What was the True Identity of ‘Black Bart’?

The Outlaw

Black Bart was an infamous US outlaw who committed some 28 holdups of Wells Fargo stagecoaches, in California, between 1875 and 1883. He was known for his politeness, for taking only the contents of the strongbox and the mail – he never stole from the passengers – for never firing a shot or harming anyone and after the 4th and 5th robbery, for leaving a poem at the scene.

His modus operandi was to halt the stage on foot by brandishing a shotgun, he wore a long linen duster coat, a bowler hat and a flour sack with eyeholes as a disguise. He would pretend that he was part of a gang and indeed the driver would see 4 or 5 shotguns aimed at him from bushes. After requesting that the driver “Please throw down the box” he would use a hatchet to break into the box, take the gold and mail and escape on foot – it is said he was afraid of horses – whereupon the driver would eventually realise that the other shotguns were merely strategically placed sticks.

It is estimated that Bart netted some $18,000 during his career, but his luck finally ran out on the 3rd November 1883. At the scene of his first robbery, on Funk Hill in Calaveras County, Bart held up his last stage. The driver had given a ride to a hunter and dropped him off shortly before the holdup. As Bart was breaking into the strongbox, the driver saw the man and beckoned him over whereupon he opened fire. Bart made his escape, but was hit on the hand.  The alarm was raised and a posse set out in pursuit. Bart was on foot, exhausted and bleeding, he jettisoned his belongings and much of his haul. He did escape, but found among his belongings was handkerchief which bore the laundry mark ‘FXO7’.

A Wells Fargo detective, James B Hume, had been trailing Bart since his early robberies. He set about tracing the laundry mark and eventually tracked it an outlet in a tobacco shop in San Francisco. The proprietor recognised the clothes as belonging to his friend, C E Bolton, a mining man who was frequently away, at times it was later found that coincided with the robberies. Hume had his man. The photograph, which was taken at the time of his arrest, portrays an elegantly dressed man, carrying a cane, wearing a diamond ring and pin, with piercing blue eyes and a thick moustache.

Black Bart - Norfolk, England

At first, he denied the crimes, but eventually confessed. He insisted his name was C E Bolton, however, a bible in his room, bore the inscription:

‘This precious Bible is presented to Charles E. Boles, First Sergeant Company B, 116th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, by his wife as a New Year’s gift, God gives us hearts to which His — faith to believe. Decatur, Illinois, 1865.’

It was signed by Mary Boles.

Charles E Boles aka C E Bolton aka Black Bart was charged with the final robbery only, he pled guilty and was sentenced to 6 years in San Quinton Prison. He always denied being Black Bart or Charles E Boles, but during his incarceration he did send and receive letters from his wife Mary Boles and other family members, so there can be no doubt about his true identity. On 21st January 1888, he was released for good behaviour after serving 4 years 2 months. He was met by reporters to whom he declared that he was through with crime. He did not return to his family, but did write again to his wife from San Francisco, saying that he was demoralized by being kept under constant surveillance by Wells Fargo and needed to get away. In February 1888, he left his boarding house and did not return. Hume tracked him to The Palace Hotel in Vasalia. The owner confirmed that a man answering his description had checked into the hotel on 28th February 1888 and then vanished, leaving a bag of belongings, including clothes bearing the laundry mark ‘FX07’. He was never seen or heard of again.

On 14th November 1888, a stagecoach was robbed by a masked man who left a poem. Upon comparing the handwriting, Hume declared this the act of a copycat.

 

 Early Life

Charles E Boles was born in 1829, in Norfolk, England. He was the 7th of 9 children born to John and Maria Bowles. The family left England, in 1830, and settled near Alexandria, Jefferson County, New York where John bought a farm.

In 1849, Charles, or Charley as he was known, and his cousin David went west to join the California gold rush, prospecting in the north fork of the American River, near Sacramento. They did not do well and returned home briefly in 1852, before returning again, this time with Charley’s brother, Robert. Both David and Robert died shortly after they arrived, but Charley remained for a further 2 years before he gave up and came home where he married Mary Elizabeth Johnson.

