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      Dr Andrzej Suchcitz

PENN, Rose Esther


Initial research difficulties

The search for a Rose Esther Penn buried at Horton Estate Cemetery on 24th April 1917, aged 30, proved to be fruitless but research for a William George Joseph Penn has found perhaps a possible trail. William had a sister Rose Lavinia Penn born around December 1886 and her story could fit. Perhaps the use of the name Esther was a transcription error or the name Lavinia was misheard?


Rose Lavinia Penn was baptised 2nd January 1887 at St Helens Church, Kensington. Her parents were Thomas George Penn, a labourer, and Anne Maria Brazier, who were married on 12 September 1880 at St Clements, Notting Hill, both aged 26. Thomas’s family came from Bayfield in Hertfordshire and Anne was the only daughter of Joseph and Ann Brazier from Hammersmith.

Rose was their fourth child and she was born at 361 Latimer Road in Kensington. She had an older sister Margaret who was five years older having been born in 1882, and an older brother William George Joseph who was born on 9th March 1884. Margaret and William were joined by Emily Florence in January 1886 but unfortunately, she died in the July of that year. Rose was born six months later and sister May followed in 1888.


Thomas Penn, Rose’s father was working as a labourer which would have been hard work in harsh circumstances and in 1891, disaster struck the family when Thomas died in January, aged only 36. This was followed by the birth of Rose’s baby brother Thomas Alfred in March 1891. By this time, Rose was only five years old and her life must have been turned upside down. It must have been incredibly tough for Anne, now a widow, and by the time of the 1891 Census, in April, we find the family supported by Anne, working as a Laundress. Their maternal widowed Grandmother Ann Brazier, aged 59, who was also working as a Laundress, had joined the family home probably helping in the household. There were three families living at this address and it appears the Penn family had three rooms.

The children are listed as follows: Margaret Mary aged 9, William aged 7, and Rose Lavinia, age given as 7, but actually 4. All were at school and there were two younger children, May Amelia aged 2, and baby Thomas Alfred aged 1 month.

Difficulties for the family increase

By the 27th April, things were clearly very difficult for the family when Margaret and William were both admitted into Fulham Union Workhouse for a day. The children were both discharged back to their mother at 361 Latimer Road on the following day.

By October, things were clearly getting worse when May dies sometime around this point and Margaret, William, and Rose are admitted to The Ashford School in West London. This school was formed by the West London Poor Law Board in 1868 for 800 children. It was in Staines and had one block for girls and another for the boys, so at least Rose had her sister. The children were admitted from Fulham on 20th October 1891 and their religion was recorded as Church of England. From various newspaper accounts the school appears to be well run and the children there were well fed and given a good education. Perhaps it was a good thing they were there?

There is a discharge date on one set of records but it is unclear what year it was. It could be 11th October 1892 or 1895, but this appears to only refer to the girls. William remains at the school until 1895.


By the time of the 1901 Census, the family was living at 268 Latimer Road in two rooms and Anne was still working as a laundress. Her mother had left the address and was living in one room at 285 Latimer Road.

Sister Margaret was working as a dressmaker but William and Rose have no jobs despite being 17 and 14 respectively. William appears perhaps to be unable to work as he was certainly of the age where he would have been expected to have contributed to the family income. It is also strange that Rose does not appear to have been doing anything. Is it possible that Rose was unwell too?

William admitted to Epileptic Colony

By 1907, William’s condition had either worsened or his family could no longer cope, and he was admitted to St Ebba’s Epileptic Colony on 8th January 1907, aged 22. Here he spent the last three years of his life and he passed away age 25, and was buried in Grave 725b on 7th April 1910.


What happened to Rose remains unclear as I can find no entry in the 1911 Census for her but there are entries in the UK Lunacy Registers showing a Rose Penn: “49523 Admitted to Ep Colony 20th October 1911 discharged 5th March 1912” and “57637 Rose Penn admitted to Long Grove on 5th March 1912 died 22 April 1917”.

It appears that Rose had been discharged from the Epileptic Colony and admitted directly to the psychiatric hospital where she died age 30.

The death certificate shows Rose Penn, no mention of a middle name. The burial record shows Rose Esther Penn.

Author’s thoughts

In 1901, Rose does not have any employment which is unusual for a child of 14 years of age at that time. The family definitely could have done with the income with only Mrs Penn and Margaret Penn working. The entries found show Rose initially admitted to St Ebba’s, the Epileptic Colony, but later transferred to Long Grove. Perhaps there were increasing problems with her health, did Rose and her brother William both have epilepsy?

The rest of the family seem to disappear in 1911, although her mother and grandmother can be traced later and into the early 1920s, but one can assume little or no contact was ever made with Rose.

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