Special West b.1774 – and the society of Friend’s pioneering treatment of mental health

Special West b.1774 – and the society of Friend’s pioneering treatment of mental health

Who remembers the collective global outrage when Kim and Kanye West dared to name their child Saint. SAINT! How arrogant, how typical of them etc. A quick google reveals pages of articles and tweets and such filled with disdain.And yet…Saint was really quite a common name in the scheme of things all through the 19th century and either side of it. Usually, to be honest, it was a child born on and named for a Saint’s Day, or one of the more common ones like St John (Sinjin as it was supposedly pronounced by the upper classes). But you can also find ‘Saintley’, ‘Saints’, ‘Sainty’ and the fantastically named ‘Saint David Frederick Borthwick Gilchrist Linley’.

So when I came across this particular name, it did briefly cross my mind at how collectively outraged the world would have been if the West’s had named their child Special West.

In this case I came across Special West junior first, and both he and his father Special were not celebrities with questionable egos, they were perhaps a sort of opposite of that; Quaker farmers from 18th Century Hertford.
They lived at on Chapmore End farm, leasing the land from a William Baker rather than owning it, in a rather nice bit of countryside (also note the building named ‘Bleak House’ just below!). A barn conversion of the dairy on the property is currently on the market for £2,000,000!


Apart from birth and death records, and a marriage for Special snr. – I only have one census record for them, showing Special West jr in 1841, living in Fulford Ambo at the ‘Friend’s Retreat’. I knew The Friends were Quakers and my first rather naive thought on reading the word retreat, was that it was some sort of holiday resort where Quakers from all around the country could meet.

Instead it was, and still is, a progressive institution for the treatment of mental health problems.

From their website;

Opened in 1796 by William Tuke, a retired tea merchant, the original Retreat was intended to be a place where members of The Society of Friends (Quakers) who were experiencing mental distress could come and recover in an environment that would be both familiar and sympathetic to their needs. Some years earlier, a Leeds Quaker, Hannah Mills, had died in the squalid and inhumane conditions that then prevailed in the York Asylum, and appalled at this Tuke and his family vowed that never again should any Quaker be forced to endure such treatment.

Tuke introduced more humane treatment based on restoring the self-esteem and self-control of residents, with early examples of occupational therapy (walks and farm labouring) and a social environment where residents were seen as part of a large family-like unit, built on kindness, moderation, and order. There was a religious dimension too, but inmates were essentially accepted as potentially rational beings, who could recover through self-restraint and moral strength. They were permitted to wear their own clothing, and  to engage in handicrafts, writing and reading, and  could wander freely around The Retreat’s courtyards and gardens, in which lived small domestic animals.

There was some minimised use of restraint, but physical punishment was banned. Door locks were encased in leather, the bars on windows made to look like window frames, and the extensive gardens included a sunken wall that was impassable yet barely visible. Straitjackets were sometimes used, at least initially, as a last resort. Tuke was initially derided for his methods but they began to shape the way people viewed mental illness in a much more positive light.

In the circumstances, Special was probably in the best place he could be at the time.

Many records have recently been made available via a collaboration between the Borthwick institute and the Wellcome collection, and  I haven’t spotted Special West’s name amongst the available papers so far (I did however come across the records for alcohol purchases, mostly Port and Sherry  – the treatment approach obviously wasn’t abstinence based!).

However one interesting aspect was that they had a graded payment system, so people from any pecuniary background could be treated there, and the richer people’s assets were used to make up the costs for the poorer patients ‘upkeep’.


With this in mind it’s easy to see why people living as far away as south Cornwall made the long journey to York to the retreat. Special himself would have travelled a good 180 miles to go there over any of the closer London asylums, such as Hanwell, or indeed Bethlam (Bedlam).

As he doesn’t appear in the 1839 records I would guess that he was admitted after that date. Sadly he dies in September 1842. My own work with a dementia charity makes me wonder if his and many other elderly people’s ‘mental illness’ at the time was actually a type of dementia, however we could never be sure. The records will be available within the next few months so I will report back then.

Special was not married and didn’t have any children, so the Special name was not passed down. It was however lovely to come across an nicer aspect of history that greatly interests me, and although a lot of the positive changes were lost later in the 19th century as institutions grew larger and more impersonal, it’s scary to think how much further behind in our attitudes we might be now had the Society of Friends not built The Retreat.

