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    Borough of Epsom and Ewell’s
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Early Life

Emma May Chandler was registered as May Emma Chandler at birth. She was born on 11th May 1888 in Westminster, London. Her parents were Henry John Chandler and Elizabeth Mary Chandler née Kerney. Emma May was their first child. The couple had married the year before at St John the Evangelist Church, Westminster. It was the first marriage for both of them. Henry worked as a storehouse man at the time of his marriage.

Emma was baptized when she was a few weeks old, at the same church where her parents had married. The family was living in Westminster at the time. The following year in 1889 a son John Albert Chandler’s birth and death was registered at St George’s Hanover Square.

In 1891, Emma and her parents lived in the Peabody Building, Hanover Square. Henry Chandler was working as a labourer in government stores. Emma was to be their only surviving child; she was just five years old when her mother died in 1893.

In 1897, when Emma was nine, her father remarried to a Sarah Ethel Small. Together they went on to have six children Henry Eli born 1898, John Thomas (1900), Dora Alice (1902), Ethel Margaret (1905), Alec Hugh (1907) and Harvey Enoch (1909).

Education and Childhood

After the death of her mother it is not really known if Emma lived with her father and his new family.

By 1901 Emma May was 13 years old and was a resident schoolgirl at ‘The Good Shepherd Industrial School for Girls’, Leytonstone. There is nothing on the census to suggest Emma had a disability, although that had been recorded for other girls in the school at that time. The Good Shepherd School had been certified as an Industrial School in 1884 to receive girls between 6 and 13 years of age, whom magistrates had put under detention.

Emma’s family now resided at 19 Millais Buildings, Westminster. Millais Buildings were part of the Millbank Estate in Westminster; and newly built. It was part of the London County Council social housing scheme. Henry John Chandler worked as a warehouseman in Government Stores (Army Clothing); maybe this job enabled him to get social housing.


When Emma left the Good Shepherd School it was perhaps on completion of her time there, as she had reached thirteen. She did then spend some time at home, if only for a short period.

Records state that on 3rd July 1902 Emma May Chandler was admitted to Fulham Road Workhouse where she stayed for several days before returning home to her father. This discharge record stated Emma was now insane. She stayed at home only a few days and was then admitted to the Lambeth Infirmary on 26th July 1902.

Four weeks later on 26th August; Emma was taken to Bethnal House Asylum in Bethnal Green. This admission was under a formal order, for the ‘Reception of a Pauper Lunatic or a Lunatic Wandering at Large’ signed by a Justice of the Peace. The detention statement indicated this was Emma’s first episode and the duration had been of six months, the cause was not known. The statement recorded Emma had been talking to herself and presented with excitability. She was aggressive and had attacked other patients and staff.

In 1902, Emma was just 14 years old; she had admissions to at least four different institutions that year. It must have been a difficult time for Emma’s father and stepmother as they also had very young children to care for.

Emma’s stay at Bethnal House was less than two months, after which she was transferred to Horton Asylum on 15th October 1902. Horton had opened earlier that year and already had over one thousand patients.

Emma’s family left London in 1904 and relocated to Worcestershire, her father worked as a dealer in second hand clothes.

Emma May Chandler died in Horton Asylum on 1st May 1914. She was buried in the Horton Estate Cemetery on 7th May 1914.

Author’s Thoughts

There are so many things we do not know about May Emma Chandler.

What was she doing in the Good Shepherd Industrial School?

The Reception Order for Bethnal House in October 1902 states that this ‘episode’ had lasted six months and the cause unknown. She couldn’t have been discharged very long from the Industrial School; Emma was still there in March 1901.

Her first admission to Fulham Road Workhouse was in July 1902 and it then records her as insane. The frequent short admissions that year may indicate that a long-term place was being considered.

Emma’s family appeared to be in reasonable accommodation and her father appears to have been in regular employment. There is nothing to suggest any other family members were in the workhouse.

I don’t know why the family relocated to Worcestershire, as I can’t work out any connections there. Considering the cost, the distance and the time needed, I would think it unlikely they were able to visit Emma May.


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