The early death of the bread winner causes his wife and children great hardship. And subsequently great sadness with the subject, William, and his sister Rose both being admitted to Epsom Cluster Hospitals at different times. They both died there and are both buried in Horton Cemetery.
William’s birth and parents
William was born on 9th March 1884 according to his baptism records. He was the second child of Thomas George Penn, a labourer, and Annie Maria Brazier, an only child of Joseph and Ann Brazier from Hammersmith. Thomas’s family came from Bayfield in Hertfordshire. They married on 12th September 1880 at St Clements in Notting Hill, both aged 26 years. On 25th May 1884, William was baptised in the same church and the family was living at 361 Latimer Road in Kensington.
He had an older sister Margaret who was two years older having been born in 1882 and they were joined by Emily Florence in January 1886 but unfortunately, she died in the July. Sisters Rose and May followed in 1887 and 1888. Thomas Penn, William’s father, was working as a labourer, which would have been hard work in harsh circumstances. Disaster struck the family when Thomas died in January 1891 aged only 36, followed by the birth of baby Thomas Alfred in March 1891.
It must have been incredibly tough for Annie Penn and by the time of the 1891 Census in April, we find the family supported by their widowed mother Annie who was working as a laundress. They had been joined by their maternal widowed grandmother Ann Brazier, aged 59, who was also working as a laundress and 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 George aged 7 and Rose Lavinia aged 7 (an error?), all at school and two younger children, May Amelia aged 2 and baby Thomas Alfred aged 1 month.
A night at the Workhouse
By the 27th of 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.
1891, a bad year
By October things are getting worse when May died sometime around this point and Margaret, William and Rose are admitted to The Ashford Residential 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 William would have been separated from his sisters, which must have been very difficult for him to understand. We do not know at this stage how far his condition had progressed. 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 1893 or 1895 but this may only refer to the girls. There is another record which shows an admission on 20th October 1891 and that William was discharged into the care of his mother at 361 Latimer Road on 18th March 1895. By this time, he was 11 years old and perhaps his mother was better placed to look after him.
William’s brother Thomas Alfred died aged about one year, his death being registered in June Q 1892.
1901, health problems
By the time of the 1901 Census, the family was living at 268 Latimer Road in two rooms and Annie was still working as a laundress. Her mother had left the address and was living in one room at 285 Latimer Road.
William’s 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?
Admission to Epsom Epileptic Colony
By 1907 William’s condition had either worsened or his family could no longer cope, and he was admitted to Epsom Epileptic Colony (later named St. Ebba’s) on 8th January 1907 aged 22. Here he spent the last three years of his life and he passed away at the very end of March or early April 1910. He was buried in Horton Cemetery on 7th April 1910 age 25.
William’s family’s life after he died
How William’s family felt about this and what they went on to do is difficult to say as Margaret and Rose have proved difficult to trace in the 1911 Census. Although his grandmother Ann Brazier can be found living on her own at 411 Latimer Road, it is here that it shows her daughter Annie was her only child. She lived to the age of 90, later living with William’s mother at 278 Latimer Road until she died in 1921. His mother Annie Maria Penn continued to be registered at this address until 1923. It is unclear when she died.
William had a difficult start in life where it appears at the age of six, he had lost his father and a sister. It is evident that his mother was struggling to look after her children due to their admittance to The Ashford School and the fact that William seems to have stayed there for three and a half years, shows she must have found it difficult to hold down her work and look after him. Why he returned to her in 1895 we will never know but he then lived at home for a further 12 years until he was admitted to St Ebba’s Epileptic Colony in 1907. His condition must have declined, and it must have been difficult to have any other option especially if Rose was ill too. There is no evidence to suggest that his older sister suffered with any obvious health problems but after 1901 she disappears.