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When Mark went into Horton Hospital in early 1902 he was 56 years old and described as melancholic. His notes over the years show a fairly constant pattern of delusions, auditory hallucinations and hearing noises like bells. Generally speaking, his health and overall physical condition are fair but he is slow, with poor memory and faulty judgment. However, he appears to be fairly content and quiet and manages some work in the gardens. When Horton was used as a military hospital during the First World War, he was sent to Hanwell Asylum where he stayed until January 1921 when he returned to Horton until his death in 1923.His cause of death was senility and thrombosis of the cerebral arteries.

So what was Mark’s story? His case notes state that he is a married man but there is no mention of any children and his wife is unnamed. However, there is one vital piece of information – he is an ex Police Constable. It was that single piece of information that enabled me to begin the search for his story.

I found his entry in the Metropolitan Police Pension Registers and this shows that he was born in Bristol on 7th November 1846 to Mark and Mary Coleman. He is 5ft 9ins tall, with dark hair and complexion and grey eyes. He is married and his address is 49a Burnaby Street, Chelsea. He joined on 5th August 1867 and resigned on 25th November 1886 having completed just over 19 years in the Police Force, all of it in Chelsea (or B) Division. He is 40 years old and will receive a pension of £28.1s 8d per annum.

Mark’s early life

Having an exact date of birth and his parents’ names, I was able to locate his baptism. This was on 26th April 1846 in the Parish of St George, Brandon Hill, Bristol where he was baptized along with 3 siblings: Thomas, George and Mary. The family lived at Limekiln Lane and his father was a Smith by trade. The GRO Birth Register confirmed that Thomas was the eldest, registered March quarter 1839; then George registered December quarter 1840, then Mary birth registered March quarter 1843, making Mark the fourth child of the family. 

The mother’s maiden name for all of them is shown as Burridge and I found a marriage for Mark Coleman and Mary Burridge in Bristol on 11th July 1839. The groom’s father was also called Mark, meaning all three generations had the same name. He was a labourer. Mary’s father was Thomas Burridge, a butcher.

In the 1841 census Mark and Mary, with their two young sons, Thomas and George, are living at Pump Court.

By the time of the next census in 1851 the family has increased to six children. As well as Mary, born 1843, and Mark, born 1846, there are also Emma aged 3 and baby Charlotte, just 1 month. There is also a visitor, Mary Stone aged 75. The family are at Little Pump Court, Bristol. However, of the 6 children that have been born, only 5 are there on census night. Thomas is missing. At 12 years old he is barely old enough to have been sent away to work, but it’s possible. More likely is that he has died but so far I haven’t managed to find out. In this census Mark’s father is described as a coach smith and he is from Wells in Somerset, as is his wife Mary.

Another boy, Samuel, was born in 1853 but by the 1861 census only Mark and Emma are with their parents. George and Mary are old enough to be working but have Charlotte and Samuel died? Mark is described as a painter, his father a blacksmith and his mother is now working as a washerwoman. There is still no sign of Thomas in this census. George, however,  has married and lives with his wife Fanny in St Augustine’s, Bristol, where he is a coach smith, like his father.

There is an entry for what is likely to be Mary employed as a servant to a Curate and his wife in Bedminster which is part of Bristol. I haven’t found Charlotte or Samuel but unless they are staying with relatives or in hospital the likelihood is that they have both passed away. I couldn’t find either of them in the following census either, in 1871, so this is the most likely answer.

By the time of the 1871 census, Mark’s parents have had a change of occupation. They are both employed at the New Orphan Houses, Ashley Down, Bristol where Mark is a House Servant and Mary the Lodge Keeper. There is an excellent article about the orphanage on the Children’s Homes website ((childrenshomes.org.uk).  Also known as George Muller orphanage, after its founder, it was at its height the largest home for orphans in the country, housing over 2000 children.

