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Buried Horton Estate Cemetery. Indicated age at death is shown as 56 years.

Sophia Peterson was born in the 2nd Quarter of 1858 in the District of Lambeth and was subsequently baptised on the 25th April 1858 at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth. Her parents are shown as William Samuel Peterson and Eliza Anne Peterson.

Marriage of William and Eliza

William and Eliza were married on the 15th December 1856, in St Mary’s Church in Lambeth. Both are shown as being of full age and residing in Lambeth. William is a bachelor and an Engineer by occupation. His father is Samuel Peterson, who is also an Engineer.

Eliza Anne Gurden is a spinster without any occupation shown. Her father is William Gurden, a tailor.
The witnesses were Peter Robert Weatherby and Eliza Weatherby.

Children of the Marriage

Sophia was the second child to be born. The full list of children from the General Register is:

  • Eliza Emily Peterson 1857 1st Qtr
  • Sophia Peterson 1858 2nd Qtr
  • Louisa Peterson 1860 2nd Qtr
  • Emily Peterson 1861 2nd Qtr
  • William Samuel Peterson 1864 4th Qtr

1861 Census

This Census was taken on the 7th April 1861 and Sophia is found with her parents living at 7 Walcot Square, Lambeth. The occupants were,

  • William S Peterson, head, married, 26, Engineer Turner, born Lambeth
  • Eliza A Peterson, wife, married, 25, no occupation, born Ireland
  • Sophia Peterson, daughter, 3, scholar, born Lambeth
  • Louisa Peterson, daughter, 1, born Lambeth
  • Emily Peterson, daughter, 1 month, born Lambeth

It will be seen that the first of the children, Eliza Emily Peterson, born 1857 was not at home with her parents on Census night but she is found at 7 Princes Place, Lambeth with her Grandparents, Samuel Peterson, 57, an Engine Smith, born in Hull and Sophia Peterson, 56, born in Lee, Kent.

1871 Census

This census was taken on the 2nd April 1871. Sophia is still living with her father and some of her siblings but now at 8 Hinton’s Cottages in Barnes, in South West London. The occupants there on that night were

  • W. Peterson, head, married, 38, Operating Engineer (Unemployed), born Lambeth
  • Sophia Peterson, daughter, age 12, scholar, born Lambeth
  • Louisa Peterson, daughter, 11, scholar, born Lambeth
  • Emily Peterson, daughter, 10, scholar, born Lambeth

We do not know why the family has moved from Lambeth. We find that William’s wife, Eliza Anne, as well as children, Eliza Emily and William Samuel (Junior) are not present in Barnes.

Eliza Emily, aged 14, is in employment as a nursemaid to a family living at 9 Hanover Place, Lambeth. William Samuel‘s whereabouts has not been traced.

But the most curious matter is the absence of Sophia’s mother. Eliza Peterson, aged 35 at the time of the census, was born in Ireland. An Eliza Peterson is, however, found living at 2 Osborne Villas, in Ventnor, Isle of Wight where she is employed as a Lady’s Maid. This Eliza is aged 35 and was born in Ireland. It is difficult to believe this is anyone other than Sophia’s mother. Not only is she evidently living away from her husband and children, but Eliza describes herself as a widow whereas her husband was certainly still alive.

1881 Census

It has proved impossible to trace the whereabouts of Sophia in 1881.

Her father, William Samuel (senior) is back in London living at 16 Parkhouse Street in Camberwell. He is the Head of the house and is described as “married”. He is 48 and is now employed as a Coal Merchant.

He has with him two of his daughters, Eliza E, aged 24, and Emily, aged 20. No occupations are shown.
Sophia’s mother has also been found in this Census. Her full name of Eliza Anne Peterson is given and she is still listed as a widow.

Eliza is still a Lady’s Maid but is now living in Richmond, Surrey at 2, Downe Terrace where her employer is a Lady Mary Augusta Onslow, who describes herself as the daughter of an Earl. Lady Mary is unmarried and the other 8 occupants of this house are all her servants of one sort or another.

