Catherine was born in the June quarter of 1849 in South Witham, Lincolnshire to Robert Selby (b.1813) and his wife Elizabeth (née Merry b.1820). In the 1851 Census, Robert is an innkeeper and the family live at the Angel Inn in South Witham. Catherine’s siblings are Elizabeth Mary (b.1841), William Sisson (b.1843), Anne (b.1845), and Jane (b.1847). Also living with them are Sarah Merry, probably a relative of Elizabeth, and two servants. Later in 1851, Elizabeth gave birth to her last child, Walter. Sadly she died soon after the birth.
By the 1861 Census, the family has moved to 10 North Street, South Witham and Robert, now a widower, is a horse harness maker. Jane is listed as a housekeeper and Catherine and Walter are scholars. Elizabeth’s (Catherine’s sister) illegitimate daughter, Martha Melina Selby (b.1859) is also with the family. There is no sign of Elizabeth in the census. William has moved down to London and is living as a lodger in Deptford, working as a shopman. Anne is a nursemaid in Norwell, Nottinghamshire.
Unfortunately Catherine’s sister Anne died in 1865 at just 20 years old and her father Robert died on 5 June 1867 leaving £84 8s (under £10,000 in today’s values). In June 1868, Catherine’s sister Jane married Robert Cope or Coupe in South Witham and later in the year, Catherine’s brother William married Phoebe Cockle in Southwark. By the 1871 Census, William and his family live at High Street, Deptford and he is described as ‘oil & colourman’ which is involved in selling oils and paints. Catherine too has moved to London and is living with them under the name ‘Kate’ and is described as an ‘assistant’. Walter, Catherine’s brother, also has moved to London and is in Stockwell Street, Greenwich working as a journeyman saddler. He lived about a mile from his brother. Elizabeth is in Sutton Saint Edmund, Lincolnshire as a housekeeper. Jane and her family remain in South Witham.
Catherine married Ernest Bouttell on 2 February 1876 at St. George the Martyr church in Southwark. Catherine’s brother Walter is a witness. Both Ernest and Catherine give their address as Borough High Street.
Ernest was born in 1851 in Glemsford, now in Suffolk but then in Essex. In the 1871 Census, the family appear quite well off as his father is a miller and Ernest, the eldest son, is also a miller. Ernest has two brothers and three sisters, and they have a cook and general servant living with them. In 1874 Ernest’s father dies. In the will, Ernest, as executor, is living at 9 Church Street, Greenwich and is a carrier and livery stable keeper. This address is a few minutes’ walk from Walter’s last known address so perhaps Ernest met Catherine through her brother. When Walter marries in 1877, Ernest is a witness so maybe they were friends.
Catherine’s only child, William Ernest Bouttell, was born in January 1877 and baptised at St. Peter’s church, Greenwich in July of that year. The family lived in Church Street and Ernest was a carrier. By 1881 they had moved to 11 Clarence Street, Greenwich and Ernest worked as a provisions traveller. Commercial travellers sold goods directly to shops where the shopkeeper had previously gone to a warehouse to buy supplies. The number of commercial travellers had doubled to about 40,000 between 1871 and 1881 and they would usually have spent time away from home in the course of their trade.
Also living with them in the 1881 Census were Ernest’s widowed mother, three of his sisters and one brother. His mother is listed as housekeeper and two of his sisters as ‘mother’s help’. Was this the first sign that Catherine could not cope on her own? Or maybe the widowed mother and family had no other alternative place to live? It must have been cramped with six adults, a 16 and a 4 year old in the house.
We do not know what mental afflictions Catherine suffered from but she is shown as entering Essex Asylum on 1 November 1889. For the following 21 years, she was moved from one institution to another. From Essex, she was discharged on 13 October 1890 to Notts Asylum. Seven and a half years later on 1 June 1898, she was transferred to Hanwell Asylum. After another seven years, on 11 July 1906, she was moved to Leicester B Asylum. Finally on 17 September 1907, she moved to Long Grove where she died on 18 March 1910, at about 61 years of age.
All but one of Catherine’s siblings were to pre-decease her. Elizabeth died at 30 year old in 1872. Walter died in 1896 in Lambeth and William in 1904 in Greenwich. Jane, the final sibling, died in 1914 in South Witham.
Husband and son
Ernest is shown in the 1891 Census as a commercial traveller living as a visitor with the Tredwell family at 30 West Street, Bermondsey. Catherine’s son William, at just 14, is a shopman grocer’s assistant at 611 Kings Road, Fulham. Ernest dies on 25 July 1891 and his will states that it should be administered by ‘Mary Anne Bouttell of 16 Cumberland Walk, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Widow, the grandmother and Guardian of William Ernest Bouttell, a minor, the son and only next of kin’. Does this imply that Ernest had abandoned Catherine? Ernest left £55 (about £7,000 in today’s values) so not a fortune.
Perhaps William used his inheritance to fund his new life as on 18 May 1892, he and his uncle, Ernest’s youngest brother Ross, sailed on the ‘Rimutaka’ to Wellington, New Zealand. William was to serve in the 1st World War in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and on his death in 1939, he was honoured with a Great War Veteran gravestone and buried in the soldiers’ plot of Karori Cemetery, Wellington.