Elizabeth Eliza Woodhurst

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Brief biography

Elizabeth Eliza Woodhurst was born in 1858 to parents Alfred (1) Woodhurst and his first wife Matilda Bathurst. The birth certificate [Birth Index: Bethnal Green 1c 210, 1858 (Sept)] states that she was born at her parents' home at 22, Nelson Street in Bethnal Green on July 4th 1858. The informant was her mother, and her father's occupation was given as bonnet manufacturer.

In 1868 she was indecently assaulted, beaten, wounded and ill-treated by her father. She was subsequently a prosecution witness at her father's ensuing trial for this offence at the Old Bailey on April 6th 1870. According to the indictment this assault did her "great damage".

The 1871 Census finds her at age 12 as an inmate of Bethnal Green (St. Matthew) Union's Workhouse School located at Leytonstone House in West Ham. It was the Union's policy to put poor children under 15 into these schools rather than into their workhouse in Bethnal Green. The school, combining many new buildings with the existing Leytonstone House, was purpose-built for the sum of £45,000 and opened on August 18th 1868 as "Bethnal Green School for the Juvenile Poor". In the 18th century Leytonstone House had been the private home of Sir Edward North Buxton.

Elizabeth Eliza's brother Arthur Alfred (2), being aged over 15, was at the same time in the workhouse at Bethnal Green. After their mother had departed to Birmingham in the early 1860s with her new partner Richard William (1), they had been left in the care of their father and his own new partner Mary Ann Edridge. But in 1871 Alfred (1) was in prison in Nottingham, and the break-up of the family was doubtless the cause of their being assigned to the care of Bethnal Green Union's Board of Guardians.

In early May 1874 a report presented by a School Committee to the Bethnal Green Board of Guardians recommended that Elizabeth Eliza be engaged as a general servant to a Mrs Caruthers at £6 per annum, which was granted [East London Observer, issue of May 9th 1874].

The 1881 Census finds her at Frederick House, London Road in Keymer, Sussex, aged 22 and unmarried. Her birthplace is given as Hackney (of which Bethnal Green is a sub-district). She was occupied as a general servant to a couple named Richard Bodle (a corn merchant) and his wife Elizabeth. The latter was born in St. Lukes, Middlesex, as had been Arthur Alfred (2).

The 1891 Census finds her at age 32 living as a servant at Home Park House in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, occupied there as domestic cook for the family of a South American merchant named Harry Savill. Her birthplace is erroneously given as Ruislip. Probably she had cited this well-to-do suburb at the time she gained her position with this family, since her true birthplace of Bethnal Green might have carried a stigma impeding access to employment in service.

The Bodles for whom she had previously worked were still at Frederick House [PRO Ref: RG12 Piece 793 Folio 113 Page 9] - together with two servants and a visitor Emma Baker - in 1891, and were still in Keymer in 1901 [PRO Ref: RG13 Piece 911 Folio 37 Page 23].

It must surely be entirely coincidental that, 19 years later, Elizabeth Eliza's father Alfred (1) would also move to Abbots Langley upon being transferred from the Hanwell lunatic asylum to the Leavesden one.

The 1901 Census finds her at age 42 living in Eastbourne, Sussex. Her birthplace is given correctly as Bethnal Green. She was the sole occupier of a property called "Linkwood" in Compton Place Road, working as a caretaker. By the time of the Great War - and possibly when Elizabeth Eliza was there in 1901 - this house was owned by a Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Wright-Ingle. Their son Cecil Hubert Wright-Ingle MA (Cambridge), formerly a barrister and holding the British War Medal, was killed in action in Belgium on April 30th 1916 at age 32. He was serving as 2nd Lieutenant with the 19th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) while attached to the 2nd Battalion Leinster Regiment. His Will left estate valued at £8,869. He is commemorated on the War Memorial of Hilton in Huntingdonshire. He was born in Barnet in Hertfordshire, and it may be that Elizabeth Eliza had become acquainted with this family there back in the 1890s, Barnet being only about 10 miles from Abbots Langley.

She died in 1903. The death certificate [Death Index: Eastbourne 2b 44, 1903 (June)] states that she died on April 30th 1903 at the Princess Alice Hospital in Eastbourne. She is misnamed as "Emily", with father's name and occupation unknown, and described as a cook aged "39" living at 1, Chiswick Place in Eastbourne. The cause of death was certified as "diabetes mellitus, coma 58 [or perhaps 38] hours" and the informant was the hospital's matron M. Ramsay. The inaccuracies in her recorded name and age indicate the absence of anyone there who knew the correct details.