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    Borough of Epsom and Ewell’s
     Michael Arthur
     David Smith
     Jean Smith 
     Michael Staples
     Jean Steer
     Keith Mann
     Robert Lewis
    Member of Parliament
     Chris Grayling
     Revd. David Fox Branch
     Janice Baker
    Polish Institute
      Dr Andrzej Suchcitz



Initial difficulties researching the Emblem family

The surname of Emblem seems to have a number of variations such as Emblen/Emblin/Emblan/Embling/Emblow/ Embler. This has made tracing difficult. Variations are often caused by the person writing the name mishearing, not asking how it is spelt, or a transcriber misreading a document.

We are able to trace Henry Emblem from one workhouse entry in 1904 where it states his father is George Emblem with the address of 9 North Street in Stockwell. This turns out to be 9 North Hall Street in St Andrews Parish, Stockwell, Lambeth, the home of James and Lydia Benson where George is listed as the father-in-law of James Benson in the 1901 Census. From this we learn that Henry has a father called George, born in Brighton around 1841, and a sister Lydia born in Lambeth around 1877.

This is Henry’s story.

1850s to 1870s

George Emblem, Henry’s father, was born in Brighton but came to London as a young child. A Poor Law Settlement document from 3rd October 1850, shows that the family were unable to prove settlement in Shoreditch but this did not appear to affect the family’s status in the future. They moved to Farnborough in the London borough of Bromley, and George later appears in the 1871 Census at 8 Claremont Street, East Ham, with his wife Harriet, aged 23, from Lewisham, and two sons, Charles (4) born at New Cross, and George junior (1) from East Ham.

Despite an extensive search there is no trace of a marriage for George to Harriet so it is difficult to know what her background was. George was the son of a brickmaker and he worked as a labourer.

Henry was born on 14th January 1878 according to the Christchurch baptism record dated 8th August 1880. Henry was the fifth child of the couple.

George junior passed away aged 9, in Q1-1878, the same period that Henry was born. This may have evoked have been mixed emotions for George and Harriet.


The 1881 Census gives the family address as 6 Natal Cottages, Red Lion Lane, Tolworth. George, now aged 40, was working as a labourer and Harriet, aged 33, had no occupation. The children are listed as Charles (14), James (7), Lydia Ann (5), and Henry (3). The Census states Henry was born in Woolwich.

Henry was baptised in 1880 alongside his older sister Lydia who was born on 24th May 1875. His father George is described as a labourer and the family were living in Tolworth.

Baptism 1880 of Henry and Lydia Emblem

Later on that year, the family suffered another death in the family when a son, Thomas, was born at Red Lion Lane on 6th September. Within five days he had died and was buried at St Mary’s Churchyard at Long Ditton in Surrey.


By 1891, the Census shows one more son, William, had been born to the couple. The family had moved to Lambeth and were living at 35 Dalyell Road. Another family were living at the address which is described by Booths Maps as a fairly comfortable area. George is noted as aged 54, still working as a labourer and Harriet as aged 43. The children are listed as Charles (24), a labourer, Henry (13), and William (6). James and Lydia had now left home.

Nothing more is known about the family until Lydia married James Benson on 26th August 1897 at St Luke’s in Croydon. There were no family witnesses so we don’t know if they attended the wedding. Later on, in 1899 on 2nd April, James Emblem married Susan Mary Ann Biggs at St James, Clapham Park, again no family witnesses.


The 1901 Census finds George Emblem, aged 60, and a widower living at 9 Northall Street, Lambeth with his daughter Lydia, aged 23, who is now married to James Benson, aged 24, a livery coachman from Dartford, and their son Victor aged 2. They are living with another family in what is described by Booths Maps as a mixed income area. It appears that Harriet has died but there is no evidence for this. Despite searching, Henry cannot be found in this Census.

Henry and his father in and out of the Workhouse

The year 1903 brings change for the family. There is an entry in the Princes Road Workhouse for a George Embley admitted on 11th June from the Police Station and then discharged on 13th June at his own request. It is not definite this is Henry’s father but the age corresponds.

On 1st December 1903, Henry himself was admitted to the casual ward in Princes Road Workhouse, Lambeth. Anyone staying in a casual ward could only stay for one night, occasionally two nights and they could not return for a given time. This might be why there is another workhouse entry on the same day admitting him to the workhouse proper. There is another admission date into Princes Road for Henry on 29th December stating he is admitted from Princes Road Workhouse. It is unclear what this actually means but he discharges himself the same day.

A couple of months later on 29th February 1904, Henry is back in the Lambeth Workhouse. This is when his father George is noted as his relative at 9 North Hall Street, Stockwell. There is a discharge date of 9th March 1904. There are a couple of other documents for 29th February suggesting he was discharged to the Infirmary from Princes Road. It seems Henry spent ten days in the Infirmary with some kind of illness. There is no trace of a further admission date but on 15th April 1904, he was discharged again at his own request from Renfrew Road Workhouse.

Meanwhile, his father George was admitted to Princes Road Workhouse on 12th August 1907 and there is a discharge date for him of 15th June 1908 at his own request. Whether he had stayed there all that time is not known. He possibly returned to his daughter Lydia who had the worry of both her father and her brother.


On 2nd May 1908, Henry was back in Princes Road Workhouse where his occupation is given as a general labourer. He was then discharged on 11th May to the Infirmary. Whether he remains in the infirmary until his admission to Horton Hospital on 30th January 1909 is unclear as there is no documentation to support this.

Henry’s death

Sadly, Henry died at Horton Hospital on 23rd February 1910 and was buried on 3rd March 1910 in Grave 701b at Horton Cemetery. It is not known what caused him to be in and out of the workhouse and later into the asylum but there is evidence that his father had mental health issues. On 17th July 1911, the Workhouse Register shows George was discharged to Belmont which was Banstead Asylum in Surrey. There are no lunatic register entries for him and there is evidence that he was discharged from there as he had a further visit to Princes Road Workhouse in 1919.

Henry’s brother Charles also had many times in the workhouse from 1914 until 1919. He also spent time in the Infirmary so was there something hereditary or was it the toll of their work and environment?

Author’s thoughts

The Emblem family are quite a shadowy family. This may be because their surname is spelt so many different ways that records have been hard to find. George was a labourer but seemed to live in comfortable areas which means he must have earnt well. No information can be found for Harriet’s early life or of her death so it is difficult to build a picture of her or to know what kind of family she came from.

His sister Lydia appears to have been the mainstay of the family looking after George for a while. Although in 1911 she has enough on her hands with five children so George was fending for himself maybe.

Henry himself goes missing from records from 1891 until 1903, so it is not known what he was doing or where he was. Whatever befell him started to affect him from 1903 and it was something he could not recover from. It started the spiral into the Asylum and there was no way back.

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