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The Demise of a Young Bank Clerk

Without William’s death certificate it would have been difficult to trace him with any certainty. Fortunately, it had some vital information – his father’s name and William’s address before he entered Long Grove Asylum. This helped me to identify the correct William Henry Cooper.

William Henry was born on 25 November 1879 in Fulham to Edward and Eliza Emma Cooper née Brand.

 Edward Cooper, who was born in 1847, came from Blackfriars. He was the youngest son of Joseph George Cooper and Catherine Cooper née Scarborough. Joseph, or George as he was often known, was a Grocer who operated in the Blackfriars Area of London.

Eliza Emma Brand was born in January quarter of 1845 in West Mersea in Essex. She was the eldest child of George Brand and Emma Smith. George was a mariner and Oyster Merchant. 

From the 1871 census both Edward and Eliza can be found working on the Kent coast. Edward, aged 22, was living at Marian Cottage in Ramsgate High Street with his brother Frederick. Edward was working as a Woollen Draper’s Assistant which would be a line of work that would remain constant all his working life. His brother Frederick claimed he was living off interest from money. Eliza, aged 25, was lodging with a Railway Station Inspector and working as a Barmaid in the Reception Room at Margate. Both towns are only 5 miles apart so perhaps this was where they met.

In the April quarter of 1873 the couple were married in the City of London district of London.

Early married life for Edward and Eliza Cooper

Edward and Eliza’s first child Edward Albert Brand Cooper was born on 16 August 1873 in Lambeth. He was baptised at St James church in Camberwell on 2 November 1873. The family address at this time was 5 Gordon Terrace, Holland Road in Brixton. Edward junior was followed by a sister Mary Eliza in December 1875, brothers George Frederick in September 1877 and our William Henry was born on 25 November 1879 at 82 Devonport Road, Shepherds Bush.


The 1881 census finds the family living at 3 Flaxman Road in Lambeth. Edward Cooper, aged 32, was working as a Draper’s Assistant, Eliza, aged 36, Edward A B, aged 7, Mary E, aged 5 and George, aged 1. There was also a cousin called Elizabeth C B Cooper aged 18, a stockbroker’s Clerk staying with them. At the same address Edward’s brother, Frederick Cooper, who is now a Grocer is living with his family. Strangely, our William is not mentioned but George is noted as being aged 1 and he would have been around 4 years old so has there been some confusion here?

The final addition to the family arrived in June 1882 when Richard was born.


The 1891 census shows the family has moved to 18 Sutherland Street north of the Thames in the St George Hanover Square area. Edward, now aged 45, is still working as a Woollen Draper’s Assistant, Eliza is described as aged 42. The children, Edward A, aged 17, is also working as a Draper’s Assistant, Mary E, aged 15, George F, aged 13, William H, aged 11 and Richard, aged 10, are all scholars.Booth’s Maps showing both Sutherland Street and Charlwood Street in the parish of St Gabriel in Pimlico.

The Electoral Register shows that the Cooper family had moved to 59 Charlwood Street in Pimlico by 1898.

1901 and beyond

The 1901 census confirms that the family was still living at 59 Charlwood Street in Pimlico. Edward 53 was continuing his work as a Woollen Draper’s Assistant; Eliza, his wife, was aged 56, George F, aged 24 was working as a Commission Agent and William H, aged 22, was a storeman in Army Clothing. There is no mention of Richard and I have not been able to find anything further about him. 

 Booth’s Maps described the area as a well-to-do and fairly comfortable street depending on where you were. The street contained a mixture of furnished apartments and private houses. The Coopers shared this property with one other household which was Charles Sach, a widower living off his own income and his lodger Wanda Gulbrook who was a 23-year-old French married woman. So, it seems like a comfortable household.

From Alamy Stock Photo

In the June quarter of 1904 Williams’ mother Eliza died aged 59.

On 9 April 1906 William Henry was admitted to Fulham Palace workhouse from 59 Charlwood Street. He was discharged into the care of his father on 20 April 1906 under Section 22 of the Lunacy Act 1890. This granted the power to allow a relative or friend to take care of a lunatic. Edward must have loved his son very much to take care of him in this way. Sadly, there are no further records for William to be found in the indexed or unindexed records in Ancestry to know the depth of his illness. 

A further 14 months would pass and finally, presumably after his family could no longer care for him, he was admitted to Long Grove on 27 August 1907.

By 1909 his father Edward had moved from the area. Possibly, after William was admitted to Long Grove he felt he had no need to remain in the area.

William can be found in the 1911 census, under his initials only in Long Grove listed as a patient. He is described as a single man aged 31 whose occupation was that of a Bank Clerk. In the footnote he is described as a lunatic from the age of 26. This accords with his admission to the workhouse in 1906.

William’s Death Certificate.

He would then spend another four years there before he died on 2 June 1911 of Pulmonary Tuberculosis which he had had for about two and a half years and Tubercular Enteritis for 6 weeks. His father Edward was given as the informant who was living at 277 Haydons Road, Wimbledon. Tuberculosis was an all too common cause of death in the Asylums.

