b. 1878 – d.1910
The first glimpse we get of Elizabeth Board nee. Couse is in 1900 when she marries Arthur Edward Board (Bachelor) on the 3rd November at St Agnes church in Newington. The certificate shows she was 22 years old and her full name was Elizabeth Lillie Couse (spinster). Her father is recorded as Robert Couse whose occupation was a Carriage Proprietor. One of the witnesses was a Christina May Couse but it is unknown what relationship she had to Elizabeth.
Unfortunately, despite a number of searches under many variations of the name Couse nothing can be found of her early life or her father. I have uncovered a Couse family in Anerley in 1891 (this was where Elizabeth stated she was born) but unsure how they relate to her if at all.
Interestingly Christiana Couse is named as Godmother to some of their children. Is it the same one who was a witness at Elizabeth’s wedding? This family originated in Ireland so possibly Elizabeth was of Irish extraction?
In April 1901 the census shows her (as Lily) living with Arthur her husband at 53 Beatrice Road, Bermondsey. Her husband’s occupation is that of a Farrier / Blacksmith. It states Elizabeth was born in Anerley in Surrey but this fact has not revealed any further information of her early life. Booths Maps show this is a fairly comfortable area with good earnings. There is no indication that Elizabeth was suffering any ill health.
On 16th April 1904 Elizabeth and Arthur had a son who they named after his father. He was baptised at the Roman Catholic church St Thomas More in Dulwich on 24th April of that year.
Elizabeth was a Roman Catholic as later events will show. It appears she was married in a Church of England ceremony (willingly or unwillingly?) but chose to have her son baptised in her own faith. Sadly, poor baby Arthur died in August 1904, only 4 months later and was buried on 2nd September 1904 in Southwark.
How this affected Elizabeth and her husband we will never know but they must have been pleased at the arrival of son Joseph on 14 February 1906. The date of birth is supported by a school admission record of 18th October 1915. Although the baptism record shows a different date of 1st March. Joseph was baptised into the Catholic faith at the English Martyrs Church in Walworth.
The Workhouse & Asylum
His arrival does seem to have triggered some problem with Elizabeth’s health as 6 months after his birth she is admitted to Southwark Workhouse on 31st August 1906. Her religion is shown as Roman Catholic which is supported by the baptisms of her sons into the Catholic faith. She is noted as “wife of Arthur a Blacksmith” and given a class 4 diet. Comments indicate she was considered insane but by 16 September 1906 she was discharged back “to husband”.
For a while she must have remained at home but by 1st February 1907, she is admitted back to Southwark Workhouse. It states she has 1 child and that she is temporarily disabled. There is no evidence that her son entered a workhouse so someone must have been caring for him at home. There is a note stating she was “Alleged Insane”. The diagnosis did not take long to consider because on 7th February 1907 she is discharged to Horton Hospital.
Sadly, Elizabeth did not ever return home, she died in Horton Hospital on 20th January 1910 and was buried at Horton Estate Cemetery on 26th January 1910 in Grave 1486A.
Family after Elizabeth
Her husband Arthur appears to have struck up a new relationship as the 1911 census shows him living with his son Joseph and a Lilian Moles (as a housekeeper) with her two children. Lilian became his second wife.
Joseph’s school record confirms his birth of 14th Feb 1906, and shows his father a Soldier, as Arthur had joined the forces for WW1.
It is frustrating that no trace at present can be found of Elizabeth’s early life. No census or birth certificate can be traced. We can have no idea of her life before marriage. It is possible she came from Irish roots but I have been unable to establish any definite links with members of the Couse family I have found or that of her father Robert Couse. Arthur had a trade so they would have been comfortable and they did not live in a deprived area. It is difficult to tell whether she suffered with any mental health problems prior to the birth of her son.
It would seem to me that possibly Elizabeth suffered some kind of Post Natal illness. At that time very little would have been understood about this. Prior to the birth of her second son she appeared to be well. She could have had Post Natal Depression or possibly Postpartum Psychosis where a woman can experience a mix of psychosis, depression or mania. Whatever it was that was troubling her it does not seem to have been managed at home. After her first visit to the workhouse of just over two weeks she went home but within 5 months she was back in and very shortly afterwards she was transferred to Horton. There would have been no way of knowing how she was treated or what eventually killed her. We will never know if she had any recollection of her son or husband but she must have been scared and confused and experiencing many torments before she died.