By 1860, Charley and Mary were living in Decatur, Illinois with their 4 children. In 1863, Charley enlisted in 116th Illinois Regiment and fought bravely in the Civil War and was made 1st Sergeant within a year. He fought in a number of important battles and was badly wounded in the abdomen at a battle at Vicksburg and was lucky to survive. He was mustered out in 1865 and returned home.

However, he couldn’t settle to farming and in 1867, he went prospecting again, in Idaho and then Montana, where he bought a small mine. Men connected to the Wells Fargo Company pressured him to sell his mine and when he refused, they cut off his water supply, forcing him to abandon it. He wrote a letter to his wife complaining about the incident and declared that he would ‘take steps’. In August 1871, Mary received a letter from Charley indicating that he had made money and was returning home, but when she heard no more from him, she assumed he had died. When Charley’s father died a year later, he left a bequest to his daughter-in-law Mary, the wife of his deceased son Charles. It was not until his arrest in 1883 that the family discovered he was still alive and had been living the life of an outlaw for the last 8 years.

Joanne has carried out some research into finding the ‘true’ identity of Black Bart, and this will be uncovered in the next blog post.

Compiled by Professional Genealogist, Joanne Penn using sources from www.blackbart.com; www.sptddog.com; Wikipedia

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Post-war Demining Operations in the Norfolk Wash and Police Invasion Procedures from the Second World War

A closer look at Norfolk Record Office document, C/PO 1/60.

This intriguing document contains primarily Copy Number 500 of the 1942 revised version of procedures that the British Police should take in the event of an invasion by Nazi Germany (the document appears to account for a naval invasion as opposed to a Para drop).

The front of the document mostly revolves around telegrams between a Chief Constable S. Van Neck (based in Norwich), and a West Norfolk police officer, Superintendent Woodeson MVO, Sandringham Division. Detailed within are the copies, recopies and original texts distributed to officers from five different police districts in relation to the demining of the North Norfolk coast, ranging from sea mines in Hunstanton to pipe mines in Holme.

Also contained are several maps related to the demining, as well as a decommissioned AFV (tanks etc) firing range located at what is now the RSPB reserve at Titchwell Marsh. It’s hard to appreciate the slog of reports and telegrams that each police house and district would have had to trawl through following the end of the War – until you read such a wall of text as this.

Secondly, there is a large file in the middle of the folder labelled “Police Invasion Instructions” – dated May 1942. While some of the background information as to the reasoning behind the document (telegrams etc) are not included, the file does reveal that the police would, in the event of an invasion of Britain by Germany, be vital to the defence effort.

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Plan of A.F.V. [artillery firing] range at Titchwell showing arcs of fire control. Norfolk Record Office, C/PO 1/60

Details of curfews, movement restrictions, and for prison wardens an especially stark message – “If governors receive instructions to discharge certain categories for either of these reasons, members of the Services who are within the category of prisoner ordered to be discharged will be handed over to an escort to be supplied by a local Army unit, together with a nominal roll”. It can be assumed by reading this that the government intended for quite literally all able bodied men with a prior service record to be inducted into the military..

The document overall gives a “between the lines” viewpoint of what the defence of this country would have looked like, calling for total mobilisation of all adults. Eighty years later, it makes for both unnerving and fascinating reading.

Written by JP July 2018

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Gruesome goings-on in Old Hunstanton

There is a slim uncatalogued file in the King’s Lynn Archive which contains some 14 documents, dated to the 24th year of King George III’s reign labelled, “Customs Murder Suit”. George III reigned from 1760 to 1820. These documents include a small scrap of paper which is basically a list of expenses to claim, “expenses incurred in conveying Kemball and Gunton to Norwich Castle”, receipts, lists of guards, one interesting one referring to the Wells party and the men who were “all very near Green when shot”, who “took Gunton on the beach”, and “took Kimball lying under the wall”, a list of vital questions to be asked, an account of the fray, the examination of Sergeant Leishman and his identification of Gunton, the statement by Mr Rounds of Snettisham who carried out the post mortem and the indictment document.

