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b. 1874-d.1912

On the 1911 Census form our subject signed his name Edward Krombach. However, during his lifetime his name appeared on documents variously as Kromback, Krumbach, Krombak, Krombagh, Grombach, Kronbach, Kronbark and Krumback. This has made researching his life particularly challenging. 

Indeed, this story was minutes away from publishing when more evidence came to light which led to many more hours of research.

Edward’s German parents

Edward was born in Wolverhampton in the 1st quarter of 1874. His parents were Friedrich (Frederick) Krombach and his wife Johanna (née Gobel). In the birth records for two of her sons Johanna’s maiden name is also given as Kobel and Gogobel. 

In the 1861 Census we find 22 year-old Friedrich living at 17, Williams Rents in Whitechapel and working as a slipper maker. His place of birth is given simply as ‘Germany’. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to determine exactly where in Germany Friedrich was born, nor do we know when or why he came to England. 

Johanna does not appear in any records before her marriage but we know from the 1871 Census that she was born in Württemberg in Germany in 1838. As with Friedrich, we do not know when or why Johanna came to England.

Marriage – and three sons

A son, Charles, was born to the couple in the 2nd quarter of 1865 and his birth was registered in Mile End Old Town. Later that year, on the 23rd of November, Friedrich and Johanna were married in St Matthew’s Church in Stepney. At the time of their marriage the couple were living at 1, Shepherd’s Place in Stepney and Frederick was employed as a shoemaker.

From the marriage certificate we learn that Friedrich was the son of Johann Krombach, a miner, and Johanna’s father was a woodman named Georg Gobel. 

On the very same day that Friedrich and Johanna were married,  in the same church, a Margareta Kromback married slipper maker Philip Snorr (though this may have been a mistranscription of the German name Schnoor). Margareta’s father was Johann Friedrich Kromback, a miner, so it may be assumed that Friedrich and Margareta were siblings. However, it has not been possible to trace Margareta and Philip after their marriage.

Johanna gave birth to the couple’s second child, Frederick William, in the 3rd quarter of 1866 and a third son, John Adolph, was born in the 4th quarter of 1867. Both births were registered in Bethnal Green but no baptismal records have been found.

The family falls on hard times

Sadly, it would appear that the family very quickly fell on hard times. On the 17th of October 1868,  Johanna and her sons , described as ‘destitute’,  were admitted to the casual ward of Raine Street Workhouse in Stepney. 

Casual wards were usually built close to the entrance to the workhouse site. They were intended for tramps or itinerants or the poverty-stricken of no fixed address who were not admitted as inmates but given food, a bath and a roof for the night in return for labour (e.g. chopping wood) and then sent on their way.

What was the cause of the reduction in the family’s circumstances? Had Friedrich lost his job? Was he ill and unable to work? Was he in prison? Did the financial demands of a fast-growing family – three children in three years – exceed what Friedrich earned as a shoemaker? From this distance we can only speculate as to the reasons for the downturn in the family’s fortunes.

Plashet Industrial School

The following week, on the 26th of October 1868, Charles, aged just three, was discharged from the workhouse, with fourteen other children, to Plashet Industrial School in East Ham. Opened in 1851 the school was built to accommodate 150 boys, 120 girls and 80 infants.

 Joanna, Frederick and John were to remain in the workhouse proper until the 6th of December 1868 when they were reunited with Charles who had been returned to the workhouse. The following day all four were discharged by order of the workhouse board.

School Information | Plashet School

Plashet Industrial School, Forest Gate

The 1870s – a move north 

Unfortunately, we do not know where Johanna and the boys went after being discharged or where Friedrich had been living while his family was in the workhouse. It is possible he had left them to go and find work outside of London as the next time we see the family, in the 1871 Census, they are living in James Street, Ryecroft Hill, a village near Walsall in Staffordshire. Friedrich is again working as a shoemaker and the family is living in a cottage of which they appear to have sole possession. 

The birth of three more children

In the 1st quarter of 1871 Johanna gave birth to a daughter, Jane, who sadly died within a few weeks.

 A year later, in the 2nd quarter of 1872, a second daughter, Lizzie Johanna, was born. She was baptised on the 5th of May in St Sepulchre’s Church in Northampton. According to the baptismal register the family was living in Bath Street, Northampton, and Friedrich was employed as a shoemaker. Had Friedrich moved his family from Walsall to Northampton – a town with a long history of shoemaking – in order to find work? 

If so, they did not remain there long as, when our subject Edward was born in the 1st quarter of 1874, the family had moved once again, his birth being registered more than 60 miles from Northampton in Wolverhampton.  

Edward was baptised on the 8th of March 1874 in St. Martin’s Church in Birmingham. The baptismal register records that Friedrich was a shoemaker and the family was living in a ‘worker house’ but no further details are given. 

