COLLIER, Isaac James

When Isaac is transferred to The Colony in Ewell he is said to be quite aware of what is going on and where he is.
His speech is good and coherent apart from a slight stammer at times.  He complains that his memory is not good and ‘if told to do a thing he forgets unless he does it immediately.’

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Isaac James Collier’s birth was registered in the December quarter of 1864. He was the fourth of seven children born to Richard Rowley Collier (1828-1901) and his wife Jane Cole (1835-1898). 

The Rowley name was passed on to their first born son and was derived from Richard’s mother Mary Rowley.  

His grandmother, also Mary Rowley married his grandfather Stephen Collier in Cambridge in 1820, but they lived the rest of their lives in Romford High Street, Essex where Stephen was an auctioneer, appraiser and farmer.  

At this point in time, Romford, and its surrounding area, was largely farmland, although it was a busy coaching route into London. It only really began to change with the coming of the railway in 1839. 

The early history of Romford and its surroundings was agricultural, and several mills along the river were used to grind corn. The town also had a forest nearby, which provided timber and hunting grounds.

By the time of the 1851 Census, Richard Rowley Collier was a farmer of 150 acres at Mayland Green Farm, Hornchurch. He is 23 yrs old, unmarried and employed nine men and 1 boy, which suggests he was doing quite well for a young man.

Among his “men ” was James Cole Agricultural Labourer, his wife Mary and his daughter Jane, aged 16 yrs, who were both house servants. It is Jane who went on to become Richard’s wife.  

Parents’ Marriage 

Richard and Jane did not marry until 1860 and we can see from their children’s birth dates that they had produced two children before they decided to marry. At her marriage, both Jane and her father James sign with a cross, “their mark”. 

The year after their marriage, in 1861, we find them on the census now living at 43, Park Street, Bethnal Green, the home of his father in law; although he still states that he is a farmer of 150 acres.

Their eldest child Jane, is 7yrs old, and was born in East Ham and the younger, Richard Rowley Jnr 4 yrs, was born in West Ham. I wonder if two illegitimate children and marriage into a labourer’s family may have caused the move.  The Colliers were a family of note in Romford and possibly Richard’s marriage caused a rift?

A Growing Family

Within the following ten years the family has increased to its full extent and in the 1871 Census, they are living at Wheald House, Dagenham, Essex.  

They now have, Jane born 1854, Richard Rowley Jnr born 1857, Jemima born 1861, Isaac James born 1864, Samuel House (clearly correct on certificates) born 1867, Amelia Sarah born 1869 and Alfred Jabez born 1871. All children born after their marriage were born in Dagenham, Essex,

I can find no census for any member of the family in 1881.

In the 1891 Census, we find a smaller family living at 49, St Peter’s Street, Mile End Old Town, (now known as Stepney Green). Richard Senior is now 61 yrs and is a watchman/port(er). Jane is 57 years and Isaac, who is a porter, is 37 yrs old as is 20 yr old Alfred.

They have a lodger, Thomas Cole, an ironmonger’s porter, presumably a relative of Jane’s.  Possibly they are all working at the same place. This is the last census which shows Isaac with his family.

The impact of his parents deaths

Jane Collier died in 1898 and Richard Rowley Senior died in early 1901.

According to details given by Isaac later we know that all of the children except Alfred are now married or living away and sadly, this seems to be the start of Isaac’s problems as in the 1901 Census, we find him as an inmate of the Mile End Old Town (MEOT)Workhouse.  He is 38 yrs old and a “compositor”. 

Over the next six years we find Isaac in and out of the MEOT Workhouse, generally noted as, ‘destitute’ and on one occasion ‘deemed insane’.    

Finally on 5th June 1907 Isaac was admitted to Claybury Asylum, Woodford Bridge, Essex where he lived for the next four and a half years until, on 14th March 1912 he was transferred to the Ewell Epileptic Colony in Epsom.

The Claybury reception order, signed by George Warren, on 3 June 1907 states that Isaac was 44 yrs old, single and a compositor.  It gives the age of his first attack as 36 years (1900) and says that he is not under any treatment.  

He does not appear suicidal or dangerous.  He is chargeable to ‘the hamlet of Mile End Old Town, London’.