Snowflake Celia Rivett b.1881


In honour of the snow that has sporadically deposited itself about the country this week, I decided to search for historical Snows in the birth records. There were lots of Snowden/Snowdon’s, over seventy Snowdrops, and around four Snowflakes. I did a quick search for them and found that Snowflake Celia Rivett didn’t seem to appear in any censuses.
As I like a challenge, I checked her marriage certificate for her father’s name, given as George Nelson Rivett – Occupation Wheelwright, and searched for him – nothing.
So I looked again and found 3 siblings as witnesses – Great – I thought – I’ll definitely find them all now even with the possible miss-transcriptions…. Nope.

So, I just searched for Snowflake as a first name and nothing else, and a Snowflake Roberts living in Erith, Kent, in 1891 came up.
I clicked onto the census, and found Snowflake, with a father George (and mother Clara), all the sibling’s names matched… except of course their last name wasn’t Rivett!
I found them all as Roberts again in the 1901 census here.
When I looked for the youngest children’s births, Nellie and John, and could not find them as Roberts, so tried Rivett and found Nellie as Nellie Ethel Rivett.
I searched for Nellie in the 1911 census, as I now had her middle name, and she came up as Nellie Ethel Rivett, with her widowed mother Clara Rivett and older brother PETER John Rivett (I subsequently found a birth record for Peter John Rivett).

I had tried in vain to find a marriage for a George Rivett to a Clara, the only one being in 1867 in Leicester. However there was a marriage for a Clara Jane Roberts to an Alfred Rivett in 1880.

I could find Alfred Rivett up until his marriage in 1880, but he ‘disappeared’ after then, or as I now knew, became George Roberts. I also contacted a few people who popped up with Alfred and Clara in their trees all up until the marriage in 1880 then nothing, so hopefully I’ve broken a couple of brick walls!

So, some time in between Snowflake’s older brother William’s birth in 1884 and her sister Eva’s birth in 1887 (yes – Snowflake is yet again someone with an unusual name whose siblings all have much more common ones) something happened that caused her parents to move and assume her Mother’s maiden name.

My first thought was bigamy, especially as Clara is half his age and pregnant when they marry, suggesting some hasty decisions, but I could not find another marriage (in his real name anyway) or any newspaper reports for this. His name didn’t come up connected to any other crimes either, although of course it could be escaping being caught that caused them to move in the first place.
Perhaps it was just an early case of a man taking his wife’s name…. but as Clara reverts to Rivett once he has died I’m guessing that probably isn’t the case. This is one that’s going to bug me for a long long while, and I know I will revisit it until I find out the answer!

So, back to Snowflake. The most likely scenario is that she was named for, or because of, the ‘Great Blizzard of 1881’ – anyone else reminded of this Vicar of Dibley clip? (30 seconds in) – but anyway, I digress.
After a very mild December, in the second half of January huge swathes of snow settled over England, particularly the South.
I mean, that’s a LOT of snow.
Perhaps Snowflake was born as the first flurry settled, or perhaps Clara’s labour pains happen to start just after sticking out her tongue to catch a snowflake… perhaps it was just the whim of a young Mother naming her first daughter.

Snowflake gets married on Boxing Day 1907, to Ernest Henry Essex, a shop assistant. In 1911 she gives her name as Celia, suggesting she didn’t go by Snowflake, and she has a 6 month old baby called Joyce Olive.

They are living in Woolwich in 1939, and although there is an additional ‘closed’ record on the 1939 register that could be another child, the record evidence would suggest Joyce was her only child.

Snowflake passes away at the relatively young age of 69, still in Woolwich, and as I can’t find a marriage or children for Joyce, it would seem there was no one inclined or indeed able to pass on the name.

““Lives are snowflakes – unique in detail, forming patterns we have seen before, but as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’d mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection.)”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Ice Worker b.1895


Ice is another person with an unusual name whose siblings all have much more traditional ones (Arthur, Albert, Phyllis etc.). Her parents were John Joseph Worker, a coal miner and Ann Marsh, who is never listed with an occupation but who we can assume, with 10 children (3 sadly die) was a very busy housewife.

In the 1911 census aged 15, her occupation is given as ‘Assists at home.’ She later marries a man named Harry Mallatratt Bradder in 1924, he is a Colliery worker 10 years her senior and the Mallatratt middle name is his Mother’s maiden name. There is an interesting website on the Mallatratt family here – just click on the small ‘George Mallatratt’ at the top of the page for a great photo of Harry’s Grandfather.
They spend their whole lives in Mansfield, appearing in electoral registers at the same address Harry is living in 1911:
Register of Electors 1928\9 – North Ward District No.1
67 Union Street  Harry and Ice Bradder, Alexander and Annie Quarrell.
Register of Electors 1929\30 – North Ward District No.1
67 Union Street – Harry Bradder, Ice Bradder, Annie Quarrell.