Lewisham High Street Workhouse

Unfortunately, despite considerable research, it has not been possible to find the family in the 1881 Census. However, it would appear that at least some members of the family had returned to London and once again had fallen on hard times. 

On the 29th of December 1876, 4 year-old Lizzie was admitted to the Raine Street Workhouse in Tower Hamlets, Stepney. No reason is given for her admission in the register but we learn that her mother was living at 35, Samuel Street in Tower Hamlets, though she was no longer living at that address at the time of the 1881 Census. Lizzie was to remain in the workhouse until the 8th of January 1877 when she was discharged to the Plashet Industrial School as her older brother Charles had been nine years before.

In 1882 and 1883 Edward’s name appeared twice in the admission register for casual paupers in Lewisham High Street Workhouse. He was first admitted, aged 8, on the 27th of July 1882 and was discharged ‘at own request’ the following day. 

He was readmitted on the 3rd of December 1883 and remained there until the 21st of December 1883. It is possible that Edward entered the workhouse as his mother was incapable of looking after him.

On the 3rd of March 1884, 12 year-old Lizzie, described as ‘destitute’ and, one assumes, no longer attending the Plashet Industrial School, was admitted to Lewisham High Street Workhouse She was discharge on the 12th of April to the Anerley School. 

The North Surrey District School at Anerley, Upper Norwood, Stock Photo ...

The North Surrey District School in Anerley, Upper Norwood

An 1844 Act of Parliament allowed Poor Law Unions within a fifteen-mile radius to form a School District to facilitate the setting up of large joint schools for pauper children. The North Surrey School District was formed on the 5th of April 1849 and covered the London Unions of Richmond, Croydon, Kingston, Lewisham and Wandsworth and Clapham. 

At its first meeting the Board decided to establish a District School for 500 children. A 56-acre site was found at Anerley, Upper Norwood, Surrey, on the slope of a hill which was soon to be crowned by the Crystal Palace. The school opened in 1850. The main block contained sixteen dormitories, eight for boys and eight for girls, plus the school and classrooms. The infants’ home contained ten dormitories for general sickness and ringworm patients. 

An  account in the Illustrated London News reported that there were also “offices, dairy, cowhouses and other farm buildings so that the boys will be instructed in trades, farming and gardening and the girls in dairy-work…all the servants in the house are to be women to allow the girls to be taught baking, cooking and house-work and the whole is considered a model for other districts.”

The death of Johanna

Less than a month later, on the 7th of May 1884, Johanna was admitted to the Lewisham High Street Workhouse due to illness and remained there until her death on the 21st of July aged 47. 

On the 3rd of December 1885, described as ‘destitute’, Edward was admitted to Lewisham High Street Workhouse for one night and the following day he was transferred, like his sister, to Anerley School where he would remain for about ten months.

One wonders where Edward’s father and brothers were in the years preceding and following Johanna’s death. It has not been possible to find Friedrich, John Adolph or Charles after the 1871 Census. Did Friedrich and Johanna stay together? Did Friedrich die? Did John and Charles emigrate to the USA as so many of Europe’s poor did at that time? A John A. Krombach (born 1867) and a Charles Krombach (born 1865) appear in USA censuses in 1900 but further research will be required to confirm that these are, indeed, the brothers of our subject Edward.  

“TS Exmouth”

On the 18th of October 1886, 12 year-old Edward left the Anerley School and joined the training ship “Exmouth”.

Training Ship 'Exmouth', Grays, Essex

TS ‘Exmouth’ off Greys in Essex

Training ships such as the “Exmouth” were charitably run institutions aimed at helping the children of the poor, their intake including boys like Edward, placed by the workhouse authorities. They aimed to give a training in naval life, skills and discipline to the boys and, of course, provide a ready source of recruits for the Royal Navy. 

Boys typically joined the ships at the age of eleven or twelve and stayed until they were fifteen or sixteen. Discipline aboard the ships was strict but as well as learning nautical skills the boys were often taught other useful crafts such as tailoring, shoemaking or carpentry. 

Many training ships had a military band where boys with any musical inclinations could develop their talents. The “Exmouth” was moored on the Thames off Greys in Essex. Managed by the Metropolitan Asylums Board, the ship was an old wooden two-decker line-of-battleship.

The ”TS Exmouth”s record book states that, on joining, Edward had ‘no parents’ (if Friedrich had died it has not been possible to find his death certificate) but had one brother, a carpenter, living at 56, Dalmain Street (sic) in Forest Hill. (There has never been a Dalmain Street in Forest Hill but 56 Dalmain Road was the address of Edward’s future wife and her family. It has not been possible to find a Krombach living there in the 1881 or 1891 Censuses). We also learn that in Anerley School Edward had learned carpentry and was a ‘band boy’.

