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Kate’s birth and early years

Kate Harriet Beck was born in Lambeth in early 1838 to John Beck (1806-1868) and Hannah née Gray (1808-1884). She was baptised Harriet Kate Beck at St Mary’s, Lambeth on 3rd June; with one exception all other records give her name as Kate Harriet.  John Beck’s occupation on the baptism record was given as Merchant’s Clerk and the family’s address was Allen Street in Lambeth, just south of Westminster Bridge Road. 

The 1841 Census records the Beck family still living in Allen Street with Kate’s siblings Sarah 8, Ann 6 and Charles 5 weeks. Kate is 3. John Beck is now a porter. Sadly, Sarah died in Q4 1842 aged 9.

The 1851 Census finds the Becks on the opposite bank of the Thames a short distance upstream in Chelsea, living in Queen’s Road West [now the western end of Royal Hospital Road]. John Beck is a ‘Workman at Docks’.  Ann, who was baptised as Ann Elizabeth, appears as Elizabeth.

Kate marries Thomas Paskell and they start a family

On the 9th October 1859 Kate married Thomas Burns Paskell, a Picture Liner, at Trinity Church, Upper Chelsea. Thomas’s address was given as St Mary Abbots, Kensington and Kate’s as Upper Chelsea.  Her father John’s occupation was given as ‘Gentleman’.

Thomas Paskell was the eldest son of Samuel William Paskell, a Picture Liner and Restorer, who traded from 1 Gloucester Road, Old Brompton for many years. Samuel’s main business seems to have been picture framing and all five of his sons who survived to adulthood worked in the trade. Thomas was. like his father, a Picture Liner and the others were either gilders or wood carvers. A picture liner would have added canvas to the back of a picture to prepare it for framing. 

Kate and Thomas’s first son, Frederick Thomas, was born on 30th October 1860 and baptised in St Luke’s Church, Chelsea on the 18th December. Thomas’s occupation was given again as Picture Liner and the family’s address was 4 Henry Place, Chelsea, just south of the Fulham Road. They were at the same address in the 1861 census.

Their family grows and Thomas suffers a setback in business

A second son, Charles Frederick, was born on the 16th May 1862 and baptised on 29th June at St Luke’s Church. The family’s address was 2 Robert Terrace [now Sydney Street], opposite St Luke’s. Thomas’s occupation is again Picture Liner.

In September 1863 there was a newspaper notice that Thomas and his sister Louanna had been adjudged bankrupt. They had been in business from 2 Robert Terrace, Pimlico as Dealers in Tobacco and Cigars under the name ‘Messieurs Paskell’ in addition to their other employment, described in the notice as a Stretching Frame Maker and Milliner and Dressmaker respectively. An order of discharge from bankruptcy was made in November.

Kate’s sister Betsy also marries and starts a family

Kate’s sister Ann Elizabeth had married Henry Davies, an undertaker, in May 1858. Her marriage certificate names her as Betsy Beck and it is as Betsy or Elizabeth hat she appears in records after that date. The 1861 census records Henry and Betsy living in Knightsbridge with their first child Kate, named after her aunt.  

Kate’s father dies and her brother Charles is admitted to Hanwell Asylum

No records have been found for Kate’s father and mother, John and Hannah, nor for her brother Charles in the 1861 census

John Beck died in 1867, aged about 60.  

Charles’ next appearance in the official record is in the Lunacy Patients Register when he becomes a patient at Hanwell Asylum on the 1st April 1870. His case notes, held in the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), describe him on admission as ‘thin and pale’ and ‘incoherent in conversation and excited in manner’.  

 On the 5th April the notes record that he was visited by his brother-in-law. This would have been either Henry Davies or Thomas Paskell. According to the notes, the visitor stated that Charles was 29 and single, could read and write, and worked as a calenderer. This is someone who applies a finish to cloth such as calico to make it smooth and shiny. Until about a year earlier he had been of sober and steady habits and was in constant employment.  Six months earlier he had become ‘strange in manner’. He said that his sister poisoned him. He was also hearing a voice that he called his spirit. It was noted that all his relations were ‘sane and healthy’. 

The Hanwell Asylum visitors book for May 1870-Dec 1870 records that his mother Hannah visited on 10th May, his sister Betsy on 17th May and then sister Kate on the 24th May.  After that his only visitor was his mother who went to see him approximately every fortnight.

