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Harriet was born in the early 1830s in Ramsholt. This is a small village in East Suffolk. It is best known for its 13th century Church of St Anne with its rare round tower, most such towers elsewhere being square. In 1831 it had a population of 215 inhabitants of which 47 were involved in agriculture. Harriet was a child of Joseph and Susan Cooper. Her christening date was the 7th June 1835 at Bawdsey, another small coastal village nearby. In later Census entries she variously shows her birthplace as either Ramsholt or Bawdsey and indicates her actual birth date may have been a little before 1835.

Census 1841

In the Census taken on the 6th of June 1841 at Bawdsey, Susan Cooper and Harriet are found, although not Joseph. In the Suffolk FHS Burial Index, there is a burial entry for a Joseph Cooper aged 27 on the 10th of June 1833 in Ramsholt. Susan is given an age of 30 and Harriet, seven. No other information other than that they were both born in the County.

Census 1851

By the Census on 30th March 1851, Susan and Harriet are still living together at what appears to be 38 East Street, Bawdsey.

Susan Cooper is listed as the head of the family and shown as a widow, aged 43. Her birthplace is given as Bawdsey. Under occupation it appears to show her as “Pauper”.

Harriet Cooper is named as a daughter, aged 17, and a seamstress by occupation. Her birthplace is shown here as Ramsholt.

First marriage

Harriet married in the 3rd quarter of 1853 to a George Smith. This marriage was in the Woodbridge Registration District which includes both Bawdsey and Ramsholt.

Sadly, George had died before 1861 and the likely indexed death is in the 1st quarter of 1860, also in the Woodbridge District. There are two other George Smith deaths in the 1860’s in Woodbridge but this George was 27 years of age at death which is fairly close to the then age of Harriet.

Children from this marriage

Despite the limited life of this marriage, there were two children born:

• Laura Smith. Born 3rd quarter 1853.
• Charles Smith. Born 4th quarter 1855.

Census 1861

This Census was based on occupancy on the 7th of April in 1861. Harriet and her mother together with children Laura and Charles, are now living in Alderton Street, Alderton. This is another small village close to Bawdsey and Ramsholt and close to the sea.

• Harriet Smith, head, widow, 28, Ag Lab, born Ramsholt.
• Laura Smith, daughter, 7, scholar, born Bawdsey.
• Charles Smith, son, 5, born Bawdsey.
• Susan Cooper, mother, widow, 56, Ag Lab, born Bawdsey.

Second marriage

Just a few years after the death of George, her first husband, Harriet marries again. This takes place in the 1st quarter of 1864 in the Woodbridge Registration District. Most likely at Alderton where Harriet was living in 1861, and after the wedding in the next Census in 1871. Her new husband is William Dorley. William had been born in Alderton. He was in fact living with his widowed mother, Lucy, just a few houses away from where Harriet was living in 1861.

Sad to say, Harriet has again misfortune in marriage as this marriage only lasted until 1871 when her husband William Dorley died. He was buried in St Andrew’s Church, Alderton, on the 3rd of December 1871, aged 51.

Children of this marriage

There are three children from this marriage: Eliza, William, and Harriet. They appear in the 1871 Census below where they are all shown with the surname Dorley and indeed William Dorley was the father. However, the transcribed General Register Office birth registration of all three contained errors.

In the case of Eliza, she was born in 1864 and the record shows the entry as Eliza Doiley Smith. This birth was in the same quarter as Harriet’s marriage to William Dorley and would have likely occurred first, given that the surname in the Registry is Smith. So, Eliza could not carry the surname of Dorley as Harriet was not married to him. As was a common practice, the father’s surname has been shown as a second first name. Unfortunately, then wrongly transcribed as Doiley rather than Dorley.

William had his birth in 1867 transcribed as William Dolley, with his mother’s maiden name being shown as Smith.

Harriet, born 1871, had her entry transcribed as Harriet Doiley with her mother’s maiden name shown as Cooper, her birth name.

Census 1871

This Census took place on the 2nd of April 1871. William and Harriet are living at Paradise Row Cottages in Alderton with their now extended family. The name of the cottages sounds lovely. Let us hope it felt that way to the residents!

• William Dorley, head, married, 51, Ag labourer, born Alderton.
• Harriet Dorley, wife, married, 39, born Ramsholt.
• Charles Smith, stepson, 15, Ag Lab, born Bawdsey.
• Laura Smith, stepdaughter, 17, Domestic Servant, born Bawdsey.
• Eliza Dorley, daughter, 7, scholar, born Alderton.
• William Dorley, son, 4, born Alderton.
• Harriet Dorley, daughter, 2 months, born Alderton.

Census 1881

The Census this time was held on the 3rd of April. Many things have changed. Of five children present ten years earlier, only two now remain with Harriet. It appears on Census day, Harriet was living at Haskelon Road in Bredfield, Suffolk. Another village near to Woodbridge. She is boarding in the same house as an elderly gentleman and perhaps was living there with her daughters in return for helping him in the house.

• James Burch, head, widower, 84, Ag Lab, born Chasefield, Suffolk.
• Harriet Dorley, boarder, 46, Launderess, born Ramsholt.
• Eliza Smith, boarder, unmarried, 18, Cook Domestic Service, born Alderton.
• Harriet Dorley, boarder, unmarried, 10, scholar, born Alderton.

Census 1891

This Census took place on the 5th of April. Harriet Dorley is now living in Woodbridge Road, Bredfield. She is living with her son-in-law, William Last and her daughter Eliza, and Eliza’s two children who, of course, are Harriet’s granddaughters.

Just to clarify the Census information, Eliza had married a Thomas Catchpole in 1881 but Thomas died in 1883. The child Ephraim, born 1882, was the son of Thomas Catchpole and Eliza. Eliza had then married William Last in 1886. The child Annie (registered birth Annie Amelia Last) was the daughter of William Last and Eliza. Ephraim was a stepson of the head of the house William Last and Harriet is William’s mother-in-law.

• William Last, head, married, 38, hurdles maker, born Eyke, Suffolk.
• Eliza Last, wife, married, 27, born Alderton, Suffolk.
• Annie Last, daughter, 5, born Bredfield, Suffolk.
• Ephraim Catchpole, son, 8, born Bredfield, Suffolk.
• Harriet Dorley, stepmother, widow, 58, born Ramsholt, Suffolk.


Sadly, Harriet had become in questionable health by 1894. It is not yet known how, or in what circumstances, but Harriet is now in London. She is moved from place to place, eventually to Manor Asylum in Epsom, where she died.

21/9/1894 Harriet Dorley is admitted to Havil Street Workhouse in Camberwell. She is listed as the widow of William, labourer. Observation of condition at admission day “??? Mental condition”. Birth year shown as 1831.

2/1/1895. Harriett is discharged from Havil Street and admitted to Constance Road Workhouse also in Camberwell. Birth year again shown as 1831. Observation of condition on admission day “Destitute”.

22/5/1895 Harriet is transferred from Constance Road Workhouse to Banstead Asylum. Birth year this time shown as 1830.

29/8/1901 Harriet is admitted to Manor Asylum. A later entry in this document shows Harriet’s death on 28/12/1913.

2/4/1911 Census shows female patient with initials HD at Manor Asylum. Aged 81, widow. No occupation or birthplace known.

Harriet’s death

Harriet died on the 28th of December 1913 and was buried in the Horton Estate Cemetery on the 2nd of January 1914.

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