Fanny Amelia’s (family history) Story

Strictly of course it is only part of her story, as there is more to be found but if I wait until it is ‘finished’ I may wait forever. So here is my attempt to preserve the memory of a lady who has no living descendants and for whom we have no photograph (yet). She is someone who could so easily be lost to history. In fact, in the past, family members did a very good job of expunging her from the oral record. As her closest living relative (jointly with my six second cousins), I felt it was up to me to investigate her life and record what I discovered, warts and all.

Fanny Amelia was the third daughter of Philip and Mary Woolgar née Cardell and was born at 6.30pm on 5th February 1848.[1] The time of birth on the certificate should indicate that this was a multiple birth but there are no other registrations for the quarter and district who could be the other sibling.[2] The address is indistinct but appears to be Cockers Haven, Finchley.[3] This almost certainly refers to a small settlement on the southern edge of Finchley Common, near the Red Lion, which was formerly named Cuckold’s Haven.[4] Finchley is now considered to be part of north London but in the mid-nineteenth century, was a small, newly-developing, settlement, distinct from the metropolis.

Fanny Amelia was baptised at St. Michael’s, Highgate on the 5th of March 1848. Her father, Philip, was described as a gardener.[5] Fanny was a surprise when I discovered her existence in the 1980s, as part of my investigations into my family history. Tales of this family were woven into my earliest memories. Why had Fanny not taken her place alongside her siblings on the first family tree I devised at the age of seven? My great-aunt, from whom I gained most of my family stories of this branch, would have been an adult when Fanny died. The families lived in close proximity, surely they would have known each other. There were photographs and recollections of Fanny’s parents, her siblings and their families but nothing of Fanny remained. Although Fanny outlived all her brother and sisters, there was no mention of her. The only acknowledgement that there may have been an additional child was the vague suggestion that Philip and Mary might have had a daughter called Sophie, so even Fanny’s name was lost to the family history. Until that is, I began my adventures in the world of archives and microfilms, of ledgers and registers, long before the advent of the internet.

The whole family appear to have escaped enumeration in the 1851 census but there was Fanny, with her parents, in 1861[7] and 1871.[8] Fanny cannot be found in 1881.[9] It has been established that she is not the Amelia Woolgar who, in 1881, was working as the cook in the Alleyn Park,[10] household of hop merchant, Stanford Mountain.[11]

On 15th November 1884, Fanny Amelia married widower, William Ellington, at St. Clement’s, Hastings, Sussex. The witnesses were Maude and H Bedwell and Thomas Covell. At the time of the marriage, William Ellington was a coachman.[12] He is inconsistent about his age and place of birth but the consensus seems to be that he was born about 1823 in Peterborough, Northamptonshire,[13] so he was considerably older than Fanny. William and his first wife, Helen, had been in service in Herne Hill for many years[14] and this is presumably how he and Fanny met.

William and Fanny Ellington’s son, George Frederick, was born in Hastings a year after they married.[15] There was another short-lived child, Richard Collings Stanley Ellington, who was born in 1891 and died the following year.[16] In 1891, the family were living in two rooms in part of 19 Cornfield Terrace, Hastings and William was working as a bath-chair man. Ten years later, the family had gained a room and were living at 100 Bohemia Road; William was still running his bath-chair business in Hastings and George was working as a compositor.[17] Although no death registration has been found for William Ellington,[18] by 1911 Fanny was a widow and can be found in the census visiting the Pierpoint family in Dulwich.[19] By this time, her son George was a boarder in the household of Harriet Blackmar, at 15 Duke Street, Eastbourne, Sussex and was still working as a compositor. [20]

On 2 May 1911, just weeks after the census was taken, Fanny was admitted to the workhouse in Constance Road, East Dulwich[21] because she was ‘temporarily disabled’ and ‘allegedly insane’. She was discharged a week letter, to Horton Asylum and described as being destitute and temporarily disabled.[22] Horton Asylum, in Epsom, Surrey, was to become noted for pyrotheraphy, an experimental treatment for the general paralysis of the insane, which was a manifestation of syphilis. This treatment involved infecting the sufferers with malaria. It was thought that the resulting high fever would destroy the spirochetes involved in syphilis. Horton was deemed suitable as it had an isolation unit, which would prevent the malaria spreading to other patients. It seems that this was pioneered in 1917, so Fanny, had she been suffering from general paralysis of the insane, would have escaped this treatment.[23]

