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SEARS, Albert

b. 1889- d. 1910


Albert William Sears was born on 1 February 1889 in Hoxton, Shoreditch to Alfred Seers (born in Bristol about 1845 according to his 1881 Census data when his trade is given as Marble Polisher) and Eliza Smith (born in Shoreditch about 1853 according to her 1881 Census data.) From the birth registration, Eliza could not write which may explain why their surname is variously Seer, Seers or Sears. There is no sign of a marriage of Alfred to Eliza but there are records of them having at least 9 children together as follows:

Alfred Henry Seersb.1874 d.1875
Edward Seer1877
Elizabeth Seer1879
Robert Henry Seer1881
Henry Albert Seer1883
Emma Eliza Seers1885
Benjamin Seers1887
Albert William Seers1889
(Peter) Paul Seers1891
1881 Census

All were born in Shoreditch except Emma who was born in Holborn. The family lived first in Georges Square, Hoxton and then nearby at Alma Cottage, Grove Walk, Hoxton. The Charles Booth poverty maps of the late nineteenth century show this to be a poor to very poor area. Alfred worked as a marble polisher which was part of the furniture trade. There were numerous furniture factories and workshops in the area where the family lived but it was usual for workers to specialise in one skill.


Looking through the 1891 census, among the Sears’ neighbours were a french polisher, rush maker, upholsterer and artificial leaf worker. It was lowly paid for long hours work.

By the 1891 census Alfred and Eliza are living with 8 of their surviving children and Eliza’s mother, also Eliza, at Alma Cottage. Both mother and daughter, along with eldest son Edward, are shown as having the profession of polisher, another furniture trade.

The next record of Albert is his admission to Curtain Road School, Shoreditch on 28 January 1894. It was a short distance from his home. His siblings Emma, Benjamin and later Paul are also recorded as attending that school, though there are no records for the older siblings. Unfortunately Emma dies in 1895 at just 10 years old. In 1897 there was a crisis for the family. On 17 June Alfred was admitted to the workhouse at St Leonard, Shoreditch. Two weeks later on 3 July 1897 Alfred was sectioned by 2 doctors as being of unsound mind. In their reports they state that he ‘complains of a feeling of being choked and of being on the point of death’ and ‘he fancies people are talking about him’. His wife Eliza told the doctors that ‘he fancies he is dying and that people are talking about him and saying he was mad’. This attack has lasted 11 weeks and the supposed cause is listed as ‘drink’. They categorise him as ‘dangerous’ as he has threatened to strike his wife. Alfred is then ‘detained under care and treatment’ under the Lunacy Act 1890. It is not known where he was sent to at this time.


It is now up to Eliza to care and provide for the younger children. In 1901, 4 years after Alfred was sectioned, Eliza is still living at Alma Cottage with 4 of her children. She and Elizabeth are French polishers, Henry works for a lemonade company and Benjamin is a horse hair worker, presumably also part of the furniture trade. Paul is at school. Albert is not with the family as on 1 February, his 12th birthday, he was admitted to Shoreditch Workhouse, Kingsland Road as a ‘Remand Boy’ brought in by 153G, possibly a police badge number. He was discharged to court on 8 February 1901 and sent to the Industrial School, Feltham. It is not known what his crime was but at the age of just 12 he was removed from his family. In the 1901 census Albert is shown at the school as a ‘juvenile offender’, one of 341 such boys.


If Albert learned a trade at the Industrial School he did not appear to use it as he too became a polisher. He must have fallen on hard times as the next record for him is an admission to Long Grove from Bethnal Green Workhouse on 22 June 1910. He was to be there for just 5 months as on 28 November 1910 he died of dysentery at just 21 years of age.

Authors Comment

What about the rest of the family? Henry died in 1908. In the 1911 census Eliza has moved to Bethnal Green and has Elizabeth and Paul living with her. She states that she has been married for 39 years and had 11 children, 6 of whom have died. Therefore there are possibly 2 more children who died young. Edward, Robert and Benjamin married and had families. Paul too became a French polisher and died single in 1971. Eliza died in 1922 in Bethnal Green. Alfred disappears from the records between 1897 and his death in 1926. This is possibly because he has been in mental hospitals where sometimes the census just list the inmates by initials. He dies on 11 May 1926 at the Leavesden Mental Hospital, Watford almost 30 years after he was sectioned. Finally, Elizabeth is in the 1939 census at Claybury Mental Hospital, Ilford and is described as ‘incapacitated’. She died in 1951 in Ilford, the third member of this unfortunate family to be in mental institutions.

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