From the few records we have at our disposal it would appear that our subject George Soper led a quiet, uneventful and possibly lonely life, with neither siblings nor wife. Could this financially sound and apparently educated man ever have imagined that he would end his life in a paupers’ asylum?
George’s parents and sisters
George’s parents, George Soper and Anna Maria (née Worsley), were married in Stoke Damerel in Devon on the 13th of June 1835. (Stoke Damerel was a parish that was once part of Devonport but is now an inner suburb of Plymouth).
George senior was born in St. Austell, Cornwall in 1797 and Anna Maria was born in 1802 in Rochester, Kent. In the 1st quarter of 1838 Anna Maria gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter, also called Anna Maria, who sadly died just a few weeks later. A second daughter, Isabella Grace, was born in the 4th quarter of 1839. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to find the family in the 1841 Census.
George Edward Soper (it would seem that he added ‘Worsley’ to his name unofficially) was born in Plymouth, Devon, in the 1st quarter of 1843. Tragically, his sister Isabella died in the 2nd quarter of 1844 aged just 4. At the time of her death the family was still living in Stoke Damerel.
By the time of the 1851 Census George had moved to London with his wife and son. We find them living at 16, Pelham Road in Kensington and George senior is employed as secretary to a mining agent.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to find the family in the 1861 Census but we know that Anna Maria died in the 3rd quarter of that year, aged 59. She was buried in Brompton Cemetery on the 12th of July 1861. On the burial register her address is given as 34, Bedford Place, Kensington but the family does not appear at that address in the 1861 Census.
It has not been possible to determine when George senior died.
We next meet our subject George in the 1871 Census where he is lodging at 7, Westbourne Street in Belgravia. Now, aged 28, he is employed as a clerk to a builder and decorator which would suggest he had received a reasonable education. This is borne out by his entry in the 1880 London City Directory where he is described as a ‘teacher of languages’. (It is here we see him calling himself George Edward Worsley Soper for the first time.)
In the 1881 Census he is boarding at 65 Aden Grove in Stoke Newington and his occupation is again given as ‘language teacher’. The property is owned by Mary Jackson, a teacher of pianoforte, and one of the two other boarders is a professor of singing and elocution, all of which suggests a very refined and respectable household.
In the 1891 Census George is lodging with photographer Edward Wright and his wife Hannah at 71, Green Lanes in Stoke Newington. His occupation is now ‘private tutor maths science etc.’ According to the 1891 Electoral Register George paid 12 shillings a week for two furnished rooms on the first floor of the property. This was one of the more expensive rents in Green Lanes which would seem to imply that George’s employment as a private tutor was paying reasonably well.
By the time of the 1894 electoral register, however, George had moved again, this time to 34, Winston Road in Stoke Newington. We learn from the register that George was renting a furnished room (with the use of another room) on the ground and 1st floors of the property from boarding house keeper Anna Wright. His rent was now 7 shillings a week. Was George now living in reduced circumstances? Had a fall in income necessitated a move to cheaper accommodation?
We know from the Electoral Register that George was still living in Winston Road in 1900 but he does not appear at that address – or any other – in the 1901 Census. The next time we see George is when he was admitted to Long Grove in 1908.
Admission to Long Grove and death
From Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records we learn that George, aged 65 and described as a pauper, was transferred to Long Grove on the 28th of August after spending ten days in Wandsworth Union Workhouse. We may assume that George was suffering from mental health problems but we do not know when they began, their nature or their severity.
George was to remain in Long Grove until his death on the 26th of April 1911 aged 68. He was buried on the 2nd of May 1911 in grave 1145a in Horton Cemetery.