His previous abode is given as 7, Norfolk Street, Mile End which is the same address given for his brother Alfred in the 1901 Census. Although it seems that Isaac was in the MEOT workhouse at the time of the census (31.3.1901) (see Find My Past),  it sounds as though he had been living with his younger brother.

The medical certificate from that time states that, ‘he looks vacant and stupid, is very slow and hesitating in answering questions. He says he has been dead very often but is much better now.’

The attendant from the workhouse states, ‘He is very depressed and strange in his manner and keeps saying he has been dead. He has had several fits.’

When Isaac was admitted to the Ewell Colony on 14 March 1912 his brother Richard is the named relative and gives his address as 56 Canfield Street, Bethnal Green, London.  He also gave details of Isaacs’s history on 28 Aug 1912. 

His brother Richard’s account

Richard seems to have no recollection of Isaac’s place within the family or even how many siblings he has or how many are still living.  

He remembers that Isaac was educated in Romford and was quick, but unsurprisingly, nothing about his early development. He says that he had been earning his own living as a compositor for 3 years, presumably prior to being admitted to Claybury.

The only illness he can recall is St Vitus Dance, which is a ‘childhood movement disorder, an inflammatory response to strep throat or rheumatic fever which is characterised by rapid, involuntary movements of muscles.’

He says that Isaac has been receiving treatment at the Soho Hospital for fits. Richard states that his brother’s habits are steady, he is regular at work, his disposition is bright and he has no drink problems.

The cause ascribed to this present illness is ‘fright as far as known’.

As his father supposedly died in an accident, I wondered if this might be the ‘fright’ that caused the onset of his fits, however, on seeing the death cert above it appears that Richard died of heart failure so unlikely to be the shock that brought on his fits.

His medical notes

Isaac had spent the past four years at Claybury, where he says he was happy, contented and not anxious for his discharge.  He has been accustomed to working on the farm at Claybury and prior to that he was a compositor.  

He is slow and uncertain of figures and takes some time to answer easy problems. Intellectually he seems ‘somewhat dull and weak minded.’When Isaac is transferred to The Colony he is recorded as being 5 ‘4 ¾;  weight 9st 11lb. His hair is greyish, his complexion fair and he has blue eyes. All medical checks show no concerns about his health.

Mentally, Isaac is said to be quite aware of what is going on and where he is. His speech is good and coherent apart from a slight stammer at times.  He complains that his memory is not good and ‘if told to do a thing he forgets unless he does it immediately.’   

Admittance notice to C in L 21.3.1912

‘He is suffering from Dementia and Epilepsy.  Dull, feeble minded and apathetic.

Memory impaired, easily confused.  Two minor attacks since being admitted and confused after last.  He seems congenitally deficient.  Moderate health and condition.’

This seems rather at odds with Richard’s description of him but we cannot know when he last saw his brother.

In June 1912 we find Isaac working in the villa in the mornings and on the farm in the afternoons.  He is said to be improved in general health and brighter mentally, but just ten days later we hear that he has been fighting with another colonist.

Over the following months he is said to be, ‘confused and quarrelsome at times but by Christmastime his fits are said to be increasing and he is described a, ‘diurnal’ which can mean daily,  he has a ‘discontented, irritable manner and is occasionally subject to depression.  He cannot remember the name of this place and cannot remember what he had for dinner when he had just finished it.’

On 4th March 1913, we are told that Isaac is a ‘willing worker and gives little trouble’ although his fits continue to increase, but ten days later he is sent to hospital as he is ‘having a group of epileptic attacks and complaining more than usual of his gastric troubles’.  Following treatment he returns to Pine villa a few days later.

In April, he seems to be more confused, when he ‘was not taking notice of his movements’, he tripped on a rug and struck his head on the table.  He improves again but then in June it is noted that, ‘he is confused in manner and appears to be ill, nothing definite found’ nevertheless ‘sick notices’ were sent to friends.

These ‘attacks of mental confusion’ continue but at the same time we are told that he is a ‘good worker and gives no trouble’. 

Isaac’s health deteriorates

Sadly Isaac’s health deteriorates and on 15th Feb 1914 his notes state that he suffered five fits last night and four this morning S.Y.W ? given with a fair result. He is in a rather weak condition.

