John’s parents and siblings
On the 10th of January 1827, John’s parents, Thomas Capling (born 1805) and Sarah Enticknap (born 1800) were married in St Pancras parish chapel in Camden. We do not know why the couple married in Camden when both were from Surrey – Thomas was born in Shalford and Sarah in Chiddingfold.
By the time their first child, George, was baptised just four months later, they had returned to Surrey and were living in Bramley. George was baptised on the 27th of May 1827 in Holy Trinity Church in Bramley. From the baptismal register we learn that Thomas was employed as a gardener.
Sarah gave birth to the couple’s second child, Ann, in 1829, followed by Charles who was baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Bramley, on the 13th of November, 1831. In the baptismal register Thomas is now described as a labourer.
A second daughter, Sarah, was born in 1834 and another son, Thomas, in 1836. Thomas was baptised in Holy Trinity Church on the 24th of July, and in the baptismal register his father, Thomas, is once again described as a gardener. The couple’s sixth child, Harriet, was born in Bramley in 1839.
In the 1841 Census Thomas, Sarah and their children are living in the Street, Bramley where Thomas was working as a gardener.
Thomas and Sarah’s seventh and last child, John, was born in Hambledon Union in the 3rd quarter of 1843.
Hambledon Poor Law Union was formed on the 25th of March 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians representing sixteen constituent parishes including Bramley, Chiddingfold, Chilworth, Cranleigh, Hambledon, Shalford and Wonersh.
John was baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Bramley, on the 27th of August 1843.
The 1850s and early 1860s
At the time of the 1851 Census Thomas and Sarah were still living in Bramley with their youngest children Harriet and John. By 1861, however, they had moved to Gosden Common in Shalford where they lived with Ann (now aged 32), Thomas (25) and John (18). Like their father, Thomas and John were working as gardeners.
Sadly, in the 2nd quarter of 1864, John’s mother, Sarah, died in Shalford aged 64. She was buried on the 5th of April 1864 at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Shalford.
John enlists in the army
Four months after his mother’s death, on the 1st of August 1864, John, now aged 21, enlisted in the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards in Aldershot.
From his attestation on enlistment we learn that John was 6’ tall, had a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair. His occupation was given as ‘gardener’.
However, despite his character being reported by the Regimental Board as ‘very good’, John’s army service would last just two years.
On the 28th of November 1866 he was discharged from the Life Guards ‘in consequence of being unfit for further service’. No other details are given. Could this have been the first sign of the mental health problems that would necessitate John’s admission to Long Grove towards the end of his life?
46 Years Missing
Up to this point, and despite the various spellings of his family name in birth registers and censuses (Capling, Copling, Capeling, Capelin), John’s early life has been quite easy to trace. However, at the age of 23 John disappears from our records for 46 years until he is admitted to Horton Asylum in 1910.
Despite considerable research it has not, as yet, been possible to discover how and where he spent those missing years. It is possible he went abroad but his name does not appear on any passenger manifests between 1866 and 1910. He could have changed his name but for what reason?
Neither do we find him living with a sibling in any census between 1871 and 1901. Indeed, it has been equally difficult to trace John’s siblings after the 1861 Census. All we know for certain is firstly that Thomas was an inmate in Bermondsey Workhouse in 1891.
We know also that Harriet married fruiterer (later laundryman) John Creeper in St Peter’s Church, Ash, on the 9th of April 1866. The couple had two children together, Alice and Thomas. Harriet died in Bletchingly in 1922 aged 84.
There is some evidence that John’s brother George may have emigrated to the USA with his wife Sarah but it has not been possible to confirm this.
Admission to Long Grove and death
The next time we meet John is on the 19th of August 1910. Less than six months later he died there, on the 5th of January 1911, aged 67. He was buried in grave 967a on the 9th of January 1911.
John’s father, Thomas
A month before John’s discharge from the army his father Thomas married widow Sarah Chapman in St Nicolas’ Church, Cranley (now Cranleigh). Sarah, a servant from Berkshire, was about twenty years younger than her new husband.
In the 1871 Census we find them living at Garden House Lodge in Shalford. Garden House was the residence of clergyman James Bampsted, his wife Mary and their nine domestic servants. Thomas was employed by the Bampsteds as a gardener. He died in Hambledon in the 2nd quarter of 1880 aged 75.