b.1867 – d.1918
Ebenezer John Beckett was born in the second quarter of 1867 in the village of Steeple Claydon, Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire to Mark Beckett and his wife Elizabeth (née Brown). Both parents had been born in Steeple Claydon. Mark’s father, Richard Beckett, was a publican and Elizabeth was the daughter of William Snow Brown, a farmer. The couple had married in the village in 1857.
At the time of Ebenezer’s birth in 1867, Mark, a grocer, was aged 35 and Elizabeth was 39.
According to the 1861 census Elizabeth had just given birth to their first child, a son called Mark Snow Beckett. Sadly, Mark died later that year before reaching his first birthday. In the second quarter of 1864 Elizabeth gave birth to a second son, William Edmund. Ebenezer was born three years later.
The 1871 census finds the family now living at 18, Grey Coat Street in Westminster. Mark is described as a chandler. It is not known what prompted the family’s move to London.
In the third quarter of 1875, when the family was living at 56, Lavender Road, Battersea, Ebenezer’s brother, William, died, aged just 11. One can only imagine the anguish felt by Elizabeth and Mark on losing a second child.
In the 1881 census Mark, Elizabeth and Ebenezer are living at 152, Usk Road in Battersea. Mark is now a scripture reader. We do not know why Mark gave up his job as a grocer to become a preacher but perhaps he sought solace in religion following the death of his second son.
On the 29th of November 1884 Ebenezer, aged 17, with no occupation, single and described as ‘insane’, was admitted to Stepney Workhouse.
He remained there until the 8th of December when he was transferred to Colney Hatch Asylum.
Built in 1851, Colney Hatch Asylum had its own gasworks, shoemakers, brewery, bakery and farm and became the best known institution of its kind in the London area – so much so that, throughout Middlesex and beyond, its name became synonymous with mental illness. It was the largest mental hospital in Europe and at one time accommodated nearly 3,000 patients. Ebenezer was to be a patient there for twenty years.
According to the 1891 census Mark and Elizabeth were living at 103 Pelham Street in Stepney. Mark, now aged 58, is a ‘late scripture reader’ and ‘pensioned’.
It is assumed that the couple later returned to their home village as Elizabeth’s death in 1899, aged 71, was registered in Buckinghamshire and, in the 1901 census, Mark, described as a ‘retired preacher’ was living in the ‘north end’ of Steeple Claydon.
On the 4th of July 1905 Ebenezer was transferred from Colney Hatch to Rubery Asylum in Birmingham where he remained for three years.
On the 27th of April, 1908, he was discharged from Rubery ‘Not Improved’ and admitted to Long Grove Asylum.
Ebenezer’s father, Mark died on the 20th of February 1917 aged 84. In his will, he left his effects, valued at £210 -10s, not to his son, but to ‘Jane Bradbury, spinster’.
Ebenezer died in Long Grove on the 25th of June 1918, aged 51, having spent more than 30 years in asylums. He remains buried in plot 504a.
Fact Check: The date of Ebenezer’s death could be 5th or 25th due to smudge/different pen shown above, the burial record transcription states buried on 14th June 1918, so will need to be checked. A 9 day wait for burial is unusual (but not unheard of) and he could not be buried before death.