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b. 1853-1908

Early Years 1850s to 1870s

Edward Charles Penfold was born on 6 Nov 1853 in Holborn, Middlesex, registration district St Luke’s. His parents are Charles Penfold (1828-1902) and Mary Ann Lester (1826-1900) who married on 6 Dec 1849 at the parish church of St Leonard in Shoreditch. Both his parents are literate, and his parent’s occupations are a Bedstead Maker and a Servant, respectively, and they are both living at Willow Street, Shoreditch.

Before Edward’s birth, the 1851 Census shows that Edward’s parents have now moved a short distance and are living at 13 Foster Building’s, Whitecross Street in St Luke’s, Finsbury. Charles is 23, carrying on his profession as a Bedstead Maker, He was born in the Minories, City of London. Mary Ann is 25, born in St George, Surrey.

Edward is not his mother’s first child. She gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Lester, in 1846, her birth being registered in the first quarter of 1846 in Kensington. She appears, together with her mother, now a married woman, in the 1851 Census. Elizabeth Lester is recorded as daughter-in-law but officially the term should have been recorded as step-daughter. Elizabeth does not live with the family by the time of the next census.

Edward was baptised on 27 Nov 1853, at just three weeks old, at St Luke’s Church in Old Street, Finsbury. His parents live at 8 Friendly Place, Mile End, and his father’s occupation is recorded as a Bedstead Maker.

Five years later in 1858, Edward’s brother Robert is born in the registration district of St Luke’s.


By the 1861 Census the family are living at 10 King Street in Mile End Old Town, registration district of Stepney. Charles 32, Bedstead Maker, born Minories, City of London, Mary 35, born Southwark, Edward 7, and Robert 3; both boys born St Luke’s.

It was usual for new born babies to be baptised within the first few months of their lives but Robert was already six years old when he was baptised on 24 Jun 1864 at St Philip, Stepney. His father Charles is still working as a Bedstead Maker, and the family are living at 19 Greenfield Street, Stepney.


By the 1871 Census the family have moved to 35 Turner Street, Mile End Old Town, where the parents will stay for the rest of their lives. Charles Penfold, aged 42, has changed his occupation from a Bedstead Maker to a Railway Porter, Mary Ann 45, Charles (Edward Charles) 17, is a Light Porter, Robert 13.

Note: the coming of the railways brought employment for many people and presumably Charles, now working as a porter, could earn more money than labouring at making bedsteads. His son Edward also works on the railways.

Married Life and a Growing Family 1870s to 1880s

On 22 Dec 1873 at St Philip’s Church in Stepney, Edward Charles Penfold 22, Railway Servant, marries Harriet Squires 23, both literate and both living at 50 Turner Street, Mile End Old Town, this being Edward’s family home. Their fathers’ professions are Railway Servant and Slater, respectively.

Edward and Harriet’s family commences with their first child, Sarah Elizabeth Penfold born in 1874, followed by their sons Robert born 1875, Charles born 1878, John born 1881, all registered at Mile End Old Town. The first two children are baptised at St Dunstan’s Church in Stepney, Sarah Elizabeth on 18 Oct 1874, born 20 Sep 1874, and Robert on 9 Jan 1976, born 30 Nov 1875.


In the 1881 Census the family are still living with Edward’s parents at 50 Turner Street. Charles 52, Railway Porter, Mary Ann 55, Edward 27, Railway Porter, Harriet 30, Sarah Elizabeth 6, Robert 5, Charles 2, John 1.

On 22 May 1881, the next two children, Charles and John, are baptised together at St Philip’s Church, also in Stepney. The three baptism records show that the family are still living at 50 Turner Street and that Edward’s occupation continues to be a Railway Porter. Late in 1881, tragedy strikes with the death of Edward and Harriet’s eldest child Sarah Elizabeth, aged 7.

Move to Highbury

Between the 1881 and 1891 censuses five more children are born –

Mary Ann 1882, Walter 1884, Harriet Sarah (1885-1886), another daughter named Harriet Sarah 1887, Richard 1889. I can find no birth registration for the first daughter named Sarah Harriet, yet her death registration and burial record are in the Islington district. She was buried on 24 February 1886.

The births of the second daughter named Sarah Harriet, together with her younger brother Richard, the last child born into the family, were also registered in Islington, thus we can assume that between 1884 and 1886 the family leave their parents’ home in 50 Turner Street, Mile End and move to Highbury.

