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    Borough of Epsom and Ewell’s
     Michael Arthur
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      Dr Andrzej Suchcitz



A challenging subject

Henry was recorded as being 47 years of age when he died in Long Grove in March 1917, and buried in grave number 1178a, so he was born about 1870. I have found tracing him rather challenging. 

Only two men named Henry Chesterman were born within two years of 1870 according to the Government Record Office returns, yet more of about the right age appear on various census returns! The Long Grove records seem to have recorded a person’s full name, so Henry, I initially assumed, was just that – Henry Chesterman.

The 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 census returns have not helped – no-one seems to fit our Henry Chesterman. The London Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records also had no record of him.

Finding more clues

Henry Chesterman was admitted to St John’s Workhouse, Islington on 8th April 1913. His last known address was given as 15 Wedmore Street, which is in Islington. This address provides a good clue for us.

The same man was admitted again on 30th April 1913 and was discharged the same day. Perhaps he entered for medical treatment.

The electoral roll for that house at 15 Wedmore Street, North Islington shows a John Chesterman as a resident for many years including 1875, 1878, 1884 and 1885. In 1885 there was also a James Chesterman at the same address. The house is described as two rooms, unfurnished. For the same house, 15 Wedmore Street, there is a Joseph Chesterman registered for each year from 1890 to1893.

There is clearly a family to be found. It is frustrating that it has not yet been possible to find the census return for this house.

Can we find Henry Chesterman earlier than this date?

Stepping backwards in time from that point, there was a Henry John Chesterman who born in the St Pancras Workhouse to Ann Chesterman who had been admitted, in labour, on October 22nd, 1867. They were discharged on 22nd October 1867 at 2.45pm. Perhaps this is our man but given the possibility that Henry was living at 15 Wedmore Street with other Chestermans it would suggest not, but who knows?

The later details which are much more certain are that on 19th June 1915, aged 47, Henry was discharged from St John’s Road Workhouse, Islington to ‘HHI’ – Highgate Hill Infirmary. It is not unreasonable to think this is where Henry was sent – his record shows he was ‘not able’ and on an ‘infirm diet’. His previous address was ‘CRI’ – this, I believe, was Constance Road Institution which housed many aged and infirm poor ‘and some lunatics’. However, I have not found an admission for him there. Indeed, so far, I have not seen Henry’s mental state mentioned at all.

Peter Higginbottom’s book ‘Workhouses of London and the South East’ states that ‘Highgate Hill infirmary was taken over by the St John’s Road workhouse in 1900, having previously been the Highgate Smallpox Hospital.

On 9th October 1915 records have a ‘Henry’ (more a scrawl than anything!) Chesterman admitted to St Johns Road workhouse, but his age is given as 46 (it was 47 in June) and his occupation looks like ‘janitor’. I believe this could be ‘our’ Henry, but the inconsistent details make me unsure – further research will be needed when it becomes possible to see his records. 

On 29th September 1916, Henry, along with another resident, was sent from St John’s Workhouse to Long Grove but only survived till March the following year. This record is difficult to read, but my interpretation of the ‘admitted from’ column is that he was ‘homeless’.

Author’s comments.

I hope more will be found about Henry’s life as a young man. It has been frustrating to think so little has been recorded.

The records might reveal more detail.  If we could find 15 Wedmore Street in the census returns we might discover more. If we could identify James Chesterman and his relationship to Henry that would help.  

For certain this story might tempt another researcher to have a go at finding out more about Henry Chesterman.

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