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Author’s note

William Phillips was not an easy name to research, Phillips being quite a common surname in the UK. 

I did find a good candidate only to discover it was the wrong William after I received the details of his Reception Order into Horton Asylum. 

Fortunately, it included William’s photograph. 

His mother Sophia’s statement on the order gave me information about William and the family which greatly helped to tell William’s story.  Sophia has an amazing memory and gives details of family deaths. For an example she says Williams’s father’s father died at 57 from gout and his father’s mother died aged 38 of Typhoid. This information gave me the correct family. 

William’s parents

William was the son of Charles Phillips who was born on 26 Dec 1829 in St Georges Hanover Square whose occupation was a butcher. On his death record and on his son Walter’s marriage certificate his name is recorded as Charles Bowden Phillips. There is no record of a baptism with this middle name. He was baptised along with his sister Elizabeth on 29 April 1838 aged 8 as Charles in St Georges, Hanover Square. His father Samuel was also a butcher as recorded on Charles’s baptism certificate. Charles’s mother Martha Austin born c.1800 died in 1838 of Typhoid, the death certificate confirms Sophia’s account of her husband’s parents. Samuel is now a labourer and they are living in Pimlico.

Charles and Sophia were married on 26 July 1858, Kensington. 

William’s mother was Sophia Mary Grant, born 19 April 1836. to John Grant 1801 a shoemaker from Chelsea and Margaret Maria Murray c.1806 born in the West Indies. 

A growing family

Charles and Sophia had a very large family. 16 children stated Sophia in William’s notes.

William was the 6th child born into the family.   I have numbered them to help follow the large family. 

Their first child 1. Charles was born out of wedlock on 5 March 1855 and baptised 23 May 1858. In St Luke’s Chelsea, a few months before his parent’s marriage. Their address is Kimbolton Row, these buildings sat behind the houses in the Fulham Road. 

Charles and Sopha’s daughter 2. Elizabeth Louisa is born on 28 March 1859 baptised in Christ Church, Chelsea on 28 August 1859. The family are living in Caversham Street. 


A third child 3. a daughter Sarah, born on 6 March 1861.

In the 1861 census we find the family residing in 6 Drycott Place, Chelsea, Charles 31 a butcher, Sophia 24, Charles 6, Elizabeth 2 and Sarah 1 month. 

1862, on 21 March, poor Elizabeth Louisa is buried at Brompton cemetery age 3 years. Address is given as 36 Jubilee Place. Chelsea. Death certificate states she died on 16 March of Whooping cough for 4 weeks, pneumonia and convulsions for 4 days, the address given as 41 Jubilee Place, Father Charles Phillips a butcher journeyman. The death was registered by Margaret Grant who was present at death. I believe this is Sophia’s mother as she is resident at I Chapel Place in 1861, Sophia’s sister has the same name as the mother Margaret Maria Grant but I have not been able to find her in the 1861 census.

In 1863 on 21 February, twins are born a boy and girl. 4 John Grant 5. Louisa. 

6. William, born 3 June 1864

7. Alice, born 8 February 1866

8. Sophy, born 2 April 1868


9. Annie, born 27 April 1870

The 1871 census shows the family are now in 14 Brewer Street, St George, Hanover Square, Belgrave.  There is a shop with living accommodation above, Charles 40, a butcher employing 2 staff. The rest of the family are listed with initials only, S,33. C,16. J,8. W,6. S,10. L,8. A,5. S,3. A,1. William Wedd aged 18 and Elizabeth Myall aged 18 are Servants.

I have found John 8 and Alice, 5 listed again, staying with their widowed maternal grandfather and Sophia’s sister Margaret at 1 Chapel Place on the day of the 1871 census. This is approximately 0.7 of a mile from Brewer Street.

The following children were born – 

10, Samuel, born 28 November 1871

1874, 22 December another set of twins, both boys. 11, Frederick 12, George, sadly George died aged just a few months old, he was buried in Brompton Cemetery on 22 March 1875

13, Jessie is born in the 3rd quarter 1875, I can’t find her actual date of birth, she tragically died, again only a few months old, she was also buried in Brompton cemetery, on 25 February 1876.

14, Amy, born 2 August 1876.

15, Herbert, born 13 February 1878.