I don’t know how long Fanny spent at Horton but on 30 December 1915, she was readmitted to the workhouse from 18 Hindmans Road. In 1911, this was the home of a younger generation of the Pierpoint family.[24] I can find no family connection with the Pierpoints, so perhaps they were just friends. Once again Fanny was regarded as ‘temporarily disabled’ and ‘allegedly insane’.[25] After just six days she was removed to Cane Hill Pauper Lunatic Asylum in Coulsdon, Surrey.[26] By this time, Horton had been requisitioned for military use.[27]

Fanny Ellington died in the asylum on 12 January 1922 from valvular disease of the heart and congestion of the lungs, both of an indefinite duration, hours after suffering a small cerebral haemorrhage. The death was registered by her son, George, who was then of 2 Grove Road, Chertsey, Surrey.[28] There was no mention of her mental state.

George Ellington married Lily Wade in 1932 in Islington district,[29] she was in her fifties so there were no children. In 1939 they were living in a tobacconist’s shop at 67 Guildford Street, Chertsey, which Lily ran; she was also a hairdresser.[30] George was still working as a compositor. They both died in 1960.[31]

The generosity of the genealogical world is outstanding. With the help of a friend, I have attempted to access the records of Cane Hill Asylum, which were allegedly in Croydon Museum. All they have is the bald statement of her admission. The quest is on for the medical records, which I understand from another helpful family historian, may be with the relevant NHS Trust. There is still the possibility of records for Horton Asylum, which are at the London Metropolitan Archives. I may have to call in another favour here. I also want to find out where she was buried; I have established that it was not at Cane Hill. The asylum was closed in 1992.[32]

So this is Fanny’s story. I do hope that more research will mean that I can add to it. Watch this space! In the absence of a picture of Fanny, I offer you her sisters, Caroline and Mary Ann [Polly], sadly, although Caroline had five daughters, I am their only living descendant too. P.S. I am quite glad that I didn’t inherit the ears!

Caroline Leighton née Woolgar 1842-1919.JPGMary Ann (Polly) Hicks née Woolgar 1845-1907.JPG

[1]    The birth certificate of Fanny Amelia Woolgar 1848, from the General Register Office.

[2]    General Registrar’s indexes of birth.

[3]    The birth certificate of Fanny Amelia Woolgar 1848, from the General Register Office.

[4]     A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980. Via  accessed 4 September 2019.

[5]    The baptism registers of Highgate, Middlesex, via

[6]    Oral evidence from Gwendoline Catherine Braund née Smith and Ella Mary Bird née Woolgar.

[7]    1861 census for Rosendale Road, Norwood, Surrey RG9 367 folio 56.

[8]    1871 census for 1 Rosendale Road, Norwood, Surrey RG10 692 folio 59.

[9]    Indexes to the 1881 census of England and Wales via and

[10]  Alleyn Park is in Dulwich.

[11]  1881 census for Alleyn Park, Westbrook, Camberwell, Surrey RG11 669 folios 35 & 36. General Registrar’s indexes of birth and marriage. 1871 census for Warrior Road, Lambeth, Surrey RG10 679 folio 110.

[12]  The marriage certificate of Fanny Amelia Woolgar and William Ellington 1884, from the local Register Office.

[13]  1871 census for Herne Hill, Lambeth, Surrey RG10 686 folio 43.

[14]  1871 census for Herne Hill, Lambeth, Surrey RG10 686 folio 43.

[15]  General Registrar’s indexes of birth; 1891 census for 19 Cornfield Terrace, Hastings, Sussex RG12 764 folio 83.

[16]  General Registrar’s indexes of birth and death; 1911 census for 2 Upland Road, Dulwich, Surrey RG14 2469 folio 481.

[17]  1901 census for 100 Bohemia Road, Hastings Sussex RG13 869 folio 68.

[18]  General Registrar’s indexes of death.

[19]  1911 census for 2 Upland Road, Dulwich, Surrey RG14 2469 folio 481.

[20]   1911 census for 15 Duke Street, Eastbourne, Sussex RG14 4822 folio 162.

[21]   Constance Road Workhouse accessed 4 September 2019.

[22]   1911 Admissions Register for Workhouse, Constance Road, East Dulwich, Surrey via Originals at London Metropolitan Archives CABG/185/31.

[23]  Horton Asylum accessed 3 September 2019. Julius Wagner-Jauregg (1857-1940): Introducing fever therapy in the treatment of neurosyphilis accessed 4 September 2019.

[24] 1911 census for 18 Hindmans Road, East Dulwich RG14 2466 folio 401.