Mark has now moved away from Bristol and he too has had a change of career. He is now a Police Constable. At the time I discovered this I had no way of knowing what precipitated this move. Perhaps he thought that a career in the Police would be a better option financially than being a painter. Maybe, like many before and since, he was attracted by the Big City. It’s not clear whether his parents were living at the orphanage but, given that his mother was the lodge keeper, this seems likely so this may have meant he needed to be independent. However, I later discovered that his brother George had also been a Police Officer and both of them had served their whole careers in the Chelsea Division. George joined on 29th April 1867 and Mark 4 months later on 5th August so he was not quite 21 years old. The likelihood is that Mark simply followed his big brother or was encouraged by George to join him. Mark was the first to resign in 1886 with George following just three months later in March 1887. It’s interesting that they both chose the same career and worked in the same Division in Chelsea for around 20 years. Even more interesting is the fact that, not only did Mark later spend many years in and out of Asylums but George also had a stay in Banstead Asylum

Life in London

The Metropolitan Police was still pretty much in its infancy when the brothers joined in the 1860s. Previously, London, like all large towns and cities, would have had a Watch or Charleys as they were known, after Charles II. The Watch men would guard the city gates, patrol the streets and call out the time – “2 o’clock and all is well”,  for instance. These men were paid for out of the Parish Rates.

In rural areas there were Police Constables. These were appointed by the Church Vestry for one year, approved by the Magistrates and their work was in addition to their usual employment.

It seems that the Watchmen in London were not all they should have been – taking bribes, sleeping on duty and consorting with prostitutes. This behaviour appalled the Chief Magistrate for London, the 18th century writer Henry Fielding (author of ‘Tom Jones’). It was he who appointed the first Bow Street Runners, full-time constables answerable directly to himself.

In 1798 the Marine Police were formed to protect the cargoes of the Port of London. Sir Robert Peel based his idea for a Metropolitan Police Force on the Marine Police and in 1829 introduced the Metropolitan Police Act. This, as the name implies, applied only to London. Nearly 10 years later the old Bow Street Runners and the Marine Police joined forces with the new Metropolitan Police and in 1842 the first Detective Department was formed, with its members in plain clothes.

Those first recruits in 1829 had a full 4 days training before they appeared on the streets! Their uniform was coats of navy blue with tall hats and a wooden truncheon.

It wasn’t until 1856 that the Police Act meant that all counties had to have their own force under the auspices of a Police Commission.

Only 11 years later, when Mark Coleman joined up, the whole idea of a Police Force which prevented crime as well as solving it was still quite new. 

The Metropolitan Police Force originally covered 8 divisions within a 7 mile radius of Charing Cross, but this was later extended to 21 divisions and was quite separate from The City of London which always had its own Force dating from 1839.

Mark worked his entire Police career in the Chelsea area, known as B division. Originally Chelsea, like most areas of London, was a separate village but by the 19th century was beginning to grow into the fashionable area we think of today. However, as was the case with many riverside locations it also had its share of crime, poverty and slum dwellings well into the 1900s. During the time that Mark was stationed there it was home to many famous people such as Oscar Wilde, George Eliot and JMW Turner.

The 1870s

By the time of the next census in 1871, Mark has been a Police Constable for nearly 4 years. On census night he is recorded at Rochester Row Police Station in Westminster. There are three sergeants and 23 PCs all recorded in the Station. Does this mean they lived there, or were they all on duty that night? All but one are recorded as unmarried and interestingly there are 6 other members of the Force and their families recorded as living “over stables in Police Station yard” and they include three Police Inspectors. Also recorded are 5 people in the cells, 4 men and 1 woman.

This is an interesting snapshot of a large Police Station in London at the time. It almost seems like a self-contained unit with whole families living in the complex. Rochester Row remained an important Police Station, although the original building was replaced in 1901, and only closed in 1993.