The 1881 census shows the family ae still at 14 Brewer Street, Charles 50, a master butcher employing 1 man. Sophia aged 44, Charles junior 26 a Butcher, Sarah 20 a dressmaker, John 18 a harness maker, Louisa 18 a general servant. William 16 a butcher. Sophy 12, Anne 10, Samuel 8, Frederick 6 and Amy 4 are all listed as Scholars. Herbert 3. Alice is a general servant to a family in Denbigh Street 2 miles from Brewer Street. 

In 1883 after a 5 year gap Sophia has her last child number 16. Walter George born on 22 February.

In August 1883 there is a possible death of Charles their 1st son in St Georges hospital.  Age 28. Burial 17 August in Brompton cemetery.


1891 census. Charles now 60, still a butcher, they have moved south of the river Thames to Battersea, 54 Wickersley Road, the house is no longer standing. The houses that remain in the road are smaller Victorian terraces.

Sophia is 57, Alice 25 a domestic servant, Frederick is a Porter, Amy 14, Herbert 15 and Walter 8 are listed as scholars. The older Children have now left home including William. I have not been able to find him in this census. A grandson called William C Pitt aged 3 is also resident. I am not able to identify his parents. He is registered in the 3rd quarter 1887 in Chelsea without a mother’s maiden name. 


1901 census – We now find William has returned home to live with his parents at 9 Froude Street, East Battersea. He is 36 and occupation a house painter, Charles 70 is still listed as a butcher/Salesman. Sophia 64, and Walter 18 a grocer’s assistant. Another grandson is staying with the family.  Sidney age 10, he is probably an illegitimate son of one of the daughters. There is a registered birth in 1891 in Lambeth with no mother’s name.  

They have moved half a mile east of Wickersley Road to 9 Froude Street, now redeveloped. 

In 1905 William’s brother Samuel died aged 33 and in 1907 brother John aged 43 so close to his 44th birthday died, both from TB. This matches Sophia’s statement. 

Sophia also states that on the 17 March 1908 William’s father Charles dies of Influenza aged 77 years.  The death certificate confirms this. 

Charles is recorded with Bowden as his second Christian name. 

W. Phillips son registered death. I assume this is Walter.

For Sophia further trauma was soon to follow as 2 Weeks later William is admitted to Wandsworth Infirmary and on 2 April, he is transferred to Horton Asylum. His diagnosis is General Paralysis of the Insane, untreated Syphilis. 

The Reception Order was signed by J W Lorden esq JP. On 31 March. William’s medical and family history was completed by his mother Sophia of 9 Froude Street. 

William was confirmed as a single man.

William’s case notes

Medical Certificate signed by Breward Neal. 

He is dull and obtuse, at times very troublesome, restless and wandering. Attempts to leave the ward in answer to imaginary voices calling him, very obstinate when prevented. He presents the physical signs of General Paralysis of the Insane. Anticipation blurred, words clipped and abbreviated.  Tremors effecting the facial and lateral muscles. Uneven pupils and unsteady gait. 

The family and medical information was given by his mother Sophia who seems to have an amazing memory of all William’s infant details despite having 16 children.

Williams was a normal birth, he saw his first tooth at 6 months, walked and commenced talking at 16 months. He was educated at St Stephen’s school Westminster and was quick to learn. He was educated to the 7th standard by 15 years of age.  Occupations, a Butcher like his father, A barman and Labourer. His habits moderate and he drank Beer. He stopped working 5 years ago and for the last 3 years suffered severe headaches and showed mental symptoms. William became quarrelsome, strange in his actions.  quite helpless and unable to attend to himself. He used to light paper and throw it about the room.

Not suicidal, Violent Yes. With no insomnia. 

It seems that Charles and Sophia tried very hard to care for their son. William’s symptoms became worse. Five weeks before his admittance to Horton William had a ‘Fit’ approximately end of February. Sadly, when Charles died on 17 March, life must have become unbearable in the home. With the loss of her husband to bear and William’s symptoms becoming unmanageable, William was admitted to Wandsworth infirmary and then transferred to Horton Asylum on 2 April 1908. 

Condition on admission to Horton, sections taken from D Thomson observations. 

Moderate general body condition, nourishment fair. Height 5ft 4 1/2ins weight 10st 5lb. 

Thin fine brown hair, grey eyes. Skin greasy.  

He has a slight abrasion to his left check and under right knee. Several fading bruises to the front of chest. 

