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b. 1857-d.1909

Caroline was born Caroline Ann Harwood 0n 19 July 1857 at 11 Bridgewater Street, Somers Town, London, the daughter of Edward Reuben Harwood, a lithographic printer, and his wife Sarah Maria Lipscomb.

The family moved to Edinburgh around 1859 and four of Caroline’s siblings were born there. They returned to London circa 1868 and settled in Bermondsey.

In May 1875 Caroline’s older brother Edward was married in Deptford to Emily Mary Oliver.

Around this time Caroline must have become friendly with Emily’s half brother Henry Richard Oliver: in 1877 Henry and Caroline had a child, William Henry Oliver.  (Although registered as an Oliver, son William had adopted the name Harwood by the time he married Ellen Eliza McFall in 1901).

Caroline married Henry Richard Oliver at St Mary Magdalene in Bermondsey on 7 January 1880. 

Henry and Caroline had another 8 children after their marriage:

  • Eliza Ellen: born 1880, married George Hall in 1899
  • Ernest Edward (also known as Herbert, Albert, or Elbert): born 1883, married Kate McDonald in 1901
  • Henry: born 1886 and died the same year
  • Henry: born 1887. When the family broke up in the 1890s, he went with his father to live with Ann Leach.   
  • Sarah Maria: born 1890, died in 1891
  • Lilian: born 1892:  sent by the Southwark workhouse to Princess Mary’s Village Homes at Addlestone in May 1897. An inmate there in 1901.
  • Louisa Caroline: born 1894, died in 1899
  • Amelia Caroline: born 1896. Amelia seems to have been taken into care at a very early age. She was baptised in 1897 in the chapel of Princess Mary’s Village Homes at Addlestone and was an inmate there in the 1901 census, along with sister Lilian.

In 1881, Caroline and Henry were living at 42 Ambrose St in Bermondsey, with son William and daughter Elizabeth.

In 1891, they were at 67 Verney Road, Camberwell, with children William, “Herbert”, Henry and Maria.

From the mid 1890s, Caroline’s name starts to crop up regularly in workhouse and asylum records. Husband Henry was often noted as “absent”. (In the 1901 census he and his son Henry are living with an Ann Leach, and using the name Leach. He and Ann Leach eventually married in 1911.  In the 1911 census the Leach name has been altered to Oliver by the enumerator.)

In October 1893 Caroline was imprisoned for a month for harming her daughter Eliza:

(South London Observer, 14 October 1893)

In November 1894 she was found to be of unsound mind and was detained at Claybury Asylum. The medical notes record that:

She sits staring in a vacant manner into space. She will not move nor will she speak. She is dull depressed and melancholic.”

Henry Oliver (her husband) says she refuses her food, neglects her home, will not speak and wanders about the place in an aimless sort of manner

She was released from Claybury in May 1895.

In November 1896 she was jailed for 6 months for neglecting her baby daughter Amelia:

(The Echo, 6 November 1896)

Caroline was attacked in the street in the early hours of 15 July 1899 by a man threatening to cut her throat. By then she was living in a Salvation Army hostel:

George Woodhead was subsequently sentenced to 6 months in Wormwood Scrubs for the assault on Caroline.  The scar on her face is mentioned in the Claybury Asylum reception order in 1905.

We have not been able find a definite record of Caroline in the 1901 census but there is a possible candidate in the Farmfield Inebriates Home in Charlwood (age 39, charwoman, born “at sea in the Firth of Forth”).

On 30 May 1902 Caroline is found by a policeman in Leman Street, Whitechapel, and taken to the local infirmary, from where she was ordered to be detained at Hoxton House asylum. The medical report says:

The patient is very strange in her manner. She talks incoherently Says she has peculiar sensations and feels as if she were pushing the wall down with her feet.

Says she thought she was being cut open down the middle of her body as they cut sheep open in New Zealand. Says she still has a sensation as if the upper part of her head was cut off. 

She was discharged in October of 1902.

Over the next few years Caroline had several spells in the workhouse infirmaries, suffering from rheumatism, bronchitis and synovitis. She worked as a charwoman and was sometimes homeless.

In July 1905 she was taken from Bethnal Green police station to the Whitechapel infirmary, and there she was ordered to be detained at Claybury Asylum where she remained for 12 months. The medical report records that:

The patient is quite lost mentally. She has a vacant and lost expression. She mumbles incoherently and does not answer questions when spoken to, appearing not to understand. She has no idea of feeding herself.

She was discharged from Claybury in July 1906 but a few months later she was she was admitted to Southwark workhouse and from there she was sent to the mental ward at Newington. Finally on 17 October 1906 she was committed from Newington to Horton Asylum.

She is strange in her manner and behaviour. She gets very excited, rushing about the place, upsetting the patients and using foul language to the nurses. Instead of improving she is getting steadily worse in her mind.

Caroline died at Horton on 10 October 1909. Causes of death were cerebral softening; fatty degeneration of heart; double lobar pneumonia.  The informant at the death registration was her husband Henry Oliver who had journeyed to Epsom from his home in Rotherhithe. She was buried in Horton cemetery, grave 493a, on 15 October 1909. 

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