BLANDFORD, Leavesden Asylum, Late 19th century


June Sadokierski (sadok @t of Australia writes:  My g.g.g.grandmother was born Sarah Pilkinton in 1832, Kent. she marr. James Blandford in 1856, he died in 1863. She had 2 children, Henry James & Florence (My g.g.gmother)  She does not appear on 1861 census, but in 1871,81 &91 there is a Sarah Blandford at Leavesden Asylum. Although it is not clear whether she is my Sarah or not, I wonder as in 1881 Florence was in Met. Convalescent Inst. (Walton on Thames) - she was an opium addict.  I have looked for marriages, deaths etc. but can find nothing,

Florence came to Australia in 1884, and told no one anything about her family. Her granddaughters are still alive, and they lived with her, but know nothing of her family. We didn't even know that she had a brother. Hope you can give me some ideas as to where to proceed from here.

I have had a look at the relevant records. The census returns for Leavesden are not at all helpful. The 1871 census omits place of birth and marriage status for all patients. The 1881 census records this information for most patients but leave the fields blank for Sarah. - so presumably they did not know The 1891 census records Sarah as being single and born in London. We can reasonably assume that the entries for the three censuses apply to the same person and in view of the missing information in 1881 I wouldn't put too much weight on the fact that Sarah was "single" and born in "London" in 1891.

The problem is that apart from the possible name and date of birth we currently have no evidence that your Sarah Blandford is the the one in Leavesden Asylum. Any further information we can find about your Sarah might prove to be a clue.

Let us start with what can easily be done online wherever you live. You could not find the 1861 census entry - and of course we don't know if it is because they were "missed" by the census enumerator or whether there are some recording or indexing difficulties (see Problems with finding census returns for some examples of what can go wrong). However FreeBMD provides evidence for the following registrations (so you can buy the certificates if you don't already have them):

It is possible that the family address in the 1861 census is the same as appears on Henry James Blandford's birth certificate. The fact that the entry for Florence in the 1881 census records that she was born in Pimlico is consistent with the registration district given for her birth certificate. All certificates should give you James's occupation and other possibly helpful information. The address may allow you to find the 1861 census entry.

(Aside: The gap in between the marriage and Henry's birth suggests there may have been other children ...)

The key question is to find out what happened to Sarah and the children when James died. I suspect he had a comparatively lowly occupation and the family could well have ended up in the workhouse associated with the St George, Hanover Square area. If so it could well be that Sarah was moved from the workhouse to Leavesden when the asylum was opened in 1869. The children might have remained in the workhouse - and perhaps were still there in the 1871 census (perhaps only identified by initials).

So do the workhouse admission and discharge records survive? If they have survived they will probably be in the London Metropolitan Archives (and if not the LMA will know where they are). The Asylum records may also be there - but see The Long Stay Hospitals of the St Albans area. The Workhouse web site may also provide clues. Unfortunately any workhouse and asylum records that survive may still only be available in manuscript form  - although some may be on microfilm.

To conclude: If Sarah became destitute on James's death she could have ended up in the local workhouse in London, where she would have been separated from Henry and Florence. If all this left her sufficiently distressed to be unable to work there is a high probability that she would have been transferred to Leavesden in 1869 (or shortly afterwards). This was specifically built to house the London mentally ill at the time. For this reason it is quite reasonable to work on the provisional assumption that the Sarah in the asylum is your Sarah - but it has not yet been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

Page created August 2007