CORKE, Henrietta

Henrietta Corke 31a

The author says, “This has been such an interesting case to try to unravel and kept a couple of us up to the early hours trying to make sense of it!” A fabulous piece of research leaving questions to unravel.

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Life in Manor Hospital

Henrietta Corke was admitted to Manor Hospital on 9 October 1899, 8 years before she died in November 1907. It appears from the notes that she was transferred from the Isle of Wight C A (County Asylum), although I have found no such evidence.

Case notes from the time of admission to the Manor and notes taken during her time there have helped to build up a picture of Henrietta’s last few years in Epsom.

Her physical condition on arrival was described in the notes as being thin and poorly nourished. She had fine grey hair and blue eyes, a pleasant expression with no furrows or lines. Her teeth were fair and gums healthy.

Valuable evidence from her visitors

Very little else was known about her, apart from, it was recorded that she was single, she had hit her landlady and that she had a niece who visited her and attended her funeral. 

The niece was called Emily Sherwood and lived at 15 Lupus Street, Belgrave Road, Westminster.

As to her age, occupation, religion, date of first attack, age at the time of the first attack, cause of the attack and the duration of the present attack all were recorded as ‘N.K.’ or ‘Not known’.

The member of staff who observed Henrietta at the time of admission was J Halliday, they recorded the following:

“She is most incoherent in her talk, says a Man O ’War’ has been sent here for the captain to protect her, that Our Saviour was behind the picture on the wall and that she had been to the builders to have the wall knocked down to let the spirit out”

J. Halliday

Her landlady also provided evidence to indicate her insanity stating:

‘She wonders about the house for hours at a time talking to herself, that she has been visiting several houses in the neighbourhood, also the police station to enquire about a gentleman who is starving & she wishes to feed him. She went to the builders to knock down a wall to let the spirit out & that our saviour is up behind the picture on the wall.’

Progress Reports

Progress reports were recorded in her notes about 4 times a year from January 1900 until she died in 1907. During the first couple of years she was described as being in ‘fair health’. 

However, throughout her whole time, she was consistently described as delusional and incoherent with little or no memory. She was solitary in her habits and had little idea of time or place.

Twice in 1902 there was reference to her stating that the Queen supported her and had visited her in her home. 

In 1903 there was also reference to ‘Gods of the Army’ standing up for her. She thought that the Saviour was coming to see her. She also said she was married to her sister and the Captain of a French Man O’War was protecting her. 

Further reference was made to her being married to her sister later notes and that her sister was called Phoebe. 

Later in the year, her health appeared to have improved to moderate, although she was still not able to converse sensibly.

In 1904, the comments were similar: her memory and intelligence were much impaired, she was vacant minded, incoherent and forgetful. By the end of the year her health again was described as feeble.

By 1905 her health was poor and she was moved to Ward G. There were also further references to Royalty; she stated that the Prince had sent her messages.

She suffered a bout of influenza in October 1905. Her case notes included a temperature chart recording that her temperature reached 104 degrees fahrenheit – this left her in a weak condition.

Henrietta becomes bedridden

During 1906, she became largely bedridden and her health faded further. She mentioned her sister Phoebe again stating, this time she was married to Jesus. 

In March of 1907 she was described as profoundly demented and feeble. Entries throughout the year referred to her being bedridden and helpless, having to have everything done for her. By 30 October she was in a very weak condition, her circulation was sluggish and her pulse was hardly perceptible. Her temperature was subnormal. 

Sadly, she died a couple of days later on 2 November 1907.

The above Statement of Death that was sent to the Coroner recorded her age as being about 71 years old. Her exact age was not known at that time. This is relevant later in this story. The apparent cause of death was senile decay and atrophy of the brain which she had suffered from for many years.

I applied for the Entry of Death, in the hope that it would provide me with further information particularly in relation to other family members, sadly it did not. Her death was registered by the Medical Superintendent of the Asylum. 

However, it did confirm a link to the Isle of Wight.

Death Certificate Henrietta Corke

Life before Epsom

It has been difficult to find out about Henrietta’s life before she was admitted to the Manor Hospital, particularly as there is some uncertainty as to her age. The Statement of Death sent to the Coroner stated her age was ‘about 71 years’.

I believe I have found her on two census records in 1881 and 1891, living in the London area and one when she was 26 in the Isle of Wight, taken in 1861. All three of these documents would fit with her being born around 1835. 

In 1891, there was a Henrietta Corke living at 226 Vauxhall Bridge Road, she was single, aged 50 and born in Cowes, Isle of Wight. She was the head of the household and living alone and on her own means. 