Both Kate and Betsy have more children, Charles is still in Hanwell Asylum and Hannah Beck starts to add 15 years to her age

The 1871 census records a male patient who is probably Charles at Hanwell Asylum with the initials CB, aged 31 and occupation of ‘Dyer’. Hannah appears in the 1871 census as a widow living at 159 Ebury Street, Westminster. Her age is given as 78, although she was probably about 63. 

By the time of the 1871 census Kate and Thomas had moved a short distance to 90 College Street, Chelsea and four more children had been added to the family:

Alice born 30th November 1863; William George born 31st January 1866; Thomas Arthur born April 1868 and Kate jnr born 31st July 1870.

Betsy and Henry’s family had grown to six children.

Kate’s is admitted to Wandsworth asylum and her husband Thomas dies

Kate was admitted to the Wandsworth Asylum in April 1874 as Harriet K. Paskell.

Tragically her husband Thomas then died in July aged 38, of pulmonary tuberculosis (recorded as Phthisis on his death certificate). He died at 29 Radstock Street in Battersea, south of the river. The informant recorded on the certificate is a neighbour, so it appears that he was living apart from his family.

Kate was discharged from Wandsworth Asylum in September 1874 as recovered. This was the first of a repeated pattern of asylum admissions and discharges.

Thomas’s early death left Kate and her family to care for Frederick Thomas 13, Charles Frederick 12, Alice 10, William George 8, Thomas Arthur 6 and Kate 4. We do not know what happened to the children from this point until the 1881 census.

Kate’s brother Charles dies in Hanwell Asylum

Charles continued as a patient at the Hanwell Asylum until September 1875 when his case notes recorded that he was very emaciated and confined to bed. He died on 4th November 1875. The notes give his cause of death as Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Pneumonia.

Kate is admitted herself to Hanwell Asylum

Three years after her husband’s death Kate was admitted again as a patient, this time to Hanwell Asylum on 20th July 1877, 

Kate’s case notes at Hanwell, held by the LMA, record that she was suffering from what was then called ‘mania’ and that this had first affected her when she was 35. This possibly refers to her admission to Wandsworth Asylum in 1874. She is described as suicidal and dangerous. Under ‘Friend’s address’ her 17-year-old son Fred’s details are given with an address in Fulham. The history of the case is shown as being given by Mrs E. Davis – her sister Betsy. Kate is recorded as having one previous attack and that her condition was excited by ‘domestic trouble’. It is noted that her brother had died in the asylum. Her father is recorded as having died of Phthisis, the same disease that had killed her husband and brother. Her mother was still living and, according to the notes, aged 84. She was actually about 69.  

The doctor’s notes on her mental state on admission taken on the 24th July, record her manner as ‘dignified and haughty’. She is suffering from delusions including that her brother-in-law and sister – which would be Betsy and her husband – were plotting to get her out of the way and had paid persons money to poison her. Over the next six months a gradual improvement in her mental health is recorded. We can see from the Hanwell Asylum Visitors books that she had regular visits from her family including her 17-year-old niece, Betsy’s daughter, who is also named Kate, and her 15-year-old son Charles. 

Her most frequent visitor is her sister Betsy. In February 1878 she is thought to have recovered enough to be sent home on trial and then in March she is discharged as ‘Recovered’.

Kate is admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum and her sister Betsy dies 

Unfortunately, it is only a few months before Kate has a relapse and is admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum on 29th November 1878. 

Kate’s case notes at Colney Hatch are held by the LMA. She was admitted from St George’s Union and the medical officer’s statement as to why she is considered insane says that she was in a state of mania. This is supported by statements from Kate’s landlady and others that she had tried to strangle her mother, Hannah.  Hannah is recorded as Kate’s nearest relation. The notes say that she had previously been a patient at Wandsworth Asylum as well as Hanwell Asylum.

Case notes continue to record some improvement but also at least one other attack of mania. 

While Kate was in the asylum her sister Betsy died on 30th April 1879.

There is an entry in the 1881 census for Colney Hatch Asylum of a female patient with the initials K P aged 41. This is probably Kate who would actually have been 43. It seems that this two-year discrepancy is carried forward in asylum and workhouse records from this point until her death when it appears on her death certificate.

