A childhood in and out of the workhouse
The earliest records we have found for George are for admissions to the St Marylebone Workhouse with his elder sister Jane and his mother Ann.
The first was on the 10th September 1842. He was 4 years old, his sister 9 years old and Ann was 32 years old.. Under ‘Residence’ is recorded ‘No residence’. Under ‘Settlement’ is written King’s Sutton for Ann and George and SMB [St Marylebone] for Jane.
King’s Sutton is a small village in West Northamptonshire close to the border with Oxfordshire. The nearest town, just across the border, is Banbury.
The family were discharged on 18th October 1842 with the note against Ann’s name: ‘At her request’.
Sadly, they were readmitted on 19th November ‘destitute’. They were discharged again on 2nd December.
On 19th June 1843, they were admitted for a third time, described again as ‘destitute’, with ‘Where settled’ as King’s Sutton for all three. They were discharged on 11th July at ‘Own request’ and then admitted again on 2nd September with their circumstances unchanged.
Another child born
The next event we find recorded is the addition to the family of William, a half-brother to George and Jane, on 4th July 1845. His birth was registered not in the workhouse but in Richmond, Surrey on the 15th August as William Rowland.
The baby’s father was named William Rowland with the occupation ‘painter’. Ann was the informant and describes herself as Ann Rowland formerly Soden. Her address is 7 Wellington Place, which was near the parish church of St Mary Magdalene. We don’t know how Ann came to be in Richmond.
Coincidentally, there was another Soden family living there at the time. They were George and Elizabeth Soden and their children Jane, William, Edwin and Emma – but extensive research has failed to find any connection between the families.
Re-admission to the workhouse
The next record we have is of the re-admission to the workhouse of Ann 34, Jane 13, George 8 and William 4 months on 7th November 1845 under the surname Soden. Under ‘Settlement’ SMB is crossed out and ‘Doubtful’ written in. There is a note that Ann has no employment and that William is ‘by William Rowland who was recently an inmate of the workhouse.’
William junior was baptised on 17th November 1845 in the Workhouse Chapel. His parents were recorded as Ann Soden and William Rowland.
Sadly, William junior died in the workhouse on 5th March 1846 aged 8 months. The cause of death was pneumonia. His death was registered as William Soden; the informant was James Jones, the Master of the workhouse.
The Sodens were admitted to the workhouse again on 11th November 1846. George’s age was recorded as 9, Jane’s as 13 and Ann’s as 37. Under ‘Settlement’ is written ‘2 y[ears?] SMB’ and ‘irremovable.’ Ann is described as single. She would have been pregnant at the time, as she gave birth on 21st June 1847. The child was registered as Henry Soden, born in the Marylebone Workhouse. No father’s name was given. The informant was his mother, Ann Soden.
Henry was baptised in the Workhouse Chapel on 21st June with his parent’s named as Ann Soden and William Rowland. William Rowland’s occupation was again given as ‘painter’.
Who was William Rowland?
Apart from the references to William Rowland as the father of George’s two half-brothers there is little other information about him to be found. The earliest record is an admission to the Marylebone Workhouse on 25th November 1842. His age is given as 40 which would make his birth year about 1802.
Later records suggest he was born in around 1806. It appears that he suffered from ill-health and was unable to work. There are a series of other admissions, the last of which was to the infirmary on 28th February 1847. He died there on 7th March with his age recorded as 41. The cause of death was ‘pneumonia’.
Sadly, his young son Henry was also to die later that year.
The last workhouse record found for George as a child is for an admission with his mother and sister on 19th July 1848. He was 9, Jane was 15 and Ann 38.
The 1851 Census – the Sodens are not in the workhouse
The 1851 Census finds the Sodens living not in the workhouse but in a shared house at 16 Charles Street, St Marylebone. Ann is 39 and her occupation is ‘needlewoman’. Her place of birth is Northamptonshire and her status is given as ‘widow’.
Jane, aged 16, was described as ‘servant out of place’ with the status ‘married’ and the surname Kinner. She had married a Thomas Kinner on 25th February 1851. George, now 13, is an errand boy. The birthplaces of both Jane and George were recorded as St Marylebone.
Thomas Kinner, a Chelsea born labourer, was not with the Soden household and has not been found elsewhere. When Thomas and Jane married at Christ Church, St Marylebone, they were both stated to be of ‘full age’. However, that only applied to Thomas who was about 22. Jane, as we have seen, would have been around 16. Jane gave her father’s name as George Soden, a carver.
George marries in Belfast
The next record for George is for a marriage to Lucinda Kerr on 21st February 1868 in Belfast. George is described as a soldier aged 29. Lucinda was 22. As with Jane, George gave his father’s name as George with the occupation of carver. It has not been possible to establish that this George Soden existed.
They went on to have three children in quick succession:
- George born 11th December 1868. Birth registered 15th December. George senior’s occupation was recorded as a labourer.
- Eliza Jane born 7th January 1870 Birth registered 19th January. George’s occupation was given as sailmaker.
- Minnie Annie born 3rd March 1873. Birth registered 13th March. George was again a sailmaker.
Sadly, Eliza Jane was to die on the 22nd October 1876 aged 5. Her death was registered the same day. Her death certificate describes her as the daughter of a sailor.
It has not been possible to find any other evidence to confirm that George was a soldier, nor to explain how he became a sailmaker, nor how he came to be in Belfast. There were censuses in Ireland in 1861 and 1871 which might have been helpful but they were deliberately destroyed by the Irish administration soon after they were taken, to protect confidentiality.
There is an intriguing record of a George Soden aged 15 being indentured as an apprentice in the Merchant Navy on 2nd December 1852. He was bound to William Embleton of Stepney and was to serve on the John Franklin of London. The indenture was due to expire in 1857. Could this have been our George?