[25]  1915-16 Admissions Register for Workhouse, Constance Road, East Dulwich, Surrey via  Originals at London Metropolitan Archives CABG/185/40.

[26]  1915-16 Admissions Register for Workhouse, Constance Road, East Dulwich, Surrey via  Originals at London Metropolitan Archives CABG/185/40.

[27]  Cane Hill Asylum, Coulsdon, Surrey accessed 4 September 2019.

[28] Death certificate (pdf) of Fanny Amelia Ellington, from the General Registrar.

[29] General Registrar’s indexes of marriage.

[30] 1939 Register for 67 Guildford Road Chertsey, Surrey RG101/1876C/006/30 Letter Code: DMCC.

[31] General Registrar’s indexes of death.

[32] accessed 4 September 2019.


A Riverside Walk

We return to the south coast to revisit one of our favourite stretches of the south-west coast path. I picked up a ‘where to park for free if you are a National Trust member’ card at Bedruthan and this is proving handy. We head for Bosveal, which is pretty much a car park and nothing else. Following the coastal footpath westwards to Durgan takes us to the back entrance of Glendurgan Gardens. Thinking it would rude not to take a look, we enter. Let’s be clear, this is a legitimate entrance and the notice on the gate instructs us to pay, or in our case show our membership cards, at the main entrance. Main entrance? We walked up, we walked down, we declined the option to walk round the maze, which is in any case full of a school party. We seem to be in a maze of our own. We think we can see where we need to go but that pathway is marked private.

The garden is beautiful by the way, nestled in a valley which gives it a near sub-tropical climate. The weather has turned quite humid today, which adds to the atmosphere. In the end we give up the fruitless hunt for the main entrance and continue along the path to Helford Passage with the Helford River estuary on our left. We are decidedly out of walking practice and it really is very hot. Conscious that every step we go forward, means another step to go back, we return to Bosveal, with a short stop for an ice-cream on the way.

043 10 July 2019 Helford River

A quick supermarket visit before driving north once again The good thing about Cornwall is that is a long narrow county, so it is never very far from north to south. Fortunately, our evening meal was cooking before I noticed that a mobile pizza van, whose owner has enhanced grammatical skills in comparison to that of the fish and chip van proprietor, is due to visit the site tonight.

Heading Westward

So, having spent some time in the most north-easterly county of England, we headed instead for the most south-westerly. Both are in my top three English counties. It seemed everyone else had the same idea and traffic was heavy in western Cornwall. I realised that I had inadvertently booked a site with only ‘hot-spot’ internet. Last time we were lucky enough to pitch on one of only three spaces where there was signal. Will we be as lucky again? If not I am going to spend much of my time balancing on one leg in a field trying to log on, as the job we must not mention requires wi-fi and is not yet over.

On arrival, we chose a pleasant, shady pitch (which had wi-fi – yay!) and sited the caravan, skilfully lining up with the marker peg as required. Pleasant and shady it may have been, flat it was not, even our super-dooper, self-levelling legs (that’s the caravan’s legs not our own) couldn’t cope with the incline. It was clear from the marks on the grass that a previous resident of this pitch had parked considerably to the left of the marker, so we did the same. The legs could cope with this so the van was no longer reminiscent of the Crooked House (Blackgang Chine aficionados will understand what I mean). In order to comply with the ‘park with the back corner to the peg’ regulation we judiciously moved the peg.

The next issue was the water pump, or lack of the same. There are two operative words here – ‘water’ – yes, ‘pump’ – no. The helpful warden took a look. We dismantled bits of the van. We summoned a mobile caravan water pump fixing person. Hurrah! We had running water once again – probably just as well as the temperatures are soaring.

In between all the pump fixing we drove a couple of miles to Marazion. We passed a horse rider who commented that the road was melting. She was not wrong, as there were clear impressions of horseshoes on the tarmac. We wandered through Marazion’s narrow street in beautiful sunshine. Mount’s Bay was looking glorious. Marazion’s name was once thought to originate from ‘Market Jew’ and there is a Market Jew Street in the town. It is now thought that the name comes from ‘Marghas Yow’ or Thursday Market. Until Medieval times, when Penzance became dominant, Marazion was the principal town in the area. It is an ancient settlement, whose economic activity was centred on tin smelting. It is held out to be one of the oldest charter towns in England, having been granted a charter by Henry III in 1257. It is forty years since my first visit to Mount’s Bay, when I stayed in a Penzance guest house. The abiding memory of that trip is the whitebait that was served for breakfast each day; I have not eaten whitebait since.