Harry dies in 1964, leaving Ice around £5,500 in today’s money. She lives for another 14 years, they do not have any surviving children.

So… why Ice?
Ice’s birth date is shown most places as 1896, however her school admission record shows the exact date – Boxing Day 26th December 1895. There are plenty of Christmases about so it seems she missed being called something actually relatively common by one day!

ice worker

At first I thought that it was perhaps the winter when the Thames last froze over – however that was 1894-5. The Met weather report of December 1895 was actually seemingly quite mild, although some ‘inland Northern territories’ did experience temperatures between -6 to -12 degrees celcius. Whether Langfield near Chesterfield was one of those places I can’t be certain!.

Without any obvious widespread ice and snow around the UK, it seems that Ice’s name either came from more localised weather, or perhaps a specific incident which we will sadly never find out about. Or perhaps they just wanted something winter themed that was a little different from Christmas!

Cycle Ward b.1875


The original reason why I wanted Cycle to appear on my blog is because of the occupation of the man she marries, however when I came across her family in the course of my own family research as I too have a Henry and Susan Ward (her parents) in Croydon in 1881, only unfortunately not these ones,  I knew the family would be a very interesting bunch.

Unlike most of the people who appear on my blog, Cycle has siblings with unusual names too. Although the eldest started off with the fairly innocuous Annie and Henry after their paternal Grandparents, we later have Paris, Omega, Lorraine (a boy), Clematis, a slightly-ahead-of-it’s-time Zoe and one more common name of Ivy. It didn’t really come as a surprisewhen I saw their Father’s occupation varied between Photographer and Artist.😀

Many of the children became photographers too, and it was whilst looking up Lorraine’s photography that I came across this quote from a comment on an old photograph used by the Reading Chronicle, showing a local ‘dad’s Army’ which was started by Henry himself;

“Henry Ward started it – he was an avid cyclist who kept a diary showing he rode around 8,000 miles a year. His studios were at 43 London Street, Reading.”

So, much like another person who appears on this blog – Photo Scales – Cycle was named after one of her Father’s passions!

After 1881 I struggled to find Cycle on the censuses. This is because I found a marriage for her, marrying an Edwin F Hubbard, but could not find either of them under that surname. When I looked into Edwin’s family however, I realised they all had the same middle name – Fortescue. In fact in 1891 Edwin, his brother and his Mother are all using the surname Fortescue, even though he marries using Hubbard, and his Mother’s maiden name is Greey (not a typo, it’s with two e’s). Amelia also goes back to using Hubbard in 1911. Oddly, some of Edwin’s siblings emigrate to the USA, but continue to use Hubbard. I did wonder if they did this to escape some kind of scandal, but I couldn’t find any records of crimes committed by any of the family, and Edwin’s father’s absences are explained by his occupation as a travelling salesman, confirmed by finding him staying in hotels and the varying birthplaces of the children. Despite going back a few generations either side I couldn’t find any Fortescue’s and that aspect may have to remain a mystery… Unless anyone reading knows the answer of course!

And so I found Cycle and Edwin Fortescue, living in Caversham, Oxford, in a recently built house called ‘Tally Ho!‘. They have two children (Their first sadly dies aged 2), who are registered with the surname Fortescue-Hubbard.

Edwin’s occupation is… a Cycle manufacturer and repairer.

Coincidentally Edwin and Cycle were born and lived a few streets away from each other in Croydon in their childhood, as well as both families moving within a few miles of each other to Caversham and Reading. Although the most likely scenario is that they met because of Cycle’s Father – I imagine he would have frequented Edwin’s cycle repair shop if he was cycling 8,000 miles a year – it’s nice to think the connection between her name and his profession had a hand in ‘breaking the ice’ when they met.

I don’t have a photo of Edwin and Cycle together, but here is Cycle at her brother’s wedding 


And here is a photo of all the family (Cycle 2nd from the left in the white blouse)


Sexey Butt – b.1803


** I  am aware from my site stats that there are many disappointed people searching for ‘Sexy Butts’ being directed to this post. If you are one of those people I do apologise. Also – brush up on your spelling. **

So… This is one of those names where the evolution of language really becomes quite apparent.

Think of meeting someone with this name now – someone who hadn’t changed it by deed poll for their own personal(ity) reasons – you would assume that their parents were perhaps a bit unusual to say the least.

