b.1892 – d.1914
Lily Sophia Spackman was born in 1892 (JFM) in South Hornsey, London. She was the youngest of four children and the only daughter, born to Benjamin and Jane Sophia Spackman (nee Willats). No baptism record has yet been found for Lily.
Benjamin and Jane were married on the 18th May 1886 at St John’s Church, Holloway. Jane was from the Poplar area. Benjamin was originally from Bradford upon Avon. On the marriage certificate Benjamin recorded his occupation as an engineer.
He had been in London only a short while, as on the 1881 census he was still living with his family in Wiltshire and then was working as a carpenter’s assistant. By the end of 1886, now newly married, Benjamin joined the Metropolitan Police Force as a Police Constable. Working as a policeman meant twelve-hour shifts, six days a week. Looking at the London England Metropolitan Police Pension Registers 1852-1932 we can see Benjamin served 25 years working with the Islington and Finsbury Divisions.
Jane Sophia Spackman probably stayed at home to look after their four children, all born within six years of the marriage. They appear to have lived comfortably in terraced houses, sharing with only one other family as seen on the 1901 and 1911 census. Included in the police pay at this time was an allowance for rent and coal and extra for special duties. Work as a policeman would have been hard. Early in Benjamin’s tenure were the Whitechapel Murders 1888-1891, eleven unsolved murders of women took place in an area, not that far away.
Not a lot is known about Lily as she grew up but by the 1911 census when she was eighteen, Lily was working for a Milliner, presumably making hats. She may have been working with her older brother George who on the same census was recorded as a warehouseman (Milliners).
1911 was to bring great changes to the family; Benjamin was 47 years old and at the end of the year retired from the Metropolitan Police. The four children had by then grown up and were all working. Benjamin had made the decision to move to Sussex and to start farming; perhaps he yearned to move to greener lands similar to the Wiltshire countryside where he was born. We know Benjamin suffered from asthma and bronchitis for most of his adult life. The countryside would have health benefits from the pollution of the city.
When her parents moved to their farm in Sussex, Lily was thought to be the only child that went with them, the three older boys remained around the Islington area.
Within a year of arriving in Sussex on 28th December 1912, Lily was admitted to West Sussex Asylum (Graylingwell Hospital), according to the notes, her mother accompanied her. The previous history given was that Lily had been a clever child doing well at school. After finishing her education and reaching adolescence Lily became troublesome, she was impulsive, excitable and lacked focus.
On examination Lily was described as a strong muscular well-developed girl, she was silly, giggly and acting erotically. On Lily’s medical certificate to certify insanity Lily’s father stated that her behaviour was out of control for the last 3 months.
On 28th December 1912, Lily was taken to West Sussex Asylum by her mother. She was 20 years old, and was checked in with insanity caused by predisposed adolescence. Diagnosed with Mania and logged as a danger to others.
West Sussex Asylum File
“From Mother, who accompanied her. 1st attack. She was very sharp at school and stayed on another year at a Higher Grade School in London till she was 15 – Since 16 when menstruation started she has periodically been troublesome and excitable and never able to apply herself to work or hold a situation for any length of time. For the last year she has been at home and for the last six months has been very difficult to manage – Quick tempered – impulsive lunatic – Father is a pensioner from Metropolitan Police – been in the country the last six months – she is the youngest child of 4 – her 3 brothers are quite healthy and normal mentally. No family history of insanity. ?Periods are regular.
On Admission to E Ward. Height 5ft 6½ Weight 10st 10lb.
Strong, muscular, well developed. Dark brown hair, dark brown eyes – pupils activity regular. Tastes food. Palate rather broad. Head good shape. Temp normal. Pulse 76. Heart, Lungs, Abdomen nothing abnormal. Reflex brisk – small bruise front of left leg. Urine nothing abnormal.
She is silly and stupid and will not answer questions but laughs and giggles when addressed and buried her head under the clothes and acts erotically when being examined.
- Dec 29 – Slept well and had taken her prd (prescribed) and medicine.
- Dec 31 – She is pish as on admission – giggling and acting in a silly emotional? manner.
- Statement. 2 Jan 13 – Mania. She is noisy and excited, laughs and giggles when addressed and cannot converse sensibly. fair health.
- Jan 9. There is nothing fresh to record.
- Jan 16. Continues excited and troublesome, untidy and inclined to bolt her food – Mimics the others. Keeps fairly well.
- Jan 24. There is nothing fresh to record about her.
- Feb 24. Noisy, destructive, steals food – spiteful, bad habits.
- March 24. Shows no improvement, does no work, practices self abuse and is troublesome case.
- April 24. She was this day transferred to the London County Asylum, Horton and discharged as :- “Not Improved”.
Lily remained at the West Sussex Asylum for four months, during which time her behaviour remained difficult and she was transferred to Horton Asylum on 24th April 1913 ‘Not Improved’.
The online lunacy admission records only go to 1912, however it is confirmed Lily was transferred to Horton Asylum from West Sussex, with her death occurring the following year. Lily had remained single and she died whilst at Horton Asylum on 16th July 1914; the cause of death was lobar pneumonia (11 days). She was buried in the Horton Estate Cemetery on 26 July 1914 in grave #1209b.
A newspaper article in The West Sussex County Times on 31st January 1936 records the death of Lily’s father Benjamin Spackman. It mentions Lily’s brother Edward who had recently gone to live with his elderly parents. Lily’s mother was to die just six weeks after her father.
In many ways Lily appears to have had an unremarkable early life. The family had the security of a regular wage, there were only four children and as each of them reached maturity, they gained employment. We know Lily was 19 when the family relocated to a new life in Sussex. Lily’s father had served his full time in the Metropolitan Police, it was usual to retire after 25 years and his pension enabled him to turn his hand to farming. Maybe there were health benefits to the move both for Benjamin and perhaps also for Lily, who was by then having some difficulties. Although it was recorded that she was working (1911 census), Lily was unable to apply herself to anything for long periods. At the time the family moved to Sussex Benjamin was only 48 years old and he was to spend a further 25 years working on his farm.
Life in Sussex did not improve Lily’s condition. When Lily was certified it must have been difficult for Benjamin to state Lily was out of control. She was his only daughter, his youngest child, who as a youngster had shown great promise.
Lily had remained single and she died at just 22 years of age. She is buried in the Horton Estate Cemetery Epsom.
Further records can be seen about the families move to Cottage Farm, Colgate, Horsham in the obituary of Benjamin Spackman in The West Sussex County Times January 31st 1936.