Ten years earlier, a Henrietta Corke was lodging in 3 Princes Row, Hanover Square. Her age was recorded as 45 years and again she was born in the Isle of Wight. Her rank, profession or occupation was recorded as an Annuitant. An annuitant is an individual who is entitled to collect the regular payments of a pension or an annuity investment.

Evidence in earlier censuses – 1861

Having found these two likely records I started to try to find her in earlier censuses and came across another likely record for her in 1861 on the Isle of Wight. This time I believe I have found her living with her father and two nieces at 13 Medina Road. 

The details on the record name her father as Robert Corke, a sailmaker born in Northwood on the Isle of Wight. Robert was aged 75, at the time of the census and a widower. Henrietta was recorded as being born in the Isle of Wight and was a sailmaker’s housekeeper. The other two members of the household were stated as two grand-daughters, Emily Mills and Phoebe Tucker, aged 17 and 16 respectively.

1851 Census

A fellow researcher has found a further census for 1851, where there is a Corke family living in Medina Road on the Isle of Wight. The head of the household is Robert, a sailmaker, birth place and birth year the same as on the1861 census. There is also a Henrietta living there aged 24, a wife called Charlotte and two further children Emma and Phoebe. Both Emma and Phoebe were young children and would have been born after Charlotte’s child-bearing years. So, I believe they are the grandchildren referred to on the 1861 Census.

The confusion with this record is the age of Henrietta. If, as stated, she was 24, her birth year would be about 1826, rather than 1835. To add to the evidence contradicting 1835, there is a baptism record for a Henrietta Corke on 28 July 1826 at St Mary’s Church in Cowes. This records her mother as Sarah, not Charlotte.

I believe this is Sarah Gillman who was Robert Corke’s first wife and they married in Cowes in 1808. I have come across other family trees on Ancestry that have made this connection and it appears the couple had up to 10 children between 1809 and 1834, including a Henrietta born in 1826. 

Interestingly, there was also a Phoebe b.1814 in the records, daughter to Robert and Sarah. This was a name I was hoping to come across based because of what was recorded in the case notes about a sister named Phoebe. 

This would then make Charlotte, Robert’s second wife.

Emily Sherwood nee Mills

I believe that the Emily Mills on the 1861 Census is the niece later named Emily Sherwood who visited Henrietta and attended her funeral.

I have found an Emily Charlotte Mills who married to a Richard Sherwood in London and found Emily at the address listed in the case notes for on the 1906 Electoral Register, 15 Lupus Street, Belgrave Road, Westminster.

I have found a birth entry for a Charlotte Mills born in 1844, mother’s maiden name Corke, born in Portsea Island Union, so I am hopeful that that will prove the connection to our Corke family.

Who is Phoebe Tucker?

I think Phoebe Tucker is the daughter of the sister that Henrietta referred to whilst in Epsom that ‘she was married to or was married to Jesus.’ 

With the help of another researcher I have come across the marriage of Phoebe Cork and Abel Tucker on 23 April 1848 in Portsmouth. This date is after the birth of Phoebe on the 1851 census, but may explain why she was described as a daughter of Robert and Charlotte rather than the granddaughter. On the 1861 census she was recorded as a grandchild and had the surname of Tucker.

This has been such an interesting case to try to unravel and kept a couple of us up to the early hours trying to make sense of it!

Author’s Note

There are still so many unanswered questions in this story, in particular, surrounding the actual age of Henrietta. Have I managed to find the correct Cork family on the Isle of Wight? There are other families with the same name.

I do believe that Robert and Sarah Gillman are her parents and the documents I have referred to above all relate to Henrietta Corke that died in Epsom and her family members, so why on the 1851 census did her age get recorded as 26 not 36? 

I have also not been able to establish what might have caused Henrietta to have to be admitted to an Asylum in the first place. 

If she was the daughter of a sailmaker, how did she come to be able to live on her own means, from where or whom did she receive the annuity? 

The references that Henrietta made during her time in Epsom relating to the royal family make some sense as the Isle of Wight was where Queen Victoria holidayed from her early childhood. She eventually built a home there – Osborne House. Was there a connection to Queen Victoria, did she at some point work in Osborne House, had she met the queen, or was she just a huge fan of the royal family? 

I have set up a family tree on and hope in the future I might be able to find further documents relating to the family or make connections to other members who might be related to her. I have also ordered a couple of vital documents that if relevant I will add at a later date.

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