16th Feb. The fits still continue and the patient is semiconscious with a high temperature.  Isaac is given 1 ¼ pints of milk with egg and brandy plus medication.

17th Feb Despite last night’s medication there was little improvement, ‘however, this morning he has been free from fits from 6.15am’.  At 11.45am a ‘nasal feed’ was given bis die (twice daily).

19th Feb ‘Nasal feed given twice daily, condition remains unchanged for past 24hrs. High temperature, Bronchitic signs – no further fits.’

Isaac died at 12.45pm on 20th Feb 1914.  

He was buried in the Horton Estate Cemetery on26th Feb 1914 in grave 991 b.

Sadly no visitors are noted for Isaac in the Colony’s visitors address book.

The Epsom Cluster 

The cluster comprised five asylums built between 1899 and 1924. The Ewell Colony opened in 1903 to cater for the ‘Epileptic insane of the Metropolis’ and offered some new treatments only recently available, in a more homely environment.  

This new approach housed patients in a collection of villas, avoiding the stigma of living in a mental asylum.  Patients contributed to the whole of the cluster by working in some capacity in the laundry or the bakery or kitchen or outside in the garden or on the farm.

Isaac’s family

Jane Junior was the eldest in the family, born most likely in JQ 1854 in East Ham, Essex. 

No baptism has been found.  On 14 August 1876, she married Charles Roach in St Mary’s Parish Church, Stratford, Bow.  Charles’s occupation was given as foreman in a brewery. They are both of full age.  Both Charles and Jane’s fathers are shown as farmers. 

The 1881 Census shows the family living in Cromwell Road, South Weald, Essex. Charles is now a ‘plate layer’ and they have an 11 month old son, Arthur R.

Over the next decades they continued living in South Weald and their family grew. According to the 1911 Census, they had 11 children of which 3 had died leaving 7 sons and 1 daughter. 

At some point after the 1881 Census, Charles changed his job and became a stockman, which continued until the 1911 Census when, at the age of 57, he was a domestic gardener.

The family are still living in the Brentwood area of Essex and Jane and three of their children are still at home.

I have not been able to find Charles’s death with certainty but I believe that Jane died in the MQ of 1934 in Billericay, Essex, aged 79 yrs.

Richard Rowley Jnr. inherited the Rowley name as the first born son. He was born in the DQ 1856 and baptised on 4 Jan 1857 at All Saints Church, West Ham, Essex, one of only two children I have found a baptism for.

On 9 March 1890, Richard Roland Collier married Cecily Pell at St Silas Church, Clerkenwell, Middlesex.  Richard is said to be a brewer’s drayman and his father Richard Roland Collier is a watchman, whilst Cecily’s father is a farm labourer.

You will see that both father and son have changed the spelling of their second name and I thought this would be a mistake by the church registrar but Richard actually signed his name with this spelling.  Cecily signs the register with a cross, ‘her mark’.

Richard and Cecily had three children, two sons and a daughter but Richard did not pass on the Rowley name to his first born son giving him the impressive name of Richard Horace James William Collier. At his baptism Richard senior had reverted to using the name Rowley.   The family lived much of the time in the Mile End Old Town area before moving to Bethnal Green by 1911.  Richard spent his working life as a drayman. 

He died in DQ 1912 aged just 56 yers and Cecily died in MQ 1931 aged 68 years.

Amelia Sarah was born in the DQ 1869 in Dagenham, Essex.  She married on the 5 July 1891 to Thomas Wishaw Fairweather at the church of St John of Jerusalem in Hackney. She is 21 years and Thomas is 26 years old.  Thomas’s occupation is given as waiter, his father is said to be a law writer and Amelia’s father is a brewers foreman.

One of the witnesses is Charles Roach, Amelia’s brother in law.

The 1901 Census shows Amelia and Thomas living with Thomas’s brother in law, Thomas Henry Wayland who is a widower with an 8yr old son Stanley, Thomas Henry is a Corn Merchant and they are living in Cann Hall Rd, Leytonstone. Essex. 

At this point Amelia and Thomas are awaiting the birth of their first child, sadly their son, Thomas Wishaw Jnr was born and died in the JQ 1901. This was followed by the loss of a second son, Thomas Wishaw who was born and died in SQ 1903. 