001 3 July 2019 St Michael's Mount

Highs, Lows and Hingin Lums

After our busy day yesterday, we take a short walk into the village to take a look at Dochart Falls. Then we drive up to the nearby Ben Lawers nature reserve. There is a car park but no visitors’ centre. Do we pay to park? No. Do we turn round and retrace our steps? Again no. Do we press upwards and onwards along a single-track road with a precipitous drop on the passenger side; a road that we are not convinced actually leads anywhere? Yep. That would be the one. Ben Lawers is 1214 metres above sea level and the tenth highest Munro in Scotland. We drive pretty near to the top and I can tell it is higher than I should be venturing, as I experience some of the effects of altitude that curtailed our Peru trip. Fortunately, this time we can get ourselves back down to lower levels without too much trouble. Well eventually we can. All the sat-nav can offer is ‘turn round where possible’. Turning around on a road barely wider than the car is not going to work. I take a look at our not very detailed map. Reassuringly, this does indicate that there is a way out and indeed, eventually, this proves to be so. The scenery is ruggedly spectacular and we are certainly seeing parts of Scotland other holidays might not reach.

On the way back we take a look at the outside of the Moirlanich Longhouse, which is very close to the site and which we have failed to investigate on previous visits. It is open twice a week but not today, so we shall just have to pay a return visit to Killin, no hardship there then. An interpretation board tells me that the longhouse was inhabited by the Robertson family. Were we able to get inside, we would be able to see a  hanging lum, also knows as a hingin lum, which is, the board says, a paper lined wooden canopy to funnel smoke away from fireplace. This sounds a bit of a fire hazard to me but here is some more about them from a website that I use and recommend often.

077 21 May 2019 Moirlanich Longhouse, Killin


It is time for us to return to England and we pass the Kelpies at Falkirk, 30 metre high, steel horse-head sculptures. Or possibly 60 metres high, if some websites are to be believed – big anyway. They are very impressive but difficult to detour with a caravan on the back and I was not ready with the camera.

We wend our way to one of our favourite sites near Alnwick via a supermarket stop. A quick walk round the site’s nature trail and then a lazy afternoon.

Elusive Ferries and other adventures

Today we were meant to be going to Inchcolm island. The clue is in the name really; ‘island’ involves a boat. I thought I had correctly identified the location of the ferry boarding point but lack of time to prepare for this trip meant that I didn’t have my usual beautifully printed out itinerary. We set off. I plug the postcode into the sat-nav. It doesn’t seem to exist. Instead of returning to the van and firing up the computer to check the proper address, I try to remember it. We try Queensferry. The sat-nav insists this is in Wales.  Even we know we don’t need to go 288 miles. I know, I know, we should be able to Google this on the mobile phone that we have that is less than thirteen years old. Phone fine, operator not so. We could have and perhaps should have, made a call on said mobile phone (we can actually accomplish that, or at least one of us can) and summoned assistance. We didn’t. I look at a map (remember those?). Unfortunately, it is a very small-scale map but it does suggest I might need to be looking at North Queensferry. We go to North Queensferry. We get nice views of the Forth Road Bridges (which no one is painting) but no sign of a ferry. I try the postcode again. I’ll own up here, I have scribbled this down and can’t actually quite read my writing; this is not an unusual occurrence. The postcode I put in takes us somewhere called Aberdour. (It turns out this was the correct postcode for the island but not for the ferry). By this time, we have missed the ferry, which doesn’t go from here anyway. (I later discover we needed South Queensferry – ah well, hindsight and all that). Aberdour is a satisfactory plan B and after a wander along the coast path enjoying the wildflowers and bird song, we walk inland to Aberdour Castle.

It is likely that a stone tower was constructed here in the twelfth century by Sir William de Mortimer, making it one of the oldest castles in Scotland. Additions and improvements were made and by the sixteenth century, James Douglas, the Earl of Morton, regent to the under-age James VI, had created a residence with a lavish Renaissance garden on this spot. His doocot, with room for 600 pigeons, was designed as a status symbol. It includes ‘rat courses’, ridges to impede rats trying to get inside. Douglas was beheaded in 1581 when he was accused of murdering Henry, Lord Darnley, the king’s father and husband of Mary Queen of Scots. The property was owned by William Douglas, the 8th Earl of Morton in the seventeenth century and suffered from a severe fire in 1688. Troops were billeted here during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 and another fire led to the gradual decay of the building, with major collapses in 1844 and 1919. The gardens have now largely been laid to lawns, which is a shame. We can however recommend the café’s produce. Aberdour’s claim to fame is that it featured in Outlander. I have never watched Outlander; is this sacrilege?

