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STAFFORD, Henry Alfred

b.1864 – d.1918

Henry Alfred Stafford was born in Holborn in the third quarter of 1864 to George Richard Stafford, aged 28, and his wife Emma (née Nichols), aged 27. George, a bootmaker, was the son of George Stafford, a pianoforte maker, and his wife Jane (née Clee). Emma was the daughter of Samuel Nichols, a housepainter, and his wife, Sarah.

Both George and Emma were born in St Pancras and on the 6th of July 1862 they were married at All Saints Church, Gordon Square in the parish of St Pancras. At the time of their wedding the couple were living at 17, Grafton Street East, St Pancras. Their first child, George, was born in the second quarter of 1863.

According to the 1871 census the family was living at 40, Pratt Street in St Pancras. By now George and Emma had five sons, George, Henry, Arthur (born in 1866), Frank (1867) and Walter (1871). In 1868 Emma had given birth to a daughter, also called Emma, who sadly died the following year.

In the 1881 census we find the family living at 12, Piercefield Street in St Pancras. Emma has given birth to four more children, Augustus, born in 1873, Adelaide (1874), Minnie Jane (1876) and Beatrice (1880). Sadly, Augustus died in 1876 aged just three and Beatrice died in 1881, shortly before her second birthday.

Henry, now aged 16, is described as a pianoforte maker, just as his grandfather, George, had been. Piano manufacture was the district’s staple industry at the time, having been drawn north from Fitzrovia because of its proximity to the Regent’s Canal. Bulky goods like pianos could be transported cheaply on the canal either to the west, and so to the complete canal system which covered the Midlands, or east to the docks and from there all over the world. In the London Directory of 1853 the names of more than 200 pianoforte manufacturers are entered. It was often said that every street in north London contained a piano works and in many parts of Camden and St Pancras this was literally true.

In 1888, Henry’s younger brother, Walter, died, aged just 18 and the following year his father, George, died, aged 52.

In the 1891 census, Henry’s brother, George, is now married and is living with his wife, Alice, and their children, Alice and Henry, at 1, Herbert Street, St Pancras. George, having previously worked in a grocery, is now working as a pianoforte maker. Emma, now a widow, is still living with her remaining children at 12, Piercefield Street. Both Henry and his younger brother, Arthur, are working as pianoforte makers. In the 1881 census Arthur had been listed as ‘office boy’.

We know that Henry was still living in Piercefield Street in 1897 as, according to the electoral register for that year, he was renting ‘one back room, ground floor, furnished’ from his mother for 12 shillings a week, which included ‘partial board’. It must be assumed that Henry was still working as a pianoforte maker at this time.

However, the next we learn of Henry is that, on the 24th of April 1899, at the age of 34, he was admitted to the London County Lunatic Asylum in Bexley (Dartford) in Kent. We do not know the reason for his admission [at this time] but Henry would remain a patient there until the 18th of June 1907 when, then aged 43, he was admitted to Long Grove.

Admitted 18 June 1907 – Discharged 16 Nov 1918 (Died)

He died there on the 16th of November 1918 , aged 54, having spent the last nineteen years of his life in asylums. Of his nine siblings we know for sure that only George, Adelaide and Minnie outlived him. Frank’s whereabouts after the 1881 census are uncertain.

According to the Probate Death Index of 1919, when Henry died his effects, which were left to his mother, Emma, amounted to £118-16-5d, equivalent to more than £6,000 today. We do not know if Henry inherited this money or saved it during the 18 years he worked as a piano maker but it does raise the question why, if he had so much money, was he given a pauper’s funeral with no grave marker?

Emma continued to live in St Pancras until her death in 1930.


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