Friday, 20 January 2012

A Letter from the Past, by William STEERS

Back in June during my ‘Focus On - Maria Steers’ I told you that contained within her case notes was a letter to the staff at Hanwell from Maria's son William. [ref: H11/HLL/B/19/026. Held by London Metropolitan Archives

This find was all the more exciting for me because William is my OH's Great Great Grandfather.

This is the letter:

Photo's were taken at the London Metropolitan Archieve by Carole Davies in June 2011
It reads:

July 2nd
17 River St York Road
Kings Cross Islington

Gentlemen I write in answer to your letter
as I am not able to
come and see my poor mother as I have not the
means to pay the
railway fare I have been
in the hospital suffering from
heart deaise [sic] and have
not done any work for three

months I am a carriage
cleaner and a married
man with four
children and wen [sic] I am at
work my pay is 18 s a
week or else I should
have come down at once
so please dont [sic] think
me neglectfull [sic] my
mother has been a very
hard working woman
she is a Servile dress
maker and embroidress
and braider

for many years mother
used to imploy [sic] woman
and mother has had a
very great deal of truble [sic]
and she used to complain
of pains at her heart
and I have heard her
say that she has had
pains in her heart ever
since I was borne I
have not nowne [sic] her to
have any other ilness [sic]
but my sister tells
me that she used

to complain of a pain
in the back of her
neck and pains in
her head she used to
wander about and
lose herself and was
very strange in her
manner but I never
new [sic] her to threathen [sic]
to do any harm to my
body or to make any
attempt on her life
if my mother or any body
else can write and let me
now [sic] how she is I shall be glad

… yours William Steers

Now I found this to be a very exciting find.  Unfortunately although the letter is dated July 2nd it doesn’t contain a year. It was kept with Maria’s case notes, and she was admitted to Hanwell in June 1877.

As William’s letter outlines a rather brief history and makes reference to the fact that she had never threatened to ‘do any harm to my body or to make any attempt on her life’ it suggests to me that this is early on in her stay as the asylum were probably looking for some background information on Maria.

William also mentions that he is a ‘carriage cleaner’ and that he has ‘four children’.

In 1874 William is living at 3 William Street in Clerkenwell. This is shown by the baptism entry of his fourth child at St. Philip’s Church on 09 December 1874.

From this we can deduce that the year of the letter is after 1874.

In 1871 one of William’s sons died. His next child was born on 02 April 1876 and at the time of her baptism on 08 May 1876 the family were living in the parish of St. Pancras. This area contained York Road. At the time the 1881 census was performed they were living in an apartment in the Beaconsfield Building on York Road.

I speculate that this letter was written between April 1876 and April 1881.

I feel that just by reading this letter I know William a little bit better. He was obviously concerned about the doctors at Hanwell thinking that he was uncaring and ‘neglectful’ of his mother. It also illustrates the hardships that William and his young family were facing at this time.

The heart disease that William mentions here is what eventually killed him in 1905 so I now know it was a long-standing problem.