1870s to 1880s
Sidney Pyatt’s parents were William and Charlotte, they were married at St. John’s Church in Hoxton on 25th December 1871.
A note from history: In 19th Century London, people could get married free on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It was a London tradition and also perhaps elsewhere.
William’s father was a weaver and Charlotte’s a greengrocer. William’s occupation was described as a salesman and he came from a Bethnal Green family and Charlotte originated from Shoreditch.
People worked six days a week then but were not expected to work on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On the Christmas Day on which William and Charlotte were married at Saint John’s Hoxton, there were 41 marriages in the church that day, perhaps all at the same service!
Sidney was born in Bethnal Green on 9th October 1886 according to baptism records. He was the eighth child of William and Charlotte Jane Pyatt, née Gray. He was baptised at St Thomas’s Church in Bethnal Green on 7th November 1886 and the address given for his residence was 18 Boreham Street. His father’s occupation was listed as a salesman.
In the 1891 Census, we find Sidney living at 99 Treadway Street, Bethnal Green, living in four rooms in the parish of St Matthews with his parents and siblings. In those days it would have been a rented property as most people did not earn enough to buy their own house.
William Pyatt, Sidney’s father, was head of the house, aged 43, and employed as a drapery warehouseman. His mother Charlotte was shown as aged 40 from Shoreditch.
His siblings are listed as: William, aged 18, working as a type founder, Charlotte, aged 16, working as a baking powder packer, as was Elizabeth, aged 14, Charles (12), Thomas (10), Henry (8), Samuel (6), Sidney (4), and Albert (1). All have no occupations so therefore it is safe to assume that some of the children were at school and the younger ones at home. By this time there were nine children in the home.
In 1898, Charles Booth did a review of poverty within London and looking at the map for 99 Treadway Street, it shows the area to be poor with an average wage of 18s to 21s for a moderate family. We know the family continued to live there as this is supported by further baptism records. The older children’s earnings would have certainly supplemented the household income.
In 1901, the Census confirms Sidney’s family were still living at 99 Treadway Street, Bethnal Green, and the family had grown even further. William Pyatt, head of the household, aged 53, was still working as a haberdashery warehouseman and his wife Charlotte was aged 50.
Sidney and his siblings were listed as follows: William, single, aged 28, working as a metal type maker; and sister Elizabeth was still at home, aged 24, as a powder packer (chemical). Whereas Sidney’s sister Charlotte had married John Whitmore on 17th February 1900 and left home.
The rest of the brothers were also unmarried, still living at home and shown as follows: Charles (22), working as an upholsterer, Thomas (20), working as a Post Office sorter, Harry (18), working as a silk tie cutter (shirt), and Samuel (16), working as a cabinet maker.
Sidney is the youngest child working contributing to the household as a “Boot Clicker”. A boot or shoe clicker was a person who worked a machine that made lace holes in boot uppers, or cut the leather for different parts that made up the shoe or boot. This job made a distinctive noise from which the name “clicker” was derived. It was a skilled trade because they had to maximise the number of uppers that could be cut from a piece of leather. Often the younger workers would start in the trade doing this work. At this point there is no indication that Sidney had health issues as this appears to be a responsible job. Was it the intention he would become a bootmaker later on?
The younger boys Albert (11), Arthur (9), and John (7), have no occupation shown and therefore must be at school.
This was clearly a household where all the older children worked to keep a good income coming into the house. By this time William and Charlotte had had 11 children, who had all survived past the age of five years which was unusual as the mortality rate in London at that time was quite high. They seemed at this point to be a healthy strong family.
Epsom Epileptic Colony
The next thing we find out about Sidney is that he is unfortunately admitted to “Ep Col” Asylum on 21st March 1908, source being the UK Lunacy Admissions Register. His admission number was 68883. This would have been St Ebba’s Epileptic Colony. With no information about this in his younger life, we have to ask did he develop Epilepsy later in life? He was 21 years old at this point and there would have been very little medication to control Epilepsy at this time. According to the Epilepsy Society, these Colonies were established to help those who were capable of work but could not find work due to their condition and the social attitudes of the time.
On 18th December 1910, the UK Lunacy Admissions Register states Sidney unfortunately died and on 23rd December 1910, he was buried at Horton Estate Cemetery in Grave 951a. It is unclear what he died of – whether it was as a result of his Epilepsy. One can only assume that perhaps the seizures became too numerous. He could have had brain damage or choked to death. We will never know for sure. Sadly, he is the only child of his family who died young from illness. Were they ashamed of him as the rest of the family were fit and well? The 1911 Census supports this where his parents state they had 11 children and only one dead which would have been Sidney.
More deaths in the Pyatt family
His mother must have felt his death severely as she died the following year in October 1911.
The family suffered further grief in 1916 when Sidney’s father died on 6th March, and on 14th November 1916, both Sidney’s brothers, Henry and Arthur, died on the same day in the same World War 1 battle, aged 33 and 25.
My thoughts are that Sidney came from a large family but his father had constant employment, as did all the people living in the house so they seemed to have a reasonable standard of living. Sidney may have developed his condition perhaps in his late teens and the condition was so severe he was admitted St Ebba’s Epileptic Colony because his family could not cope. He then lived out the last two and ¾ years here, possibly never seeing any of his family again.