Elizabeth’s parents and siblings
Elizabeth Coombes was born Elizabeth Eltringham on 10 July 1861 to parents, Alexander Eltringham (1829-1876) and Elizabeth Holmes (1830-1898), who married on 19th June 1848 at St Andrews Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland.
Altogether I have found the births of eight children but two were lost in their first year, Elizabeth born1852 and Alexander born 1859.
Their surviving children were Eleanor (Ellen) born 1848, Ralph born 1849, Elizabeth born 1852, Jane born 1856, Alexander born 1859, Elizabeth born 1861, Alexander born 1864 and Hannah born 1868.
Alexander’s parents were Ralph Eltringham and Ann Graham both born 1803 in Gateshead. They married in Newcastle on 30 June 1825. Ralph was a steel worker. Elizabeth’s parents were Samuel and Ann Holmes. Unfortunately Samuel appears to have died in 1835 when Elizabeth was just 12 years old.
The Eltringham family lived all their lives in Gateshead, initially in “Blackwall,” and then, in the 1861 Census, the family is shown living at 13, Clavering Street, Gateshead, Alexander’s occupation is given as “iron roller” and Elenor, Ralph, Ann and Jane are noted. Later that year Elizabeth was born. She was baptised on 29th July 1861 in Gateshead.
The 1871 Census gives the family address as 47, Berwick Street, Gateshead, and Elizabeth , Alexander and Hannah are shown. The family is complete.
Sadly Elizabeth’s father Alexander died in late September 1876; he was buried in Gateshead Parish on 1st Oct 1876.
Elizabeth works as a domestic servant
By 1881 Elizabeth is 19 years old and we find her living and working as a domestic servant for three elderly sisters at 30, Simpson Street, Newcastle on Tyne. Two of the sisters were former teachers and the third is a widow so we can hope that this was a good situation for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth marries and moves to Greenwich
On 14 August 1883 Elizabeth married James Peter Coombes /Coombs (1862 – 1907) at St Hilda’s Church, South Shields, situated in the market square.
Postcard sent 1904.
Her birth year is given as 1864, aged 19 years, and her father is shown as John Eltringham. Her wedding took place after her father’s death so we can assume that John was possibly and uncle or cousin.
The only census found for James and Elizabeth after their marriage is in 1901 when they were living at 8, River Terrace, Greenwich. James says he is born in London in 1863 and that he is an “engine fitter.” Living with them is Joseph T Eltringham born 1878 in South Shields. His occupation is given as “engine driver.” Joseph is said to be single and a ‘brother’ but Elizabeth did not have a brother called Joseph.
However, in the visitors’ book for the Manor Asylum Joseph T Eltringham appears again as Elizabeth’s brother living at 49, Glenforth Street, Greenwich. Further research shows that this was Joseph Toward Eltringham, born 1878 in South Shields. He married Alice Maud Stratton in 1902 and we find them still living at 49, Glenforth Street in the 1920 electoral register.
Joseph’s parents were John Cook Eltringham and his wife Jane. Could this be the same John who deputised for her father at Elizabeth’s wedding?
Sadly it seems that Elizabeth and James did not have any children.
The death of Elizabeth’s husband – and her admission to the Manor
On 9 March 1907 James died suddenly “at the works of the South Metropolitan Electric Light Company Ltd” and his probate shows that he left Elizabeth £333.12s which today would be equivalent to £51,252 which explains why when Elizabeth was admitted to The Manor Asylum on 21 Oct 1907 she was admitted as a private patient. On her death certificate in 1915 it states that she had been ill for 10 years, 2 years prior to James’s death, so it is probable that with nobody to care for her it was felt necessary to place her in The Manor.
We find Elizabeth (E C) on the 1911 Census for the Manor where it states that she became ill at the age of 44 years which seems to agree with the notes.
At the moment we do not have the case notes for Elizabeth’s time as a private patient but by 1912 the money had run out and she was “transferred from private to pauper” which is where we can pick up her story.
The other people mentioned in the visitors’ book are Solicitor George Whale from the London and County Bank Chambers, Woolwich and Herbert London, High Leigh, Mycena Rd, Westcombe Park, E8 “Late Gaurantor.” (their spelling) Presumably these gentlemen took care of Elizabeth’s finances whilst she was a private patient although neither ever visited. The other family member to visit her was her sister Jane Steinson who lived at 7, Trinity Street, South Shields who, along with Joseph visited her several times during her stay.
Elizabeth’s health deteriorates
Following her transfer we first hear from the doctors on 12 June 1912 when we are told that she is “in the last stage of general paralysis, bedridden and very feeble.” In December of that year he says that she is “quite lost to her surroundings, in the last stages of her disease”.
Sadly there is no improvement and in March 1913 her report states “General paralysis of the insane, last stages. Bedridden, needs constant care.”
In December 1914 “she is still alive but much demented and oblivious of her surroundings.”
On 6 May 1915, “had a seizure last night; on 7 May “Much worse”; on 8 May “died yesterday afternoon 4.45pm.
All of Elizabeth’s siblings lived out their lives in the Gateshead area which makes her sister Jane’s visits very special considering the journey.
All married, several more than once, and all the men worked in the heavy industry of the area, in iron foundries, shipyards and mining.
Health checks in the Manor appear to have been carried out on a quarterly basis with no additional notes in between; sadly Elizabeth seems to have already been in a very poor state when she was transferred and deteriorated slowly over the next three years until her death. Once again we find the language used rather shocking to our modern sensibilities. When we do have access to her private patient’s notes I hope it will corroborate the research and it will be interesting to see if there is a difference in her care and to find out what her original diagnosis was.
We expect there to be case notes at the London Metropolitan archives which we will access as soon as possible.