The 1887 Electoral Register for East Highbury records Edward living at 43 Wyatt Road, renting two unfurnished rooms on the first floor, for the princely sum of 6s. per week.


By the 1891 Census the family have moved along Wyatt Road to No 12. Edward aged 37, is a GPO Porter, Harriet 40, Charles 12, Mary 9, Walter 7, Harriet 3, and Richard 1. There is no record for John who would now be aged 10. Perhaps he has died but I cannot find a death registration to support this theory.

Move to Hackney and Falling on Hard Times

Sometime between the 1891 census and July 1893 the family move again, from Highbury to Hackney.

On 10 July 1893 Walter, son of Edward Penfold, born 18 March 1884, aged 9, is admitted to Mowlem Street School off Bishop’s Way, Bethnal Green. The last school he attended was Chatham Place in Hackney. The family address is 521 Cambridge Road (now Cambridge Heath Road). Bishop’s Way runs off Cambridge Rd.

Early in 1895 their youngest child Richard dies aged 5, in registration district Bethnal Green.
On 8 October 1896 Walter, now aged 12½, leaves Mowlem Street School, Bethnal Green after 3yrs schooling.

Now the story gets really grim…

On 10 May 1898 Edward’s wife Harriet is admitted to the Hackney Union Workhouse, Homerton High Street. She is obviously very sick and is transferred to the Workhouse Infirmary where she dies on 18 May and is buried on 20 May. She is aged 46.

Two pages further on in the Hackney Union Poor Law Removal and Settlement Registers, and cross-referenced to their mother’s registration number, finds Walter aged 14, and Harriet 11. Their dates of birth are confirmed as 18 March 1884 and 8 May 1887, respectively. The children became chargeable on 27 May 1898, which means if this is the date of admission to the workhouse then it was 9 days after the death of their mother.

Note: Edward’s mother, Walter and Harriet’s paternal grandmother, is still alive aged 72, and living in the old family home with her husband in Turner Street, Mile End Old Town, yet, sadly, for whatever reason did not take the children into her own home to care for them.

On 1 Jun 1898, five days after her admittance, Harriet is transferred to the Hackney Union Infirmary situated on Homerton High Street, thankfully for a short time only, since after five days, on 6 June 1898, she is transferred to one of the Sidney Road Children’s Cottage Homes under the care of the Hackney Guardians.

During her brief time there, Harriet attends Bay Street Temporary School, her last school attended being Enfield Road. After just one week, on 13 June 1898, she is transferred again, this time to Brentwood Schools. All this upheaval in her young life whilst aged eleven.

After twenty months, on 25 March 1899, Walter, now aged 15, discharges himself from the Hackney Union Workhouse, at his own request. I haven’t been able to find Walter with any certainty in the records again.

What has happened to Edward Charles Penfold during this time? His wife has died. His two youngest children are in the workhouse. His last official record was found in the 1891 census. I haven’t been able to locate an entry for him being admitted to a workhouse himself, but that seems to be the logical conclusion.

Committal to Three Different Asylums (possibly a Fourth) 1903-1904

I haven’t been able to determine what happened in Edward’s life to tip him over the edge, but just two years after his wife’s death, on 20 Mar 1900, Edward is committed to the Manor Asylum in Epsom which was only formally opened the previous year. The Manor records will hopefully tell us from where he was admitted and why.

In the 1901 Census Edward is found at the Manor Asylum as a Pauper Patient, occupation Postman, born London, condition Lunatic, aged 44. After two years of treatment at the Manor Asylum, on 3 Mar 1902 Edward is discharged, his condition as ‘Not Improved’ and transferred the same day to Cane Hill Asylum in Coulsdon.

After nineteen months of treatment at Cane Hill Asylum, on 24 Oct 1903 Edward is discharged, his condition ‘Relieved’ RELD. It is unknown which asylum Edward was then transferred to since the UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1912 covering the year 1903 are missing from this collection.Horton Asylum was already open when Edward was discharged from Cane Hill Asylum, yet he wasn’t transferred there until he had spent twelve months somewhere else.

After disappearing from the radar for one year and two days, 24 Oct 1903 to 26 Oct 1904, Edward is committed to Horton Asylum. After 3¾ years at Horton, he dies on 11 July 1904, aged 54, and was buried 5 days later in plot a175 at Horton Cemetery on 16 July 1908.

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