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BRYANT, Percy Henry

b.1890-d.1914

Percy’s childhood

Percy was born, the eldest of seven children, on 2nd December 1890 and baptised on 22nd February at St John the Divine, Richmond, Surrey.

The family are living at 7, Sheendale Villas, Richmond, Surrey an area of newly developed small villas which are now part of a conservation area. 

Percy’s parents married in St Mary’s Church, Barnes on 12th January 1890.

Henry William was 26 years old and a ‘Sadler,’ Henrietta was just 20 years old.

We know from the censuses that Henry William was born in Bristol in the 3rd Q of 1861 and Henrietta (née Pritchard) in Newington, Surrey in 1870.

On 12th November 1894 Percy is admitted to New Road School, Lambeth aged just 4 years. The address given is 79 Sterndale Road, Battersea.

In 1897 we find Percy admitted to the Brook Fever Hospital, Southwark. Could this have been due to the onset of his Epileptic fits?

A growing family – and a new home

In the 1901 Census we find the family living at 9, Penton Residences, Clerkenwell and Percy, now 10 years old, had been joined by Henrietta Elizabeth (born 1892 in Richmond), May Florence (born 1895 in Battersea), Lily Maud (born 1898 in Paddington) and Henry George (born 1901 in Clerkenwell).

Henry William’s occupation is now given as a ‘Harness maker’

Penton Residences were built in 1878/9 for the ‘Sanitary Dwellings Co Ltd’

“Residences was an aspiring name chosen to match the character of its intended tenants” but by 1909 there was “considerable difficulty letting the flats due to the run-down nature of the surrounding housing”.  Booth classifies the area as “poor”.  The area is just off the Pentonville Road where there were many tanners and leather related factories so presumably there was work for Henry William.

Admission to the Colony and an early death

In 1909. aged just 19 years, Percy is admitted “privately” into the Ewell Epileptic Colony, Epsom.  ‘The 1890 Lunacy Act required a reception order from a magistrate for private as well as pauper patients – so the document from the relative (or whoever) became an application, which it has remained. [Application from a relative was only required for private patients].’

We cannot imagine what might bring a family to willingly seek to admit their son to this kind of care but Ewell Colony was a new and forward looking facility.

The ‘Colony’, part of the Epsom Cluster of five mental hospitals, had been opened in 1903 to care for “the Epileptic insane of the Metropolis”.

This new approach housed patients in a collection of villas, avoiding the stigma of living in a mental asylum.  The patients were expected to contribute to their costs by working on the hospital farm or in the kitchens, laundry or bakery all of which supported the Epsom cluster of hospitals.

Percy is shown on the 1911 Census where it is stated that he had been Epileptic “from birth”

Sadly, Percy only lived to be 23 years old. He died on the 11th April 1914 and was buried in the Horton Estate Cemetery on 17th April 1914 in grave 1017b.

Percy’s parents

In 1911 when Percy was in Epsom his parents, Henry William and Henrietta continued to live in the Penton Residences and had added two more children to their family.  Sidney Frederick bn 1904 and finally Daisy Alice, bn 1910.  Henry William is shown as a “leather case maker”.

Later in the same year that Percy died, 1914, WW1 began and his father, William Henry Bryant, enlisted. Although past 50 years of age he joined the Royal Army Service Corps and held the rank of ‘Saddler’.  His skills would have been invaluable for the maintenance of the tack needed for the thousands of horses used during the war.  Henry William appears to have died whilst still serving, on 25 January 1922, though by this time he was in England. William is buried in Islington.

Henrietta, Percy’s mother, lived on into her 70’s and appears in the 1939 Register living in Chertsey, Surrey with her daughter Daisy and son Sidney.  She died in December 1944 and was buried on 29 December 1944 in St Mary’s, West Byfleet, Surrey.

Percy’s siblings

Henrietta Elizabeth, born 6 November 1892, was baptised at St Mary Magdalene Church, Richmond on 22nd January 1893.  At the time the family were living at 13, Hyde Rd, Albert Rd, Richmond in the house shown below.

In 1897 she was admitted to the Campbell Street School, Paddington, by which time they had moved to 9, Adpar Street, Camberwell, a “poor area of tightly packed houses and flats.”

In 4th Q 1910 Henrietta, aged just 18, married David W. Lee. They are found on the 1939 Register living at 124 Oyster Lane, Woking.  No children have been found.

Henrietta died in 1968 in Thanet, Kent.

May Florence was born on 25 May 1895 and baptised at St Andrews Church, Battersea on 7 July 1895.  The family were then living at 79, Sterndale Rd, Battersea.

On 17 October 1914 May married Robert Charles Drawbridge. They spent their life in the Hackney/Shoredich area of London and appear to have had nine children.

May died in 1964 in the Romford district of Essex.

Lilly Maud was born 28 September 1898 in Paddington and baptised on 4 December 1898 at St Mary’s, Paddington Green.  In Sept 1926 Lily married Ernest George Galletly and in the 1939 Register they are living in Ramsgate, Kent.  In 1959 they sailed from Tilbury to Melbourne, Australia on the “Strathmore”. Their previous address is given as 243 Married Quarters RAF Malling, Kent.

Lilly Maud died on 12 Aug 1989 in Hobart, Tasmania.  They appear to have had three children.

Henry George was born on 12 February 1901 in Clerkenwell and baptised 19 March 1901 at St Silas Church, Penton Street.  Henry appears to have joined the Dorset Regiment on 7 April 1919 but the records suggest that he deserted on 16 January 1920. No other information has been found.

Sidney Frederick was born 13 March 1904 and baptised at St Silas’s Church on 3 April 1904.  In 1908 Sidney became a “lost boy” for one night in the Islington workhouse.

The 1939 Register shows him living with his widowed mother at 3, Fairleigh Rd, Chertsey, and working as an “aircraft fitter”.  Previously Sidney served in the Royal Navy. He signed on for 12 years in 1922 but gained a “fee discharge” in 1924.  Sidney was married in 1939 to Doris Bowman and he died in 1973.

Daisy Alice was born 24 April 1910 and baptised on 7 May 1910 at All Saints Mission Chapel, Islington.  In the 1939 Register she is living at 8, Kelvine Rd, Islington and is a “Radio Worker”. Later, in the electoral roll of 1945, she is living alone at 18, Oyster Lane, Woking near her sister Henrietta. No further information has been found.

Author’s note

When Percy was admitted to the Ewell Epileptic Colony in 1909 his youngest sister Daisy Alice was yet to be born and his oldest sister, Henrietta Elizabeth, was planning her wedding the following year.  When Percy died in 1914 war was looming, his father Henry William would soon enlist in the army and May Florence was to be married in the October.  It makes me wonder how much Percy’ illness and admittance to the asylum impacted the family. Was it a relief to have him “out of the way”? Did his death just get swept up in the turmoil of life?  Perhaps we will find out more if we can access his hospital records in the future.


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