Caroline Sophia Appleton was born Caroline Sophia Barnaschina in the 1st quarter of 1831 in Gravesend, Kent. Her parents were upholsterer Anthony Barnaschina and his wife Sarah (née Daniels), both of whom were born around 1806. The couple had married on the 26th of January 1826 in the Church of St Giles in Camberwell and Caroline was their fourth child and second daughter. She was baptised on the 8th of February 1831 in St George’s Church in Gravesend.
Although Caroline and five of her siblings were born before general registration began in 1837, it has been possible to establish their approximate birthdates through censuses and baptismal records.
Anthony and Sarah’s other children, all of whom were baptised in St George’s Church, Gravesend, were:
- Anthony – baptised 8th of October 1826.
- William Henry – baptised 8th of November 1826.
- Sarah Eliza – baptised 25th of July 1827.
- Frederick – baptised 5th of October 1834.
- Charles – baptised 23rd of November 1834.
- Alfred – born 7th of February 1836, baptised 28th of February 1836.
- John Henry – born in the 1st quarter of 1838, baptised 4th of March 1838.
- Sophia – baptised 13th of October 1839.
The 1840s – and two deaths in the family
At the time of the 1841 Census, Anthony and Sarah were living in New Road, Gravesend, with their children Anthony, William, John, Caroline and Sophia. Also living there were Sarah Barnaschina, aged 60, who may have been Anthony’s mother, and 30 year-old Suzannah Daniels who may have been Sarah’s sister. Frederick, Charles and Alfred were living in a property in Harmer Street, Gravesend, with three other unrelated boys under the age of 9. Although it is not indicated on the census one may assume that this was a school as two of the other residents (one of whom was only 15) are described as governesses.
Sadly, Sophia died the following year aged just two. She was buried on the 6th of February 1842 in the ecclesiastical parish of Milton-next-Gravesend, Kent. Later that year, in the fourth quarter, Sarah gave birth to another daughter who was also given the name Sophia. She was baptised on the 22nd of January 1843 in Gravesend.
In the third quarter of 1844 Sarah give birth to a fourth daughter, Eleanor Sophia, who was baptised on the 25th of August that year at St George’s Church, Gravesend. Anthony and Sarah’s last child, Emma, was born in the first quarter of 1846. She was baptised on the 10th of May 1846, also at St George’s Church.
In the third quarter of 1847 Sarah died aged 44, having given birth to twelve children in twenty years. She was buried in Milton-next-Gravesend on the 30th of July 1847.
The 1850s – the family breaks up
Following Sarah’s death, perhaps inevitably, the family broke up.
In the 1851 Census we find Anthony still living in New Road, Gravesend (numbers 17 and 18), with Charles, now aged 16 and working as an upholsterer like his father, 9 year-old Sophia and 7 year-old Eleanor (the census gives her name as Elizabeth but presumably this is a mistake – no births were registered in the name of Elizabeth Barnaschina between 1840 and 1850). Also living there is 30 year-old dressmaker, Elizabeth Dachells. She is listed as Anthony’s sister but as she is unmarried and is not called Barnaschina this seems unlikely. She was born in Grays, Essex, the home of Sarah’s father, John Daniels, however, so it is possible she was a relative of Anthony’s wife. It has not been possible to find any further information regarding Elizabeth in the records.
The younger Anthony married Mary Ann Goldsmith Lewis on the 8th of November 1847 in Gillingham, Kent and in 1851 the couple are living with their daughter Mary at 58, New Road in Gravesend. Anthony is working as a furniture maker.
On the 1st of February 1850 Sarah married watchmaker Edwin West. In the 1851 Census the couple are living with their 4-month old daughter, Sarah, at 16 New Road in Gravesend.
John and Alfred are pupils at a school in Bath Street, Gravesend.
5 year-old Emma is living in Grays, Essex, with her maternal grandfather John Daniels, an 83 year-old blacksmith, and his housekeeper.
Frederick does not appear in the 1851 Census as, on the 4th of April 1848, aged 15, he was indentured in the Merchant Navy as an apprentice. The first vessel in which he served was the Amy Robsart.
