The GRO revealed that Sarah Ebelthite was born Sarah Dudley in 1873, in Winslow, Buckinghamshire. Specifically, Sarah was born in a small village called Great Horwood. Her mother’s maiden name was Robinson.
Her parents, Thomas Dudley (b.1831) and Eliza Robinson (b.1844), married in 1867 in Potterspury, Northamptonshire, and had at least eight children together:
- William (b.1866)
- Reginald (b.1868)
- Priscilla (b.1870)
- Mary Martha Ann “Drusilla” (b.1872)
- Sarah (b.1873)
- Harry (b.1876)
- Fred (b.1879)
- Joseph (b.1881)
7-year-old Sarah first appears in the 1881 England Census, living at 75 Lt Horwood Road in Buckinghamshire. She was living with her parents, Thomas and Eliza, and seven siblings. Sarah’s father, mother, and two of her older brothers have their occupations listed as ‘Ag. lab’ on the census, which is an abbreviation for an agricultural labourer.
Sarah’s mother, Eliza Robinson, died in 1881 at the age of 37 when Sarah was eight years old.
In the 1891 England Census, 18-year-old Sarah was working as a servant in the parish of St Mary Magdalene in Hastings, Sussex in what appears to be a boarding house. She was one of three servants.
Sarah Dudley married Charles Ebelthite in July 1895 in Northampton, Northamptonshire. Charles was born in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. The 1881 England Census shows that Charles’ family, the Ebelthites, were living in Newington, London but had moved back to Northampton by the time of the 1891 England Census. Sarah and Charles presumably met each other in Northampton.
Sarah and Charles Ebelthite had at least nine children together:
- Alfred George (b.1895)
- Frederick William Reginald (b. 1897)
- Ernest (b.1898)
- Florence Catherine (b.1902)
- Florence Kate (b.1904)
- Alice Rose (b.1905)
- Ernest John (b.1906)
- Doris Lilian (b.1907)
- Sarah (b.1909)
It is interesting how much the family moved around in the period after marriage. Their oldest child, Alfred, was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, their fourth child Florence was born in Holborn, London, Alice was born in Saint Olave Bermondsey, and Doris was born in Southwark. Perhaps the family moved around in search of work. We also do not know why the family initially moved to London but it is likely that higher wages were available in London.
Sarah and Charles did not follow traditional Victorian naming practices with their children; during this time it was typical for the first son to be named after the father, and the first daughter to be named after the mother. However, none of their children was named Charles and only their last daughter was named after Sarah.
At least five of their nine children died in infancy or childhood: Ernest (b.1898-d.1898), Florence Catherine (b.1902-d.1903), Florence Kate (b.1904-d.1905), Doris Lilian (b.1907-d.1908) and Sarah (b.1909-d.1911). The number of children Sarah and Charles Ebelthite lost leads us to speculate whether there was an outbreak of disease such as tuberculosis during this time, or whether they inherited a genetic condition.
In the 1901 England Census, 27-year-old Sarah was living in Islington with her husband, Charles, and two sons, Alfred George and Frederick William Reginald. They had already lost a son, Ernest, by this time. Charles’ occupation is listed as ‘carman’. This would likely have been a driver of a horse-drawn vehicle for transporting goods. The 1911 Census specifically gives Charles’ occupation as a horse man in the coal trade.
Sarah’s sister, Mary Martha Ann “Drusilla” Robinson, died in early 1909 at the age of 37 in Northampton.
36-year-old Sarah was admitted to Newington Workhouse at 182 Westmoreland Road in Walworth in what is now the London Borough of Southwark on 3 May 1909.
London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764-1921 showing Sarah’s admission to Newington Workhouse on 3 May 1909.
Her workhouse records state that she was put on an ‘infirm diet’ and was ‘temp-disabled’. This likely refers to her psychiatric symptoms as she was admitted to Long Grove Asylum on 12 May 1909. As Sarah had given birth to her last child, Sarah, in the first few months of 1909, we can speculate that perhaps Sarah was suffering from postnatal depression, however, we have no evidence for this. The deaths of her four young children, Ernest, Florence Catherine, Florence Kate, and Doris Lilian, by this time, would have likely contributed to the onset of her mental illness.
The UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1921 showing Sarah’s original admission to Long Grove Asylum on 12 May 1909.
She was discharged recovered from Long Grove on 17 September 1909, only four months after her admission.
The 1911 England Census (which was taken on 2 April) shows that 37-year-old Sarah was living at 12 Surrey Square, Southwark, with three of their children, Frederick, Ernest and Sarah. It is unclear where Alfred was living at this time. Their daughter, Alice Rose (b. 1905), is also not recorded as living with them, so perhaps she had died by 1911.
Sarah was readmitted to Long Grove Asylum on 19 April, only a couple of weeks after the census was taken. We can speculate that her youngest daughter’s poor health, if she was already ill at this point, would have exacerbated Sarah’s mental health, contributing to her readmission.
The UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1921 showing Sarah’s readmission to Long Grove Asylum on 19 April 1911 and her subsequent death on 29 June 1911.
Sarah died on 29 June 1911 at the age of 38 at Long Grove Asylum, having only been admitted on 19 April that year.
Death certificate for Sarah Ebelthite.
Sarah’s death certificate states that her cause of death was ‘Acute Dysentery, Bronchitis 6 days’. The informant of her death was the medical superintendent at Long Grove Asylum in Epsom.
Sarah died in the same year as her youngest child, Sarah, who was two years old. Little Sarah had been baptised on 17 May 1911, around a month before she died in June. Their abode on the baptism certificate is listed as ‘the infirmary’, suggesting that she had been ill for some time. Both Sarah and her daughter appear to have died around the same time in June, or perhaps little Sarah died just before her mother.
According to the London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965, a Charles Ebelthite was living at 116 Middlesex Street in the City of London in 1928-29, which was possibly the Salvation Army ‘Working Men’s Hotel and Shelter’. We are not certain that this is the right Charles Ebelthite as Ernest John’s school census states that both of his parents are dead by 1921.
I have been unable to find the death registration for Charles so the exact date remains unclear.
Only four of Sarah and Charles’ children appear to have survived to adulthood: Alfred George, Frederick William Reginald, Alice Rose and Ernest John.
Sarah and Charles’ first son, Alfred, served in the 4th SA Infantry Regiment in South Africa during World War One. Alfred’s paternal uncle, John Ebelthite, was also living in South Africa at this time.
Alfred is shown living in East London in 1922, having returned from South Africa in October 1919. Like his paternal uncle, John, his profession was also listed as a butcher. Alfred married and had one son. He died in 1965 in Bromley, Kent, at the age of 69.
Frederick William Reginald
Sarah’s second son, Frederick, went on to serve in the First World War as a Private in the Welsh Regiment and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He went on to marry and have two children, one of whom survived to adulthood. Frederick resided in Islington until his death in 1969, at the age of 72.
I have been unable to find anything about Alice’s life. She may have died before reaching adulthood but I cannot find the registration of her death.
In the 1939 England and Wales Register, Ernest John is shown living at ‘Treatment of Mental Defectives Starcross’ at St Thomas in Devon. His occupation is given as ‘incapacitated’. Clearly, Ernest suffered from mental illness, like his mother. He died in Exeter in 1962 at the age of 56.
Sarah’s story was incredibly sad; she lost her mother at the age of eight and went on to lose five of her nine children in infancy or childhood. One can imagine the mental toll that this would have taken on Sarah.
It is also shocking how quickly Sarah died after being admitted to Long Grove Asylum.
I am surprised that I have not been able to find out anything about Sarah’s daughter, Alice Rose. I cannot find any record of her dying in infancy but this may have been the case as she does not appear on the 1911 England Census living with her parents. The surname ‘Ebelthite’ has been spelt in many different ways in the records, which could explain why I cannot find information about her.