I have had to start at the end of Mary Elizabeth Bonner’s life and try to work backwards in order to tell Mary’s story.
The Horton Cemetery Records provided details regarding Mary’s age and burial date. She was 40 years old when she died and was buried in grave number 3b on the 20th August 1907.
From this limited information I managed to find her death record, which gives us a little more information; she died on the 14th August 1907 at The Manor Asylum, Horton, Epsom. The cause of death was Lobar Pneumonia (3 days), one of the leading causes of death at that time.
The death entry also informs us that she was a ‘Spinster of no occupation of Lewisham Infirmary’.
Death Entry for Mary Elizabeth Bonner
With so little information to go on, it has been difficult to find out much about Mary Elizabeth Bonner’s life or why she was admitted to The Manor Asylum, in Epsom.
However from the UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1912 I believe that she arrived at The Manor Asylum, 6 years earlier on 21 June 1901. Her death record implies that she was sent from Lewisham Infirmary.
UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1912
I have not been able to find any records relating to Lewisham Infirmary or any information about how she arrived there.
A search on the GRO Index, between 1862 and 1870 inclusive, did not lead me to many options as there only seemed to be three Mary Elizabeth Bonners born around the time of our Mary Elizabeth Bonner.
Two were born in 1863, a bit early and so would have been a little older than our Mary:
Mary Elizabeth Bonner; b. 1863 in Elham Kent; Mother’s maiden name: Foxey
Mary Elizabeth Bonner; b. 1863 in Uxbridge; Mother’s maiden name: Walpole
A brief search for both of these individuals on ancestry.co.uk found them to be married, plus other information for both was found, leading me to believe that neither was the Mary Elizabeth Bonner I was looking for.
The third possible and, I believe, the most likely was a Mary Elizabeth Bonner born in Battersea, in Q1 1866, daughter of a John Thomas Bonner and Mary Charlton.
This was confirmed as the correct record, when a fellow researcher provided me with the visitors’ record from the archives in Woking Surrey.
Unusually, case notes were not found for Mary Ann Bonner. They may show up at a later visit but they were not found where they were expected to be.
Therefore I have not been able provide details about why Mary Elizabeth came to be in the Manor Asylum. However I have been able to confirm that she was born in Battersea and from that I have been able to find out a bit more about her life and some of the circumstances that may have contributed to her ending up in Lewisham Infirmary.
Her father was named in the visitors’ book as Jack T Bonner and the address for him at the time was Goat Hotel, Sheerness. This ties in with the address given on a John Thomas Bonner’s Probate Entry in 1903. Jack is a name often used by people called John.
From this information and census details I have been able to confirm that Mary Elizabeth Bonner was indeed the daughter of John Thomas Bonner (aka Jack Thomas Bonner) and Mary Charlton.
Parents and Family
John Thomas Bonner and Mary Charlton were married 17th August 1862 in the Parish of St Botolph, Aldgate. Both were of full age and had not been married previously. John Thomas was a victualler, someone licensed to sell alcohol, and the son of a mariner, Thomas Bonner. Mary Charlton was the daughter of George Charlton, a carpenter.
I have found 4 children for John Thomas and Mary:
John Edward Bonner b. 1863 d. 1930
Jane Ann Bonner b. 1864 d. 1889
Mary Elizabeth Bonner b. 1865 d. 1907
William George Bonner b. 1867 d. 1891
John Edward Bonner is the brother referred to as Jack E Bonner in the visitors book, see above.
It appears from census records that Mary Elizabeth was the third child of the couple. She was born in Battersea on 17 December 1865.
She was baptised on the 14 January 1866 in the Parish of Battersea, Christ Church, a church built in about 1849, which was sadly destroyed by bombs during World War II.
This record also confirms her date of birth and confirms that her father was a ‘Beer House Keeper’ living in Battersea.
London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1920
Although she and her siblings were all born in the London area, we do find the family living in Sheerness on the 1871 Census.
I believe this was the area where John Thomas was born as census records refer both to Sheerness and Queensborough as his birthplace. Queensborough is only 2 miles south of Sheerness in Kent. It grew as a port near the Thames Estuary – this ties in to his father being a mariner.
