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b.1848 – d.1907


Lizzie Heath died, aged 59 at the Manor Asylum, Horton on 4th September 1907 at 10.20 am and was buried at the cemetery in grave 7b.

UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers 1846-1912

Further information about Lizzie and details surrounding her death have been confirmed by the copy of Statement of Death sent to the Coroner, which was attached to her case notes and the death entry.

Death Entry for Lizzie Heath

The death entry confirms that she was 59 years old and that the cause of death was softening of the brain, which she had suffered from for some years. 

The term ‘softening of the brain’ was first recorded in about the 1830’s. This could have been caused by a brain injury or could be associated with general paresis.

It also confirms that she was married, although it gives very little other information about her husband, neither his first name or his occupation, making it very difficult to identify him or her prior to her marriage. It implies that previously she was at the workhouse in Camberwell.

Case notes for Lizzie Heath

Statement of Particulars

The Statement of Particulars states that Lizzie Heath was admitted to the Manor Asylum on 25th January 1900 from Camberwell Workhouse. This was following her first attack of insanity that had been going on for a few months. The cause of the attack was unknown. 

She was 52 years old at the time of admission and a widow, she was not thought to suicidal or a danger to others or have epilepsy.

It was not known if she had any near relatives who were afflicted with insanity. The name and address of a relative was provided, a Mr Arthur Heath (an Uncle) of Singleton, Chichester, presumably related to her husband.

Medical Certificate

The Medical Certificate which was based on observations at the time of admission stated that: 

“She is incapable of expressing her thoughts or of taking care of herself she calls everyone “mama” babbles unintelligently and seems not to know where she is”

Condition on Admission

Her general bodily condition and nourishment was fair. She had paralysis of her right arm and leg with some wasting. There were also two old scars from previous bed sores.

She had fine, brown hair and blue eyes, she appeared to have false teeth, healthy gums and a clean tongue.

Mental State

“She is completely paralysed on the right side and has aphasia. She cannot speak intelligible words, only answering questions with sounds like “mamma’ and “chitas”. She appears to understand most of what is said to her and to recognise objects shown to her and as a rule will do as she is asked, but occasionally becomes confused and does not understand. Her memory appears to be fair.”

She was diagnosed as having organic dementia.

Progress of Case

Previous case notes I have found for other patients in the Epsom Hospitals have recorded entries approximately 4-5 times a year. However in this case there were about twice as many entries in 1900, her first year, probably due to the fact that shortly after she was admitted she had what they described as an epileptic fit. This led to her being in bed for a couple of weeks and there were more regular entries whilst she recovered..

During the rest of the year the notes record that her health improved following the fit but her mental health remained the same. She took no interest in her surroundings or anything going on.

In 1901, there were just 4 entries, the notes record that there was no real change in either her mental or physical condition, she was easily confused, unable to articulate and everything had to be done for her.

In 1902 again the notes state at the start of the year there was no improvement and she had not recovered the power of speech. Her right side remained paralysed but she had learnt to write a little with her left hand. Towards the middle of the year there was some improvement in her speech, but by the end there had been no further change and she had become very depressed.

At the start of 1903 she had hemiplegia of the left side of her body which left her with poor health and further difficulty in speaking. She worked in the ward, although it does not state in what capacity and she was very vacant. She did appear to laugh to herself. The last two notes for the year refer to her being quite demented or having dementia.

By 1904 she was again described as quite demented and could longer do anything for herself. Again her health was described as feeble or poor, she was simple minded and forgetful.

There was no real change in 1905 or 1906, the key words used frequently to describe her were childish, vacant minded and feeble in health.

In 1907 she fell out of bed and sustained a sprain and a slight graze to her foot. By July 1907 she was suffering from a dilated heart and had swollen arms, hands and breasts and unable to converse at all. The swelling got worse in September just before she died on 4th September 1907.

Life before the Workhouse

Initially I struggled to find any records for Lizzie Heath prior to her admission into Constance Road Workhouse, Camberwell due to not having any details about Lizzie’s family name or any details regarding her husband.

However, eventually I tracked down possible records for her and I believe these to be correct.

I think Lizzie’s maiden name was Johnstone and she was born in Ireland. She married William Edmund Heath, a carpenter on 9th August 1874. Both were of full age and living in Bermondsey, Surrey.

I have found Lizzie and William on census records in 1881 and 1891, where the couple were living at 28 Crewys Rd in 1881 and down the road at 22 Crewys Road in 1891.


1881 Census

1891 Census

The two records give different birthplaces for Lizzie – Westmeath (1881) and Dublin (1891), however, both are in Ireland. The census records suggest they did not have any children. 

William continued to record his occupation as a carpenter, Lizzie did not record an occupation.

Sadly William died aged 46 years old from Chronic Pneumonia and Asthenia on 9th May 1897. Asthenia refers to generalised physical weakness and/or a lack of energy and strength. It is not a disease, but rather, is a common sign of several acute and chronic medical conditions.

The death record for William showed that they were still living at 22 Crewys Road. In fact it was recorded as the place of death and it is the address Lizzie gave when she registered the death.

William was buried on 14th May in Camberwell Old Cemetery in Southwark.

The death of William must have been very difficult for Lizzie, as it appears from the census records she did not work, therefore it is possible that she had to leave her home and neighbourhood for many years.

The admittance record to Constance Road Workhouse, in Camberwell,  in January 1900, suggests that she was previously Westhampnett Union in Sussex. Is this the connection to Arthur Heath listed as a relative in Singleton, Chichester? Westhampnett is only about 6 miles away from Singleton. Is he her brother-in-law rather than her Uncle?

William Edmund had a younger brother called Arthur, although I have not as yet found him in Sussex.

Author’s note

Assuming I have found the correct family, Lizzie Johnstone was born in Ireland daughter of a farmer in about 1848. This was right in the middle of the Great Famine, a period of starvation and disease in Ireland between 1845-1852. It had a major impact on Irish society and history. About a million people died and many more left Ireland – was Lizzie’s family one of them? 

I have not found any evidence of when Lizzie arrived in England, or whether she came with her family or alone, but it could be an explanation of how she came to be in England.

It appears that Lizzie was admitted to Constance Road Workhouse in January  of 1900 from Westhampnett, and the admittance record already stated that she was paralysed, did she suffer from a stroke before or after her husband died? Was he her main carer? Is that why she was not recorded as having an occupation and they did not have a family? 

Why was she in Westhampnett? Was it a connection to Authur Heath? 

Did her grief and the frustration of the paralysis cause her to have the first attack of insanity? 

So many unanswered questions, many will never be answered but over time more records may come to light that will provide some answers.

I have started a family tree for Lizzie on ancestry so there may be information added over time. 

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