On the 20th of February 1850, William, described as an upholsterer, was charged with committing ‘robbery on the highway’ on the 5th of January 1850 in Brighton. He spent one month and twenty days in Lewes House of Correction and ten months and eight days in Millbank Prison. We learn from his record that he had already been in Lewes Prison, once for a month for assault and once when he was tried for felony and acquitted. The record continues ‘it was on returning to Brighton and learning of his acquittal that he committed the robbery for which he is now convicted’. Commenting on William’s character the record states that he is ‘much more orderly since conviction than before’. On the 21st of December 1852 William set sail on HMS St Vincent for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on a ticket of leave.
The ticket of leave system was a form of bail or license which allowed a prisoner to build a new life in Australia before the official end of his or her sentence. The system was introduced informally in 1801 to reward convicts who had performed some service or been of particularly good conduct.
Interestingly, William was charged under the name William Lane but his father is ‘Anthony Barnaschina, upholsterer, at 17+18 New Road, Gravesend’.
Unfortunately, the only member of the Barnaschina family that cannot be traced in 1851 is our subject, Caroline Sophia.
Caroline’s first marriage
The next time we see Caroline is on the 7th of August 1853 when she married John Lee in St Philip’s Church in Stepney. According to the marriage register John was a police constable and a widower. However, because of the frequency with which this name appears in the records it has not been possible to confirm further details regarding Caroline’s husband with any degree of certainty. At the time of their marriage the couple were living in Lucas Street, St George’s-in-the-East (Wapping-Stepney). Caroline’s father, Anthony, is described in the register as an auctioneer.
The birth of her daughter – and the death of her husband
In the second quarter of 1854 Caroline gave birth to a daughter, also named Caroline Sophia, who was baptised on the 2nd of July 1854 in St Thomas’s Church in Stepney. According to the baptismal register the family was living at 20, Sutton Street in Tower Hamlets.
Sadly, Caroline and John’s marriage was to be very brief as we know John died before 1858 when Caroline remarried as a widow. Again, because of the commonness of his name we do not know exactly when John died but if we assume the couple continued to live in the same area after their marriage then 37 year-old John Lee of Albert Square in Stepney, who died in the first quarter of 1855 and was buried in Tower Hamlets Cemetery on the 22nd of February 1855, is the most likely to have been Caroline’s husband.
Caroline’s second marriage
We do not know where Caroline lived or how she supported herself and her daughter (and stepson? See below) following John’s death but on the 23rd of May 1858 she married engineer George Kent at St Mary’s Church in Stratford, Bow. George, a 37 year-old bachelor from Cranham in Essex, was the son of John Kent, a wheelwright. At the time of their marriage George and Caroline were living in Bow.
The 1860s – and the death of Caroline’s father
In the 1861 Census we find the couple living at 15, Charles Street in Stepney. George is now a carman and Caroline a parasol maker. Caroline’s 6 year-old daughter from her marriage to John Lee is now known as Caroline Lee Kent. Also living with the couple is Thomas Kent, aged 10, who is described as George’s son. Unfortunately it has not been possible to ascertain who Thomas was. As George was described as a bachelor when he married Caroline, this would suggest that Thomas was his illegitimate son but there is no proof of this. However, a Thomas Lee was born in the fourth quarter of 1850 in St George-in-the-East so it could be assumed that Thomas is John Lee’s son from his first marriage who has been adopted by George and Caroline. From this distance it is impossible to know for sure.
It has not been possible to find Anthony in the 1861 Census but we know he was no longer living at 17+18 New Road. In the London Gazette dated the 22nd of November 1861 we learn that Anthony, described as a general dealer of 16, New Road, Gravesend, has been declared bankrupt and is being held as a ‘Prisoner for Debt in the Gaol at Maidstone’. Anthony, died in the third quarter of 1863. We do not know if he was in prison when he died. He was buried in Milton-next-Gravesend on the 6th of August 1863.
By the time of the 1871 Census George and Caroline had moved to 3, Burdett Road, Mile End Old Town. George is still working as a carman but Caroline has no employment. Thomas and the younger Caroline no longer live with their (step-)parents and it has not been possible to find them in the 1871 Census with either surname, Lee or Kent.