Despite John Thomas only being about 35 in 1871, he does describe himself as a ‘retired’ Publican. All four of the children were scholars at this time. Later census records show him as working.
Tragedy struck the family on 21 March 1873, when Mary Bonner née Charlton, Mary Elizabeth’s mother, died aged 40. She left John Thomas with 4 children aged between 5 and 9. Mary died at the Surrey Tavern where the family lived. This was a pub near Wandsworth Common on the corner of Trinity Road and Bellevue Road and a pub I frequented in the late 1980s and early 1990s when I lived in the area.
Surrey Tavern, Trinity Road, Wandsworth Common
The cause of her death was epileptic fits for 24 hours and exhaustion. C Baxter of the Lunatic Asylum in Wandsworth was present at the death and the informant. I have not managed to find any records for Mary being in the Lunatic Asylum in Glenburnie Road, Wandsworth, which was in fact located very close to the Surrey Tavern.
I have not been able to make sense of the fact that it was someone from the Wandsworth Asylum that was present at her death. Does this imply she spent some time in the Wandsworth Asylum, or was she receiving treatment from there but living at home? No records for Mary have been found to suggest she was a patient. As more records become available it may become clearer.
Two years later on 11 March 1875, the widowed John Thomas married Harriet Charlton, at St Giles Church in Reading. I first wondered if this was a relative of Mary, perhaps a niece, records state that her father was called William Charlton and he was also a carpenter. However, at this stage I do not know if there is a connection between the two.
John Thomas and Harriett went on the have two known sons:
George Charlton Bonner b. 1875
Henry Charlton Bonner b. 1876 d. 1914
These were half brothers to Mary Elizabeth and are both listed as visitors to their sister in Epsom. In fact the visitors’ book records that both attended her funeral.
It was also George Charlton who wrote to the Asylum after his father died, so we can assume that Mary was kept informed of what was going on within the family.
Further tragedy struck when Harriet Bonner (John Thomas’s second wife) died aged 34, leaving John Thomas again a widower, now with 6 children aged between 8 and 21 years old.
On the 6th August 1886, John Thomas, aged 51 years and still living at the Surrey Tavern, married for the third time. He married a spinster called Eliza Diana Kite who was aged 37 and living in Sittingbourne at the time of their marriage.
They married at the Parish Church of St Mary’s in Barnes.
The couple do not appear to have had any children. In fact, sadly, Eliza Diana died within two years of their marriage. I do not know the cause of death but she was buried in Norwood Cemetery, Lambeth on 8 August 1888 aged 40 years.
This was not the end of tragedy for the family as two of Mary’s siblings died shortly after Eliza, Mary Elizabeth’s second step-mother.
Death of her Siblings
Jane Ann Bonner, her older sister died 18 July 1889, also at the Surrey Tavern, she was 24 years old. The cause of death was “Gastritis and Hepatitis 2 weeks and Icterus 3 days”.
Just over 2 years later her younger brother William George Bonner died from Epilepsy on the 27 August 1891 at 172 Trinity Road, a house a short distance away from the Surrey Tavern.
By the time Mary Elizabeth was 25 years old she had lost 5 close members of her family; her mother, 2 of her siblings and 2 stepmothers.
It therefore would not be a huge surprise if this loss and grief led to her suffering from depression, causing her to need treatment, and her eventual admittance to The Manor Asylum.
Despite her illness and attitudes to mental health her family seemed to remain in contact and visited her on numerous occasions during her time in Epsom.
There are two entries in the visitors’ book that I am not sure of, both are described as brothers, an S G Bonner and an (Mrs) H Bonner, I have struggled to find out who these are and my research has not lead to any conclusions.
Mary Elizabeth Bonner was buried on the 20th August 1907, with at least two members of her family in attendance, her two half brothers.
Mary Elizabeth’s story was very interesting to research as not only did she live in an area of London that I am very familiar with but she was born almost 100 years to the day before me.
The family did not appear to be paupers, Mary Elizabeth’s father’s estate was recorded on his probate record in 1903 as being worth just over £6000.
I have set up a family tree on Ancestry so further information may come to light as other researchers make connections.