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I have had to start at the end of Harriet Massey’s life and try to work backwards in order to tell her story. 

The Horton Cemetery Records provided details regarding Harriet’s age and burial date. She was 74 years old when she died and was buried in grave number 21a on the 15th October 1907.


From this limited information I managed to find her death record, which gives us a little more information; she died on the 10th October 1907 at The Manor Asylum, Horton, Epsom. The cause of death was Valvular Disease of the heart, which she had had for many years. 

Valvular disease is where one or more of the heart valves do not open or close properly. This causes shortness of breath, difficulty catching your breath, fatigue, weakness, or the inability to maintain regular activity levels.


 Death Entry for Harriet Massey

The death entry also informs us that she was a ‘Charwoman Widow of Massey, occupation unknown of Kensington Infirmary’. 

From this we know that she was married but unfortunately no first name or occupation of her husband was given or any other information apart from a connection to Kensington Infirmary.

A charwoman is an old-fashioned occupational term which referred to a worker who comes into a house or to clean it for a few hours of a day or week, as opposed to a maid, who usually lives as part of the household within the structure of domestic service.


A number of records have been found in the archives including case notes.

The last page of the case notes included the ‘Copy of Statement of Death sent to the Coroner’.

It confirms the details included on the death entry.

It has been difficult to prove who Harriet was, as we do not have her husband’s first name, 

occupation or her maiden name, however the visitors book did provide the name and address of a son called Henry Massey of 101 Katherine Road, Notting Hill. Although from the notes above it appears a letter was returned with not known on 4.11.99.

I have not been able to connect the address provided in the address book to a Henry Massey, I have found a Harriet Massey that lived in the Kensington/Notting Hill area who had a son named Henry that I believe is the Harriet Massey buried at Horton Cemetery in 1907. Other family trees on Ancestry have also made the same connection.

Harriet’s Family

Assuming I have the correct family, I believe that Harriet Massey was born on 10th September 1832, the eldest daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Dearman, in Edmonton, Middlesex, now part of north London and within the London Borough of Enfield, a local government district of Greater London.

No formal record of the birth has been found as it was not until 1837 that the government of England and Wales required all births (marriages and deaths) to be recorded.  

However, she was baptised soon after her birth, on 14th October 1832 at Weld Chapel, in the Parish of Edmonton.  

Baptism record for Harriet DearmanImage


The baptism entry also gives us details that the family were living in Southgate at the time and that her father Henry was a labourer. It is also this record that provides us with her actual date of birth, the 10th September 1832. 

Southgate now is a suburban area of North London, it is about 8 miles north of Charing Cross, however at the time that Harriet’s family were living there it was a small hamlet bordering Royal hunting grounds.

If this is the correct family, Harriet’s father was Henry Dearman, who was born in about 1801 in Edmonton, according to census records found for him in 1851 and 1861. He appeared to have had a variety of jobs throughout his life, mostly as a labourer.

There is a Henry Dearman that died in 1861 of Broncho Pneumonia at 7 Montpelier Terrace, Kensington, so in the right area. An Emily Dearman of the same address was present and registered the death, this could potentially be Harriet’s sister. Although I am not sure if this is correct, as Emily would have only been 14 at the time and I would have thought unlikely to have registered the death. His occupation was also listed as a gardener. 

Possible Death Entry for Henry Dearman, Harriett’s fatherImage

However this does tie in with a record found for a marriage of Emily Dearman to George Thomas Smith in 1873 whereby Emily’s father, Henry was described as a gardener and deceased. 

Harriet’s mother was called Elizabeth Bangs and she married Henry Dearman on 22 April 1832 in Walthamstow. From Census records Elizabeth Bangs was born in 1811, also in Edmonton. As with her husband, I have not been able to find out much about Elizabeth She appeared on both the 

England, Pallot’s Marriage Index, 1780-1837

1851 and 1861 census records in the Kensington area, but I have not found any other documents or a death record for her.

Harriet was born on the 10th September only 4 months after her parent’s marriage, so one assumes that she was conceived out of wedlock. Henry and Elizabeth went on to have at least 5 more children, four daughters and a son, as follows:

Harriet Dearman – b. 10 September 1832 – 15th October 1907

Anne Dearman – b. 19 March 1838 – 1838 (died in infancy)

Hannah Dearman – b.10 March 1839 – 

Jane Dearman – 24 November 1841 –

Richard Charles Dearman – September 1844 – December 1845 (died in infancy)

Emily Dearman – 3 December 1846 –

There are some quite large gaps in-between the years, particularly between 1932 and 1838, so it is possible that Elizabeth had a miscarriage or had further children who possibly died in infancy or childhood.

Both Anne Dearman and Richard Charles Dearman died in infancy and very little information has been found for Hannah, Jane or Emily beyond the 1861 census. Although a possible marriage for Emily Dearman in 1873 has been found and mentioned above.

Census Records for the family

The Dearman family has been very elusive. I have not managed to find a census record for 1841 for them.

However, they are on the 1851 Census where Henry is aged 50, Elizabeth is aged 40 and their 4 surviving daughters aged between 4 and 18 were living at 20 New Street, Kensington. Henry did not appear to be working at this time as the Census record describes him as ‘an invalid and receiving poor relief’.

