No definite trace of Jane’s life prior to the 1901 census can be found at present despite extensive searches. We have only an intimation of her marital status and that she was born in London. None of this may be true which hinders finding her background. The Lambeth Register of Lunatics does tell us why she was admitted and gives us an insight into her state of mind but how she got to this situation can only be conjectured.
Jane, aged 37, can be found living at 6 Shaftesbury Place behind 35 Aldersgate Street in the parish of St Botolph without Aldersgate in the 1901 census. This was confirmed as her address in her workhouse records. She was living at the home of Samuel and Elizabeth Hipperson with their 10-month-old daughter Ivy.
Samuel was a painter and plumber and to bring in extra money Jane was one of 3 boarders in their home, the others being Louisa Stevenson, aged 35, a manageress from Yorkshire and Florence West, aged 18, a “stuffer” from Edinburgh.
The house was shared with 2 other families. There appears to be no connection with the Hipperson family to Jane so I assume they advertised for boarders and perhaps the 3 women shared this space. Jane’s marital status is shown to be that of a married woman but there is no indication of who or where her husband is. Her occupation was that of a “dressmaker”.
Later records for Jane Batty show that she was a very specific type of dressmaker. She was in fact a “mantle maker” and this had nothing to do with making mantles for gas lamps.
A dressmaker’s mantle maker made a garment called a mantua which was a loose gown or robe worn by ladies with a petticoat. This was a very skilled and specific type of dressmaking. She would have either made these garments by hand or by machine. They were usually made from one length of material and made to measure. A skilled mantua maker could literally disassemble a garment and remake it into a new outfit. So, if the records can be believed it seems Jane was a skilled person.
All was not well for Jane as only one month later on Saturday 11th May 1901 Jane is admitted to Lambeth Infirmary by the Police. Sadly, it states she has no relatives or friends.
In the unindexed records of the Poor Law records for Lambeth, on Page 196 of the Order for Reception of a Pauper Lunatic or a Lunatic wandering at large 1900-1902, an entry can be found for Jane. PC George Stratton 190L states she came into the Lower Kennington Police Station. She was complaining “that people were annoying her through the telephone and that at night she had no peace”. Also, she said “she would go to Scotland Yard if it was not stopped”.
Jane was medically examined on 13th May 1901. It was said she was found “wandering” but that her address was 6 Shaftesbury Place. She was aged 38, a married lady. Her religion was Church of England and the record confirmed that she was a “mantle maker”. This was her first attack and she was under no care and she had been unwell for about a week. There was no apparent cause, she was not epileptic, a danger to herself or others. Her husband is named George Batty but his address is unknown.
Her examination notes say that, “She complains she is followed by the telephone through which people say disgusting things, threaten to kill her, that their abuse is making her ill. She says she went to Leicester but they followed her all the way”. Declared a Lunatic, she was sent to Bethnal House Asylum on 20 May 1901. Bethnal House Asylum was a private asylum but it also took in pauper patients of both sexes. It housed at the time 200 patients.
Jane stayed there until 25 April 1902, when she was transferred to Horton Hospital in Epsom. There she remained until she died on 11 February 1910 and she was buried on 15 February 1910 in the Horton Estate Cemetery Grave 685a.
Although Jane’s admission notes give us plenty of information, I have been unable to find a record for a George Batty or a marriage of a Jane to a George Batty that may be credible. So, her marriage remains a mystery. It seems if indeed she was married that the couple were estranged and she had no idea where he was.
What of Louisa Stevenson and Florence West, the ladies she lodged with at the Hippersons? They do not seem to have any connection with Jane either, other than they lodged together.
Jane mentions she went to Leicester but nothing can be found to corroborate this.
Her paranoia seems to focus around the telephone. What would she have known about telephony and what would have been her experience of this technology? How unusual was this?
In 1900 in London there were telephone exchanges and telephone cables that could be seen overground. There were also electromagnetic “wind up” phones in more rural areas. Was it simply that Jane heard voices coming from a telephone and in her confused state they seemed like voices coming to get her? There are a number of reasons why she could have heard voices ranging from psychosis, a result of abuse or experiencing trauma through to anxiety.
Whatever her troubles it was enough to send her to Bethnal Green Asylum and then on to Horton Hospital where she remained for a further 8 years before she died. At last, she could get peace from “the voices”.