Things at this point would seem to be going well for Mark. He has a career in an evolving Police Force, with pension prospects, and in March 1878 he takes the next important step in his life when he marries Martha Ann Leaver in Lambeth. Rather strangely, Mark’s occupation on the marriage certificate is shown as coach painter, his previous job in Bristol. In December that same year their first child is born, a son also named Mark. A second child, a daughter Pattie, follows in July 1880 and both children are baptized together on 12th November 1880 in St Stephen’s, Westminster. Mark is recorded on the baptism record as a Police Constable. This discrepancy in the recording of his occupation occurs again in various records over the following years.

The 1880s

In 1881 Mark and Martha and their two young children are living at 62 Coburg Buildings, St George’s, Hanover Square. This consists of 108 dwellings, built only 6 years previously, specifically for working people. Several of the occupants are in the Police Force, like Mark. It is situated in the St Margarets area of Westminster.

Four more children followed within the next few years: George in 1882, Frank in 1884, Mabel in 1885 and Frederick in 1889.

On the surface it looks as if this is a stable family unit and Mark and Martha are well established with their growing family but when we look more closely all is not as it seems.

When George is baptized on 3rd February 1882 the family are still at 62 Coburg Buildings but, once again, as on his marriage certificate Mark is describing himself as a coach painter. 

Two years later when Frank is baptized on 4th March 1884 his father is back to describing himself as a Police Constable. The family have also moved and are now living at 16 F Block, Peabody Buildings*, Orchard Street.

Barely a year later Mabel comes along on 13th July 1885 and is baptized on the 31st.

There is then a little gap before Frederick’s baptism on 19th June 1889. The family have moved house again and are now living at 49 Burnaby Street, Chelsea, BUT Mark is described as a Police Pensioner. Obviously he is no longer in the Police Force so what has prompted him to leave a secure job with pension prospects? 

Mark’s Police Pension records reveal that he resigned on 25th November 1886 with pay to 20th November. Does this mean that he left without giving notice? His pension of £28 1s 8d began from 21st November. 

Why did Mark resign from the police?

What has precipitated his resignation? At 40 years of age, he was no youngster back in 1886. He has a wife and 5 children to support. Frederick has not yet been born and Mabel is barely a year old. Something major must have happened.

Perhaps looking forward to the next census in 1891 might provide some evidence as to how Mark was employed after he resigned from the Police? The family are still at 49 Burnaby Street and Martha is described as “wife” but there is no mention of her husband. Her son Mark and daughters Pattie (mistranscribed as Mattie) and Mabel are also there, as is the baby Frederick. Not only Mark but the children George and Frank are missing. Has something happened to them all? Mark is obviously still alive because we know he went into Horton in 1902. Is this a clue? Maybe he is experiencing mental health issues and is hospitalized. But what of the boys? So far I have been unable to find out definitively but the likely situation is that they have died. 

Had the things he had seen or experienced as a Police Officer and the possible loss of two children begun to have an effect on Mark and caused some sort of breakdown? We can only speculate but it seemed a good idea to start looking for him in hospital records.

It seems that Mark’s health problems began when he was still a serving Police Officer because the first record I found for him was in May 1886, four months before his resignation. It’s possible therefore that his resignation wasn’t entirely voluntary. I don’t know how benevolent the Police Force would have been in those early years or how much understanding they would have had of job-related stress. It’s possible it may have been suggested to him that retirement would be the best route to take. Whatever the reason, he wasn’t dismissed and he did keep his pension entitlement.

Mark’s decline in health and his eventual death in Horton Asylum

That first entry shows Mark being admitted to the Fulham Road workhouse in the St George’s area of Westminster on Friday 28th May 1886. Unfortunately this was just the beginning of a life spent in and out of various institutions over the next 37 years. The Fulham Road Admissions Register shows him as a Police Officer and his condition at the time is noted as being “destitute” and “supposed lunatic”. He is discharged on 1st June and sent to Banstead. 

How long he was in Banstead I don’t know, but it was on 25th November that year that he resigned from the Police Force.

The next entry I can find for him is three years later when on 14th May 1889 he is admitted to Britten Street workhouse in Chelsea where his reason for seeking relief is described as “mental”. The Board decided he should be examined and he was subsequently discharged on the following Saturday “to Portsmouth Asylum”. It appears therefore that Mark was actually not at home at the time of the baby Frederick’s baptism in June that year.