Edward was discharged from the “TS Exmouth” on the 25th of August 1889. According to his record book he then joined the ship “Garibaldi” on a salary of 15 shillings a month but it has not been possible to find him in any crew lists. 

A return to Lewisham Workhouse 

Where we do find Edward – and his sister Lizzie – however, is in the register of the Lewisham High Street Workhouse. On the 23rd of October 1889 17 year-old Lizzie, described as a ‘servant’ was admitted to the workhouse due to ‘illness’. She was discharged at her own request on the 15th of March 1890. 

However, just over a month later, on the 21st of April 1890 Edward and Lizzie entered the workhouse together, both described as ‘destitute’. In the register, Lizzie’s occupation is given as ‘servant’ while, interestingly, Edward is described as a ‘shoemaker’. Lizzie was discharged from the workhouse at her own request on the 15th of May 1890, while Edward remained until the 14th of July.

Edward was admitted to and discharged from the Lewisham High Street Workhouse at least three times in 1891. On each occasion he was described as a ‘labourer’ and ‘destitute’. His final discharge was on the 14th of August 1891.

A soldier in India

Edward’s Horton case notes state that he had served as a soldier in India and we know that on the 5th of October 1891, an Edward Kronbach aged 18, enlisted in the Royal Artillery. On his recruitment form Edward gave his place of birth as Forest Hill, Sydenham. If this was our Edward, why did he give false information? If one considers the disruption Edward experienced in his childhood it would not be surprising if he had never known where he was born and so gave his current address as his place of birth. 

In his enlistment papers Edward names his brother Frederick as his next of kin. Frederick’s address is given as 11, Champion Park in Lower Sydenham. From the 1891 Census we learn that this Frederick was born in Victoria Park, Bethnal Green in 1867, (the same year and birthplace as our Edward’s brother Frederick William). He was living with his wife Louisa Christine and their children Mary, Frederick and Albert. Frederick’s job is given as ‘pianoforte hammer maker’. Could this be the ‘carpenter’ brother referred to in our Edward’s “TS Exmouth”’s record book?

A further clue that this Edward Kronbach could be our subject is his medical record which shows that he had an anchor tattooed on his left forearm. Was this a souvenir of his training ship days? 

The final piece of evidence that would seem to confirm that this Edward Kronbach is our subject is his military service record: after enlisting in 1891 he was posted to India on the 23rd of November 1894, returning to England on the 3rd of November 1899. Edward was then transferred to the reserves. Service in the reserves involved only part-time training, but with a commitment to serve wherever necessary if called up.

Marriage to Catherine Lois Haslett


Edward’s wife, Catherine

On return to England, in the 4th quarter of 1900, Edward married Catherine Lois Haslett in Camberwell. Catherine was born in Forest Hill in 1877, one of nine children born to gardener Jesse Haslett and his wife Catherine (née Langford). In the 1881 Census the family was living at 56, Dalmain Road in Forest Hill, the address referred to in Edward’s “TS Exmouth” report but it has not been possible to establish a link between Edward and the Hasletts at that time.

In the 1901 Census we find the newly married couple living at 42, Ulverscroft Road in Camberwell, a property they share with two other families. Edward is described as a labourer, working for the National Telephone Company. (The NTC was a telephone company formed in London in 1881, bringing together smaller local companies.) 

The onset of Edward’s mental health problems?

Interestingly, in the final column of the census (“If 1. Deaf and Dumb 2. Blind 3. Lunatic 4. Imbecile, feeble-minded”) there is a tick next to Edward’s name but the specific disorder is not indicated. Had the mental health problems that would one day necessitate Edward’s admission to an asylum already begun to manifest themselves? Had Catherine been aware of Edward’s condition when she married him just months before?

A growing family

Catherine gave birth to the couple’s first child, Catherine Lois Alice, on the 11th of December 1901. The child was baptised on the 26th of January 1902 at the  Church of St John the Evangelist, East Dulwich. From the baptismal register we learn that the family were now living at 180, Landells Road East Dulwich and Edward was working as a butcher. 

On the 3rd of October 1903 ‘re-engaged’ in the army for four more years. He was discharged ‘on termination of engagement’ on the 7th of October 1907. Although his service record states that he served at ‘home’ during this period, it is not clear if he was in the regular army or in the reserves but we know that he was entitled to a pension for 16 years’ service.

A second child, Edward Frederick, was born to the couple in the 1st quarter of 1904 in Camberwell, followed by Harry George in the 2nd quarter of 1906. Harry’s birth was registered in Bromley in Kent but according to the 1906 electoral register the family was still living in Landells Road, though now at 167a. Catherine and Edward’s fourth child, Hilda May, was born in Lewisham in the 2nd quarter of 1909. In the 1909 electoral register the family is living at 82, Ewart Road in Forest Hill.