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Post Mortem. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

Fascinating stuff, but what was it all about? The website for The Lodge, Hunstanton, refers to the story, and there is much to be found online about Norfolk smugglers. The fray in question took place on the night of 26-27th September 1784, when, according to The Norfolk Chronicle, a group of smugglers came across two groups of revenue officers and light dragoons, one from Wells, one from Lynn, who had taken possession of contraband from Dunkirk and were lying in wait for the smugglers to try and get it back.

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List of Members of the Wells Party and Lynn Party. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Cusoms Murder Suit

 

The captain of the smugglers, and the lugger Vipel, was one Thomas Kimbell (or Kemball) of Thornham, and two of his seamen, Andrew Gunton and Thomas Williams, are also named.

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Document of Identity. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

The soldiers involved were from General Eliott’s Light Horse Dragoons. George Augustus Eliott, PC, KB, 1st Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar, had seen service in the Seven Years’ War, the Great Siege of Gibraltar, where he was Commander in Chief, and the American War of Independence. He first raised the 15th King’s Hussars in 1759; the regiment was merged with the 19th Royal Hussars into the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars, but was named after their general. Interestingly, the regiment was involved in 1819 in the Peterloo Massacre, when it was led by Lt Colonel Guy L’Estrange, another family name with local connections. During the fray, a revenue man, William Green, and a dragoon, William Webb, were shot dead.

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Account of the murders (1). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

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Account of the murders (2). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

Among the documents in the file, there is one which includes a directive to select one of the gang to be persuaded to turn king’s evidence, and a request for the baptism certificates of Green’s children, to arrange financial relief for his family.

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Evidence and benefits (1). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

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Evidence and benefits (2). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

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Evidence and benefits (3). King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

The three smugglers named above were taken to Norwich Castle and tried for murder at the Thetford Assizes in March 1785.

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Conveyance to Norwich Castle. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

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Expenses List. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

They were acquitted, and a retrial was ordered, where they were once again acquitted. The prosecution came to the conclusion that no Norfolk jury was ever going to convict smugglers!

 

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List of Trial Questions. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

The gravestones of Webb and Green can be seen in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Old Hunstanton. The epitaphs read: “Here lie the mangled remains of poor William Green, an Honest Officer of Government, who in the faithful discharge of his duty was inhumanly murdered by a gang of smugglers in this parish September 27, 1784, aged 37 years.

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Gravestone of William Green. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

And: “William Webb, late of the 15th Light Dragoons, who was shot from his horse by a party of smugglers on 25 September 1784 aged 26 years. I am not dead but sleepeth here And when the Trumpet Sound I will appear. Four balls thro’ me pearced there was. Hard it was I’d no time to pray. This stone that here you Do see My Comrades Erected for the sake of me.”

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Gravestone of William Webb. King’s Lynn Borough Archives, Uncat Customs Murder Suit

 

There are some obvious mistakes in grammar and spelling, and, it seems, a doubt about the date. Spooky, but that date just happens to be my birthday!

Compiled by NRO Research Blogger, Pete Widdows

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A Seaside Holiday in Sketches

Inspired by Norfolk Record Office document MC 2784/G/16.

In 1884, Juliet Mary Seebohm – later wife of Sir Rickman John Godlee, one of the first surgeons to remove a brain tumour – holidayed in Cromer with her family and the Weber family. Her sketches show a charming insight into what the families got up to during their stay.

Fourteen cartoon-strip-esque panels show various events from a day at the beach. The

subjects vary from waiting impatiently for an empty bathing machine on the beach, to capsizing a boat in the sea, to playing cricket in the evening. Rhyming verses on the back give us an idea of how Juliet Mary Seebohm saw and interpreted the events. My favourite is the verse on the back of the drawing titled ‘Desertion’:

‘One day the sea is raging wilde

But gentle mayds are brave

One false mayd leapes – the other sinks

Head-first into the wave.’