This reference to Portsmouth is slightly confusing because the Chelsea Board of Guardians Register of Lunatics in Asylums 1889-96 shows that on the same day, 14th May 1889, Mark enters Fisherton House Asylum which actually seems to be in Wiltshire. He stays there until 21st December that year when he is transferred to Banstead. He remains there for three months before being discharged, described as “relieved” so I assume this means he was sent home. 

Unfortunately Mark’s time out of Banstead, and presumably with his family, wasn’t for long because on 14th April 1890 he again enters the Chelsea workhouse. He is described as a coach painter aged 44. The reason for him seeking relief is again given as “mental”. Ten days later he left the workhouse “in care of wife”. It seems that Martha is willing to take responsibility for looking after him.

However, this doesn’t work out and barely two weeks later Mark again goes into the workhouse. The ledger describes him as 44 years old, an ex PC and, once again, mental. It was decided he should go to Colney Hatch and twelve days later, on 19th May he is admitted there. I had noticed that Mark’s notes from when he was admitted to Horton in 1902 state: “Date of Reception Order: 16th May 1890”. This ties in with these workhouse entries and him being sent to Colney Hatch so it seemed that this time it was a rather more serious situation. Although he had been in Banstead and Fisherton House before, it would appear that there had been no certification as such before 1890. 

I was lucky enough to find that the Chelsea Reception Orders book for that period still exists and I found Mark’s entry which gives some more information about what was happening. He is certified as being of unsound mind by Dr Stephen Moore, the workhouse doctor, and Robert Needham Cust, Justice of the Peace, They confirm he is an ex Police Constable, married to Martha, and has previously been in Banstead asylum and Fisherton House. Their reports also add some details as to Mark’s behaviour at home and that his wife is afraid to live with him because of his threatening behaviour. The Order concludes that Mark was subsequently sent to Colney Hatch on 19th May 1890. The Order also says, almost as an aside, that his brother died in Banstead the previous year! This is extraordinary. Would this be George, his fellow Police Officer? This would require further investigation.

The Order is confirmed by the Chelsea Register of Lunatics which shows Mark going into Colney Hatch on 19th May, where he stays for nearly 4 years. He is discharged on 9th March 1894 “upon trial” so, again, it seems they think he is fit to go home to see how he copes.

Once more, it seems this was optimistic as he was again admitted to Colney Hatch just 15 days later on 24thMarch. He remained there as far as I can see until 1899 when he transferred to the Manor Asylum.

It seems that Mark was in The Manor for 3 years before being sent to Horton on 2nd March 1902 and he remained in care for the next 21 years until his death.

The Old Bailey – and a £1 reward

Apart from his Pension Record I found one other piece of information about Mark’s time in the Police. This was an account of a trial at the Old Bailey on 21st September 1874 when Mark, whilst on duty with another Officer, went to the aid of his colleague who was being attacked by a man who had just left a public house. The report states:

MARK COLEMAN (Policeman B 66). About 9 o’clock on the evening of 14th September I was in the Broadway, Westminster, with Davis—when Davis went towards the prisoner he jumped clean off the kerb, and extended his hand and struck him on the side of the cheek—Davis put out his hand to seize him, and they came into collision, and both fell together on the ground—as soon as I ran up and got hold of Purvey I saw blood coming from Davis’s cheek—the prisoner struggled so desperately that I was bound to use my truncheon—he kicked me very violently on the legs—they were all bruises—a civilian came to our assistance and a policeman in plain clothes, and we then got him to the station—he said going along, that in years to come, if ever he came out he would do for me—I did not kick him before he struck me, nor did I use my truncheon before he attacked me or Davis—he kicked me very severely before I used my truncheon—he commenced a savage attack upon me and I kicked him.

