b.1879 – d. 1919
Researching Rose Harris has proved challenging, not because she led a particularly complicated life (as is, sadly, so often the case, her life appears to be a simple story of gradual decline and eventual death in an asylum for paupers) but because of the confusion arising from the names used by Rose and members of her family:
• although our subject’s name is given as Rose in Horton Cemetery records she was, in fact, registered at birth as Rosa and later in life appears to have used the name Edith;
• in a number of documents the family’s surname is spelled Harriss;
• Rosa’s mother appears as both Frances Deborah and Deborah Frances and in a census taken before she was married she is called Francis and described as a son;
• Frances’s maiden name was Brown but in one census her mother and brother’s surname is given as Bryan;
• Rosa’s father’s name was John Thomas Harris though in some documents he is called John Thomas Richard Harris;
• in the transcript of the (admittedly, almost illegible) 1871 Census his name is given as John Richard Fuller Harris and Rosa’s mother, although described as John’s wife, is called Robert;
• in the 1881 Census Rosa is called Edith but appears to have acquired an older sister called Rosa who is actually her brother James Henry;
• although Rosa’s sister was registered as Rebecca Martha, in most documents her name is given as Rebecca Maud.
Because of the uncertainty caused by these inconsistencies I have had to make certain cautious assumptions about Rosa and her family when writing her story.
According to the General Records Office, Rosa was born in the Lewisham Union in the 1st quarter of 1879. She was the youngest of the six children born to labourer John Thomas Harris and his wife Frances Deborah (née Brown).
The couple had married on the 13th of April 1862 in the church of St George the Martyr in Southwark and at the time of their marriage they were living at 5, Angel Place in Borough. John Thomas was born in 1836 in Lewisham, the son of labourer Richard Harris. His wife was the daughter of labourer John Brown and was born in Deptford in 1835.
John and Frances’s first four children were all born in Greenwich. Their first child, Sarah Lucy, was born in the 3rd quarter of 1862 and baptised on the 20th of July 1862 in St Mary’s Church, Lewisham. At the time, John and Frances were living in Blackheath Road in Greenwich.
Sarah was followed by Frances Rachel who was born in the 3rd quarter of 1864. Their first son, John George, was born on the 23rd of August 1867 and baptised in St Mary’s Church, Lewisham on the 6th of October 1867.
Rebecca Martha was born on the 15th of March 1869 and baptised in St Paul’s Greenwich 21st of April 1869. According to the baptismal register the family was living at 3, Jean’s Place, Blacklock Road in Greenwich but by the time of the 1871 Census they had moved to 10, Addey Street in Deptford. John was working as a labourer on the coal wharf and Frances was a laundress.
The couple’s second son, James Henry, was born on the 3rd of June 1873 in Lewisham and was baptised in Christ Church, Deptford 6th of August 1873 when the family was still living at 10, Addey Street. Unfortunately it has not been possible to find a baptismal record for Rosa.
The 1880s and 1890s
In the 1881 Census we find the family living at 47, Porson Street in Lewisham. Frances is still working as a laundress but John’s occupation is given as bricklayer – though the word ‘unemployed’ was written first and later scratched out.
By the time of the 1891 Census, of the six children only James and Rosa are still living at home with their parents, their address now given as 26, Heston Street in Deptford. John is described as a general labourer and 17 year-old James is a hairdresser’s apprentice. Frances no longer works and Rosa is a scholar.
On the 2nd of March 1891 Rosa was admitted to Lucas Street School in Lewisham though, interestingly, her birth date is given as 28th of January 1878. This must be an error as her birth was registered in the 1st quarter of 1879.
The 1900s – Rosa’s parents?
It has not been possible to trace Rosa’s parents in the 1901 Census but we do find a 67 year-old Frances Harris and a 65 year-old John Harris who are inmates at the Greenwich Union Workhouse in Woolwich Road in Greenwich.
Like our subject’s parents, Frances was born in Deptford and John was born in Lewisham. However, her occupation is given as retired general domestic servant and his is butcher. Can we assume that they are Rosa’s mother and father? If so, it would mean the family had fallen on very hard times during the previous decade.
