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GOMMERING, Elizabeth

b.1858 -d. 1909

It is probably irrelevant but interesting that Elizabeth Gommering has a number of significant dates in her timeline. She is admitted to one asylum on St George’s Day and to another on St Patrick’s Day; she dies on New Year’s Eve and is buried on the Feast of the Epiphany. For someone who spent many years in and out of asylums, and has no other history to be found, a small detail like this gives her short life story something of interest for the reader, to give our Elizabeth a memorable story which she deserves.

The Gommering/Gammeren family name appears to originate form the Netherlands. There are potential candidates from the Netherlands, so until we open up her records, she may remain a mystery.


On March 17th 1890, on St Patrick’s Day, Elizabeth entered Exeter Asylum. Where she came from or who her family were is unknown, there being no evidence of her in any UK records other than the lunacy registers. Was she married? Perhaps, as there is no evidence that an Elizabeth Gommering was born about 1858. .

She is already 32 years old when she enters Exeter asylum. We assume this is her first entry into an institution. Was she deemed insane?

‘Insanity’, as mental illness at that time was broadly described, was believed to run in families and consequently some people suffered considerable abuse. Graphic descriptions of such abuse encountered in the asylum in Devon include the chaining of a man to the floor of a cell for almost a decade by his relatives and locking people up in tiny rooms without fire, often in complete darkness and sitting in their own waste (Forsythe, 2001; Melling, Forsythe & Adair, 1999).

Elizabeth remained at Exeter until November 6th 1894 when she was transferred to Banstead in Surrey.

On August 27th 1897, she left Banstead and transferred to Fisherton Asylum in Wiltshire, where she stayed for two years.

On September 8th 1899, Elizabeth was admitted again to Banstead Asylum and she remained there until April 23rd 1903.

Where was she between 1903 and 1907? We would logically assume that she had remained in an institution but the evidence is lacking. The 1903 lunacy records are not online so unable to be researched.


We next find Elizabeth on September 24th 1907, when she was admitted to Long Grove Asylum.

Elizabeth remained at Long Grove for the coming two years and the final days of her life. Sadly, she did not see the new decade, dying on New Year’s Eve in 1909.  Elizabeth was buried in Horton Cemetery on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th 1910 in plot 659a.

Who were you Elizabeth Gommering? Who were your family?

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