028 16 May 2019 Aberdour

We take a look at neighbouring St Fillan’s Church, which dates from 1123, or earlier. In 1790, the Countess of Morton got fed up with the great unwashed attending a church so close to the castle and had the roof removed, forcing the congregation to meet in town instead! It was restored in 1926. The stained glass is beautiful and I am also taken with the leper’s squint, allowing sufferers from leprosy to witness the service whilst limiting the danger of contagion (although leprosy is actually a great deal less easily transmitted than was believed). Allegedly, Robert the Bruce, a leprosy sufferer, used this squint.

On the way home, we see signs to ‘Scotland’s secret bunker’; spot the irony!

Off Again

Well, we are off on our adventures again. Barely had I recovered from Family Tree Live (let us be truthful I hadn’t recovered), when it was two days Swording and Spindling in the seventeenth century at a nearby school. This involved a first. My colleagues are used to coping with fainting students – it may have something to do with the fact that they are amputating limbs and hanging, drawing and quartering folk. Trying on clothes and armour is quite tame by comparison. This week though, I had my first fainting student whilst they were trying on armour. I almost managed to release them before they crumpled to the floor.

Hot on the heels of this was the annual Braund Society reunion, with 39 members and friends gathering together in North Devon. Although the temperatures were a tad on the low side, we did keep dry for our trips to Rosemoor and Coldharbour Mill. The latter was a first for me and it was very interesting, well worth a visit.

Rosemoor 4 May 2019 (1)

I don’t know what possessed me to decide to arrange to go away on the day immediately following the reunion but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Add to this the fact that I had a meeting with our lovely authors’ group on the morning of our departure and I was giving a talk in the afternoon, it all made for a hectic time. Just to make matters worse, on my final night at home, my hot water solar panels decided they would make a worrying noise at an unearthly hour. Despite turning the panels off, the noise persisted for several hours. I attempted to summon assistance from a fisherman of my acquaintance but inevitably his mobile was on charge and I did not want to ring the land line in the middle of the night as he had guests. I debated getting in the car to fetch help but decided against it. Even when the noise stopped, all that going in the loft in the middle of the night meant that sleep eluded me, so I was functioning (just) on two hours’ sleep. Fortunately, all seemed to be well when I left, so my house-sitters should not be disturbed.

In addition, to avoid having to park in town, I am normally dropped off for my authors’ meeting and then ring to be collected when it is over. On this occasion, time was particularly tight because of the talk in the afternoon. By a quirk of fate, both landline and mobile of my trusty assistant were malfunctioning so I had to power-walk the mile up the hill afterwards. My numerous attempts at making a telephonic connection also cost a small fortune as the malfunction mean that the landline went straight to answerphone, so I was charged. My thirteen-year-old pay-as-you-go phone has a flat rate charge of 35p per call. Multiply that by as many calls as I made and it would have been cheaper to get a taxi.

So, what was meant to be a relaxing holiday did not begin in very relaxing manner! We headed towards Tewkesbury for an uneventful overnight stop. The next day and it was off to the frozen north (I am not joking, there is currently snow where we are due to be next week). The weather was truly awful and the driver amongst us (not me) braved storm, tempest and roadworks as we wended our way to Whitely Bay in Northumberland. Our site has a view of the sea – in theory. We can just make it out through the mist and murk.

All about Pandas #Autismawareness #PDA

If you are expecting this post to be about family history, it isn’t. It isn’t about books either. It is however about family. As regular readers will know, my grandson, Edward, has a diagnosis of Autism with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). For more about what this means see my post Of Pokemon and Dinosaurs and being Edward and the website Being Edward, where his mum explains a little of the excitement that is life with Edward. 15th May is PDA awareness day and as a family, we are using the days around that time to spread information about the implications of PDA. Martha is coordinating a panda explosion. (Edit – We’ve discovered that one of the collective nouns for pandas is cupboard – so it will be a Cupboard of Pandas, rather than an explosion). The panda is the logo of the PDA Society, so toy pandas are to be hidden round the country, with explanatory cards attached, explaining a little about PDA. Martha’s blog post explains this more fully.

This started with the idea that close family would hide a few pandas but it is already spreading, with friends and acquaintances rushing in to buy and hide their own pandas, to fund panda purchases, to donate to The PDA Society, who do wonderful work and to spread awareness. If this takes off, we may extend it for a longer time period. If you know anyone who would like to make/buy/hide/name a panda. Do get in touch.