A quiet and comfortable life
Throughout her life Mary Jane’s surname was written variously as Blasdell, Blazedell, Blaisdell and Blayzdell but she was registered at birth as Blazdell. From the documents we have at our disposal it would appear that, until her final years at least, Mary Jane Blazdell lived a quiet and comfortable life. There is no evidence of the mental health problems that would necessitate her admission to Long Grove at the age of 70.
Mary Jane’s parents
Mary Jane was born in Covent Garden on the 3rd of May 1847 to coachman Charles Blazdell and his wife Maria (née Green). The couple had married in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Brompton on the 12th of February 1843 and at the time of their marriage Charles was 27 and Maria was 18. Mary Jane was the couple’s second child, her brother Charles William having been born in the 1st quarter of 1844. Charles and Maria had no other children.
In the 1851 Census we find the family living at 18, Bedford Court in Covent Garden where Charles is a cab proprietor – someone who owned and hired out horse-drawn vehicles. He may also have driven the vehicles himself. On the 16th of July 1854 Mary Jane was baptised in the Church of St John the Evangelist, Smith Square in Westminster. From the baptismal register we learn that the family was now living at 13, Rochester Row in Westminster.
A successful business
Unfortunately it has not been possible to find the Blazdells in the 1861 Census though we know that, at the time, they were no longer living in Rochester Row but had not yet moved to 17, Vincent Square in Westminster, their address in the 1871 Census. Charles junior had married Augusta Chapple in 1864 and by 1871 the couple were living in Peckham with their four children. It would appear that Charles senior’s business is thriving as he, Maria and Mary Jane are the sole occupants of the property in Vincent Square in 1871 (though they have two boarders). They can even afford a domestic servant, 21 year-old Elizabeth Sutton. According to the census Mary Jane, now aged 24, does not work.
A death in the family – and a change in circumstances
On the 25th of July 1875 Charles senior died, aged 60, and he was buried six days later in Norwood Cemetery. His effects, valued at under £800, were left to his widow Maria. (£800 is equivalent to approximately £98,000 today). In the 1881 Census we find Maria and Mary Jane are now living at 12, Vincent Square, though it would appear from Charles’s will that the family had moved there before his death. Mary Jane is by then a dressmaker and Maria is a lodging house keeper. It may be assumed that mother and daughter needed to work as they were no longer receiving an income from Charles’s business. They were however still able to employ a domestic servant, 17 year-old Emily Humphries. Maria’s lodging house appears to have been a very respectable establishment, her clientele comprising three clerks, a daily governess and the curate of St Matthew’s Church in Westminster.
Lodging house owners
By the time of the 1891 Census Maria and Mary Jane had moved to 37, Vincent Square and from this year until her death Maria appears on the electoral register. This means that she must have owned their home outright as, until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928, only women who owned property had the right to vote. According to the census Mary Jane was still a dressmaker and Maria a lodging house keeper, her boarders now including a solicitor, a school governess, a teacher of music and Lewis Hunt, a gentleman ‘living on his own means’. However, in the 1901 Census, Maria, now aged 76, is no longer running the lodging house but is ‘living on her own means’. The other occupants of the property were Mary Jane, the servant Emily Humphries and Lewis Hunt.
Sadly, in the 1st quarter of 1905, Maria died aged 80. We do not know the effect her mother’s death had on Mary Jane but we next meet her in the 1911 Census when, aged 64 and still described as a dressmaker, she is living alone at 16, Colchester Street in Pimlico. As Mary Jane appears at that address on the 1914 electoral register we may assume she owned the property, though the following year she moved to 117, Norfolk House, Regency Street in Westminster. It is as a resident – and, one assumes, owner – of this address that she appears on the 1915 electoral register.
The workhouse and admission to Long Grove
At some point after this Mary Jane’s life starts to unravel.
On the 26th of February 1917 she was admitted to Fulham Road Workhouse after being brought in by the police. She remained in the workhouse for just over a week and was then transferred to Long Grove on the 5th of March. We do not know if her admission to Long Grove was necessitated by long term mental health problems or the sudden onset of a psychotic disorder.
As it has not been possible to find Mary Jane’s name in the Long Grove register we do not know if she was admitted as a private patient or as a pauper. Sadly, just two months later, Mary Jane died in Long Grove aged 70. She was buried in plot 1376b in Horton Cemetery on the 10th of May 1917. Her brother Charles William outlived her by eighteen years, dying in Kent on the 30th of January 1935 aged 90.