Jane and Thomas start a family and Ann dies
Between her marriage to Thomas Kinner in 1851 and the 1861 Census, Jane gave birth to four children. Their names, birth years and places of birth according to baptism records were: Thomas junior born 1854 in Paddington; George 1856 Paddington; Anthony 1857 Marylebone and Jane 1859 Chelsea. No registration records have been found for their births.
The 1861 census records Thomas and Jane living with their children at 14 Caroline Place, Chelsea, sharing with two other households.
Ann has not been found in the 1861 Census. It is possible that she was in the Chelsea Workhouse in Britten Street. That is where she died on 24th May 1865 aged 53. Her occupation was given as laundress and the cause of death was pleuro pneumonia.
George returns to London; Jane and Thomas’s family grows
In the 1881 Census, George and Lucinda are recorded living at 3 Park Terrace Cottages in Chelsea with their children George, 12, and Minnie, 7. George is a tarpaulin maker and Lucinda is a sempstress. This address would have been between the King’s Road and Fulham Road near the ‘dog leg’ in the King’s Road at its junction with Park Walk and Millman’s Street.
Jane and Thomas Kinner had been living at Pond Terrace, Chelsea in 1871 and were at Wellington Street in 1881. These addresses were further east along the King’s Road. By 1881 Jane had given birth to a further seven children: Ann born 1861, Henry 1863, Charles 1865, William 1867, Edward 1869, Patience 1872, Frederick 1874 and Elizabeth 1877.
George and Lucinda move to 1 Garden Row; George junior becomes a milkman; Minnie Annie marries and starts a family; Jane and Thomas move across the river to Battersea.
1891 in Chelsea
The 1891 Census finds George and Lucinda at 1 Garden Row, Chelsea. George’s occupation is recorded as blind and tarpaulin maker. Their children are still living at home. George junior, 22, is a milkman and Minnie, 18, is an ironer. Garden Row was tucked behind the buildings between Church Street [now Old Church Street] and Danvers Street, near Chelsea Old Church.
According to the Electoral Registers, George and Lucinda had moved a short distance to 7 Petyt Place, off Church Street, by 1896 and then by 1898 a few roads to the west to 14 Lawrence Street, which was where Lucinda died in December of that year. She was buried in Hanwell Cemetery and her age was recorded in the burial register as 55.
Minnie had married John Holloway, a 23-year-old horse-keeper, in July 1894 and gave birth to their first four children, John, George, Margaret and Kathleen in 1895, 1896, 1898 and 1900 respectively. The baptism records for the first three record John’s occupation as horse-keeper/ostler. The fourth, Kathleen’s, has him as a Boot-maker.
In 1891 Jane and Thomas are recorded living with four of their children, Thomas junior, George, Frederick and Elizabeth, across the river in Battersea.
The 1901 Census
Widower George is a Rowton House paying guest; George junior is a tailor’s assistant; Minnie and John and Jane and Thomas move back to Chelsea
George Soden is recorded in the 1901 census living at the Hammersmith Rowton House as a ‘paying guest’. His age is given as 59 [actually more probably 63] and his occupation as ‘sailmaker’. The first page of the Enumeration Book describes the institution as a Lodging House. Another hand has added ‘Working Men’s Hotel’.
Rowton Houses were a chain of hostels built in London, England, by the Victorian philanthropist Lord Rowton to provide decent accommodation for working men in place of the squalid lodging houses of the time. The Hammersmith Rowton House, was opened in 1897. It had 800 beds.
George Soden junior, aged 33, was living at 239 King’s Road in 1901. His place in the household was recorded as ‘servant’ and his occupation as ‘tailor’s assistant’. The head of the household was Margaret Ryan, a Tipperary-born widow, aged 40, with no occupation.
Minnie and John were living at 24 Church Street [now Old Church Street], Chelsea in 1901 with their children John, George and Margaret. Sadly, their fourth child Kathleen had lived only a few months. John was now a ‘clothiers shop assistant’. Could he have been working with his brother-in-law George?
Jane and Thomas were living at Kingston House, Bifron Street, Chelsea with their eldest son Thomas junior.
George in old age is again in and out of the workhouse.
Aged 66, George was admitted to the Britten Street Workhouse, Chelsea on 12th November 1904. This was the first of a series of admissions and discharges that culminated in his transfer to Long Grove Asylum on 16th November 1907. He died there on 15th December 1908. His age was given as 70 and his occupation as ‘blind maker of the Chelsea Workhouse’. The cause of death was arteriosclerosis’.
George’s sister Jane and children George junior and Minnie after his death
In 1911, Jane was living with her husband Thomas in Gillray Square off Milman’s Street, Chelsea. They had been married for 60 years and according to the census return had had 13 children of whom eight were still alive. Thomas died in 1912 aged 83.
Like her brother, at the end of her life Jane was admitted to Britten Street Workhouse. The 1921 Census finds her there with her age incorrectly recorded as 91 years and 4 months. She was probably three years younger. She died in the workhouse in Q4 of that year.
George junior was living with his brother-in-law and sister John and Minnie Holloway and seven of their eight living children in Upcerne Road, Chelsea. They had had ten children in all during their seventeen-year marriage.
George’s occupation was recorded as tailor. John, whose occupation is given as cordwainer, must have been out when the enumerator called as George signed the form on his behalf. This is the last record that we have been able to find for George.
In 1939 John and Minnie were living in Bulow Road, Fulham. John was described as a retired house painter.
John died in 1950 aged 80 and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.
Minnie died in 1954 aged 81 and was also buried in Brompton Cemetery.
RESEARCH: Linda Martin and Roger Miller