Sophia Peterson from the 1880’s

It now seems almost certain that Sophie’s mother had abandoned her husband and children. It would have probably been unlikely that she would have been able to hold this somewhat prestigious position with Lady Onslow had she disclosed to her employer that she was married with a family. However, it would perhaps have been possible for her to keep in touch with them in any free time, if she wished. We will now concentrate solely on Sophia.

Having not identified the whereabouts of Sophia in the 1881 census the next finding we have for her is 1888. Currently we know nothing about her between 1872 and 1888 and unfortunately, the information we have on her later years does not suggest a happy family life. Sophia’s existence appears to have been spent in either Workhouses or Asylums.

The details below are taken from the London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records 1764-1930.

  • 28th July 1888. Sophia is admitted to St George’s Workhouse in Mint Street.
  • 17th August 1888. Discharged from St George’s to Champion Hill Infirmary.
  • 24th August 1888 Transferred to Darenth Workhouse.
  • 1st October 1888. Admitted to Newington Workhouse, Westmoreland Road.
  • 12th September 1889 Admitted to Newington Warehouse.
  • 14th September 1889 Transferred to Bethnal House Asylum

The 5th April 1891 Census shows Sophia still at Bethnal House Asylum in Bethnal Green, London. In this document Sophia is listed as a patient aged 21, single, Domestic Servant, born Kennington, London. Her condition is shown as “Lunatic”

The “All UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers 1846-1912” shows that on the 20th June 1899. Sophia has been admitted to Horton Asylum, one of a cluster of Hospital Asylums in Epsom, Surrey. After her death, the original entry has the death date shown as 26/1/1915.

31/3/1901 Census at Manor Asylum, Epsom lists a pauper/patient with the initials SP, aged 41, single, nil occupation. Place of birth unknown. Listed as Lunatic.

02/04/1911 Census at Manor Asylum, Epsom lists a patient with the initials SP, aged 52, single, nil occupation. Place of birth unknown. Listed as Lunatic 29.

The Manor patient address book (ref#120) records Sophia’s father W S Petersen, living at 119 Brook Street, Lambeth. Also, two sisters, one identified as a Mrs Heath (this entry reveals a previous known address as 19 Albert Terrace, Wimbledon Road, Tooting but the document shows that a letter sent there 4/9/1913 was returned marked “Gone away”) and the second sister, as Louisa Petersen living at 6 Newington Crescent, Newington Butts.

Death of Sophia

The Manor case notes for Sophia are quite detailed and it is clear Sophia had severe mental difficulties. The Statement of death report sent to the Coroner after Sophia’s death by the Medical Officer at the Asylum records his opinion after a post-mortem that the death was caused by (1) Chronic Bright’s Disease and (2) Vascular Disease of the Heart. This document shows the time of death as 11.10 am on the 26th January 1915. Sarah was buried on 1st February 1915 in plot 1604b.

Author’s notes on Sophia’s sister Emily

The subject of this story is Sophia Peterson, but some research has determined that her sister Emily, who was born in 1861, appears to have suffered from mental health problems as well so in view of the possible connection there, this note provides some history of Emily’s life from her first admittance to an Institution.

  • 18/11/1890 Emily Peterson, born 1862, admitted Newington Workhouse
  • 21/11/1890 Emily Peterson, discharged to Hoxton Asylum
  • 21/11/1890 Emily Peterson, admitted to Hoxton Asylum
  • 14/04/1891 Emily Peterson in Census, born 1862, patient at Hoxton, Shoreditch Asylum
  • 21/02/1900 Emily Peterson, discharged from Hoxton Asylum
  • 21/02/1900 Emily Peterson admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum
  • 12/09/1934 Emily Peterson dies at Colney.
  • GRO death record of Emily Peterson, at Barnet District in the 3rd Quarter 1934, age 73.

It has to be said that none of these documents show the parents or birthplace of this Emily but the recorded year of birth is almost right and it should be noted that Emily started her Workhouse experiences at Newington Workhouse and Sophia had herself been there is 1888.

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