Nellie Simcock was born Ellen Smith in 1873 and was baptised on 27 April 1873 in the church of St Anne and St Lawrence in Elmstead, Essex.
Her parents are shown as John Smith and his wife Sarah and in the 1871 Census their address is shown simply as ‘Heath’, Elmstead Essex, a very rural area.
John’s occupation is given as ‘Ag Lab.’ (Agricultural Labourer)
By the time Ellen arrived they already had several children.
Albert John 1866 – 1934. Florence Elizabeth 1868 – 1934. Oscar Arthur 1870 –1945. Then came Ellen 1873 – 1915, followed by the short lived Thomas Herbert 1878 – 81. Clara Jane 1880 – 1968. Thomas Herbert 1883 – 1962. Frederick Harry 1886 – . Rosa 1889 – . And finally, Lavinia Kate 1891 – 1953.
John Smith and Sarah Ann Lee had been married on 22 July 1865 in St Anne and St Lawrence Church, Elmstead. John was born in 1844 in Thorington, Essex to parents, John Smith and Mira Isobella Coppin and Sarah, in 1846, in Arlesford, Essex to Robert and Mary Lee.
The 1881 Census shows the family living at Lodge Farm ‘cottage’ and John is working on the land as an ‘Ag Lab’ as is his son John (Albert John).
The family are still living there in 1891, but John (Albert John,) Florence, Oscar and Ellen had moved out. No definite sign of Ellen has been found elsewhere in the census.
In 1901 the census was taken on 31st March and we find Ellen living at 2, Colebrooke Row, Islington with her ‘husband’ Thomas Collins and her sister,
Rosa Smith aged 12yrs is visiting.
On looking for her marriage we find that she married Thomas Bell Collins on 20 Dec 1901 in the Register Office in Islington. Her father is given as John Smith ‘Farmer’, a slight exaggeration.
The address for both is 2, Colebrooke Row, Islington.
At some time during the next eight years we know that Thomas died. With a relatively common name, if you discount the ‘Bell,’ I have found at least six possible deaths in the Islington District but, if he was a commercial traveller as he says then it is possible that he died elsewhere.
Following Thomas’s death Ellen married again on 6th Sept 1909 to William, Albert Simcock. Ellen is shown as a widow and again her father, John Smith is a ‘Farmer’.
William Albert, usually known as Albert, is again shown as living at 2, Colebrooke Row, Islington. Rosa Smith, Ellen’s sisters stands as a witness.
Albert’s father, James Sprent Simcock was a chemist as was his father before him. Originally from Manchester, he and his wife Emma had six children and all the sons and the unmarried daughter became chemists or assistant chemists.
The family lived mainly in Clerkenwell at 311 Goswell Road which may also have been their business premises. However in the 1891 we find them in Willsden returning to Clerkenwell in 1901c at 2, Penton Street.
A court case
In 1901 we find William Albert boarding in Bournemouth, Hampshire.
One possible reason for this may be that in 1894 William Albert, age 18yrs, chemist, was on trial at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) on a charge of “Ravishing and Carnally Knowing” a young lady.
He and is co defendant were found not guilty and discharged, I can find nothing more regarding the trial itself. It is interesting that his age is given as 18yrs when we know that he was born in 1873 making him 21yrs old, possibly by reducing his age he might have hoped he would be treated differently if the verdict had gone the other way.
Ellen enters the workhouse
Ellen and Albert’s marriage was to be cut short when Ellen (Nellie) was admitted to the Holborn Union workhouse on 27 April 1910 where she remained until transferred to the Manor Asylum on 6 May 1910.
Nellie, as she is known now, appears on the 1911 Census for the Asylum.
Patients were recorded by initials only but you can see that her place of birth was given as Wivenhoe, Essex, the place where she and her family had lived their lives.
The age given for the start of her illness is 40yrs old which, given that she was born in 1873 doesn’t make sense but we know that ages and dobs are very flexible at this time. The 1911 Census for Nellie’s parents states that they don’t know how old they are.
Our final record of Nellie at present is her death noted in the register of the Manor Asylum. She died on 1 Nov 1915 and was buried on 8 Nov 1915 in grave 1831 b
Visitors to Nellie
It would appear that Nellie’s husband Albert died in June 1913 aged just 39yrs.
We have seen from the visitor’s book for The Manor that he did visit her three times around the time she was admitted, once accompanied by his brother Mr .A.J. Simcock (James,) but that a letter sent to his address in Pentonville Road, Clerkenwell was returned “empty house”.
In the 1911 Census Albert is back living with his family in Goswell Street and is shown as a single man.
From this same visitors book we know that Nellie’s brother Oscar (known as Arthur) visited her several times between 1911 and 1914 and that his wife Ann was present at her funeral. Her mother seems to have visited twice toward the end of Nellie’s life in 1914/15.
Rosa, who had been recorded on the 1901 Census and Nellie’s 1909 wedding certificate, visited on several occasions between 1911 and 1913 when she immigrated to Argentina.
Other names listed are Mrs Dunningham, sister Florence Elizabeth; Mrs Gooch, sister Clara Jane and Miss Smith from Lodge Farm, sister Lavinia, who later became Mrs Cadogan. However no visits were noted from these three sisters.
The Manor Asylum
Work on the first of the hospitals that would make up the Epsom Cluster had begun in 1897 but almost immediately accommodation was needed for 700 female patients “of the comparatively harmless class”. As a stop gap solution the old estate manor house was renovated and became staff accommodation and temporary wood and corrugated iron buildings were erected around the manor house to take the waiting 700 patients. The first of the Epsom Cluster hospitals was named ‘The Manor Asylum’ and opened in 1899.
Within two years further accommodation was built for 110 male patients who were to provide a work force for the Central Pumping and Power Station that supplied the growing hospital cluster. The Manor Asylum continued to expand and the original ‘temporary’ buildings,’ which were meant to last just 5yrs, were actually were still in use 50yrs later.
The family after Nellie’s death
Ellen’s Parents John and Sarah continued to live in Essex until their deaths, as did her Brothers John Albert, Thomas Herbert and sisters Florence, Clara and Lavinia. Brothers George and Oscar moved to Bermondsey, Middlesex.
Rosa immigrated to Argentina and Frederick to Canada.
This has been a rather complicated trail. With such a common maiden name, two marriages and so many people in the story reversing their names but I believe that this is a true version of Ellen’s life as we know it now. However, hopefully we will find her case notes which may well tell us much more about what caused her to be admitted into the Manor Asylum.