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Ada Joslin died while at Horton Asylum, aged just 26. It was to be her final home after being admitted aged 18 in 1903. 

Ada and her family appear to have had a hard time during her life. Like many of the patients admitted to Horton from London, they lived in cramped housing, moved around frequently and had many instances of being admitted and discharged from the workhouse.

Early life

It was hard to find Ada’s birth record at first. There was no record for an Ada Joslin born around 1885 around London. Ada was in fact born Ada Murray on 11 May 1885. Murray was her mother Emily’s maiden name.

Emily was 21 when she gave birth to Ada in the infirmary at Newington Road Workhouse, Westmoreland Road. She is noted as being in labour and ‘single’ on her admission record. It was very common for unmarried mothers to enter the workhouse to give birth to their children, as they were often disowned by their families. It is not clear therefore who Ada’s father was.

They are discharged on 4 June on Emily’s ‘own request’. She is listed as a widow at her discharge, suggesting she changed her story.

Emily came from a large family who may have been Travellers. The 1871 Census places them in Lambeth with Emily and her siblings’ birthplaces listed as ‘unknown’. Emily’s father is listed as a basket maker and ‘traveller in a caravan’. 

Ada’s siblings

Ada had an older brother named William, also born with the surname Murray. He was around five years older than Ada. The 1881 Census shows William and Emily living with Emily’s mother, Sarah, and brother, William (Ada’s uncle), a few years before Ada’s birth. William’s father does not appear to be living with the family.

In 1887, Ada and William’s sister, Charlotte, was born with the surname, Joslin. Charlotte is the only one of Ada’s siblings I can find a christening record for. This states that her father is Samuel Joslin, a ‘Printer Labourer’.

Ada had two further siblings – Samuel Thomas Joslin, born in 1889, and Emily Joslin, born in 1891. Sadly, Emily died aged just three months.

1891 Census

The 1891 census shows Emily, Samuel Joslin senior (who is working as a printer), Ada and her siblings William, Charlotte and Samuel living at 19 Harriett Street, North Lambeth. All are listed with the surname ‘Joslin’ and Samuel and Emily are listed as married, although I cannot find an official marriage record for them.

All of the children are listed as Samuel and Emily’s. Living in the same house is another family of 8, a widow ‘living on her own means’ and a ‘boarder’. So 16 people in one house. It must have been very cramped. This is the last record that I can find of Samuel Joslin senior being with the family.


Ada turned 8 in 1893, and it appears to have been a difficult year for the family. This may have been because Samuel senior appears to leave the family leaving Emily alone with four children. I cannot find a death record for him around this time.

On February 18th, Emily, WIlliam, Ada, Charlotte and Samuel junior are all admitted to the Workhouse in Westminster using the surname ‘Murray’ and are stated to be ‘destitute’.  The admission record states that Emily is being admitted from the Fulham Road Infirmary. 

Emily gives her mother, Sarah, as the details of a relative, further suggesting a separation from Samuel.  The name of the relative given for the children, however, is Charlotte Boyce, ‘sister’.  Emily did indeed have a sister named Charlotte and I have found a marriage record for Charlotte to a John Boyce in 1880.  It would therefore appear that the children have been living with their aunt while their mother was at the Infirmary, although it is not known for how long she was a patient there.

They are admitted again on March 30th, again listed as ‘destitute’. 

On April 13th, Ada aged 7 is admitted to the same workhouse alone and discharged to the infirmary, suggesting she was unwell. 

On May 2nd, Emily is admitted to the workhouse alone, and listed as an ‘absentee’, suggesting she snuck out, possibly to get back to the children who don’t appear to be with her.

At some point between April to June, Samuel sadly dies aged three.

On May 26th, Emily, William, Ada and Charlotte are discharged from the Workhouse in Westminster again at Emily’s ‘own request’. 

Into the new century 

We next find a record of the family going into the 1900s. 

Ada’s older brother, William, marries Emily Richards in 1899, using the surname Joslin. They appear to have met working in the kitchen at 1 Darwin Street in Camberwell. William is listed as a Kitchen Porter and Emily a Kitchen Maid on their marriage record. They have a son, William, who appears to have been born three months before their marriage. Samuel Joslin is listed as William’s father on their marriage record, and still working as a Printer Labourer. This is further evidence that he left the family, as he is not listed as ‘deceased’ on the marriage record.

The 1901 Census places Emily, Ada and Charlotte as living together at 43 Arnott Street, Southwark and again using the surname ‘Joslin’. They are sharing the house with another family of seven. Ada is 15. Emily is listed as married, but Samuel does not appear to be living with them. Both Emily and Ada are working as buttonholers. 

On 30 May 1903, Ada is admitted to St. George’s Workhouse in Southwark using the surname Murray. She is listed as being 15 which is about three years younger than she would have been. Is it possible either she or Emily did this she was treated as a child rather than an adult? She is discharged on 1 June.

On 3 December, Ada is admitted to Lambeth Infirmary using the surname Joslin, and lists her mother Emily as her family contact, at 39 Fitzalan Street. On 14 December, she is transferred to Horton Asylum. 

At Horton

I have not been able to find out why Ada was sent to Horton, and what her condition was like while there. I hope to add these details when I find them. 

What we do know is that Ada was at Horton for almost eight years, from the end of 1903 until her death aged 26 in on 13 August 1911. The 1911 Census taken months before she died lists her as ‘lunatic’, and states she is still working as a buttonholer while at Horton.

Her death certificate states she died of ‘Tubercular disease of lungs. Waxy disease of spleen, kidneys and liver.’ It also states she is a ‘spinster, a buttonhole maker of Fitzalan Streen, Kennington Road, Lambeth.’

Rest in peace, Ada. My hope is that perhaps your life was in some ways more comfortable and secure at Horton than during childhood.

The rest of her family

It’s hard to find records of what happened to the rest of the family beyond Ada’s admission. 

Her nephew, William (son of William and Emily Richards), appears to join the Navy in 1914, aged 15, and serve across the First World War and beyond.

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