According to the UK General Register Office, William Venn was aged 59 when he died in 1902. This would give him his year of birth as around 1843.
The 1901 census recorded that William was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire. The birth of a William Henry Venn, the son of William Henry and Sarah (nee Heale) Venn, who lived in Nelson Place in the parish of Redcliffe, Bristol, was registered on 5 July 1843.
When he was baptised on 29 August 1847, his father was recorded as working as a Brass Founder. Unfortunately, William does not appear in the earlier censuses with his family, so it is uncertain if this was definitely ‘our’ William.
The workhouse records found online record that William was a widower but who his late wife was is unknown so it has been frustrating not to find a marriage entry giving their father’s names. It is also unknown if William really did have a son named Abraham.
Admission to Tower Hamlets Workhouse
On Sunday 27 September 1896, William was admitted at 11.25 am into the Tower Hamlets Workhouse. He gave his age as 53, and stated that he was a widower and that his religion was Church of England. He had been sheltering at an address that was just recorded as “SASWC Road”. At this time, he had been working as a Hawker but was suffering from “fits” that would later be diagnosed as epilepsy.
William was discharged on 10 October 1896 only to be admitted eight days later on 18 October into St Georges Workhouse in Mint Street, this being the district that he said he was now living in and working as a gardener. He was discharged on 20 October 1896.
The following year, on 7 May 1897, William was again admitted to the St Georges Workhouse. On 26 May 1897 he was discharged by his own request but less than a month later, on 20 June 1897, he was once again admitted to the same workhouse, and discharged eight days later on 28 June 1897.
William was admitted on 4 December 1897 into the St Luke’s Workhouse in Britten Street, Chelsea, where it was noted that he was born in 1844, that he was still working as a gardener, and again that his religion was Church of England.
It was also noted that his nearest relative was his son, Abraham Venn, who was serving on HMS Agincourt.
Transfer to Whitechapel Infirmary
On 23 December, having now been diagnosed with epilepsy, William was transferred to the Whitechapel Infirmary. Further information recorded stated that he was aged 53, and a widower living at 30 Dorset Street. [George Duckworth, investigating London poverty on behalf of Charles Booth in 1898, described Dorset Street as “the worst street I have seen so far, thieves, prostitutes, bullies, all common lodging houses”].
When William was discharged on 28 December 1897, his discharge entry recorded that he had been settled in the Stepney area for 4 years = 1893. His nearest relative again was recorded as his son, “A Venn”, but that he was of the ‘74 H L Infty’ [74th Highlander Light Infantry] and not serving on HMS Agincourt.
Many Workhouse Visits
On 1 July 1900, William was transferred again from the workhouse into the Whitechapel Infirmary. The same information was recorded – that he was a widower, a gardener, and had epilepsy. His address this time was given as 20 W [White] Chapel Road, and that his settlement in Stepney had been for the last 5 years = 1895. He was duly discharged on 10 July 1900.
Later that year, on 20 November, William was admitted to the Princes Road Workhouse in Stepney. Again, records repeat that William was a widower, a gardener, and suffered from epilepsy. At his own request records show that William discharged himself on 26 November 1901 but on 29 November he was moved to the Stepney Workhouse, being later discharged on 10 December 1900.
Workhouse records show that William was discharged to the Renfew Road Workhouse on 28 March 1901. The 1901 census, that was taken on 1 April, recorded William as a pauper inmate of the Lambeth Workhouse. His place of birth was recorded as Bristol, Gloucestershire, and domestic gardening as his occupation. On 27 April he was moved to the Newington Workhouse that was used as an infirmary.
Homeless, and presumably suffering from another epileptic seizure, William was again admitted to the workhouse on 8 May 1901; he was later discharged on 29 May 1901.
William was admitted into the Lambeth Infirmary on Thursday 20 November 1901. The admission book states that he was aged 58, and that his previous address had been Rock Chambers, Walworth Road. His next-of-kin was again recorded as his son Abraham who was serving on HMS Agincourt.
On 5 January 1902 William was once again in need of care and shelter and went to the St George Workhouse where on the following day he was moved to the Newington Workhouse.
On the 7 March 1902, he was again admitted into St George’s Workhouse in Mint Street, Southwark and moved to Newington. Just under a month later, having been discharged, he was again admitted on 5 April and on 9 April, he was discharged from there into the care of the newly opened Horton Asylum in Epsom, Surrey.
William was only there for three months before dying on 13 July and being buried in grave 29 in the Horton Estate Cemetery on 18 July 1902.
Author’s notes: “Did William actually have a son named Abraham?”
Bearing in mind that two different services had been stated within one month for William’s son Abraham – the naval ship HMS Agincourt and the 74th Highlander Light Infantry, “Did William actually have a son named Abraham?” became my main line of research in a bid to find earlier records of William’s life.
- The only UK GRO birth for an Abraham Venn was in 1857 in Southampton, which would mean that ‘our’ William would have only been 14 when Abraham was born. This Abraham’s birth entry records that his mother’s maiden name was Miller. A baptism for Abraham, son of William and Ann Venn, was celebrated on 19 April 1857 in St Michael’s Church, Southampton. This baptism entry almost matched up with a family in the 1861 census, except Abraham was recorded there as ‘Alfred’, but place of birth St Michaels, Southampton, was correct. Disappointingly his father William’s year of birth was given as 1827 [so not ‘our’ William] and his mother Ann’s as 1832.
- Also listed were William (junior) aged 6 (born Borough, London c1855) and Philip aged 2 (born c1859). Searching for Abraham’s two brother’s GRO birth entries, with their mother’s maiden name Miller, brought up nothing for William junior, born 1855, but one was found for Philip, born 1859. Ann had been born in Poplar, but no marriage was found between a William Venn and Ann Miller. Maybe this William was born before his mother’s marriage?
- While searching the available online records, I also came across an admission and discharge from St Pancreas Workhouse of the Venn family in 1862. Recorded as homeless, 36-year-old labourer William (born c1826), and his children William aged 7 (born c1855), Abraham, aged 5 (born c1857), and Philip aged 13 months old (born c1861), were all discharged at William senior’s request on 5 September 1862.
- Abraham, born he said on 4 April 1856 in Southampton, did enlist on 1 January 1873 and his first ship that he served on was HMS Agincourt.