What was it like to be living in Victorian times?
Life was very difficult for some people including children. Some were homeless, wandering the streets and often living in the workhouse. Some had mental health problems and found life challenging.
Some joined gangs in London and some spent their days just trying to find their next meal. Others were more lucky and were given a chance of life, being schooled by the workhouse in the hope they might learn a trade.
Not everyone was poor. Some people just had illnesses which made their lives extra challenging. Nowadays we know how to help people who are ill but in the past it was not always like this.
All of the people on this page were amazing and their stories are worth reading.
All of the people talked about on this page spent some of their lives in asylums, a place like a hospital where people with mental health problems are cared for. For some we have found wonderful photographs and documents about their lives.
All of these people lived their final years in Epsom in one of five mental asylums and they all died and are buried in Horton Cemetery.
Read the Stories
We have picked out stories which that we believe that young readers will enjoy reading.
|Sylvester Fury had a sad and short life.|
We first find him in the workhouse in 1866 when, aged three, he was found by the police wandering the London streets. Later that day his mother, a slipper maker, collects him.
On another occasion, Sylvester and his brothers entered the workhouse, having been ‘deserted’ by their parents and on another because their mother was in prison and their father had deserted them.
Did Sylvester suffer from mental illness? The records do not tell us but we do know that, as workhouses became overcrowded, people were moved to asylums which had space.
From the age of sixteen, Sylvester lived in many different asylums from Peckham to Nottingham, Wiltshire to Essex. Finally in 1907, Sylvester arrived in Long Grove, Epsom. He died there in 1910 and is buried in plot 715a in Horton Cemetery.
The workhouse was a constant in Sylvester’s early life providing a bed, food and water. He was safe from life on the streets. He knew little else.
|Enid Barnet |
How does the daughter of a Government Architect, end up buried in an unmarked grave in Epsom?
Enid Barnet was born in 1861 in the shadow of Sydney Harbour, in Australia. In 1854, her father James Johnstone Barnet and his wife Rosa sailed for Sydney where he joined the Colonial Architect’s Office.
His major works include the General Post Office, Callan Park Lunatic Asylum and the Australian Museum. Enid’s sister is mentioned laying the foundation stone for Macquarie lighthouse. The family had many pets including a magpie, a Skye terrier and a kangaroo.
By the 1890s, Enid was in England, living with a family friend until being admitted in 1896 to the Constance Road workhouse, “alleged insane”.
Enid went to Horton asylum in 1899, where she was to spend the rest of her life. She was rambling, full of delusions. She said, “I am the Prince of Wales”, said her occupation was to grow tea in a teapot like a Chinaman.
In December 1911, Enid collapsed and her pulse became feeble. She received three injections of strychnine but she died shortly afterwards.
Enid’s illness began around 1881 – did this influence her father to design the Asylum in New South Wales?
| Byron Pedley||Byron Pedley was born in 1844, in Manchester. He was a very successful comedy-actor, who clearly enjoyed making people laugh.|
Byron began acting 1870. He appeared in many plays and pantomimes, such as:
· 1873 – Cinderella and her little glass slipper as ‘Baron Balderdash’
· 1877 – The Sleeping Beauty
· 1883 – Little Red Riding Hood as ‘Tweedledum’
· 1885 – Jack and the Beanstalk as ‘Baron Nikel’
· 1889 – Puss in Boots as ‘The Lawyer’.
One of his favourite roles was Mr Dennis Muldoon in Muldoon’s Picnic which was very popular with audiences. He was often in the headlines.
For some unknown reason, in June 1897, Byron boarded the RMS Moor (a Royal Mail Ship) bound for South Africa, returning 6 months later on RMS Don from the West Indies.
Byron’s last role was in 1908 in a play called ’The New East Lynne’. He received very good feedback in the press with, “Mr. Byron Pedley, as Mr. Dill, is responsible for a great deal of merriment.”
Byron’s health began to deteriorate in 1910 and he spent some time in Lambeth Infirmary, with heart disease. He was transferred to Long Grove in Epsom later that year, where he died just three weeks later.
What a successful, flamboyant and outgoing man he was!
|Amelia Francis or |
|Amelia FRANCIS is the unusual story of someone who wasn’t who they seemed, namely Amelia Francis (also known as Mrs Lavinia Everley).|
On December 28th 1911, a mysterious widow was arrested for begging on the street, giving the name Amelia Francis. She was sent to a workhouse and twelve days later moved to Long Grove Asylum in Epsom.
In the meantime, the strange case of Lavinia Everley was unfolding.
Her husband, Francis Everley had gone out leaving his wife with a servant, Mrs Cork. Whilst Mrs Cork was distracted, Lavinia escaped the house in slippers with no hat or coat. She was last seen by a member of the public saying she was going to, “visit her mother” (who had been dead for forty years). Lavinia was never seen again! 21,000 police joined the search but found no-one.
It was not until 1913 that staff in Epsom Asylum recognised Lavinia from published probate reports as their patient, Amelia Francis. Lavinia had died on April 24th 1912, aged 73.
So how did this happen? When arrested, obviously in a confused state, was Lavinia trying to say that her husband was Francis? Slurred words perhaps “I need Francis / Amelia Francis.
Find out here what it was like to live in a workhouse
- Children in the workhouse
- Workhouse education
- Workhouse Food