Eight more, smaller sketches are stuck to a page which looks as if it has been

MC 2784

Preparatory Sketches NRO, MC 2784/G/16

ripped out of an exercise book. The artistic talent ranges from an intricately drawn child wearing a striped jumper and holding a cricket ball, to a sketch of a lady labelled ‘Hilda’ who isn’t really much more than a glorified stick figure.

M. Seebohm herself doesn’t feature in any of the sketches, showing that she was probably more of an onlooker than a swimmer. But her drawings give us the chance to see her

holiday for ourselves, and to see that, despite the 120 year difference, beach holidays haven’t really changed all that much. The verse on the back of ‘Paradise’ still hold the essence of the joy a beach holiday today can bring:

 

‘These laydes are in Paradise

All bright, with gladfull glee

Disporting them for houres in

The greene and sunnie sea.’

Written by Eleanor Johnson July 2018

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Schools Programme 2018-19

We are really pleased to announce that our schools programme for the next academic year is out now. Containing a number of new workshops, alongside some of our more popular ones, we have something for offer from Key Stage 2-5. The programme for both Primary and Secondary schools can be downloaded below:

schools programme – 2018-19

Thanks to those who have already booked for next year, many of whom are repeating a workshop they had this year. If you haven’t booked with us before, and are interested in a workshop, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we can talk through the workshop with you.

We look forward to hearing from you, and hope you enjoy your summer break.

 

 

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The rise and fall of Woolworths: A case study of the Norwich Store

In 2009, during the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, Woolworths finally closed all of its stores, resulting in thousands of job losses. The company had been operating shops in the UK for over a century. In the aftermath Woolworths products, particularly its legendary pick ‘n’ mix brand were made available online until the UK brand closed its doors once and for all in 2015.

Woolworths first opened its UK doors in 1909, and some may consider the store a product of its time. After all, the concept of a store with almost anything available is regarded as a largely 20th century idea. In addition, some may consider the company, which followed the formula of the increasingly developing and vibrant USA, as out of place in a rigid Edwardian society that was stuck in past. In a society where American influence had not yet taken hold, a place like Woolworths was an ‘ugly duckling’ so to speak. While many today think of Woolworths as a British company, it was American in spirit. America’s class system was not as strict as Britain’s and this is what likely made the idea of the company so appealing to working class British civilians. Woolworths with its fixed prices made a variety of goods, which were previously unobtainable for members of the lower classes, affordable.

The 1928 Norwich building plans for the company (NRO, N/EN 12/1/10015 and N/EN 12/1/10071), show the soon beloved Woolworths store on Rampant Horse Street was being developed around this time. One plan in particular (NRO, N/EN 12/1/10015) discusses how a drainage system will be incorporated with the building. A good drainage system was crucial as buildings posing potential health risks to the public were rejected across Norwich. The Rampant Horse street store was approved however and it would become the heart and soul of the street. According to a later building plan, the final design would have four floors in total, including the basement, as well as a lift (NRO, N/EN 12/1/10071). When it was first built, the upper and middle classes of Norwich most likely considered it a ‘poor man’s’ version of John Lewis but to the not so fortunate majority in Norwich, the store would soon go on to become a local hit with customers.

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First Floor Plan for Woolworths. NRO, N/EN 12/1/10015

 

 

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Front Elevation of Woolworths. NRO, N/EN 12/1/10071

 

In the 1940s, Woolworths was one of the unluckiest stores in Norwich. Woolworths was due to reopen in 1939 around Christmas time, following a large extension, but when war was declared with Germany the opening of the store was delayed until September 1940 due to the difficultly of obtaining supplies. It was around this time that a mysterious photograph named ‘girls on the roof’ was taken. This photo displayed mostly female employees from the store, as most of the men would have been conscripted into the army. Due to the lack of men in the nation, it was up to Britain’s women to bear the brunt of the workforce back home, including shop management which would have previously been considered a ‘male occupation’. Little did these women know what was to become of the store in two years’ time. In April 1942 it was blown up by Nazi bombers. Due to Britain’s poor economic situation during and after the war, the store would not be rebuilt until 1950. By that time it had been drastically modernised and employed approximately 300 people.

