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DEVERILL, Minnie

b.1876 – d.1910

Finding the correct Minnie

The search for Minnie Deverill has proved difficult as there was limited information to link her to any family. With only a Grave number, an age and a death certificate number and no knowledge of her status, all avenues had to be considered. Fortunately, her surname is not overly common and coupled with her first name I was able to rule out any Mrs Deverill’s and found 4 potential unmarried Minnie Deverill’s born between 1873 and 1877. Of these there was only one that proved to be a possibility. This is therefore the story that has been traced. If further information comes to light, then her case can be revisited.

Minnie’s parents were Charles Deverill and Emily Caroline Legg who were married on 4th September 1869 at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth. They were a bachelor and spinster both of full age. Charles was a Bootmaker the son of Jonathan and Thirza Deverill. Jonathan being described as a Miller which possibly was a romanticised view of his status. And Emily was the daughter of John Legg deceased, who was a Decorator, and his wife Ann.

The Deverill family were based in Mere, Wiltshire. Charles was number 3 of 13 children who were a mobile generation and a number moved from Mere to London and Wales in search of work.

The Legg family was London based and Emily was born at 1 Caroline Street in Pimlico, one of 6 children. Her father John appears to have died between 1854 and 1860 but there is no evidence of this.

1870s

In 1871 the newly married Charles and Emily Deverill aged 32 and 30 were living at 3 Church Street, Lambeth with Emily’s brother William aged 21 who was working as a House Painter. Charles was continuing in his business as a Bootmaker. Living in the same house was Alf Rogers aged 17 who was an apprentice to Charles. There were two lodgers George (51) and Sarah Lake (50). George was described as a musician and he appears to have been in high demand according to newspaper articles from the 1850’s and 60’s.

At this time the couple had already lost a daughter, Emily Jane, who had been born in the April to June quarter of 1870 who died in the July of 1870.

They were still living at 3 Church Street when their second daughter, Annie Blanche, was born on 12th March 1872. This time the baby survived and was joined by Minnie who was born in the quarter October to December 1876 in Eastbourne, Sussex. This at first seemed strange as the family were London based.

A wider search of the family network revealed that Minnie’s maternal Grandmother Ann Legg had remarried after the death of John Legg, a mysterious man named Henry Cox in October 1865 and they were both living at 44 Over Street in Brighton. He was described as a widower aged 49 and she said she was 42 when actually she was 57 years old. His occupation was that of a traveller possibly a travelling salesman. By 1871 Ann and Henry Cox were living at 53 Seaside Road in Eastbourne with Blanche Legg. Henry is now running a Fancy Shell Shop still aged 49 and Ann now states she is 48! Henry Cox has been difficult to trace before or after 1871 although there was a younger Henry Cox living at 44, Over Street in 1861 who was a Fancy Shell Box maker. This was possibly his son.

It seems probable that Emily visited her mother and sister in Eastbourne and Minnie was born there.

1880s

By the time of the 1881 census the family was living at 10 Lisle Street in St Anne’s Soho. They shared this house with 3 other families and there was a total of 17 people in this house. Numbers 9 and 10 were originally one large house built around 1700 which was divided into two so one hopes number 10 was a larger residence! Booth described it as a fairly comfortable area. The family was made up as follows- Charles now aged 42 still a Bootmaker, Emily aged 40. The children Annie (9), Minnie (4) and now another daughter Roseta (2) born on 5 February 1879.

On 28 May 1884 Minnie’s maternal Grandmother died at Eastbourne Union Workhouse. Her death certificate which can be found on an Ancestry family tree states she is the widow of “- Cox Toy Dealer of Eastbourne “and she died of cardiac disease and had been living with her daughter Blanche who was now married.

Minnie also lost her Uncle Thomas William Legg, who had been suffering from TB for a year, on 17 July 1887. He had been working as a Shoemaker, skills he may have acquired from his time living with her parents in the early 1870’s.

1890s

The 1891 census reveals that the family was living at 35 Jameson Street in South Kensington.

1891 census

There are 3 families living here including the Deverill’s a total of 11 people. Booths maps described it as a mixed area some poor and some comfortable. Charles Deverill aged 52 continued his trade as a Bootmaker. Emily aged 50 and just Minnie (14) and Roseta (12) both described as scholars. Annie had left home and was working in service in Kensington.

The asylum

According to the Lunacy Registers Minnie was admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum on 23 February 1899. There was no earlier indication that she was unwell or had problems. There is no evidence in available records. The 1901 census does give us a clue as to why she was in an asylum. In this census they do not even give the patients the dignity of their names just initials. There was only one female patient with initials “M D” aged 24, which is correct age, and the note in the last column reveals the reason for her admission as “Deaf and Dumb”.

This suggests that she was born deaf or went deaf at a very early age as she was unable to speak. Colney Hatch had a terrible reputation for poor treatment of patients and housed 2500 patients at the time of Minnie’s admission so the Asylum built a number of wooden buildings to cope with demand. She stayed there for just under 4 years and was discharged “relieved but not recovered” on 6th February 1903.

To where is unknown as the asylum records for 1903 are not available online, we can only assume she went to Horton. This was a lucky escape for Minnie as on 27th February a horrific fire broke out in the asylum and it spread to the 5 wooden buildings killing 52 female patients. The officials tried to round up the survivors but they were panic stricken and impeded those who tried to rescue them. The windows had iron bars and there was no fire escape. Wherever she went it was surely better than this.

Meanwhile, her family still lived in Jameson Street and whilst she was at Colney she missed her sister’s wedding in 1902. Shortly after she was discharged her father died in October 1903 presumably at 13 Jameson Street which was his business address according to trade directories. Whether she knew this cannot be determined.

Minnie Deverill died at Horton Hospital in January 1910 and was buried at Horton Cemetery on 18th January 1910 in Grave 665a. How she arrived there and when is a mystery right now as currently we have not accessed her records.

Authors thoughts

If it is as suggested that Minnie was “Deaf and Dumb” it would have been very difficult for her and her family. In the 19th century it was difficult to determine whether a child was born deaf and diagnosis may not have become apparent until she was over two years old. She may have contracted a childhood disease such as Meningitis or Scarlet Fever which caused her deafness. In 1880 over 50% of infant deafness was caused by these two illnesses. The family were supposed to declare on the census if someone was deaf and dumb but this does not seem to be the case for Minnie. Perhaps they felt she could be supported to lead a useful life or they did not wish the authorities to know. Ordinarily being deaf and dumb on its own did not mean an individual would be sent to the Asylum so one has to assume Minnie possibly had other unknown issues.

She was not recovered when she was discharged from Colney Heath and nor would she be if she was deaf and dumb. Did she go straight to Horton as Colney was suffering from overcrowding? These are questions that we cannot answer at this time. Sadly, any support if any for her proved to be fruitless and she died aged 33 years old.


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