Ellen (1) Woodhurst

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Brief biography

Ellen (1) Woodhurst was born in 1831 in London to parents William (1) Woodhurst and his wife Elizabeth Clements. A christening record for her in her infancy has not been found. Her intended birthname was probably Eleanor but is spelt in a variety of ways in subsequent records.

The 1841 Census finds her as "Elener" at age "10" living with her parents in West Street, West Ham in Essex.

The 1851 Census finds her as "Ellen" living with her brother Ambrose at 17, Scott Street in Bethnal Green, together with other seemingly unrelated persons. She was the head-of-household and described herself as aged 20 and (like her brother) occupied as a willow worker. She gave her birthplace as Shoreditch. Scott Street still exists, lying along the northern boundary of the old Jewish burial ground next to Brady Street.

For reasons not yet known she underwent an adult baptism on March 27th 1853 - shortly before her 22nd birthday - at St. Thomas Charterhouse in Finsbury, a little way south-west of Shoreditch [Parish Register: LMA Film X027/026, Entry No. 1038, Page 130]. The record names her as "Eleanor" and her parents as William Woodhurst (deceased) and Elizabeth. Alongside, her date of birth is noted as May 3rd 1831. She was living at Hatfield Street, which no longer exists but used to lie immediately south of - and parallel to - Baltic Street which today defines the northern boundary of Finsbury's Golden Lane Estate. It is within a stone's throw of St. Thomas Charterhouse. Ellen (1)'s niece Catherine Elizabeth Henigan - the daughter of her sister Hannah (1) - was christened at this same church on the same day.

The 1861 Census finds her as "Ellen" at age "28" living with her widowed mother Elizabeth at 7, Pollard Street in Bethnal Green and occupied as a bonnet maker. Her birthplace is given as Hackney.

The 1871 Census finds her as "Eleanor" living at 4, Willow Street in Mile End Old Town, occupied as a willow hat maker. Also living at this address, as a separate household, was the widower Isaac Fry of her recently-deceased sister Eliza (1). Her age is given highly inaccurately as "29" and her birthplace as Hackney.

Despite extensive searches, her location in the 1881 Census has not yet been discovered with certainty. The closest candidate found is a "Helen Woodhouse", unmarried and of unknown occupation, residing as a lunatic inmate in Hoxton House Asylum, the same institution to which Ellen (1)'s brother Alfred (1) had been committed in 1875. This Helen's age was given as 57 and her birthplace as Hackney. Another possibility is that Ellen (1) was living in Mile End Old Town, where Ambrose also was at that time, but somehow eluded the census.

The 1891 Census finds her as "Ellenor" living as a visitor among the household of a Thomas Trussler at 152, Grafton Street in Mile End Old Town. She is described as unmarried and aged 50 (though she was actually 60), occupied as a children's cap maker and having birthplace Stepney. Grafton Street was subsequently renamed as Grantley Street, being situated in Tower Hamlets, E1.

On Tuesday January 22nd 1895 she was admitted as "Helena" to the Mile End Old Town Infirmary in Bancroft Road. Bancroft Road is very near Harford Street where Ambrose had been residing in 1881. The Stepney Board of Guardians register [LMA: Piece STBG/ME/117/20 : Mile End Infirmary, Admission and Discharge Book, 1895-96] describes her as a hawker and Protestant aged "58" (she was actually 63) whose nearest relation was her "brother Ambrose Woodhurst [of] 69, Emmott Street". On the next day, January 23rd, the register noted her simply as "dead". The death certificate [Death Index: Mile End 1c 391, 1895 (March)] names and describes her identically, adding that she was unmarried and of 152, Grafton Street. The cause of death was certified as "sudden thrombosis accelerated by want of sufficient food - natural" and was established by post mortem. The informant was Wynne E. Baxter, Coroner for the County of London, who held an inquest into her death on January 26th. The death was registered, on the basis of the Coroner's certificate, on January 30th. The East London Coroner's registers and depositions for almost all years preceding 1927 no longer survive, having been used - according to the records of the LMA - to produce recycled paper during WW2 in the face of acute national paper shortages. However, the inquest was reported in the Press [The People, issue of February 3rd 1895]:

HALF STARVED.- Mr Baxter held an inquiry concerning the death of HelenWoodhurst, 38 [sic - 58], hawker, Grafton Street, Mile End. Ambrose Woodhurst, boot repairer, said the deceased was his sister, and had formerly been in a good position. She obtained a livelihood by selling children's hats etc. from door to door. On Tuesday she was taken very ill, and had to be removed to the infirmary. She had lived very poorly. Mary Ann Trusler, the landlady of the house, said deceased paid her 2s. a week rent, but knew she led a very hard life, but she could not say if she actually went short of food. Dr. Robinson deposed that the deceased was admitted in a very distressed condition. She ate food ravenously, but sank and died ten hours later. The body was very poorly nourished, and the intestines practically empty, The immediate cause of death was a clot of blood near the heart and bronchitis, accelerated by want of sufficient food. Natural causes.