His co-ordination is impaired, his speech slurred and gait shaky and bladder impaired. Unmarried.

William’s mental state.

As written by D Thomson. 

He is dull and takes little interest in his surroundings, he mistakes identities. He is disorientated as regards time and place. He does not understand what is said to him, at times his reasoning powers are very poor he cannot give a rational account of himself. His memory for remote and recent events is really bad, he fabricates. He has auditory hallucinations but does not appear to have visual hallucinations or hallucinations of other senses. He seems to take little notice of voices he hears, he simply imagines that they are the people in the flat above or below him talking to each other. He has no definite delusions; he appears to be quite happy and contented but says he would like to have more liberty. Retardation present to a slight extent. Flow of ideas slow and disconnected, he is not restless or destructive. His powers of attention are not good, he has no morbid impulse. No catalepsy. or anything of that nature, he is wet and dirty. He is not religiously inclined. He has gone with women to some extent but says he did not drink much. 

Diagnosis- General Paralysis. 

William’s death

From the case notes there appears little can be done, and William’s health continues to decline, showing symptoms of general paralysis. In July he is reported to have collapsed but not bad enough to be permanently put to bed. It is recorded he is having difficulty swallowing.  By August he is on a minced diet, several more falls are noted from late August throughout September. In December his skin has boils and he is getting steadily weaker and spends time in bed. By 2 January he is on a liquid diet and notes from 11 January show he is on a milk diet and much weaker and is losing strength rapidly and is now bedridden. The next day on 12 January 1909 at 11.15am William died as his body was finally overtaken by his disease 9 months after his admission. It seemed it was necessary that he underwent a Postmortem, and he was buried on 18 January 1909 in Horton cemetery Grave.257a.

What happened to Sophia and William’s siblings? 

In 1911 Sophia aged 74 is living as a widow with her son Walter 28 a Hall porter and Grandson Sydney 20, a roundsman, milk. 61 Greyshott Road, Lavender Hill, Battersea. 16 children, 9 living 7 dead. 

I believe she died in 1917 as there is a death in Wandsworth that could be her. 

Nine of the remaining siblings 

3. Sarah married Walter G Broughton in 1882, 6 children found and a possible death 1946 in Staines.

4. Louisa, married Obediah Marten 1891, possible death 1920 Islington. 

7. Alice married Paul James Wilson in 1891, an artist and designer of Christmas cards. 8 children and there is a photograph of her on an ancestry family tree.

8. Sophy. In 1911 living with her sisters Alice and family a single woman.

9. Annie married Arthur William Harper in 1898 St George’s. By 1901 the couple was living in St Georges, Hanover Square and sister Sophy was living with them. By 1911, I believe Annie is living in Paddington a married charwoman, she appears to be living on her own.  Arthur in 1911 on the hand describes himself as single, working as a Hall Porter is a visitor at West Cromwell Road. In 1915 he is bailed and then acquitted from a charge of stealing rugs and blankets from the House of Lords along with 4 others. 

11. Frederick married 1902 Adelaide Esther Harpe, I son found, 1939 register he is a lift attendant living in Battersea, possible death 1956 Battersea.   

14. Amy married 1899, Albert Edward Biggerstaff, 3 children living in Battersea. 1939 register she is a widow. Possible death 1951 Battersea.

15. Herbert married Eliza Bishop 1909c, 2 sons found. 1921 census states he is a caretaker of the Local War Pensions Committee, Paddington. 

16. Walter serves in the Bedfordshire Regiment during the WW1 and married in 1918 to Elizabeth Naomi Funnell. 1939, he is a manservant and Elizabeth the housekeeper for George Hicks of private means in Malvern Worcestershire.

What of Sydney the grandson? I found him in the 1921 census living with a brother and sister Albert and Ellen Smith in Claphan Wandsworth.  He is an orderly in the Ministry of Pensions Hospital, Orpington. 

1939 he is in Hampstead still with the sister named Ellen Smith, his date of birth 26th February 1891. He is a Dress Orderly. 

William had a large family around him when he was growing up. The home must have been busy and noisy, and I would like to think loving, by the way in which Sophia expresses herself in the records. I wonder if Charles had lived, they might have been able to care for Willam longer. Although, with the terrible symptoms William was experiencing, I feel they would have to had him cared for at the end of his life. It’s very sad that he was buried in a pauper’s grave. 

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