Kate and Thomas’s children in 1881

The 1881 census provides an opportunity to find out what has happened to Kate’s children.

Frederick, 21, has married and is living with his wife Eliza, also 21, in Fulham. He is a carpenter. When they married in August 1877 he had claimed to be 20 although he was only 16. Eliza was 17 and claimed to be 19.

Charles, 19, is unmarried and living as a lodger in Chelsea. He is a coachman.

Alice, 18, is unmarried and a servant to a family in Brompton.

William, 15, is a bootmaker’s assistant and is living in Kensington with his master’s family.

Thomas, 13, and Kate, 9, are scholars at Kensington and Chelsea District School, Fir Tree Road, Ewell.

Kate snr was discharged from Colney Hatch Asylum on 8th April 1881 as ‘Recovered’.

Kate’s mother Hannah Beck is still living in Ebury Square in 1881. Her age is given as 89. She was probably 73. Betsy’s youngest daughter Florence aged 12 is living with her.

Kate is admitted to Britten Street Workhouse and then Portsmouth Asylum. Her mother Hannah dies.

In November 1881 Kate was admitted to Britten Street Workhouse in Chelsea with her daughter Kate aged 11. 

There is a record of a discharge from the workhouse to the infirmary in November 1881. 

This is part of a sequence of admissions and discharges from workhouses which continues until July 1884 when she is admitted to Portsmouth Asylum from where she is discharged in December 1884 as ‘Recovered’. Kate’s mother Hannah had died in Q1 1884 with her age recorded on her death registration as 91. It was more likely 76.

A further period in the workhouse leads to an admission to Fisherton House Asylum

After another workhouse admission Kate was admitted to Fisherton Asylum near Salisbury in June 1889. She was discharged in July 1890 as ‘Recovered’.

Kate is again admitted to the workhouse

Less than a year later the 1891 census records Kate as a widowed inmate aged 51 [actually 53] in the Kensington Workhouse. Her occupation is given as Needlewoman. It has not been possible to find out when she was admitted to the workhouse.

Kate and Thomas’s children in 1891

Frederick had emigrated with his wife Eliza to Boston, Massachusetts, USA. They may have been following in the footsteps of Frederick’s paternal uncle William who had emigrated to the Boston area some time before 1875.

Charles No census record found

Alice had married Archibald McLean, a plumber, in 1886 and in the 1891 census is recorded living in Chelsea with their first child, also Archibald.

William joined the Royal Navy as a stoker in 1890. No census record found.

Thomas No census record found. He may possibly be the Thomas Paskell whose death was registered in St George’s, Hanover Square in Q1 1894. 

Kate jnr No census record found. 

Kate is again a patient in Colney Hatch Asylum and then, from 1907, Long Grove Asylum

The 1901 census records a patient in Colney Hatch Asylum with initials KHP aged 61 who was a dressmaker born in Lambeth. This is likely to be Kate but no record of her admission to Colney Hatch has been found. The next record found is in September 1907 when she was admitted to Long Grove Asylum. She died there on 8th April 1908. Her death certificate records her age as 68 – it was actually 70. Her causes of death were Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Chronic Bright’s Disease. She was buried in grave 127a in Horton Cemetery on the 14th April.

Kate and Thomas’s children after her death

Frederick Thomas’s first wife Eliza had died in February 1899 in Massachusetts shortly after giving birth to their second child, a son, also Frederick, who had lived for one day. Their first child, Evelyn, had been born in 1895. Frederick Thomas remarried in September 1899 and with his second wife Margaret had two more children. He died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1927 aged 67. He was a carpenter.

Charles died in the Newington Workhouse on 23rd July 1916 aged 54. He had been admitted as a labourer. There is no record that he was ever married. 

Alice and her husband Archibald had five children, two of whom died young. She died in Ealing in 1955 aged 91.    

William George died in 1936 aged 70. There is no record of him marrying. 

Kate jnr had appeared in the 1901 census as a visitor living in Charlwood Street, Westminster working as a Dressmaker and was still a dressmaker in the 1911 census, living as a lodger in Lupus Street, Pimlico. She appears next in the 1921 census living In Sutherland Street, SW1 and working as a dressmaker for a company called Baroletts in Knightsbridge. There are Electoral Register entries for her living in Sutherland Street, SW1 and then Sutherland Terrace in 1923 and 1924 respectively. After that no further records have been found.

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