A fifth child – and admission to Horton

In the 1911 Census Edward, Catherine and their four children are living at 87, Malham Road in Forest Hill. Edward is described as a ‘skilled labourer’, working at the Royal Victoria Victualling Yard in Deptford. Later that year, on the 12th of December 1911, Catherine gave birth to the couple’s fifth child, a boy named Albert Victor.

However, the family’s happiness on welcoming its newest member would have been short-lived as just two months later, on the 24th of February 1912, Edward was admitted to Horton Asylum where he would remain until his death later that year.

Lewisham Workhouse and Anerley School

On the 29th of February 1912 Edward and his brother Harry were admitted to the  Workhouse in Lewisham High Street. The following day they were transferred to Anerley School but we do not know how long they remained there. 

One may assume that Catherine, the younger Catherine, Hilda and baby Albert were still living at 87, Malham Road while Edward was in Horton though it is possible they moved in with Catherine’s parents who were living at 24, Crebor Street, East Dulwich.

Edward’s Horton Asylum case notes

From Edward’s case notes we learn that the attack which prompted his admission to Horton had begun three months earlier but the cause was not known. (An additional note states that a brother of Edward’s had noticed the first symptoms two years before.) Catherine stated that for three months he had been “peculiar in his manner. He has ideas of enormous wealth. His memory is very feeble. He appears completely lost at times. He is very excitable, he is sleepless and restless. He is unable to look after himself”.

Edward’s doctor observed that “He has some muscular incoordination. His speech is characteristic of general paralysis. He is exalted and grandiose. He says he is very strong. He is constantly asking to be allowed to perform acrobatic feats. He hordes trifles. He is forgetful.”

A medical examination revealed a large scar on his penis which Edward claimed was “a cut done by a native when he was sitting on the WC.” Presumably this incident took place when Edward was serving in the army in India.

Edward’s mental and physical condition in Horton

The following observations are typical of those made by Edward’s doctors during the ten months he was a patient in Horton:

“He is suffering from general paralysis of the insane. He is merry, exalted, boastful and grossly irrational.”

“…he has marked ataxic symptoms. He is well advanced in the second stage of this disease.”

“He says he was brought here by fraud and when he gets out he is going to take it to the High Court.”

“He says he has a witch bowl with which he can cure all diseases. He is disorientated to time and place.”

“He says his name is Edward Ireland…still maintains he was a professional footballer.”

“He is possessed of 19 million pounds.”

“Physically he is deteriorating steadily.”

“Put to bed on account of advancing feebleness.”

Edward’s death

The penultimate entry on the 23rd of December 1912 reads “He is now in the terminal stage and rapidly sinking.” 

Then, finally “Died at 2.30 pm.” 

Edward was just 35 years of age. On his death certificate the causes of death are given as 

  1. General paralysis of the insane
  2. Lobar pneumonia

Edward was buried in grave number 2118a in Horton Cemetery on the 30th of December 1912.

Edward’s family after his death

In the 1921 Census we find Catherine and three of her five children living at 16, Calton Road in Camberwell. Now aged 44, Catherine is working as a kitchen maid at Dulwich Hamlet School where her youngest child, 9 year-old Albert Victor, is a pupil. Catherine Lois, aged 19, is working as a telephone operator and 15 year-old Harry is an errand boy for a fruiterer. Catherine died in the 1st quarter of 1927 aged 50.

On the 23rd of May 1897 Edward’s sister Lizzie married James Bullen, a telegraph paper cutter, in St Faith’s Church in Stepney. The couple had five children together. Lizzie died in Luton in the 4th quarter of 1964 aged 92.

Edward’s brother Frederick William died in the 1st quarter of 1921 aged 54.

On the 7th of March 1925 Edward’s daughter Catherine married gardener Frederick James Allen at the Church of St Barnabas in Dulwich. The couple went on to have three children together. In the 1939 register we find them living in the St Barnabas School House in Camberwell where Frederick is working as a school porter. Catherine died in the 1st quarter of 1970 aged 68.

In 1937 Harry married Hilda Violet Webster. The couple had one son. Harry died in Portsmouth in 1980 aged 73.

Hilda May married Francis James Titchmarsh in Uxbridge in 1934. The couple had one son. Hilda died in Northwood on the 25th of February 1976 aged 66.

In 1931 Edward married May Dorothy Gosser. The couple had two daughters. Edward died in 1960 aged 56.

Albert Victor married twice, first to Lavinia Watkins in 1935 and then to Rose Lillian Edwards in 1948. It is not known if any children were born of these marriages. During the Second World Albert served in the Royal Artillery as his father had done forty years before. He died in 1995 aged 83.

Living Relatives

A family member has been in contact, the grand nephew of  Catherine Lois Haslett, Edward’s wife.

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