PRYATT, Napsbury, Circa 1910

March, 2008

Kathy Gray (skeandhu1 @t of Macclesfield, Cheshire, writes: I am in the process of researching my family tree and have come across a Gt. Gt. Uncle named Thomas Pickford Pyatt.  He (according to the census returns) lived in Clerkenwell with his Common-Law wife (Selena Alice Johnson) until his admission to Napsbury Asylum in 1910.  The very puzzling points to this story are:

He was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire in approx 1849.  He next appears as a lodger, along with Selena in Shropshire in around 1871.  There is an age difference of around 15 years between them and, for the purposes of the census returns, she calls herself Pyatt.

In 1881, I find them in Clerkenwell with Thomas as a Compositor.  I find a copy of my Gt. Gt. Grandmothers will (his Mother) in 1885, leaving him a substantial amount of money, monthly, for the rest of his life.  I then find a marriage certificate from 1909, showing the union of Selena and Thomas.  Strange, at the age of 60 years!!!  Within a couple of months, he is admitted to Napsbury Lunatic Asylum and, according to his admission records (which I have obtained from Kew) this was because he tried to strangle Selena!!!  He died at Napsbury in Feb 1910 and I have been unable to find out where he is buried.

As you will have seen on my web site Napsbury was just one of  The Long Stay Hospitals of the St Albans area and there are general notes on that page on the location of records. There has also been a lot of discussion about the burial ground at Hill End. (see The Cemetery, Hill End Hospital, St Albans, 20th Century)

The procedures at Napsbury when a patient died would probably be similar to Hill End, with the majority of patients being buried in an unmarked grave in a plot set aside for the purpose. The Napsbury site has now been redeveloped (as has Hill End) and I am afraid I have no idea how the burial plot was handled. (At Hill End it  is an unmarked public space which is being maintained as a nature reserve with a public footpath crossing it.)

The fact that Thomas's mother left him an income, rather than capital, suggests that there were earlier problems. Whether this was mental instability or incapacity or merely because she did not approve of the relationship with Selena is not clear from what your said. However it also suggests that he might have been admitted as a private patient and this could be very significant. His income would presumably have been managed by some kind of trust set up in his Mother's will - so the trustees would have had a interest in his death, and possibly what happened to his body.

There seem to be two main options - either Thomas was buried in an unmarked grave at Napsbury - or the body could have been claimed by the family/trustees who could have had it interred somewhere they felt was more appropriate - perhaps even in the same grave as his mother!Unfortunately the death certificate will not say what happened to the body, and if it was suicide the family night not have wanted to have him buried in a family grave.

A complication could relate to the trust fund, and whether Thomas marrying Selena affected the management of the trust (the precise arrangements made by his mother are relevant here). Under some circumstances the fact of his marriage and the fact that he was "of unsound mind" could have lead to legal wrangles in the civil courts.

There is a web page for Napsbury

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


Page created March 2008