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Identifying Lottie Enid Donegan was very difficult. Only when records written five years after her death came to light was it possible to piece things together and unravel her life.

Lottie Enid Donegan died aged 27 on 3rd July 1914 at Horton Asylum; the cause of her death was given as cerebral meningitis (syphilitic) and dilatation of the heart.

Twists and Turns

Lottie Enid Donegan was born Jane Ann Shanks. Her birth was registered in Alnwick, Northumberland in 1886 (1st quarter).

Jane Ann’s parents were William and Harriet Shanks (nee Ashby). They had married on 30th Oct 1880, at St John the Baptist Church, in Halifax. William was working as a gamekeeper for the Marquis of Ripon. The couple had four children, Fanny born 1881, Ruby born 1883, Jane Ann (Lottie) born 1886 and their last child, William Robert who was born on 14th July 1887. Within a few weeks of young William’s birth William Shanks senior died. Harriet was left with the four young children to care for.

Growing Up

The next time we see Harriet and the children is four years later in the 1891 census. They are now living in Islington London (although Fanny the eldest daughter was staying with an aunt and uncle in Yorkshire). Harriet had a new partner, George Coles, although a marriage for this couple has never been found. Harriet had assumed the name Coles and the Shanks children were recorded as his stepchildren.

For many years, George Coles worked in various positions with the Great Northern Railway and the family eventually settled around the Tottenham area. The couple went on to have a further eight children together.

It must have been a big upheaval for Jane Ann and the family when they moved from Northumberland to London; she was barely five years old. With the growing family, there must have been some stability as George Coles had regular work.

By 1901, the Shanks girls were all in service. Jane Ann aged fifteen was working as a kitchen maid and living in Turton, Lancashire.


By 1908, Jane Anne Shanks was back in the south when she married Thomas Henry Donegan, at the Register Office in Lambeth on the 25th January. The couple both gave their address as 6 Milverton Street, Kennington. Thomas Henry Donegan was a Lambeth lad, having lived there all his life.

The Donegan family were well known, his father also Thomas Henry Donegan worked in the Houses of Parliament for over forty five years, as a furnace man. An uncle, Edward Donegan worked as a ventilation assistant at the Royal Courts of Justice for over fifty years. At his marriage to Jane Anne Shanks, young Thomas Henry Donegan gave his occupation as an electrician’s wireman.

A year after their marriage, on 21st April 1909 Thomas and Jane had a son Henry Roy Donegan. The family lived at 64 Walnut Tree Walk, Lambeth where they rented a single furnished room upstairs (Electoral Register, Lodgers 1910). Henry Roy Donegan was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth on 9th May 1909.

A Complicated Life

On the 1911 census, Thomas Henry Donegan was still living at 64 Walnut Tree Walk. It shows that he had been married three years but had no children! Thomas’s occupation was a wireman and he was working in the Houses of Parliament (where his father worked). Jane Ann, his wife was not with him.

Jane Ann Donegan was also recorded on the 1911 census, for the first time using the name Lottie Donegan. She was living at 3 Princess Street, Southwark renting one room.

The census now shows her married to a William Donegan and together they lived with a son Henry Roy Donegan aged one. William Donegan’s occupation was the manager of a Public House. This Lottie was Jane Ann Shanks. A second son, born three weeks later, is recorded as living at this address and the birth certificate gives his mother’s name as Jane Ann Donegan formerly Jane Ann Shanks.

William George Percival Illingworth Donegan was born on 23 April 1911. On the birth certificate William’s father was said to be William George Donegan, a licensed victualler’s barman. William George Percival Illingworth Donegan seems quite a statement. We later find out Lottie (Jane Ann) Donegan was in fact living with a William Illingworth; she had left her first husband, Thomas Henry Donegan.

William Illingworth was also recorded on the 1911 census with his family. His father was a licensed victualler also called William George Illingworth.

Southwark Settlement Papers (1919) and Prison

It is from the Southwark Settlement Papers (1919) that the story of Lottie unfolds further. Shortly after the 1911 census, Lottie and William were still renting the room at 3 Princess Street, Lambeth. The two young children were with them.

The landlady was a Mrs. Edwards, who found out William was not William Donegan but William Illingworth from the George Tavern, Gravel Lane. The couple and the two young children then ended up moving several times, finally to 18 West Square, Lambeth in 1913.

Full details are not known but the Settlement Papers state that Lottie was sent to Holloway Prison on 15th September 1913, charged with larceny from 18 West Square, where she and the family lived. She appeared to be in prison only seven days.

On leaving Holloway, Lottie was transferred briefly to the Lambeth Infirmary, then on to Horton Asylum, on 22nd September 1913, where she died nine months later.

Lottie was buried in the Horton Estate Cemetery on 9th July 1914.

Lottie’s Boys

Both Lottie’s sons lived to adulthood, although both had spells in the workhouse as children and it is the Southwark settlement papers (1919) that go into great detail as to their parentage and the events of their early years.

More Evidence from the Southwark Settlement Papers

Lambeth Guardians adopted Henry the eldest boy. His father, (Lottie’s first husband) Thomas Henry Donegan died in 1917 at Cane Hill Asylum. It is not clear whether he was involved with young Henry’s care but thought unlikely.

William George Percival Illingworth Donegan was looked after for three years by his aunts (sisters of William Illingworth). William denied that he was the father, although the sisters and landlady claimed otherwise.

For three years William Illingworth failed to contribute to his son’s upkeep and, when his sisters could no longer continue to care for the boy, William took his son aged just eight and left him in the street, telling him to go to the relief station. From there, he was admitted to Southwark Workhouse in 1919.

The Guardians tried to keep the brothers together but they were both chargeable to different unions Lambeth and Southwark. They did both end up in the Cuckoo Schools at Hanwell.

The Cuckoo Schools were a large establishment for children of destitute families and were used by both Lambeth and Southwark Poor Law Unions. It was named after the land it was built on. A total of 1200 children could be accommodated on the site.

It is not known if the children were together. It is likely they were separated because of their ages, if not by the different Unions responsible for them.

William Illingworth took over ‘The George’ pub in 1913, he married Eliza Greenshields in 1915 and together they also had a son William George Illingworth.

Author’s thoughts

Growing up, Jane Ann appears to have had some stability, although her father died when she was only a year old, her stepfather was around most of her life and had regular work.

Following Jane Ann’s Shank’s marriage and separation, her mother and stepfather may not have been in a position to help; they lived several miles away and also had their own large family to care for.

Lottie’s husband, Thomas Henry Donegan, does not seem to acknowledge a son on the 1911 census and it is likely Lottie lost contact with his side of the family. Thomas Henry Donegan remained in touch and close to his own parents; his mother was the informant on his death certificate and Thomas was buried in Streatham Cemetery where the Donegan family was mostly buried.

By 1911, Jane Ann was calling herself Lottie, which could have been a pet name but Lottie and her partner William Illingworth were living under some subterfuge, perhaps due to the couple not being married. William continued to work for his father and things were difficult for that family.

William’s father had several admissions to the workhouse and to Long Grove Asylum in 1913. The two sisters that took young William into their care were also young and just married.

Lottie may have been struggling with her own circumstances. Maybe ill health contributed to her having difficulties. Hopefully her stay at Horton gave her some peace before she died.

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