By the 1960s it had a restaurant, a food hall and even escalators, reminiscent of the numerous large department stores in New York. American influence after the Second World War had dramatically changed post war Britain. In a country and economy which had still not fully recovered from the Second World War and had only recently abandoned its ration system, trendy American styled convenience stores would have been welcomed unlike during the start of the century.

Following three fires in the 1970s Woolworths began to lose its reputation. In 1988, possibly due to the poor national reputation of the business and subsequent financial losses, the Rampant Horse store closed its doors. It was moved to what is now the old Sainsbury’s site at St Stephen’s and then to Riverside where the Norwich chain limped on until it closed for good.

It is obvious that the concept of a store like Woolworths has not aged well with British public, despite its widespread appeal in the second half of the twentieth century. This is perhaps due to the greater and more accessible variety of businesses which specialise in one particular item, rather than many lower quality items. The British public seems to have moved on from the days of convenience and even today, for better or worse, mixed produce stores tend to be looked down upon by society. Norwich is an exception however, and the locals as well as local media, cherish the memories of the store that helped to bring the community together, even in times of war and economic stress. Most significantly, Woollies despite it being regarded as a prominently British business, introduced the ‘American Dream’ to Norfolk and this can still be seen and experienced in places like Castle Mall and Chapelfield. Even today the Norwich store is beloved and though the store itself is long gone, the nostalgic memories of those who walked through its doors will remain.

Sources:

Pete Goodrum, Norwich in the 1960s: Ten Years That Altered a City, Amberley Publishing Ltd, 2013

Derek James, Mystery of Norwich Woolworths picture solved, Eastern Daily Press, 29 March 2011

Courtney Pochin, Take a trip down memory lane with these Woolworths photos, Eastern Daily Press, 03 May 2017

 Compiled by NRO Research Blogger, Rebecca Hanley

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News from the Classroom: May and June 2018

Since our last school blog at the beginning of May, we have packed our suitcases and visited eight different schools, and hosted a group from Broadland High School. It’s been another busy couple of months!

In May, a group from Broadland High School visited us ahead of their school’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

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Students from Broadland High School using a microfilm reader in the Searchroom

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Students from Broadland High School in the Strongroom

The students and their teacher, Mr Laycock, had an ‘Introduction to Archives’ session with Kären from the Education and Outreach team, and got some advice on cataloguing, had a tour of the building, and saw some original documents relating to their local area, including plans for the site of their school. The group also got some advice on document handling and displaying items from our Senior Conservator Nick. Feedback from the students included this salient point “I have learnt that organisation is very important in archives”. We agree!

Over two weeks in June, we visited six schools, delivered our Refugee workshop 15 times to over 400 children, all as part of Refugee Week. We can run this workshop at any time of the year, but it is particularly significant around Refugee Week, and helps to raise awareness of the contribution that refugees have made to our county. One of the activities involves a timeline of 500 years of refugee history.

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Children from Worstead CofE Primary School working on their timeline of refugee history

During the workshop, children discover things that refugees have contributed, not just to Norfolk, but to our every day life. Did you know the canary came over with Dutch refugees? The symbol went on to be used as part of the Norwich City Football Club emblem. The Dutch also gave us the frying pan! Feedback from the children following our workshops included “I have learnt that so many different countries have relied on England as a safe place” and “I found it interesting to put myself in their shoes”.

Aside from refugee history, we have also been delivering workshops on the Second World War, and the work of an archivist. At Catton Grove Primary School, we delivered three workshops in one day to classes of year 3. The workshops include looking at different objects from the time and working out what they were used for, and, in the case of the bandage and warden’s helmet, trying them out!

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Children from Catton Grove Primary School looking at objects from the Second World War

If you are interested in hearing more about the school workshops we offer, or would like to book one for your school, please get in touch. Email us at norfrec@norfolk.gov.uk and mark your email FAO Education and Outreach.

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog and finding out what we have been up to. Enjoy the sunshine!

