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FRASER, Arthur Alfred

b.1865-d.1918

1860s

Arthur Alfred Fraser (or Frazer) was born on March 16th, 1865, in St James, Westminster, to Thomas Fraser and his wife Elizabeth Emma (née Barker). At the time of Arthur’s birth, Thomas was aged 52 and Elizabeth Emma (known as Emma) was 36. The couple already had three children, Ellen, born in 1855, Emma (1857) and Walter (1861) and the family was living at 23, Peter Street in Soho. Thomas, who was born in Scotland, worked as a bootmaker. Emma, born in Kew, was a tailoress.

On November 13th, 1867, Arthur was baptised in the Church of St Peter in Great Windmill Street, Soho at the same time as his younger sister, Ada Marian, who was born on May 11th, 1867. Sadly, Ada died in the 3rd quarter of 1869, aged just two.

1870s

In the 1871 census we find the family is now living in Bentinck Street in Soho and Emma has given birth to a sixth child, Charles, born in 1870.

1871 census

1880s

However, the 1881 census suggests there has been a change in the family’s fortunes. Thomas and Emma are living at 12, Grafton Street in Soho with their son, Walter, now aged 20, and their seventh child, Maud, born in 1874. Walter is working as a packer in a warehouse. Although Emma is still a tailoress, Thomas, now aged 68, is a ‘bootmaker and unemployed’.

It has not been possible to find Ellen in the 1881 census but an Ellen Frazer, born in 1855, was admitted to, and discharged from, Fulham Road Workhouse on two occasions in August and September 1881.

Ellen’s sister, Emma, was working as a servant/nursemaid at Bolton House, the Chiswick home of Mr Jethro Hornblower and his family.

We also learn from the census that Arthur, now aged 16, and his 11 year old brother, Charles, are living with their mother’s younger sister, Maria, and her husband, William Combes, at 5, Majendie Road in Plumstead. Both Arthur and William are described as general labourers.

1881 census – Arthur is with uncle William Combes

We do not know if nor why the two boys left the family home (They may have simply not been home at the time of the census being taken). Did they move in with their childless uncle and aunt to relieve the financial burden on their now unemployed father? Were Arthur’s mental health issues becoming too difficult for his ageing parents to deal with? Were they simply sent away from Soho to keep them out of trouble? If the latter, then the plan was not a success as the following year, on February 6th, 1882, Arthur was accused of ‘stealing a case containing 11 razors and other articles, value 35s, the property of Willy Graser’. He pleaded guilty to the crimes of larceny and receiving and was sentenced to six weeks in Coldbath Fields prison in Clerkenwell – formerly known as the Middlesex House of Correction.

We do not know where Arthur lived following his release from prison as we lose sight of him until March 16th 1887 when he is admitted to Fulham Road Workhouse. He is discharged on March 28th by order of the magistrate. The workhouse register describes him as ‘lunatic’. This is the first official indication we have of the mental health problems that would dominate the rest of Arthur’s life.

1887 entry to the workhouse – Lunatic (on following page)

Arthur’s father, Thomas, died in the third quarter of 1887, aged 74. On September 6th that year, Arthur was admitted to St. Giles’ Workhouse in Camberwell, though the following day he was transferred to Edmonton Workhouse. According to the Admission and Discharge Records, he ‘absconded’ from the workhouse on October 25th.

1890s

We do not see Arthur again until 1890, though he may be the 23-year-old labourer ‘Alfred Frazer’ who was admitted to Homerton Workhouse on March 3rd 1888 and discharged on April 7th.

On October 20th 1890, Arthur was admitted to Poland Street Workhouse. We learn from the Lunatics admissions that, prior to this, on May 28th 1890, he had been admitted to Darenth Asylum, near Dartford, by order of the magistrate, for “having committed an assault”. He was categorised as “dangerous to others”. His previous residence is given as the home of his mother, 147, Wardour Street in Soho.

Arthur remained in Poland Street Workhouse until November 4th when he was transferred to Hanwell Insane Asylum. According to Hanwell’s register, Arthur had, on admission, been ‘of unsound mind’ for twelve months and was ‘given to assaults without the least provocation’. He would remain a patient there for six years until December 3rd 1896 when he was transferred once again, this time to Newport Asylum on the Isle of Wight.

1900s

Arthur returned to Hanwell Insane Asylum on the 3rd of August 1898 and remained there until the January 2nd 1906 when he moved to Hellingly Asylum near Hailsham in East Sussex. He was a patient there until October 16th 1907 when he was discharged and moved to Long Grove. A year later, on October 28th 1908, he was transferred back to Hellingly where he remained until November 21st 1914 when he was discharged once again, probably to Long Grove (the 1914 records are not yet available online).

Arthur died in Long Grove in the second quarter of 1918, aged 52, having spent the last 28 years of his life in asylums. He is buried in Horton Cemetery in grave #522a.

Arthur’s mother, Emma, died in the fourth quarter of 1900, aged 71. His brother, Walter, who was married to Martha, worked as a market porter and died in the 2nd quarter of 1936, aged 75. Arthur’s older sister, Emma, married Edwin Rayfield, a carman, and died in the first quarter of 1923 aged 65. Maud married John Hayball, a flour factory manager, and died in the 3rd quarter of 1965, aged 91. Charles, a meat salesman, married Emma in 1889 and they had one son. It has not been possible to ascertain the whereabouts of Charles after the 1901 census or Ellen after the 1871 census.


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