b.1887 – d.1913
Parents and Birth – 1850s to 1880s
Her parents were William Charles Stebbings and Emily Taylor who married on 29th March 1880 in St. Marks Church Southwark. They were living in St. Georges Road, SE1 at the time of their marriage.
Mahala’s father was born in Suffolk in 1856. In the 1871 Census he is 14 years old and working as a ‘Page’ to the family of a GP in Islington so has moved to London. By the time he marries he is described as a Provisions Merchant.
Mahala seems to have had just one older brother born in 1881.
Mahala’s birth was registered the September Q in Fulham in 1887. She was baptised on 4th September 1887 in the Church of St James, Norland, by which time the family was living in Norland Road Kensington. Her father is then described as a cheese monger.
Sadly, Mahala’s father also died young, aged just 35, on 22nd February 1891. He was in the London County Asylum at the time and his death certificate states he died of ‘General Paralysis’ which usually means untreated syphilis. It has not been possible to find out what happened to Emily, Mahala’s mother. She does not appear to be included on the 1891 or subsequent censuses at all. I cannot find William Norman or Mahala on the 1891 census.
By the date of the 1901 census Mahala is living with her Aunt and Uncle (Henry & Alice Dobbs) in Ladbroke Grove. The census record does not mention any mental impairment at that time.
Mahala’s brother William Norman Stebbings, died in July 1909 aged only 28. His death certificate shows the cause of death as ‘Acute tuberculosis syncope’. Tuberculosis was very common then and was almost inevitably fatal. He was a porter on the Great Western Railway at the time of his death. William Norman seems never to have married. His death was registered by his Aunt, Alice Dobbs.
However, by the date of the 1911 census, Mahala is a resident in the Kensington Workhouse and is described as a servant and feebleminded on the census form.
Mahala was admitted to Horton Hospital on 19th June 1912 where she remained until her death, aged just 25 on 17th February 1913. She was buried in Horton Cemetery on 24th February in grave #375b.
What sad lives this family seems to have had. Mahala’s father died of syphilis in an asylum in Banstead in 1891 as a relatively young man and her brother died of tuberculosis in 1909 aged just 28. It sounds as though this was quite a poverty stricken family which could have led to their various health issues.
I wonder whether the father’s syphilis played any part in Mahala’s mental problems. Did Mahala’s mother also have syphilis that could have been passed on to her as an unborn child? We will never know.
It hasn’t been possible to find out anything much about Mahala’s mother after 1891. She was the informant of her husband’s death that year but can’t be found on any censuses after 1881. Therefore to all intents and purposes it looks like Mahala was an orphan from a young age; at least by 1901 when she was only 13. She is likely to already have had some perceived mental disability, perhaps caused by inherited or contracted syphilis. With no immediate family to care for her, Mahala lived with her mother’s sister and family. No doubt life was very difficult for everyone. Perhaps it was all too much for her aunt and uncle in the end with the result that Mahala went to the workhouse and then on to an asylum, dying just months later.