After William’s death

Trying to find out what happened to Edward Cooper and his remaining children has proved to be difficult. Cooper is a common surname which has added to the problem. I have only managed to trace Edward Albert Brand Cooper and George Frederick Cooper with any certainty.

Edward junior had married Amy Lee in 1896 and by 1901 they were living at 127 Lupus Street in the same parish as his parents. He also worked as a Woollen Draper’s Assistant like his father. Edward and Amy had one son called Richard Frederick on 2 November 1903 and when he was baptised on 20 December 1903 the home address given was that of 59 Charlwood Street. This was the home of Edward, Eliza and William Cooper. Whether they were living there or not cannot be proved.

By 1911 Edward and Amy were living at 19 Florence Road in Wimbledon. Edward was working as a Warehouseman for a Woollen Merchant. Also living in Wimbledon was Edward senior but apart from William’s death certificate I have not found any further evidence. 

Edward, Amy and Richard were still living at 19 Florence Road when the 1939 Register was taken. Edward was still working in the Woollen industry as was Richard. Edward died in 1944 aged 71.

George Frederick Cooper married Louisa Elizabeth Maslin on 24 June 1905 at St Nicholas Church in Tooting Graveney. They gave their address as Durham House. On 23 June 1906 their only child Frederick Leonard Cooper was born. The 1911 census finds them living in the same street as Edward and Amy at 84 Florence Road, Wimbledon. George was working as a Shipping Clerk. 

By 1939 George was widowed and living at 38 Limes Avenue in Croydon with his son Frederick. He was working for the Local Authority as a Clerk.  I have not been able to trace his death.

William’s family background

When I research a story, I always try to look at the broader family background in case there is a history of mental illness or sometimes a person’s background gives an insight into where they find themselves. So, without trying to detract from William himself I have found the following to be of some interest which indicates that the family was possibly in a better financial position than some and their backgrounds show a history of ambitious people.

The Coopers

Edward’s father, as I have already mentioned, was Joseph George Cooper who was a Grocer. Of Edward’s siblings who would have been William’s paternal Uncles and Aunts I have only been able to trace his Uncle Frederick and his Aunt Emily Sarah Cooper. 

Frederick claimed on his marriage to Mary Elizabeth Boyden in 1868 he was a “Gentleman”. I am not sure why he stated this unless he was trying to impress his bride who was the young widow of a Vet. By 1871 both Frederick and Edward were living in Ramsgate together. Frederick states he is living off interest.

Later in this year things seem to go wrong for the brothers. Well, Frederick to be precise. 

A sale of items from Marian Cottage is advertised. Are they Frederick and Edward’s possessions? Around the same time advertisements appear in the papers inviting anyone with a claim against Frederick to notify the Auctioneers. Had Frederick been living beyond his means or did he need cash quickly? His wife is also nowhere to be found.

From the East Kent Times and Mail 10 August 1871

From the description of the sale items the brothers lived a fine life.

East Kent Times and Mail dated 24 August 1871. This advertisement appeared over a number of weeks.

How this was all resolved is unclear. I presume the sales took place and Frederick returned to London. By 1881 he was living in London with his wife and stepdaughter working as a Grocer in the same house as Edward, his brother. I can find no trace of Frederick and his family after this date.

Aunt Emily Sarah Cooper married Frederick James George who was also a Grocer from Tottenham. They went on to have 8 children who would have been William’s cousins. Only one of them died young. All the others went on to marry quite well. Two of them employed servants in 1911 which gives an indication of their status. 

The Brands

William’s mother Eliza came from a big family from West Mersea on the Essex coast. Her father, George Brand, was a Mariner and an Oyster Merchant. West Mersea is known for its high quality Blackwater Oysters, and the Brand family were heavily involved in this local industry. Members of the family were shareholders in the Tollesbury and Mersea Blackwater Fishery Company.

All four of Eliza’s brothers were fishermen as were two of her half- brothers. Her half sister Salome married a Fisherman. Only Eliza and Emma moved away from West Mersea. It would have been more difficult for the girls to succeed in West Mersea so perhaps they branched out. The Brands also married into successful local families. Their Uncle Elijah Cooke was also an Oyster Merchant. What is curious is the fact that three of Eliza Brand’s brothers married three sisters, Catherine, Mary Ann and Charlotte Pullen, daughters of George Pullen who was a gardener and seed grower of some standing in West Mersea. It gives a picture of a hard working but successful family.

Author’s Thoughts

William’s life has not left us with many records of his life and a lot of what I have learnt is through the eyes of his family. The family were not involved with hard industrial or menial work and Edward and his eldest son worked in the Woollen business all their lives. William had good work as a Bank Clerk and could have been destined for better things. Sadly, His life was cut short by some sort of mental illness. The most touching thing to me is the fact that initially his father wanted to look after him and under Section 22 of the 1890 Lunacy Act he elected to take him home. He cared for him for a further 16 months until he could cope no more.  This would not have been easy and the decision to send his son to the Asylum must have been heartbreaking.

There are no case notes surviving for Long Grove so we will never know how or what William had to endure but it is clear his father loved him and must have missed him very much.

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