In the 4th quarter of 1905 a Frances Deborah Harris died in Lewisham aged 72. It might be assumed that this was the woman from Greenwich Workhouse and possibly Rosa’s mother.
In the 1911 Census we find John Thomas living in Walthamstow with his daughter Frances Rachel and her husband. He is described as a widower and an old-age pensioner. Is this the same John who was living in Greenwich Workhouse ten years before?
From this distance and until more documents come to light, we cannot tell. It has not been possible to find a death date for John Thomas Harris though a 79 year-old John Harris died in Lewisham in the 1st quarter of 1913.
The 1900s – Rosa?
Unfortunately it has not been possible to find our subject in the 1901 Census, either as Rosa or Edith Harris. The next time we definitely see Rosa is when she is admitted to Kent Asylum on the 31st of July 1908. We do not know where she was before this but Islington Workhouse records show an Edith Harris, born in 1879, admitted on the 16th of June 1903 ‘from OA’. Could this be Oakwood Asylum, otherwise known as Kent County Lunatic Asylum?
Had Rosa experienced mental health problems before her known admission to Kent Asylum in 1908? Sadly, Islington Workhouse records are not complete but we can see that between 1903 and 1906 Edith Harris was regularly admitted to and discharged from the workhouse. Is it too much to assume that this was our subject?
Rosa was to remain in Kent Asylum until the 19th of April 1910 when she was transferred to the Manor. Unfortunately we do not know the nature or severity of her mental health problems as her case notes are missing. Rosa died in the Manor on the 6th of September 1919 aged 39. She is buried in Horton Cemetery in grave 28b.
The only visitor Rosa appears to have received while in the Manor, according to the visitors’ register, was an Edward Buckland who made at least 23 visits between the 22nd of April 1910 and the 28th of April 1912.
Although all have later been crossed out, there are three addresses for Edward Buckland in the register and he appears in the 1911 Census living at the first, Carrington House, (London County Council Lodging House), Brookmill Road, Deptford. From his census entry we learn that Edward is a 33 year-old agricultural labourer who was born in Norwood.
The second address is c/o Mrs Brown, Kemp Farm, St Mary Cray, Kent. As we know Rosa’s mother’s maiden name was Brown could this mean Edward was a distant relative? Unfortunately it has not been possible to find out any more about Mrs. Brown.
The third address is 21, Berridge Road, Gipsy Hill. In the 1911 Census we find this is the home of William and Martha Bundey and 18 year-old ‘carman corn dealer’ William Buckland. Despite their different surnames William is described as the Bundeys’ son. One may assume that William Buckland and Edward Buckland are related but it has not been possible to establish how – or, indeed, how they might be connected to Rosa.
The visitors’ register does throw up one more intriguing possibility about Edward, however: under ‘relationship’ it reads ‘friend’ but below that, in a different hand, is written ‘? Husband’ (sic).
Rosa’s siblings in later life
- In the 1881 Census Sarah is working as a housemaid in what appears to be a small school for girls at 9, Bless Road in Lee, an area of London which straddles the border of Lewisham and Greenwich. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to trace Sarah after this date.
- On the 8th of October 1887 Frances Rachel married labourer Richard Fuller Bassett in St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch. They had one son, also called Richard Fuller Bassett. In the 1911 Census Frances’s father John Thomas is living with the family in Walthamstow. Frances died in 1939 aged 74.
- It has not been possible to trace John George Harris after the 1881 Census.
- Rebecca Maud married engine driver William George Habgood in St Stephen’s Church Shottermill in Surrey on the 24th of November 1894. The couple had two children, William and Bessie and lived in Haslemere. In the 1939 register Rebecca, now a widow, is living with her daughter and her family in Godalming. She died in 1950 aged 81.
- On the 19th of March 1894, barber John Henry married Emily Russell in St John’s Church in Deptford but it has not been possible to trace the couple with any degree of certainty after this date.