The perpetrator of this attack had several previous convictions and was at the time “out on ticket of leave” which I imagine is some sort of parole. He received 10 years penal servitude. Mark received £1 “reward” and Constable Davis received £2. Constable Davis had been seen by Dr George Pearse who described him as having received several cuts through his tunic and waistcoat and one to his cheek which he considered had all been made by a knife. Constable Davis had been on sick leave ever since.

This is a good example of the type of occurrence that Mark and his brother would have been dealing with and no doubt he felt that it could have been himself and not his colleague who had borne the brunt of the attack which, were it not for his thick clothes, would have proved a lot worse or even fatal. Mark later suffered with leg problems whilst in hospital – maybe as a result of this attack.

Mark’s visitors in the Manor

We don’t know why Mark’s mental health began to deteriorate and whether it was related to his work in the Police. It’s possible that he had what today we would refer to as PTSD but we will never know for sure. Despite his wife Martha’s assertion that she was finding it impossible to live with him because of his behaviour, I think she must have done her best to be there for him, given that entry which says he was released into her care. No doubt she would have had to struggle alone in dealing with him and looking after the family as there would have been no support for families like them back then. I have seen the record of the visitors book when Mark was in the Manor and it is heartening to see that Martha visited him regularly up until the end of 1901. Early 1902 was when he went into Horton so it’s likely she continued her visits although there is no record. Mark was also visited in the Manor by his sister-in-law, J Coleman, and his sister, Mrs Williams. I haven’t been able to ascertain which of Mark’s siblings became Mrs Williams but J Coleman was Jane, his brother George’s wife. Given that the brothers both worked in Chelsea Division and would have lived fairly close to each other, it would be nice to think that the two families were mutually supportive.

Mark’s brother George

I feel that I should mention something of George’s life, given that it was so closely intertwined with Mark’s. As previously mentioned, in 1861 he was already married. His wife was Fanny Chivers and they married in Bristol in 1860 when he was working as a coach painter. Unfortunately Fanny died in 1863. I have not found a birth registration but the most likely cause of death for a young woman would have been childbirth. Was this a double loss which prompted George to move to London?

Happily, George remarried, this time to Jane May in December 1867 in Westminster. Subsequent censuses show that she too was born in Bristol so it looks likely that they got to know each other there and possibly moved to London together, or perhaps Jane followed him to get married. There is an entry for what is almost certainly her living with her sister in Clifton, Bristol in 1861. The marriage certificate is interesting as, just like Mark, George did not give his profession as Police Constable, but coach painter despite having enrolled in the Police in April that year.

In 1871 George and Jane have a son William aged 7 months and they are lodging with another Policeman, Gerard Kettle, and his wife.

By the time of the next census in 1881 the couple are living in Westminster with their daughter Mary aged 6,  but unfortunately William had died in 1875, aged just 5.

So was George the brother who had died in Banstead in 1889? I found a record for a George Coleman of the right age going into the Fulham Road workhouse on 22nd February 1887 for just a week, being discharged on 1st March. He is back in the workhouse again on 18th May and transferred to Banstead on 25th. George resigned from the Police on 8th March. so it looks like this is the right George. Confusingly I had found a death record for a George Coleman in St Georges, Hanover Square in 1888, the year before the “brother’s” death in Banstead. I wanted to clarify whether this was indeed Mark’s brother George so I obtained a copy of this death certificate which shows that George Coleman died at home at 94 Gatliff Buildings on 8th August 1888 in the presence of his wife Jane and the cause of death was disease of internal ear and epilepsy. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery. This address at 94 Gatliff Buildings is where Jane and her daughter are living in the 1891 census so this must be Mark’s brother. The epilepsy could have been a reason for him being put into an asylum and being declared insane. This means it wasn’t George who died in Banstead in 1889 unless there has been some misunderstanding or wrong information given when Mark’s notes were written up? Did Mark himself give this information? It seems unlikely given his mental state. The only alternative is that yet a third brother was in Banstead but this seems extremely unlikely.