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The Struggles of Motherhood Recorded in the 19th Century Norfolk Lunatic Asylum

Mental health issues are a feature of modern life and the archive of Norfolk Lunatic Asylum, or St Andrew’s Hospital as it was renamed in the 1920s, shows this is not new. It is interesting to compare the ‘causes of insanity’ in the 19th century with the causes of stress and depression cited nowadays.

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Female wing, c. 1857. NRO, SAH 794

If we examine the case histories of patients admitted to Norfolk Lunatic Asylum in the years 1845-1870, the female admissions were 25% higher than that of males. Looking at the possibility of gendered diagnoses, i.e. conditions that were peculiar to women, 12% of female patients were diagnosed with insanity assigned to female issues. Most of those related to the process of childbearing: accouchement, childbirth, confinement, lactation, miscarriage, parturition, pregnancy, puerperal and suckling child, which accounted for 7% of all female admissions.

The term puerperal insanity describes the condition that developed in women before, during or after the process of childbirth and the multiplicity of symptoms associated with this condition are quoted as being: ‘sleeplessness, rapid pulse, pallor or flushed skin, vivid eyes, furred tongue, constipation and delirium, …. great excitability, expressed through constant chattering, delusions, singing, swearing, tearing clothes and lewd sexual displays.’[i]

Medical superintendents were reporting a growing number of patients with this condition in county lunatic asylums throughout the country and their experience linked the symptoms with ‘moral’ issues such as poverty, physical exhaustion, malnourishment or, as they would now be termed, social problems.

Extending the period of lactation when their physical health was frail could result in insanity among women. According to the case books for Norfolk Lunatic Asylum, two patients were admitted in July 1863 and July 1864 with acute mania, the cause being recorded as superlactation: Elizabeth D had been suckling a child of two years old as well as a baby of seven months old which had ‘much reduced her strength, and to this her mental derangement is attributed’, whilst Mary H had also been suckling her youngest child for almost two years ‘causing her to become excessively weak.’ Both mothers were discharged recovered after only two months and five months respectively. (NRO, SAH 263)

Hannah H was admitted for the first time at the age of 38 in 1866 when it was recorded that she was the mother of ten children. (NRO, SAH 264). By the time of her third admission in 1870 she was the mother of twelve. At the time of her sixth admission in 1874 the case book entry recorded ‘No known exciting cause. Patient has not suffered privation her husband being in employment and well-paid.’ (NRO, SAH 265). Although Hannah H’s husband had been in ‘well-paid employment’ as a railway labourer she must have been severely strained to feed and clothe her family adequately on his wages. The intervals between attacks shortened and the time she spent in the asylum increased although the pattern of her illness was unchanged; on admission she was restless, excited, noisy and destructive but within weeks she became good tempered, rational and quiet.

Hannah H - SAH 265

Hannah H. Case book, St Andrew’s Hospital (NRO, SAH 265)

This was frequently the result for many patients; just a short period of respite within the Asylum, away from the endless struggle of daily life, and their physical and mental health improved immeasurably. Some women’s symptoms mirrored those associated with the malady now termed post-natal depression, but rest and regular meals quickly improved their mental health as well as their abysmally poor physical condition.

In her book The Female Malady, Elaine Showalter suggests it is ‘the suffocation of family life, boredom and patriarchal protectivism’ which ‘gradually destroys women’s capacity to dream, to work, or to act.’[ii]  However, within the casebooks of the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum there is no evidence that women admitted with puerperal insanity had feelings of frustration or confinement stemming from an inability to pursue activities of a more fulfilling nature. Their issues were connected with the pressures of daily living: poverty, ill health, domestic problems, work and/or the lack of it, and the asylum provided just that: asylum, in other words a refuge, from the struggles of daily living.

There are many personal tragedies contained within the records of St Andrew’s Hospital.

 

Compiled by Julie Jakeway, NRO Research Blogger

 

[i]       H. Marland, ‘At home with puerperal mania: the domestic treatment of the insanity of childbirth in the nineteenth century’, in P. Bartlett and D. Wright (eds), Outside the Walls of the Asylum, The History of Care in the Community 1750-2000, (London, 1999), p. 52.

[ii]      Showalter, The Female Malady, (London, 1985)

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