However, on the 4th of June 1876 Caroline Sophia, now aged 21 (though the marriage certificate says 20), married 21 year-old Alfred Rowe in St Jude’s Church, Bethnal Green. Alfred is described as a sergeant and at the time of their marriage the couple are living at 60 Longfellow Road. In the marriage register Caroline’s deceased father, John Lee, is described as a police sergeant.
In the 1881 Census we find George, now aged 58 and 50 year-old Caroline living alone at 191 Bow Common Road in Mile End Old Town. George is still working as a carman. By 1891 the couple had moved to 27 Joseph Street in Mile End Old Town. Living with them is their 12 year-old grandson John Lee, born, according to the census, in Mile End Old Town. If Thomas was John Lee’s son then this would suggest that he reverted to his original surname but it has not been possible to find him in the 1881 Census or a birth registration for his son. To complicate the situation further, when Caroline was a patient in the Manor at the end of her life, the names of her closest relatives were given as her daughter Caroline Sophia (by then, Mrs Viney, see below), her grandson John Lee and her son, also called John Lee – yet there is no record of her having given birth to a son. Further research is required.
The 1890s – a widow again and a third marriage
Sadly, George Kent died in the second quarter of 1893 in Mile End Old Town, leaving Caroline a widow for the second time. However, just two years later on the 27th of May 1895, she married 39 year-old carman James Appleton at the parish church of St Mary’s, Stratford Bow. At the time of their marriage the couple were living at 25, Joseph Street, Mile End. Caroline, at 64, was 25 years older than her new husband but, interestingly, on the marriage register it appears that the 6 has been overwritten with a 5, thereby reducing the age difference to 15 years. One wonders if James was aware of his wife’s true age.
A widow once more – and a decline in Caroline’s mental health
Once again, however, Caroline was denied a long and happy marriage with her new husband as James died in the 3rd quarter of 1900. At the time the couple were living at 54, Rowsell Street in Mile End Old Town.
We do not know the nature or severity of Caroline’s mental health problems or, indeed, when they began but it is at this point that her life begins to spiral downwards. On the 18th of April 1901 Caroline was admitted to Poplar Workhouse, having been brought in by the police, described as ‘insane 3 days’.
The Manor Asylum and death
According to Poor Law and Settlement Records which describe her as a ‘pauper lunatic’ she was transferred to the Manor Asylum in Horton on the 20th of April 1901. Caroline was to spend the last ten years of her life in the Manor, dying there on the 5th of March 1911 aged 80. She was buried in Horton Cemetery in plot 1109a
In the Manor records Caroline’s son and grandson, both named John Lee, are recorded as living at 28, Canal Road, Mile End. In the 1911 Census we do indeed find a John Lee and his wife Lizzie at that address but their children are called James, Frederick and Lizzie. There is no John junior. The entry describes John as a 56 year-old labourer who was born in Stepney. According to GRO records two births were registered in the name of John Lee in Stepney in 1854 and 1855 but the mothers’ maiden names were Ruffy and Story respectively. In fact, no male babies with the surname Lee whose mother’s maiden name was Barnaschina were born between 1850 and 1860. So, despite extensive research, it is still not possible to determine the relationship between Caroline and her ‘son’ John Lee.
Caroline’s daughter Caroline Sophia appears in the Manor records as Mrs Viney. On the 2nd of November 1889 she married decorator Walter William Viney at St Paul’s Church, Bow Common. Caroline is described as a widow but it has not been possible to find the death date of her first husband, Arthur Rowe. At the time of her mother’s death Caroline and Walter were living at 107, Gascoigne Road, Barking in Essex. Interestingly, in the marriage register Caroline’s father John Lee is described as a police inspector. On her first marriage certificate when, if Caroline’s marital status was correct, John had already been dead twenty years, he was a police sergeant. At his own wedding, just a few years before his death, he was a police constable. Was Caroline simply enhancing her deceased father’s status on her marriage certificates or was John, in fact, still alive? If the latter, then had he and Caroline divorced or was Caroline guilty of bigamy? Further research will need to be carried out in Metropolitan Police records.