b.1899 – d.1914
Nellie Louisa Levell was born on 17th November 1899 in Paddington, London. Her parents were Alfred Levell and Ellen Hodghton. Nellie was the fifth of six children.
Nellie’s parents lived around the Paddington area. Her father was born in Barnes, Surrey but by 1892, Alfred and Ellen were living together in Paddington, where Ellen was born and grew up. Alfred worked as a labourer, as can be seen on the baptism registers of each of their six children.
The couple’s first child Annie Elizabeth Levell was born on 15th April 1892. A second daughter Florence Violet Levell was born on 4th April 1893. At this time the family was living at 81 Woodchester Street, Paddington. Alfred and Ellen’s only son Frederick was born on 15th January 1895. All six of the Levell children were baptised at the local church St Mary Magdalene; the registers helpfully recorded their dates of birth.
Alfred Levell and Ellen Hodghton married after having their first three children, although before this the children had all been registered and baptised with their father’s name.
The marriage was on 22nd October 1897 at the Register Office in Paddington. Both recorded they were single and were still living in Woodchester Street at the time. It is known this area was one of the most densely populated streets in Paddington. It was made up of small, terraced houses with multiple occupancy.
A few weeks after Alfred and Ellen’s marriage, a fourth child Maude arrived on 12th December 1897. Alfred, Ellen, and the young family were now living at 24 Clarendon Street. We know on the 1901 Census they were sharing this house with three other families (22 people in total).
Clarendon Street (later Crescent) had an average of 17 people per house, often shared by unrelated families. Subletting was also common and had gone so far that a room might have different tenants by day and night. To add to the misery, there were limited employment opportunities in the area.
Nellie Louisa Levell arrived on 17th November 1899. She was baptised around three weeks later on 5th December.
Alfred and Ellen had their last child Lilian on 12th September 1901; sadly she died before the end of the year.
The 1901 census shows the family, Alfred, Ellen, Annie, Florence, Frederick, Maud and baby Nellie living at 24 Clarendon Street, Paddington, London.
We do not know a lot about Nellie’s life but at one year of age, she appeared with the family on the 1901 Census in Clarendon Street. However, by 18th December 1903 and 19th February 1904, Nellie was admitted to the Brighton Nursing Home from the workhouse. This would have been a poor law arrangement. We can assume this was the Paddington Workhouse, but the details are not clear.
There are no records for other family members being in the workhouse at this time, so it seems likely that Nellie was poorly, or it was difficult to look after her at home. During this period, children often had short stays in the workhouse before being placed in long stay institutions.
In 1905, Nellie was transferred from the Tooting Bec Asylum in South London to the Darenth Asylum in Kent, and she was still there in 1911.
Unlike many of the other children seen on the 1911 census, Nellie was not attending the Asylum School and was listed as an imbecile. We don’t know why Nellie was moved around so much, or whether she ever returned for periods at home. The records appear patchy.
Nellie’s last stay was to be at Horton Hospital, where she died on 27th October 1914. The death certificate gives the cause of death as i. chronic syphilitic meningitis congenital, ii. lobar pneumonia.
It is likely that the family were not in contact with the asylum, as on Nellie’s death certificate they had been unable to complete her father’s details. Although it does give the family address, which was the same one where the family lived in 1901.
Nellie was buried, age 14 in the Horton Estate Cemetery on 2nd November 1914 in grave reference 1259b.
Congenital syphilis is a chronic infectious disease acquired by the foetus in the uterus. It is passed from the mother to the foetus. Adults transmit syphilis through sexual contact. In Victorian times, treatment of syphilis was not always sought and anyway not always effective, this led to poor pregnancy outcomes. Babies who were exposed in utero could have deformities, delays in development and seizures.
Lobar pneumonia would also have been a serious complication, as there were not yet any antibiotics to treat the condition.
There are records showing different asylums where Nellie was admitted and discharged, but they often lack precise dates and addresses. There also seem to be gaps. However, I think it is likely Nellie spent most of her life in asylums.
Alfred and Ellen’s first four children grew up, found employment, married, and had their own families. Nellie was not so lucky, and neither was her younger sister Lilian who died not long after birth.
Nellie’s family continued to live around the Paddington area. Alfred died in 1943 and Ellen in 1959.