b. 1872-d.1908 and b.1908-d.1908
Walter Charles Neal was born in Long Grove Asylum on 7th June 1908 and died there 18 days later on the 25th June. He was buried in the Horton Cemetery on the 29th June. The cause of death entered on his death certificate was congenital syphilis and marasmus [undernourishment].
Walter’s mother was Susan Eliza Neal and the Lunacy Register shows that she had been admitted to the asylum on the 8th February 1908.
Susan’s parents were Thomas Critchell, a labourer, and Eliza Harriet Hudson who married in 1865. Their first child, William James, was born in 1866 and the 1871 census records the family living at 17 Armstrong Place, Plumstead which is the eastern part of Woolwich, at the time an important naval, military and industrial area on the south bank of the Thames.
Susan’s birth, on the 6th February 1872, was registered in Woolwich and she was baptised in St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich on 3rd March.
The 1881 Census shows the family living at Sheer Hulk Cottages, Woolwich.
These were situated behind The Old Sheer Hulk, a public house fronting on to the river and which itself was named for the prison hulks that until about the middle of the 19th century were moored nearby.
William is not with the family and it has not been possible to find any further records that can be linked definitely to him. No other siblings have been found.
By the time of the 1891 Census, Susan was a domestic servant to a family in Hanover Road, Plumstead.
In February 1892, she married George Neal, a sawyer. Their address is 118 Powis Street, Woolwich. George’s large family- he was one of ten – came originally from Dorking, Surrey and had moved to Woolwich in about 1875. His father Thomas was also a sawyer.
George and Susan’s first son, George Thomas, was born on the 7th February 1894 and baptised on the 11th May. George’s occupation was now coal heaver and their address was 2 Gough’s Building, High Street, Woolwich.
Their next child is a daughter, Ada Caroline, born in January 1895 and baptised on the 27th February. She is possibly named after one of George’s sisters. His occupation is recorded as sawyer and the family is now living at 5 Globe Lane, a small street running down to the river not far from the coal wharf and the saw mill where George probably found work.
George Thomas died in Q4 1895 at the age of 1. Sadly, he was only the first of George and Susan’s children to die at an early age.
The third child in the family was Edward Herbert born on 13th September 1896 and baptised on the 30th September. The family had now moved to 10 Globe Lane and George’s occupation was coal porter.
A fourth child, Ellen, named probably for another of George’s sisters, was born on the 3rd January 1898.
Ada Caroline sadly died in Q3 1898 aged 3.
A fifth child, named Minnie Hilda probably after another of George’s sisters, was born in early 1901.
The 1901 census shows the family now at 7 Globe Lane with three surviving children: Edward, Ellen and Minnie. George’s occupation is recorded as coal porter.
A sixth child was born in October 1902. His name is Thomas. Sadly, he died in 1903 before reaching his first birthday.
A seventh child was born on 5th October 1904 and baptised Margaret Jane after yet another of George’s sisters on 23rd October. The family’s address is given as 5 Sidney House, which was in Woolwich High Street, and George’s occupation is Carman, a driver of a horse-drawn vehicle for transporting goods.
Sadly, Margaret Jane died in Q1 1906 aged 1.
An eighth child is born in Q2 1906 and dies in the same quarter. His name is Albert.
Admitted to Long Grove
Susan was admitted to Long Grove Asylum on the 8th February 1908, when she was about five months pregnant. Her ninth and final child Walter Charles, who was born and died in June, was again probably named after one of George’s brothers.
When Susan entered the asylum, her three surviving children were Edward aged 11, Ellen aged 10 and Minnie Hilda aged 7.
Minnie Hilda was admitted to Plumstead Workhouse from the Infirmary on 10th August 1910 and discharged on the 15th ‘to her sister’ according to a note. As her only living sister was Ellen who would have been aged 12 this seems unlikely. Possibly they were both living with another relative. Sadly, Minnie Hilda died on the 2nd September.
The 1911 census records the following:
A record of a patient in Long Grove Asylum with the initials SEN and birth place Plumstead is assumed to be Susan. The patient is married and her age is given as 37 rather than 39, an error that was carried forward to her death certificate.
George aged 39 is a coal porter and is sharing one room with John Murray, a fellow coal porter, at 6 Globe Lane.
Edward Herbert aged 15 is an inmate at Manchester Certified Industrial School, Ardwick in South Manchester.
Ellen aged 13 is living with her aunt Minnie Hilda in Burrage Road, Plumstead. Could it be that this is where her sister Minnie Hilda was discharged to from the workhouse the previous year?
Susan lived on in the asylum until she died on the 10th April 1912 aged 40, wrongly recorded as 38. The cause of death recorded on her death certificate was General Paralysis of the Insane 4 years and 4 months and Dysentery 1 Day.
General Paralysis of the Insane, a degenerative disease of the brain and nervous system occurring at a late stage of an infection with syphilis, was a very common cause of patients being admitted to the pauper asylums, though more often found in male patients than in females.
Congenital syphilis occurs where a mother is infected and passes this on to the foetus in the uterus during pregnancy. The infection can affect the child with varying degrees of severity. In some cases, this can result in stillbirth or death in infancy. In other cases, symptoms may not appear for a number of years.
Susan’s death certificate confirms that her infection was diagnosed when she entered the asylum but it is probable that she was infected much earlier and this is reflected in the early deaths of so many of her children.
The secondary cause of Susan’s death, dysentery, was common in the pauper asylums at this time where conditions could favour the spread of infectious diseases.
Other family members
George died in 1917 aged 45 with his death registered in Woolwich.
Edward fought in the First World War in the 11th Battalion of the Border Regiment and was killed in action in Belgium on 12th March 1918 holding the rank of Lance Corporal. His grave is in Artillery Wood Cemetery near Ypres. The Soldiers’ Effects Register records his sister Ellen as his sole legatee.
Ellen married Arthur William Flack in 1918 and had two daughters: Hilda Ellen Alice b. 1919 and Joan Ada b. 1926. She was widowed in 1926 at the age of 28.
George and Eliza’s children
George Thomas b. 7th Feb 1894 d.1895 Q4 aged 1
Ada Caroline b.1895 d. Q1 1898 Q3 aged 3
Edward Herbert b.13th Sep1896 d.12th March 1918 aged 21
Ellen 3rd b. Jan 1898
Minnie Hilda b.1901 Q1 2nd d. Sep 1910 aged 9
Thomas b.1902 Q4 d.1903 Q4 aged 0
Margaret Jane b. 5th Oct 1904 d. 1906 Q1 aged 1
Albert b.1906 Q2 d.1906 Q2 aged 0
Walter Charles b. 7th Jun 1908 d. 25th June 1908 aged 0