems to have used the name Tourell and is simply known as Ernest Ames.  Perhaps I am wrong, or perhaps he never knew that James and Agnes were in fact his grandparents, not an uncommon situation.

In the 1911 Census following all the upheaval at home, Ernest is living with his “sister” Agnes and her family and then, at the age of 18 years in 1916 we find him joining the army, or possibly he was conscripted. At the time he is living at 172, Latimer Rd, Notting Hill, Hammersmith and his next of kin is given as Agnes Bone.

On 4th June 1917 he is sent to France and on 22 November 1917 it is noted that he has sustained a “GSW (gunshot wound) to the head, severe.” There is no mention of where and when he was treated but in November 1918 just before the armistice he is transferred to the Army Reserve class “P.” which appears to mean unfit for duty.

In October 1920 Ernest married Ellen Barber and they spent their married life living in the Kensington and Chelsea district of London eventually settling at 

60, Longlands Court, Westbourne Grove in about 1968.

It seems that Ernest and Ellen had just one son Ernest, born in MQ 1921. He was still living with them in 1939 when they all appear on the 1939 Register living at 

17a Pavilion Terrace, Hammersmith.

Ernest died on 11 October 1982 and at some time after this Ellen must have moved to Kent as we find her death in SQ 1984 in Thanet, Kent.

Author’s note

Looking at Agnes’s photograph, which was probably taken in 1910/11 she could easily be taken for a woman much older than her 54 years. We have no way of knowing what her early life was like but if, as she claims, she had given birth to 13 children, many of whom seem to have been lost, you can perhaps understand why she looks old for her age and why she suffered from depression. In the hospital records the number of fits she had seems very low and she does not appear to have received any medication, she could well have been menopausal and I find it is sad that she was so quickly put into the asylum system, in another time I am sure things would have been very different for Agnes.  Sadly it appears that during her time in The Colony Agnes was not visited by any of her family.

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