It has been impossible to determine the correct birth details for George as there are several George Trigg(s) born around the same time (approx. 1864 to 1866) and none of them fits exactly with what we know about our George. Furthermore, nothing can be found for him on the censuses taken in 1871 or 1881.
However, what is certain is that he married Anne Child on 24th September 1889 at age 25 in Newington, Surrey. The record of this marriage does not name a father for George so perhaps he was illegitimate or a foundling so there was no accurate record of his birth. This is the first information we have about George that can be verified.
The 1891 Census – George and his family
In the 1891 census (taken 5th April 1891), George Triggs age 26, is living with his family in Luscombe Street, Lambeth and working as a railway porter. Luscombe Street no longer exists but it was very near Vauxhall Railway Station. George and Annie have 2 daughters by then: Annie who was 4 and born before her parents married ~1886/7, and Alice who was only 6 months old.
The only record I can be absolutely sure relates to George’s child shows that Alice was born on 3rd October 1890 and christened on 23rd October 1890 in St Barnabas Church Lambeth. This would match a GRO reference found for Alice TRIGG[s] born in Q4-1890.
I have found a birth for a son, George, born in the workhouse in August 1894 that I am fairly certain is George’s son. He died in 1895 which does fit with one of the hospital records. I think their older daughter Annie must also have died as a child, but I have not been able to confirm this.
There is definitely some confusion about how many children George and Annie had that I have not been able to completely resolve. The 1911 census mentions 4 children only 2 of whom survived but I cannot find 4 births. The hospital notes recently located mention 3 children with 2 dying, leaving just one alive. (One died from fits and another in the infirmary). In another place the records mention 2 children, only one of whom was still living.
Admissions to Workhouses and Asylums
Life certainly got very hard for the family. George was in and out of the Newington Workhouse during 1894, eventually ending up in Cane Hill Asylum.
The dates found are:
- Admitted Discharged
- Admitted: 7th March 1894 – Discharged: 17th March 1894
- Admitted: 29th March 1894 – Discharged: 5th April 1894
- Admitted: 2nd May 1894
- Admitted: 26th May 1894 – Discharged: 5th July 1894
- Admitted: 13th July 1894
- Admitted: 4th September 1894 – Discharged: 8th November 1894
- Admitted: 20th December 1894 – Discharged: 29th December 1894 (to Cane Hill)
His wife, Annie, and the children were also in and out of workhouses at the same time:
- Admitted: Annie 25th July 1894
- Admitted: Alice (aged 3) – Discharged: 1st August 1894
- Admitted: George (son) 16th August 1894 (born)
- Admitted: Annie & George (son) – Discharged: 30th August 1894
- Admitted: Alice (aged 4) 22nd December 1894 – Discharged: 4th January 1895
- Admitted: Annie & Alice (age 5) 4th March 1896 – Discharged: 11th March 1896
- Admitted: Alice (aged 5) 18th March 1896
- Admitted: Annie & Alice (aged 7) 9th September 1897 – Discharged: 10th September 1897
This was clearly an extremely difficult time for the whole family and Annie obviously struggled to manage with 2 young children and no husband around.
George’s mental health problems
On 29th December 1894 the hospital records show George was admitted to Cane Hill Asylum from the Newington Workhouse. At the time Cane Hill was officially called the Surrey Pauper Lunatic Asylum.
George spent over 5 years in the Cane Hill Asylum being discharged “Not Improved” on 19th February 1900 at which point he transferred to the Horton Hospital in Epsom.
The 1901 census, taken on 31st March 1901, shows George was 36, Annie (his wife) was 34 and there is only one daughter shown, Alice, who was then 10, at Barset Road, Camberwell. In Column 17 of the Census form George is described as “Imbecile, feeble minded”, but he was likely just epileptic. It seems odd that he is on the census form as he was a patient at Horton Hospital then and the records do not suggest he had been sent or allowed home. Perhaps there was an error by the Census recorder in that he didn’t check that George was actually with his family that day. Or perhaps George was just home for a visit. We may never know.
