Alfred Cuthbert was born in Ipswich in the third quarter of 1861, the third child and second son of Richard Fleetwood Cuthbert, a coach painter, and his wife, Ann (née Garnham).
The son of Luke and Hannah Cuthbert, Richard Fleetwood Cuthbert was born in 1831 and baptised in Ipswich on the 1st of January 1832. According to the 1841 Census, Luke Cuthbert was a pie man living with his family in the St Helen’s area of Ipswich.
Ann Garnham was born around 1833 to Ireland Garnham, an iron foundry labourer, and his wife Harriet. According to the 1841 Census, the family lived in Bolton Lane in the St Margaret’s area of Ipswich.
In the 1851 Census, Richard, aged 19, is working as a coach painter and living in St Helen’s Street in Ipswich with his parents and his younger sisters, Maria and Ann. In the same Census we find Ann Garnham and her parents living on Albion Hill in Ipswich. Ann, now aged 19, is described as a stay (or corset) worker. Corset production was an important industry in Suffolk in the 1800s, and particularly in Ipswich, where it was the largest employer of women. The number of people employed in the industry in Ipswich at that time was typically between 60% and 80% of the industry in Suffolk as a whole.
In the first quarter of 1853, Richard married Ann Garnham in Ipswich and in the second quarter of 1853, their first son Richard Henry Fleetwood Cuthbert junior was born. Ann gave birth to their second child, a daughter called Harriet Maria, in the first quarter of 1856. On the 11th of May 1856, Richard junior and Harriet were baptised together at the church of St Matthew in Ipswich.
According to the 1861 Census, the family was living in Long Lane in Ipswich and Richard was still working as a coach painter. Alfred was born Q3-1861, and on the 31st of August 1862, Alfred was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Ipswich.
In the 1871 Census, we find the family living at 55 Albion Street in Ipswich, next door to Ann’s parents who live at number 53. Richard is still a coach painter, while Ann is a charwoman, and Richard junior, Alfred’s brother, is a wheeler. Harriet and Alfred are still at school.
In the next Census, in 1881, the Cuthbert family (written as Culbart in the census) are still living at 55 Albion Street. Ann is now described as the head of the household but is not a widow. It has not been possible to find Richard in this Census. Like her mother before her, Harriet is employed in the corset industry and Alfred, now aged 19, is working as a boot clicker.
A boot and shoe clicker is the person who cuts the uppers for boots or shoes from a skin of leather, usually from a bulk roll. The job was historically named due to the sound of the operator’s hand-knife blade rattling against the brass edge-binding used to protect the board patterns which were overlaid on to the skin. It is a skilled trade because it is the clicker’s responsibility to maximise the number of uppers which can be cut from skins of leather, avoiding any thin and damaged areas, and incorporating the (unseen) ‘lines’ of stretch and resistance, which naturally occur in leather, according to the style and construction of the particular shoe. Another major criterion is the need to colour-shade the respective parts of the shoe uppers which are cut as a pair, not only matching the colour variations but also considering the surface finish and grain texture.
The 1881 Census also shows that Richard and Ann’s four year-old grandson, John, is living with the family. John Ireland Forsdike Cuthbert was born in the first quarter of 1877 but the birth record does not give the mother’s maiden name. This would suggest that John is the child of Harriet, who was unmarried at the time. Alfred’s brother, Richard junior, is now married to Emma Maria (née Frost). They have four children, Emma Maria, Arthur John, Henry Fleetwood and Herbert James. Richard is still working as a coach wheeler and the family is living at 36 Cavendish Street in Ipswich.
According to the 1891 Census, Richard and Ann are living with their grandson, John, an errand boy, at 3 Bridgewater Place in Clewer, near Windsor. The family was still living there at the time of the 1901 Census when John was working as a general labourer and Richard, aged 65, was still described as a coach painter. We do not know what prompted the family’s move from Suffolk to Berkshire and it has not been possible to ascertain Harriet’s whereabouts after the 1881 Census.
The next time we see Alfred is in the 1901 Census when he is living in one room at 12 Elwin Road in Bethnal Green. He is again described as a boot clicker. As it has not been possible to find Alfred in the 1891 Census, we do not know when he moved from Ipswich to London.
Neither do we know what caused the decline in Alfred’s mental health but on the 3rd of October 1903, he was admitted to Horton Asylum where he remained until the 7th of April 1915. He was then discharged to Long Grove and he died there on the 11th of January 1918, having spent the last fifteen years of his life in the asylum.
Both of Alfred’s parents died while he was a patient at Horton, Richard in 1909, aged 76, and Ann in 1911, aged 78. Alfred’s nephew, John, next appears in the 1911 Census. Aged 33 and married with two young children, he was working at the time as a laundryman at Eton College.