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    Borough of Epsom and Ewell’s
     Michael Arthur
     David Smith
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HARDING, Harriet Emma


From the few documents we have that refer to Harriet Emma Harding it would appear that she led a very uneventful life due, perhaps, to the mental health problems that would necessitate her eventual admission to Long Grove. However, unlike many of her fellow patients in the institution, it seems that Emma was able to avoid the horrors of the workhouse.

Harriet’s parents

Harriet was born in 1864 to John Woolley Harding and his wife Maria (née Jones). She was one of five (possibly six) daughters born to the couple. John and Maria were married in St George’s Church in Camberwell on the 3rd of January 1855. According to the marriage register, John was an upholsterer, the son of John Harding, a woollen draper. Maria’s father was Joseph Harding, an auctioneer. At the time of their wedding the couple were living in Southampton Street in Camberwell. From later censuses we know that John was born in 1834 and Maria in 1836.

A death in the family

John and Maria’s first child, also called Maria, was born in the 1st quarter of 1856. Sadly, their second daughter, Annie Selina, born in the 4th quarter of 1857, died just a few months later in the 1st quarter of 1858. Alice Constance was born the following year in the 2nd quarter of 1859. In the 1861 Census John, Maria and their two daughters are living at 124 Crawford Street in Marylebone. John is now described as an upholsterer’s clerk and the family employs a servant called Eliza Brown, aged 12. 

Was Harriet a twin?

Harriet Emma was born in Lambeth in the 1st quarter of 1864. According to General Registration Office records, a Mary Ann Harding was born in Lambeth in the same quarter and her mother’s maiden name was also Jones. Did Maria give birth to twins? Mary Ann does not appear in the family’s entries in later censuses but the death of a Mary Ann Harding, aged 1, was registered in Camberwell in the 1st quarter of 1865. Had the couple suffered a second bereavement, losing another daughter just seven years after the death of Annie?

A further bereavement – and a marriage

By the time of the 1871 Census Maria had given birth to her final child, Florence Eleanor, born in the 1st quarter of 1869, and the family had moved to 3, St Mark’s Road, Camberwell New Road in Lambeth. However, a further tragedy befell the Hardings when Florence died in the 1st quarter of 1873 aged just 4. A happier family occasion took place on the 13th of March 1879, when Maria married civil engineer John Biddick at the Church of St John the Evangelist in Brixton. In the marriage register John Harding is described as a cashier. 

The 1880s and 1890s

In the 1881 Census we find John and Maria Harding and their two remaining daughters have moved to 10, Evandale Road in Lambeth. Neither Alice nor Harriet work though by the time of the 1891 Census Alice has moved in with her sister Maria, her husband John and their four children at 56, Burton Road in Lambeth. She is described in the census as ‘wife help’. In the same census Harriet is still living with her parents in Evandale Road.  

The 1900s – the death of Harriet’s parents

In the 1901 Census nothing has changed though John is now described as an accountant. Later that year, in the 2nd quarter of 1901, Harriet’s mother Maria died aged 65 and three years later her father John died aged 70. He was buried in Southwark on the 16th of April, 1904. We do not meet Harriet again until the 1911 Census where we find her living in a boarding house run by widow, Julia Davis, in Brixton. Now aged 47, Harriet still does not work which suggests that she is of independent means, perhaps living off an inheritance from her father. Alice is still living with her sister and brother-in-law in Lambeth. One is tempted to ask why Harriet did not move in with them, too, now that she is alone.

Long Grove and death

Sadly, the next time we see Harriet is the day she dies in Long Grove on the 3rd of December 1918. She was buried six days later in plot 346a in Horton Cemetery. Unfortunately, we do not know the nature or intensity of Harriet’s mental health problems or, indeed, when they began and, as her name does not appear in the Long Grove register, we do not know when she was first admitted to the institution. 

As Harriet does not seem to have spent time in a workhouse infirmary it is possible she entered Long Grove as a private patient. We know that she was not without funds: when she died she left an estate of £350 (equivalent to over £20,000 today) to her older sister Maria Biddick. Maria herself died on the 30th of November 1930 aged 71. The last remaining sister, Alice, died in Wandsworth in the 1st quarter of 1937 aged 76. 

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