However, in the 1911 Census we find that Thomas has died and Amelia, now a widow with a 4 year old son Cecil Stanley, is still living with Thomas Wayland and his son in Leytonstone. 

Perhaps, following loss of two children named after their father and the death of her husband before this latest son was born, Amelia decided to give the child an entirely different name?  Cecil had been born on 16th April 1906 but was not baptised until 27 Sept 1918 when he was 12yrs old.  Sadly his father, Amelia’s husband Thomas, died in the Sept of 1905 when she was just about 2 months pregnant.  Following the loss of two children how very sad that Thomas died just before the birth their only child to survive.

Amelia died in the JQ 1928.  Cecil married Hilda Butler and had a family, dying in 1978.

Samuel House (confirmed)   was born on 3 Dec 1866 in Dagenham, Essex.

On 12 Nov 1888 he married Lisa Maria Thomas at St Thomas’s Church, Stepney. Samuel’s occupation is given as ‘wine merchant’ and witnessed by his father Richard Rowley Collier who is said to be a ‘clerk.’

In the 1891 Census, Samuel and Lisa were living in Mile End Old Town, as yet there were no children. Samuel is now a ‘cellarman’.

By the 1901 Census, two children had arrived and that seemed to be the extent of their family.  However in the 1911c we see that in fact they had three children but one had died. They are now living in West Ham and all the family are working; Samuel is now a ‘stationary Engineer’ and Lisa is a ‘milliner’.  I have found a possible death for Lisa Maria (sometimes called Eliza) in Jan 1924 West Ham. 

We know that Samuel was noted as a widower in the 1939 register when he was working as a crane driver. He was living with his eldest son, Albert Victor and his wife Mable in West Ham, Essex.  It is possible that he died in 1952 in Barnet, Hertfordshire aged 85yrs.

Jemima was born on 13th Oct 1861 and she was baptised on 3 Nov 1861 at St Dunstan and All Saints Church, Stepney, Middlesex. (In the ’39 reg she states her d.o.b. as 12 Sept 1857).

Jemima married George Daniel on 16th April 1882 at St Peters Church, Stepney. Together they had nine children of which four had died by the 1911 Census.

Throughout his working life Daniel is a ‘wood packing cane maker’ and by 1901 he was an ‘employer.’  They lived most of their married life in the East Ham area until, in the 1911 Census, we find them living in a seven room house in Westcliff on Sea Essex. Daniel is still working as a ‘wood case maker’ and four of their children remain at home.

In the 1939 register we find Jemima ‘living on own means’ in Banbury Oxfordshire, possibly evacuated by the family to a safer place before war began.

George died 1 Jan 1937 and Jemima lived on for another ten years dying in JQ 1947.

Alfred Jabez was born in Dagenham in the second quarter of 1870; no baptism found.

The first census in which we find Alfred living apart from his family is in 1901, when both his parents had died, his father just recently.  He is living at 7, Norfolk Street, Mile End Old Town, he is 30yrs old and a ‘corn porter.’ I believe that he may have been living with his brother Isaac as this is the address given to the MEOT Workhouse, where Isaac was living at the time of the census.

In the 1911 Census, Alfred, now aged 40yrs, is found in the MEOT Work House himself, probably in the infirmary. He is recorded as “formerly a railway porter, “consumption, 10 yrs”.

Further investigation shows that between 1904 and 1921 at least, Alfred is in and out of the MEOT workhouse and hospital regularly. Twice it is noted that he is “deemed insane,” and once that he is destitute.

No positive death has been found. I believe that he may have died in St Peters Hospital, Stepney in March 1938 and been buried in the Tower Hamlets Cemetery on the March 18th.

Mile End Old Town workhouse which played such a part in both Isaac and Alfred’s lives.

Authors note

This would be an interesting family to research further to find out more about the Collier/Pratt connections (Stephen Collier’s father was named ‘Pratt Collier’). There were various businesses both Collier and Pratt in and around the area.  Stephen and Mary had a large family and he left a will which might make interesting reading.

The Collier name also features in the locality, ‘Colliers Row’ which may have connections further back in time.  There are some online trees on Ancestry going back to the 1600’s.

It is interesting to speculate upon the reasons why Richard Rowley Collier’s family seem to have declined socially from such a promising start in life. Possibly it was just the changing times.

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