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Jessie was a housewife and mother of a young family when she was admitted to Horton Asylum in 1905 aged 37. Without her case notes it is not possible to know the reason for her finding herself in the Asylum. 

Jessie’s parents

Jessie was born on 1 October 1867 and registered in Kensington. 

Her parents had come to London from the west country, I assume to find better employment.

Jessie’s father was Handy Ridler, which is quite a name. He was born in 1824 and he came from the village of Bisley which is situated approximately four and a half miles north east of Stroud, Gloucestershire. His Father was a weaver and in the 1841 census Handy was working as a wool Carder. This is a process often undertaken by the children of the family. Using hand paddles, they teased the wool ready for spinning into thread for weaving. It’s most likely they were working from home, a cottage industry which was becoming a dying trade due to the industrial revolution. 

We find in the 1851 census the newlywed Handy aged 27, is now a Coal Porter and married to Susan aged 22, who is a dressmaker They were living in the parish of Lyncombe and Widcome on the outskirts of Bath, Somerset.

Handy and Susan West from Weston-Super-Mare, were married in the 3rd quarter 1850 in Bath.

They went on to have a large family, Jessie being the ninth of 10 children that I have found being born to the couple. 

A move to London

There is no evidence found to establish when Handy and Susan made their move to London. It would have been between the 1851 census and the birth of their first child. 

Henry Winstone was born 7 February 1853 in Chelsea, his baptism on 29 May at St Saviour’s Church gives their address as 47, First Street, Chelsea. Handy’s new occupation is an Upholsterer.  

On 2 October 1854 Samuel arrives. Their address is now 19 Walton Street, Chelsea. 

First Street and Walton Street were in a comfortable earnings area in Booth’s maps at a later date. So Handy is doing rather well for himself with his new trade. 

On 30 September 1856 Elizabeth Susan Amelia makes her appearance and was baptised on 26 June 1859 along with Albert George born 27th December 1858. The address is now 16 Princes Street, Chelsea. 


Arthur was born in the 3rd quarter 1860. I am unable to find his baptism. 

In the 1861 census  Handy is still living at 16 Princes Street, Chelsea,  renamed Rawlings Street, a comfortable, good earnings to middle class area.  The family are sharing the house with a single 78-year-old lady Marie.

Handy aged 37, an Upholsterer, Susan aged 32, Henry aged 8, Samuel aged 6, Elizabeth aged 4, recorded as scholars. Then Albert aged 2, and 7 month old Arthur. 

The family continues to grow with Julia on the 15 February 1862 and Edward on 26 October 1863. 


On 25 February 1865, The Hampshire Advertiser printed a report from the previous night’s London Gazette. Bankrupts.

Handy Ridler, Chelsea, Upholsterer and Furniture dealer.

A terrible position for Handy to find himself in, with a growing family. Susan is 8 months pregnant with their next child, Caroline who is born 30 March 1865.

Our Jessie is next, born on the 1 October 1867.  

And lastly Susan on 26 August 1870. The family is complete. 


The 1871 census shows that possibly because of becoming Bankrupt the family have moved to Kensington, 1a St John’s Place, now known as Penzance Place. Booth’s map shows a mixed range of income. However, the place has been redeveloped therefore I am unable to say where 1a was situated. 

The property was shared with another family.

Henry is now aged 47, still an Upholsterer, Susan aged 44, Henry aged 18, a Carriage maker, Samuel aged 16 a Grocer’s assistant. Albert aged 12, an Errand boy, Arthur aged 10, Julia aged 8, Edward aged 6, Caroline aged 5, are scholars Jessie aged 3 and Susan 7 months. Elizabeth is not at home. 

St John’s Place next to church with mixed incomes. Booth’s Maps

In 1874, Julia, Edward, Caroline, Jessie and Susan were all baptised together on Susan’s 4th Birthday 26 August at St James Norland’s Church in Kensington.


Jessie has left home. She is working at 43, St James Square adjoining St John’s Place. Jessie is listed as a nurse aged 14, she is actually 13. Working for James Dredge aged 43 a Draper and his wife Ellen and their 6 children aged 12 and under, one a baby of 2 months. Maybe Jessie was helping to care for the younger children. A Nursery Nurse, there is also Letitia Hart aged 16 recorded, she is a servant although the writing is illegible.  

Handy and the remaining family have moved around the corner to Princes Road seen on the extreme right of Booth’s map above.


Jessie meets and marries Alfred Leigh on the 29 June 1890 in Penge. 

In the 1891 census at 11, Pullens Buildings, Peacock Street. St Marys, Newington we find Jessie aged 23, wife. Alfred aged 22, A Confectioner pastry cook. from Horley Surrey. Living with them is Alfred’s mother Sarah aged 63, a widow living on her own means, from Burstow, Surrey. This was a fairly comfortable to mixed earnings area according to Booth’s. 

Pullens Buildings, Victorian tenements near the Elephant and Castle.  

