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GILL, Jane

b.1875-d.1910

Jane’s parents

Jane Gill’s parents married at Holy Trinity Church in Hull on 25 November 1868. Her father Thomas Gill originated from Manchester according to census returns and her mother, Jane Clarridge from Bethnal Green, was the daughter of a glassblower. 

Quite how Jane came to be so far from London is not clear but Thomas Gill’s occupation was that of a bookseller and he appears to have travelled around the country in the early days. She may have been travelling with him before the marriage. Thomas was Roman Catholic, a detail which is supported by later workhouse records but he married in a Church of England ceremony, the religion of his wife. All the baptism records that can be found for the children of the marriage show they were baptised into the Catholic faith.

The 1870s

In 1871, at the time of the census, the family can be found as lodgers to Hannah Broadhead at 14, Regleys Yard in Nottingham, with their eldest son Thomas aged 1 who was born and baptised in London. Thomas’s job is that of a bookseller. Two of Hannah Broadhead’s children are described as “actors” so it may have been a colourful household.

By 1873 the Gill family were back in London as is shown by the births of their children. Thomas Gill junior is joined by his brother William in 1873, who sadly dies in 1874. On 26 February 1875 his sister Jane was born in Southwark. She was baptised into the Catholic faith on 9 March 1875 at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark. The birth of Jane was followed by the arrival of another William born 17 February 1877 and Samuel on 22 April 1879 in Manchester.

The 1880s and a decline in fortunes

By the time of the 1881 census the Gill family are found at 1a Stamford Place in Southwark which seems to be, according to Booth’s maps, where the earnings were reasonable and they are listed as follows: –

Thomas aged 40 a bookseller, wife Jane aged 30 from Lambeth. The children are Agnes aged 15 born in Birmingham, Thomas aged 11, Jane aged 6, William aged 4 and Samuel aged 2. 

Agnes seems to have been born before the marriage and was not with the family in 1871 and no definite trace can be found of her birth. Whether she really was their child or whether she was from a previous relationship of her parents is unclear and she is not associated with the family unit again. However, she does appear in workhouse records later in the Southwark area after falling on very hard times.

Jane is joined by two further siblings Mary Louisa known as Louisa in 1881 and George in 1887. 

Thomas Gill’s job is always described as a bookseller and, as no trading premises can be found, it may be assumed that he was a street seller or costermonger. 

In late Victorian times it became popular to sell books for under 3s 6d and also for pennies so that they could appeal to the working class. Books or magazines would be sold from a barrow. This may be what he did. When his youngest son George married in 1907, he was described as a bookbinder but that was probably to perhaps romanticise his father’s position in life. It may have not been very productive as bad fortune did befall the family.

Things were getting difficult for them when on 3 April 1888 William, Samuel and Louisa Gill were admitted to Newington Workhouse by order of the Committee and transferred to Hanwell School on 5 April 1888. The school was the Central London District School so it may have been considered a better option for these three children now that there was another mouth to feed or Thomas senior was unable to work. Louisa does appear to have returned back and forth to her mother for a while. Jane was aged 13 at this time, so presumably she was too old to be sent to Hanwell.

 On 22 May 1889, Jane’s father Thomas was admitted to Newington Workhouse and it suggests it is some kind of transfer. Then on 5 October in the same year he was discharged to Champion Hill Infirmary which had only opened two years beforehand.

The 1890s

The 1891 Census finds the family at 26, Thornton Street in Newington. Jane Gill senior has described herself as a widow although this is not the case. It may have some reference to the fact her husband was in the infirmary and not in good health. 

She was living with her daughter Jane aged 16, both tailoresses, and sons William, aged 14 and a Post Office Boy, and George aged 3. Louisa can be found at Hanwell School as an inmate and whilst Samuel cannot be found it is safe to say he was there also. Agnes who is single at this time is going in and out of the workhouse described as destitute and with two illegitimate children. Jane’s eldest brother Thomas Gill cannot be accurately traced.

The following year sees them living at 36 Conroy Street and on 5 July 1892 Thomas Gill senior dies in Newington Workhouse.  The following year on 5 February, Jane Gill senior, who was aged 38 at the time, married Frederick Badrick, aged 26, a labourer at St Mary’s church, Lambeth.

The 1900s and a move to the Asylum

In 1901 the Census shows the family living at 43 Goding Street in Lambeth. This is a poorer area than where they were living before but at least the family had a working step-father. Frederick’s job is that of a scavenger or a refuse collector.

Jane and her mother are shown to be tailoresses. Interestingly, Jane junior is listed as being “deaf” and this is the first indication that she may have ill health. Sister Louisa is aged 19, with no occupation and George, aged 15, is working. William and Samuel had signed up for the Military in 1896 and 1898. This was often the case for boys coming out of District schools, although there is no evidence that they went to the training ship Exmouth in Grays.

On 27 August 1901, Jane junior was admitted to Lambeth Infirmary from 43 Goding Street. It is not clear if she remained there until the following year on 21 August when she is recorded as being transferred to Bethnal Green Asylum. Although on the census she was recorded as “deaf” there is no mention of this on the Reception Order of that date.

We learn that this is her first attack, that it had lasted for 6 months and she is a danger to others. The notes are transcribed below,

Very restless, becomes excited and throws her mug across the ward – strikes out suddenly at the Nurse – swearing at the same time – wanders about the ward – screams out suddenly and frightens other patients”

Annie Tulston the charge nurse from Lambeth Infirmary states,

“Becomes excited and appears terrified – said that rats were running over her and in her mouth – screams loudly and throws herself about in a frantic manner”

The Lunacy Register shows she was transferred from Bethnal Green on 15 October 1902 to Horton Asylum. She remained there until 10 April 1907 when she was transferred to Tooting Bec Asylum which had been completed in 1903. It was built to provide care for senile patients, infirm epileptics and “persons requiring exceptional individual attention”. 

Her stay there was brief for some reason as on 25 April 1907 she was moved to Caterham (Canehill)  which was known as the Imbeciles Asylum and from there on 2 June 1908 she was transferred back to the Horton Hospitals, a detail which is supported by the Workhouse and the Lunacy Register. Quite what the reasoning was behind these moves and what effect they had on what was clearly a disturbed patient is unclear. 

Sadly, there was no way back for Jane who was simply described as “deaf” in the 1901 Census. In 10 years, her mental health had declined and on 6 May 1910 Jane Gill sadly died aged 35 at Horton Hospital and was buried in the Cemetery on 13 May 1910.

Author’s Thoughts

Jane’s life has been difficult to follow as she appears to have been in the shadow of her siblings and it has been necessary to explore their lives to get an idea of the family situation. 

Jane’s father seems to have experienced some health problem in the late 1880’s which robbed the family of income and stability. Her mother has tried to keep things going and by entrusting three of her children into care and remarrying a younger possibly fitter man she hoped to provide security for her family. 

Jane did not enter any workhouse until she was 26 and she seems to have been kept at home with her mother. Although she is described as “deaf” this is not mentioned on her Reception Order. Clearly, she had been ill for 6 months but it all became too much for her to remain at home.  It was considered she needed specialist care but that did not stop her health declining over 10 years. Clearly considered by the authorities an “imbecile”, she was treated as such and sadly, she died at Horton in 1910 and is buried in Grave 753b in Horton Estate Cemetery.


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