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b. 1855 – d. 1935

The life of Alfred Brereton ATKINSON could have been very different. The 6th of 7 children born to ‘Gentleman’ Hesilrige Atkinson and his wife Frances Ann Brereton.

The family history of the Brereton’s can be traced back hundreds of years, and forwards across the world. But Alfred’s part was very small and indistinct. There is little mention of Alfred, he remained unmarried, and never had his own place to live.

Parents & Family

Helselrige Atkinson, was an accountant from Northumberland, and Frances Ann the daughter of a Plumber and Glazier from Cromer Norfolk. They were married on 17 October 1849 in the Parish of Stepney, Whitechapel, London.

Between the years of 1842-1867 they had given birth to 7 children;

  • Hesilrige Joseph (1842)
  • Amelia Jane (1844)
  • Letitia Maria (1848)
  • Anna Maria (1851)
  • Emma Louisa (1854)
  • Alfred Brereton (1855)
  • Beatrice Mary Ann (1867)

Every one of Alfred’s siblings married and had family lives across the UK. Their burials are well documented in private family graves.

Growing up

In 1861, Alfred (6) is living with his family at 4 Nicholas Street in Stepney. His eldest brother Hesilrige has become a Merchant’s Clerk.

By 1871, Alfred aged 16 and the family had moved to 5 Camden Villas in South Hackney, and his father has taken on the role of an Accountant at the aged of 62. Siblings Hesilrige, Amelia and Letitia had left home. Anna Maria (20), Emma (17), Alfred (15), and Beatrice (9) remained.

Brother Hesilrige (who had taken to using his middle name, Joseph) married Mary Ellen Wonnacott in 1865, sister Amelia married William James Love in 1867, sister Letitia married Frederick Thomas Wood in 1868, and sister Anna Maria married Francis Edward Wood in 1873.

Alfred’s father died in 1876 when Alfred was 20 years old, leaving £2000 to his wife (abt. £300,000 in today’s value).


The 1881 census has Alfred aged 25, living with his mother (57) and sister, Beatrice (19), and Alfred was working as an Architect’s assistant.

The 1880s would prove to be tough years for the wider family, suffering the loss of Alfred’s sister Emma Louisa aged 28 (8 days before her 29th birthday) in 1883, his mother Frances died aged 62 in 1887, and his eldest brother Hesilrige died aged 46 in 1888. Interestingly, Alfred’s mother Frances, left all her money to Alfred, some £4,741 which at today’s value would be almost £800,000.

Following his mother’s death, Alfred moved in with his sister Anna Maria and her family (was he incapable of looking after himself?). According to the census of 1891, Anna Maria and husband Francis Edward were living by their own means, a term often used for wealthy people with no obvious occupation, Francis had previously been a shipping agent. Alfred, now 35, lists his occupation no longer as an assistant, but as an Architect.

The 1890s saw yet more tragedy for the Atkinson’s. Alfred’s sister Amelia Jane died in 1893 and Letitia Marie died in 1899. The only remaining family he had were youngest sister Beatrice and elder sister Anna Maria who was providing him a home until 1900.

Asylum Life

On 5th September 1900, Alfred was admitted to the Fisherton House Asylum, we do not have his records from Fisherton, but can see that he spent 7months at Fisherton when he was relieved to Horton Asylum.

  • Fisherton 05.Sep.1900 > 03.Apr.1902 rel’d to >
  • Horton 03.Apr.1902 > 08.Apr.1905 rel’d to >
  • Manor 08.Apr.1905 -> ?
  • Horton ? -> 17.Oct 1935 died.

We have some partial records from Alfred’s admission to Horton. The records we have appear to be between July 1912 and February 1915, even though he was admitted on 3rd April 1902. We can see his original reception order is dated 24th Aug 1900, a few days before Fisherton, which is normal. The patient address book lists only his sister Anna Maria Wood, whom he was living with prior to the asylum, and it shows she has moved to Westcliff on Sea in Essex, maybe this change of location explains why Alfred was admitted into an asylum.

Secondary Dementia. He does not realise his position. His conversation is childish and lacks reason. His memory is impaired and unreliable and the simple work he does requires supervision. He is in fair health condition, but is tremulous. His arteries are schirosed, and he has a mitral systolic cardiac murmur. He has ?daphragmias? contractions.

Mental State (copy of last statement to C.L.) 31.July.1912

Several of the comments in Alfred’s notes mention a desire to return to his work as an Architect. For example this note from May 1913;

His memory is faulty and he is without insight into his state. He thinks he could service his profession of architect at once, although he has been many years in asylums. Works in the Villa kitchen, fair health for his age.

Case Notes Entry 27.5.13

This desire to work is repeated, and Alfred was sure that he could secure work for himself. Interestingly, he mentions that he thinks he has lost a fortune and should be receiving a weekly allowance. We know from his mother’s probate that he did indeed have a fortune, where did the money go and did he realise just how much money he had? The final entry in these partial notes reads;

Remains in the same weak-minded childish state without much power of reasoning or judgement and with some loss of memory & general mental reduction, little initiative or ambition & expresses no great desire to leave. Does a little work, fair health. Transferred to MANOR 8-4-15.

Case Notes Entry 25.02.1915

We do not have any further notes for Alfred to describe his final years, but we know that he died at the Horton mental Hospital on 17 October 1935. Sister Anna Maria died in 1930, so his youngest, and final remaining sibling, Beatrice, inherited Alfred’s remaining (and heavily reduced) fortune of £952 on 14th January the following year, approx., £150,000 today. I expect the delay in probate may have been due to tracing his relative down.

He appears to be the only Atkinson that was not buried in the private family plots. Instead, Alfred was buried at Horton Cemetery on 22nd October 1935, and remains there in grave reference 1304a.

Author’s Note

I get the impression that Alfred’s may have been suffering from a mental health condition affecting his mind, or that he may have been autistic. This may explain why he never married, nor moved away from a family member. When his mother died Arthur moves in with his sister before eventually moving to an asylum. After inheriting almost £800,000 in today’s money, he would have been very wealthy, but he entered the asylum a pauper, and appeared to own no possessions. Was he taken advantage of?

His sister Anna Maria was left £837 when her husband died in 1913, around the time she moved to Westcliff on Sea (equivalent to a modern day £120,000). Upon death, she left £2238 in 1930 to her eldest son Herbert Atkinson Wood (equivalent to £185,000).

About Post Author

Steve Johnson

Self-proclaimed expert on the archives of the Manor Asylum. Website editor and photoshop whizz. Geneaologist and Trustee for the Friends of Horton Cemetery.
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