Ellen was only 20 years old when she died and has sadly left little trace of her existence but we can glimpse at her short life from the few records that exist for her.
Ellen’s Family Roots
Ellen’s parents were Frederick William Gilliam and Ellen Margaret Young from London. Margaret’s father originated from Edinburgh and seems to have moved down south as a young man. The couple married in the October quarter of 1879 in the St Olave district of Southwark. I have been unable to locate any further details of this marriage.
The couple’s early married life may have been affected by the death of Frederick’s father William Gillam after he was admitted to Brooklands Asylum in Surrey on 23 March 1881. He was aged 59 and the diagnosis was “Mania”. He died on 15 December 1882.
Frederick and Ellen can be found in the 1881 census living at 37 Clements Road, Bermondsey living with 2 other families making a total of 11 people at the address. They were aged 23 and 21-years old. Frederick’s occupation was described as a labourer in biscuit manufacturing. This was probably at the Peek Freans Biscuit Factory based at 100 Clements Road.
The following children were born to the couple in this decade:
Charlotte Mary in 1881
Frederick William in 1884
Ellen Maud in October 1886 (died in December 1886)
Alfred John on 5th September 1889
The family is recorded as living at 53 Galley Wall Road with 14 other people. Frederick aged 33 still working at the Biscuit Factory as a Baker. Ellen is aged 30 with no occupation. The children are recorded as Charlotte (9), Frederick (6) and Alfred (1).
Ellen Maud Gilliam was born in the October quarter of 1891 in the Camberwell district of London. It is possible she was born at 53 Galley Wall Road which was the family home when the 1891 census was taken. She was the second child in the family to be given this name, her predecessor having died before she reached the age of 3 months. This seems to be quite a common practice as I have come across this a few times in my own personal research.
She was baptised at St Alphege’s Church, Southwark on 12 April 1893. The address is given as 81 Verney Road and her father’s occupation is described as a labourer.
On 22 March 1894 a sister Lilian Daisy Gillam was born and then in 1897 another sister, Violet Charity.
The family has moved down a few doors to 77 Verney Road in Camberwell with another family. Booth’s maps describe the area as mixed so not a particularly poor area. Frederick is now recorded as being 42 and still working at the Biscuit Factory. Ellen senior is aged 39. The children living at the address are Charlotte (19) working as a Machinist, Frederick junior (16) working as a Bank Messenger, Alfred (10), Ellen (9), Lilian (7) and Violet (4) all listed as Scholars.
Ethel May, a younger sister for Ellen, must have been born shortly after the Census was recorded as her birth is registered in the April to June quarter of 1901 in the Camberwell district.
In 1902 tragedy struck the family when little Violet died in February 1902 and she was buried in Camberwell’s Old Cemetery. How this affected Ellen aged 10 is hard to say.
May 1907 brought more sadness to the family when Ellen’s father Frederick died aged 49. Ellen was aged at 17 and her mother was left to bring up the family on her own.
Nothing else can be found for Ellen until she makes an appearance at St Olave’s workhouse in Southwark on 31 July 1910. She appears to have been admitted from the Infirmary. She is described as “Alleged Insane” and her mother’s name is supplied and her home address given as 24 Brunswick Road.
Less than a week later on 6 August 1910 she was admitted to Long Grove. Just enough time for her to be assessed and a Reception Order completed.
Ellen can be found in the Census at Long Grove with the indignity of just being noted as “E G”. However, it does give us an interesting insight as to her occupation before her admission. She is described as a “Factory Hand” for a Cocoa Manufacturer. Sadly, her medical status is recorded as a “Lunatic”.
Her family is living at 13 Egan Street, Rotherhithe New Road. Her Mother is now a widow aged 49 showing no occupation. Her siblings are Frederick (27) a Bank Messenger, Alfred (21) a General Labourer at Peek Freans, Lilian (17) a Messenger and Ethel (9) still at school.
Ellen’s death comes just 362 days after she was admitted. So, on 28 July 1911 she died at Long Grove Hospital and she was buried in Horton Estate Cemetery on 3 August 1911 in Grave Number 1067a.
Ellen seems to have been born into a family whose father was in constant stable employment at the Peek Freans factory which was a major employer in the area. From my research they appear to have been good bosses and Frederick did not seek any other employment, staying there at least 25 years. This meant there would have been food on the table and presumably a secure home.
We do not know at this moment in time what led Ellen to be diagnosed as “insane”. The 1911 census gave a former occupation as a “Factory Hand” in a Cocoa factory so she had been able to hold down a job. Her mother’s name was given in the Workhouse admission so at this point she had not been deserted by her family. Whether her paternal Grandfather’s mental health problems suggest anything hereditary in the family cannot be ignored but that is only conjecture.
Sadly, her story is all too common, a young person whose mental health could not be helped and resulted in death in an asylum.