Jessie and Alfred start a family and on 1 July 1891 Olive Jessie is born. Her birth is registered in St Saviour Southwark. She is baptised at St Bartholomew’s church, Horley, on 2 August 1891. Alfred is described as a pastry Cook in the baptismal register.

On 7 December 1892 the birth of Florence Edith, registered in Croydon, Baptised on the 5 March 1893 in St James Norlands. Kensington. 

Another daughter Julia Alfreda was registered in the 1st quarter of 1895, Baptised 27 January 1895 also in St James Norlands, Fulham.


On 2 February 1900, tragedy struck the family when little Julia Alfreda died at the age of 5 at Western Fever Hospital in Fulham. Cause of Death Diphtheria at Western Hospital. Father Alfred, pastry Cook Journeyman, was in attendance and registered the death on the same day. 

Further information on Western Fever Hospital can be found on the Workhouse website by Peter Higginbothlem. 

The 1901 census finds the family sharing the property of 71 Beryl Street Fulham with another family. Alfred aged 32 a pastry cook foreman, written above, ‘bread mkr’ (maker). Jessie is aged 33, Olive aged 9 and Florence aged 8. 

In the summer of 1903, on 17 June, Jessie gives birth to her 4th baby girl. Gladys Muriel. She was baptised at St James Norland on 25 July. The family have moved further down the road to a very similar terraced property at 37 Beryl Street

What happened to Jessie and her mental health?

Without her medical notes or medical examination page on transfer to Horton Asylum, one can only speculate. Was she suffering from Postnatal depression added together with the loss of a child and some other family members? However, on 

7 January 1905 Jessie was admitted to Fulham Workhouse and presumably after some medical assessment she was transferred to Horton Asylum on 26 January 1905. 

Jessie remained in Horton Asylum until her death on the 27th November 1909. Cause of death Acute Tuberculous of the Lungs. 

She was buried on 3 Dec 1909 in Horton cemetery in grave no 527a.

Alfred and the girls.

How did Alfred cope with the girls Olivia 14, Florence 12 and 2 year old Gladys along with working? Could Olivia take on the mother role? Did he hire a housekeeper? 

By the time Jessie died he may have already got a solution to his situation. We don’t know how they met but by the 1911 census Alfred had remarried. His new wife is Elizabeth Cant, a servant from Richmond. Although it states they have been married for 3 years. In fact, it was only 1 year. They married in the 1st quarter of 1910 in Wandsworth. Just a month or so after the death of Jessie.

Elizabeth had given birth to their first child in 1908 illegitimately, a daughter Christine Dorothy, 

The family are living near Wimbledon, 76, Trentham Street, Southfields. Alfred aged 42, Elizabeth aged 35, Florence aged 18, Gladys aged 7, Christine aged 2, Ronald aged 11 months. Olivia has left home and is working as a housemaid in Richmond.

On 30 March 1913 a son Wilfrid John was born.  

Alfred and Elizabeth retired to Brighton and are recorded in the 1939 register. In 1940 Alfred died leaving Elizabeth who remarried and lived to the age of 95.

Thankfully Jessie’s girls all lived a long life, Olivia and Gladys into their 90’s and Florence 80. 

Olivia married John Holley in 1921 and had two daughters. The 1939 register shows they are living in Bristol. She died in 1987, her death registered in Bath aged 95. 

Florence married an Air force man Richard Joyce in 1917. By 1939 Florence was a shopkeeper in Ealing selling Tobacco and confections. Richard was a Stage Carpenter. A family tree shows they had a son, marked “Private”. I am unable to find him registered. Florence died in 1973 aged 80.

Gladys married Harold Beard in 1933 registered in Epsom, the 1939 register shows them living at 31 Gander Green Lane, Sutton. I found two sons. Gladys lived until 1994 and died in Bexley, Greater London,  aged 91 years old.

The rest of the family

Jessie’s father had died in 1896. He had been ill at home and had gone to stay with his daughter Caroline who was married and living in Swindon, to help his health. An inquest was held concerning the cause of his death, the verdict natural causes. 

27th June 1896, Swindon Advertiser.

Jessie’s mother Susan also lived a long life. She has been found in the 1921 census living with a female friend. Susan died the following year aged 93 in Hammersmith. She outlived 7 of her children. 

Jessie’s siblings

All 9 siblings lived to Adulthood and married and had Families. There are too many to write up their stories as the prime focus is Jessie. 

However, there are some notes of possible interest.

Sister Julia died not long after her marriage to John Clampson Squire, but I cannot find her death registered. John went on to marry the youngest sister, Susan and they had two children, their daughter was named Julia. 

Another Sister Caroline married for the second time, bigamously, which was reported in the newspaper. 

Author’s notes.

Hopefully medical notes will be found to help understand Jessie and her mental health. Jessie’s life was cut short by Tuberculosis which was prevalent at this time and more so during and after WW1.

The Lancet dated 9 August 1919 showing the increase of Tuberculosis within an asylum:

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