Ten years later in 1861, only daughters Hannah and Emily were living with Henry, aged 61 and Elizabeth, aged 50. Hannah was working as a laundress and Emily was a scholar. No confirmed record was found for Jane. However, Henry was working as a labourer.

Harriet, having married in 1855 was not living with her family, although no 1861 Census record has been found for Harriet and her husband.

Marriage of Thomas Joseph Massey and Harriet Dearman

Harriet Dearman married Thomas Joseph Massey on 21 October 1855, both were aged 22 and unmarried. Thomas Joseph was the son of Thomas Massey, both he and his father were farriers, someone who shoes horses.

Harriet’s father was recorded as Henry Dearman, a wheelwright; this was the only record found that listed his occupation as a wheelwright.

Marriage Entry for Thomas Joseph Massey and Harriet DearmanImage

The marriage took place at St John The Evangelist, Notting Hill, London,

Thomas and Harriet had two known children, the first a son born almost 8 years after their marriage in 1863, followed by a daughter in 1866.

A search of the GRO Online Index did not reveal any further children for Thomas and Harriet. 

Children of Thomas Joseph Massey and Harriet Dearman

The names of their two children were:

Birth entry for Henry William MasseyImage

Henry William Massey b. 16 May 1863


Birth entry for Elizabeth Jane Massey

Elizabeth Jane Massey b. 6 July 1866

Both children married, Henry William Massey married Elizabeth Hannaford and had 5 children and Elizabeth Jane Massey married Thomas Robert Hawes, a saddler and they had 8 children.

Asylum Life

It is not obvious what happened in Harriet’s life to mean that she ended up in an Asylum, we know that she was admitted to Horton, on 3rd November 1899 and previously she had been in the Kensington Infirmary, but not further details surrounding her time in Kensington Infirmary has been found.

Case Notes From Horton

The Statement of Particulars within the case notes confirm that Harriett was admitted to Horton on 3rd November 1899, aged 66 years. That she came from Kensington Infirmary where I think she had been since 17 October 1885. My interpretation of the notes are that she was in the infirmary for 14 years and then due to her first attack of insanity which lasted 2 weeks which left her suicidal, she was moved to Horton. 

It also stated she had a son, H Massey of 101 Katerine Road Notting Hill.

The Medical Certificate written by the M Townsend  (I think they were written at the time of admission to Horton in1889) states:

“She has delusions and says day and night she hears cries repeating all she says and threatening to kill her. She is very melancholy.”

Also included were facts communicated by her son Henry Massey. He stated 

“My mother has been strange in her mind for some months. She is continually hearing voices of persons who say they will kill her. She is restless and does not go to bed and on Thursday she was praying all night and the next night she knocked up the neighbours telling them I had a fit which is not true”

Her general bodily condition on admission was described as ‘thin’, her nourishment was ‘fair’. Her  hair was described as fine and grey and her head was fairly covered. She had blue eyes and a pale complexion, poor hearing and no teeth. 

It was noted that her heart was very irregular.

The description of her mental state was: 

‘suffering from Melancholia will not answer any questions asked but sits in one position and wears an appearance deep melancholy takes no interest in her surroundings’

Case Notes for 1900: there were four entries made in 1900, her first year at Horton, which describe Harriett as being demented and incoherent, having indefinite delusions of persecution, which she would not explain exactly what they were. She tended to be noisy at night, sometimes being overheard complaining about what was being ‘done’ to her. Reference was made to her speech being indistinct probably due to her having no teeth and not being very communicative, probably due to her deafness. Generally though she was fairly well behaved and did some work in the ward.

Case Notes for 1901: there were five entries made in 1901, Harriett had aural hallucinations and was heard answering the imaginary voices despite being very deaf. Mentally there was no improvement in her memory which was much impaired and she was incoherent. Despite this she was still working well in the ward at the end of the year.

Case Notes for 1902: there were five entries made in 1902, the first entry for the year state ‘very dull, forgetful, incoherent with auditory hallucinations’, further entries refer to her talking to imaginary people and to herself but not the ward staff. She seemed to have a problem with one of her eyes and there is reference to her irregular heartbeat.

Case Notes for 1903: there were four entries made in 1903, the first being a reference to her being in bed with an attack of diarrhoea from which she recovered from. Mentally there seems no change her health is described as moderate compared to fair in previous years. Although she still seems able to work in the ward.

Case Notes for 1904: there were four entries made in 1904, again her health was described as moderate and that she works well in the ward. However it also says she is dull, gloomy, seldom speaks and has no memory and no idea of the time or place.

Case Notes for 1905/6:  there were eight entries made in 1905/6 all very much the same as the previous year, her health was still moderate and she continued to work in the ward. Her mental health remained much the same.

Case Notes for 1907: there were seven entries in her final year of life, by July she was no longer working in the ward, her health was feeble and mentally there had been no improvement. She suffered two abscesses. She died on 10th October at 12.50 pm having had irregular heart for a couple of months


Author’s Note

I have set up a family tree on Ancestry so further information may come to light as other researchers make connections.


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