The only information found about the older child, Annie, who was 14 in 1901, and on the assumption that she was probably working away from home, is an entry for an Annie Triggs on the 1901 census working as a farm servant in Bubnell Derbyshire. If this is the right Annie Triggs it would make sense for her to be working and living away from home. Her mother was coping alone, and George was an inmate in an asylum. She is the right age and has the right place of birth, so it is probable this is our George’s daughter.
The Epileptic Colony records give a brief insight into his early life and son.
Was a shop boy, there was engine chance on the S.E.R. but his fits prevented him from rising: was engaged in this work altogether for 9 years. Subsequently he did odd jobs in London. Was married at the age of 26 having 2 children by the marriage. One a boy, suffered from epilepsy and is dead.6292-27-1 Colony Male Case Book, Case 157, Jan 20, 1904
George is shown on the Lunacy Register as ‘discharged – Rel’d’ from Horton Hospital on 3rd March 1902, transferred to the LCC Epileptic Colony on the same day.
George was again transferred from the Horton Hospital on 24th October 1903 to the LCC Epileptic Colony.
Recently unearthed hospital records from the Manor and Epileptic Colony, showed that George suffered from what was then called Epileptic Insanity, the chief features of which were his fits and associated dementia. He is variously described as weak-minded, simple, indolent and quarrelsome, lazy and work shy, and having a poor memory. George claimed at one point to have had fits since his childhood but that is not confirmed by the hospital notes. The notes do mention an accident in which George had a blow from a carriage buffer on the railway some 10 or 11 years before his admission to the hospital and also that a few days afterwards he was knocked down by a tramcar. There is also mention of alcoholism (he was a heavy beer drinker) and the death of a child having upset him. All this was believed at the time to have led to his illness.
Physically, the hospital notes describe George as having a large head with heavy features and a weather-beaten complexion. His hair is brown to grey with blue eyes.
According to the hospital records, George had epileptic seizures fairly often, many of which were quite severe. They seem to have left him aggressive and argumentative when the seizures ended.
By September 1908, all medication he had been given to help with his condition was stopped, presumably it was thought it did not help him much.
George’s death in the Colony
George died at 6.15pm on 5th May 1913 at the Epileptic Colony and was buried in Horton Cemetery. The causes of death were a “Cerebral Tumour”, Bronchopneumonia and Myocardial degeneration.
Family in later years
In 1910 the George and Annie’s younger daughter, Alice, appears to have married a George J Reynolds in Camberwell and at the time of the 1911 Census Annie was living with her daughter and son-in-law in Camberwell.
The following is based on assumptions made from the records located so may not be completely accurate:
- Alice appears to have given birth to twins, Ivy Alice and Henry James George, in the 3rd quarter of 1911. The girl died in 1917 aged just 6. As far as I can see Henry survived but I have not found any more information about him. Similarly, I cannot find anything further about Alice’s husband George, or her sister Annie Triggs.
- Annie, George’s wife, appears to have remarried in 1914 and her new husband was Robert Raxworthy. She seems to have died in 1938 but again, I have not been able to confirm this for certain.
I gave some thought as to why no birth record for George could be found. I think he is likely to have either been a foundling or was informally adopted by someone and given a new name. No father is mentioned on his marriage record which could support this.
I also wondered why no record of the birth of Annie (jnr) could be found. Did she have a different father and took her birth father’s name until changing to Triggs after her mother married George. It seems likely she died as a child as there is no mention of her after the 1891 census.
George’s problems with mental health and/or epilepsy seem to have started, or at least got worse, when he was in his 20s or early 30s and from then he spent almost all of his years in the workhouse or asylums. Did the earlier accident at work involve a head injury that resulted in his epilepsy or did he have a brain tumour all along?
Even so, with George in asylums for many years it must have been difficult not only for him but also for his wife and daughter. My heart goes out to little Alice, who seems to have spent much of her infant life, from the age of 3, in the workhouse. Poor little mite must have had a really hard life and very little comfort. In fact, all the family had a difficult time with George in an asylum for so many years.