b.1860 – d.1910
Alfred William Boulton was born in Lambeth on the 18th of June 1860, the first child of William Boulton and his wife Elizabeth Ann (née Ennor). The couple had married at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Bermondsey on the 5th of September 1859.
According to the marriage register, 22 year-old William was a glover, like his father Isaac. Elizabeth was 20 years old, the daughter of William Ennor, a carpenter. From the 1871 census we know that William was born in Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire and Elizabeth in Exeter, Devon.
It has not been possible to find William, Elizabeth and their baby son in the 1861 census. Intriguingly, however, a 21 year old glover called William Boulton, born in Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire appears in the census. He was lodging at the home of builder Richard Lear and his family on Violet Hill in St Marylebone.
Research has shown that there were several branches of the Boulton family living in Wiltshire at that time, a number of whom were involved in glove-making.
Indeed, towards the end of the century the Boulton family would come to dominate the glove-industry in Westbury, Wiltshire.
One of the first factories to be set up was by a William Boulton, whose success was helped by his invention of the Boulton cut thumb, a technique which simplified the manufacturing process.
We know he was operating in Westbury before 1871 and by 1889 his sons had established the firm of Boulton Bros. The company thrived and gloves were exported around the world, especially to the USA. Boultons continued to trade until the 1970s when it was taken over by Dents and production moved to Warminster.
In the 1871 Census, we find the Boultons living in New Road Rotherhithe. William is working as a glove cutter and Elizabeth has given birth to five more children, Ernest, born in 1862, Edward (1864), Frank (1865), Harry (1867) and Anne Elizabeth (1870). Living with them are William’s father, Isaac, and Elizabeth’s younger sister, Eliza.
On the 18th of September 1875, 15 year-old Alfred joined the Royal Navy. Until he was discharged four years later, Alfred served on HMS Fisgard (a shore establishment used for training) , HMS Ganges, HMS Impregnable, HMS Flamingo, HMS Achilles and HMS Hibernia.
Unfortunately, it is clear that Alfred did not have the discipline required for a career in the Royal Navy. His character assessment was never better than ‘fair only’ and on two occasions ‘indifferent’. He was put in the cells twice, once for five days and once for fourteen days. Finally, on the 29th of October 1879, he was discharged from the service as ‘objectionable’ with the character assessment ‘bad’.
From his discharge papers we learn that 19 year-old Alfred was 5’3” tall with light coloured hair, hazel eyes and a pale complexion. He also had scars on the palm of his right hand and over his nose.
1880s and marriage
In the 1881 census Alfred is back living with his parents and siblings at 1, St Thomas Road, Lambeth. Now 20 years old, Alfred is a sailor in the ‘merchant services’. His brother Edward is a glove cutter like their father and Frank is a printer’s boy.
In the 2nd quarter of 1884 Alfred married Mary Murphy in St Saviour, Southwark. Mary was born in Southwark in the 3rd quarter of 1867 to Eugene Murphy and his wife Mary (née Crimmins). No further details of the family have been found.
Alfred and Mary’s first child, a son named Alfred Henry, was born in the 2nd quarter of 1886, followed by Sydney George in the 4th quarter of 1890. In the 1891 census we find the family living at 15, Lees Terrace, St Paul, Deptford. Alfred is a general labourer. Tragically, Sydney died later that year aged 1.
On the 26th of February 1894 Alfred Henry was admitted to Mawbey Road School in Southwark. From the admissions register we learn that the Boultons are living at 47, Coopers Road in Southwark. Alfred senior is working as a corn-porter. This occupation title usually referred to someone who worked at the dock, unloading corn from ships and moving it into storage and vice versa.
In the 4th quarter of 1894 Mary gave birth to the couple’s third child, a daughter named Mary Louise. However, their joy at the birth would not last long as Mary Louise died in the 2nd quarter of 1895 before reaching her 1st birthday. One can only imagine how distraught Alfred and Mary must have felt to lose two children in just four years and the effect the deaths would have had on their mental health.
The 20th century
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to find the Boultons in the 1901 census.
We do not know exactly when Mary died but she does not appear in the 1911 census. Two women of her estimated age named Mary Boulton died in Southwark after 1894, one in 1901 and the other in 1909. As we will see, later events suggest that it is more likely that Mary died before 1908.
We do not know the nature of Alfred’s mental health problems or when they began but on the 17th of June 1908 he was admitted to St Olave’s Workhouse, Parish Street in Bermondsey, described as ‘alleged insane’.
We learn from the admission register that he was last resident at Grange Road Police Station and his nearest relative is given as his son Alfred Henry, which would suggest that Mary had already died. Alfred Henry is serving in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
After spending a week in the workhouse Alfred was admitted to Long Grove on the 24th of June, 1908. He died there on the 19th of March 1910. Alfred was buried in Horton Cemetery on the 24th of March 1910 in plot 717a.
In the 1911 Census, we find Alfred Henry is still serving as a private in the 2nd Dublin Fusiliers, based in the Tournay Barracks in Aldershot. After that we lose sight of him, though on the 4th of June 1920 a 36 year-old man named Alfred Henry Boulton was admitted to Bow Road Workhouse in the City of London. He was discharged three weeks later at his own request.