It is interesting that the brothers resigned within a short time of each other and as well as the possible dangers of their job they had also both suffered personal losses. As well as possible sibling deaths, George had been widowed and likely lost his first child at the same time, and his first child with his second wife had died aged 5. I found a possible record for their mother’s death in Bristol in the June quarter of 1886, around the time that Mark first went into the workhouse. I haven’t been able to trace three of Mark’s children, so did they also die?

Mark’s family after he was admitted to the asylum 

So what became of Mark’s own family and how did they cope during all those years that he spent in various asylums? 

As previously mentioned, in the 1891 census his wife Martha, son Mark and 2 daughters Pattie (shown as Pollie) and Mabel are living at 49 Burnaby Street.

Also in that census I found a Mary Coleman, born in Bristol, of the right age to be the sister of Mark and George, and she is living at 36 Sutherland Street, Pimlico, which is the address which Jane Coleman gave when she visited Mark in the Manor sometime between 1899 and early 1902.  It looks as though their sister has moved to London to be with her family. Certainly this is after the death of what I think is their mother so perhaps their father has also died and she felt there was nothing to keep her, as a single woman, in Bristol. She is boarding with a widow, Elizabeth Terrell. Possibly, after George’s death Jane and Mary decided to live together at 36 Sutherland Street or it may be that Jane went there on Mary’s recommendation. I haven’t so far found any further records for either of them so it is impossible to say. However, what looks like George and Mary’s daughter Mary, now 26 and a dressmaker like her mother, is living at 36 Sutherland Street in 1901 so I suspect that all three women lived there for a while and Jane and Mary have died before 1901. I’ve found no further records for the daughter Mary after 1901.

In 1901 Mark’s wife Martha now describes herself as the head of the household. She, the younger Mark, Pattie and Mabel are still living in the same House in Burnaby Street. Four years later in 1905 the younger Mark  marries Florence Picknell in Fulham. His father is described as a Police Pensioner. Mark and Florence go on to have two daughters, Edith Mabel born 1905 and Doris Florence born 1907. Doris married William Jesse Calder in 1933 and ironically her new husband’s father was a retired Police Inspector.

By 1911 only Martha and Pattie are together but unfortunately Pattie died later that year aged 30.

Martha died in 1919 and the Probate was granted to William Goring Duke Holloway, private, Royal Fusiliers. Martha was living in Mimosa Street, Fulham at the time of her death and she is described as “wife of Mark Coleman”. It turns out that William was Martha’s son-in-law, having married Mabel on 17th October 1909 in Fulham. Mabel was living at Burnaby Street at the time, the family home for many years, and names her father as Mark Coleman, a Policeman, so it seems that he has not been disowned or forgotten by his family despite his health problems and time spent in institutions.

Their first child Charles William Mark Holloway was born in 1911 and it would seem he was named after his paternal grandfather, father and maternal grandfather. Unfortunately the baby died the same year. A daughter Hilda May followed in 1912 and then another boy George Duke Holloway in 1917.

In the 1921 census William, Mabel and their two children are at 40 Mimosa Street, so it seems that after Pattie died Martha went to live with them as that was her address when she died. 

On 23 Dec 1939 Mark’s grandson, George Duke Holloway, married Roberta Stella Deards in Fulham` but I’ve found no record of any children.

Martha never lived with anybody else as far as I can see and obviously gave Mark what support she could during his periods at home with her until she felt unable to cope because of his behaviour. However, she remained constant and continued to visit him and although he could not have spent a great deal of time with his children during their early lives he was not forgotten. It is very sad that he spent so many years in institutions and we will never know exactly what brought this about. But he does seem to have got something out of his work in the asylum gardens and lived to be 77 years old. He died in Horton on 18th August 1923 and is buried in plot 250a.
*Peabody Buildings. George Peabody 1795-1869 was an American businessman and philanthropist who set up the Peabody Trust in 1862 with £150,000 to create homes for London’s working poor. These were in the form of blocks of flats with separate laundry rooms and spaces for children to play. They were visionary for their time and the Peabody Trust continues to this day to provide affordable housing for Londoners. www.peabodygroup.org.uk

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