However our Sexey Butt was born in 1803 in Somerset. She was born Sexey Pool, also her Mother’s name, and marries a Mr Thomas Butt on 02 Feb 1828 in St. James Parish, Bristol, Gloucester. However by the 1841 census she is living in Northwick with 5 sons, already a widow as Thomas sadly dies of Tuberculosis, and listing her occupation as ‘Farmeress’, which sounds rather nice, but I imagine was actually very hard work.

By 1851 she is back closer to Bristol, her place of marriage, in a house called Westfield in Hanham, now on Domestic Duties whilst her sons are farming. 1861 finds her down as a visitor to William and Nancy Ford, with occupation housekeeper, in a small village called Queen Charlton.
In 1871 she is living with her son Joseph, in Brentry cottages – not far from Blaise Castle of Austen’s Northanger Abbey fame – although she wrote it as Blaize;

“Blaize Castle!” cried Catherine. “What is that’?”

“The finest place in England–
worth going fifty miles at any time to see.”

“What, is it really a castle, an old castle?”

‘Truth is it’s not an old castle – well, it is now – but it was built in 1766 for a wealthy Bristol merchant, and remodeled in 1796, making it at most 51 years old when the Novel was published. Despite it often being referred to as a ‘Folly’, it was inhabited into the 20th century and ‘sumptuously furnished’ to boot, and John Harford, the wealthy merchant in question, was wealthy enough to build Blaise Hamlet specifically to house his servants and tenants.

Her son’s occupation is down as “Coachman and Domestic servant”  and although Blaise was seemingly the largest estate in the immediate area, there are many ‘annuitants’ in the village, meaning that as he was living in his own home he may have been coachman to more than one household. Finding out who owned Brentry cottages would make it clearer who he may have been working for.

Unfortunately Sexey dies in 1877, and although I would hope she continued to live with family, it’s a possibility she died in the Clifton workhouse, as the death is registered in Clifton, on the west side of Bristol, and as far as I know she did not have family there..

So, why ‘Sexey’?

There is  a Sexey’s School in Bruton, Somerset, named after Hugh Sexey, baptised on 18th November 1556, the son of poor parents living in the Bruton area, he rose to an important government position when in 1599 he was appointed as a Royal auditor to Elizabeth I and later James I, becoming a rich man in the process. Although the school wasn’t around until 1891, it was built on the site of ‘Sexey’s hospital’ –  Hugh Sexey established a Trust in his Will to establish a place, Almshouses, to care for impoverished elderly people.

Yet Bruton is some 30 miles from Dundry, the place Sexey gives as her birthplace and where her Mother is still living in 1841.

All I am left with is guesswork, as her Mother’s baptism doesn’t seem to be anywhere under any spelling (although as Sexey Butt is down as Lucy Bull on one census it’s not hard to imagine I may have missed it) and she is a widow in 1841, and I can’t find any of her children’s baptisms, despite one having the rather unusual name of Marmaduke, and their marriages are not available online – only the index which doesn’t give a Father’s name. This means I can’t find a marriage for Sexey Pool senior and therefore any other possible leads.

So, all things considered, I would have to hazard a guess that her Mother was named after a maternal line’s surname, perhaps a descendant of  Hugh Sexey himself! But whatever the reason, it’s not something I think many people would choose to name their children these days, no matter what their family history might be.

Day, Mr Time Of


Sometimes, you’ll come across a name that’s a straight up pun, and the only mystery is what possessed Mr and Mrs Day to progress from “Hey we could call him Time of Day – ha!” To actually baptising and officially registering the name…

‘Time Of’ was born in 1833 in Hoo, Kent. Once again he is the only child in the family with an unusual name, his siblings being David, Henry, Caroline, Sarah, Maria, Charles, Harriet and Thomas.

In the 1841 census, the enumerator has decided to give him the more sensible(ish) name of ‘Thyme’, and he is 9 years old, living with his parents George, a Shepherd and Mary, along with his 6 siblings on Cockham Farm (You may need to choose background map OS 1900’s on the drop down menu top left of the map). His poor Mum is only 30, with 7 children all just 2 years apart!

By 1851 his father is a Bailiff, and Time Of is now the Shepherd. At this time Hoo is a relatively sparsely populated area, and the Day family seem to be quite prolific! His father George is not the only person acting as a Bailiff at this time, although Farm Bailiffs were more about running the farms and estates rather than evicting people and arresting them, although depending on the availability of local law enforcement and their standing in the local community it wouldn’t be unheard of.

I haven’t been able to find him in the 1861 census, I had a look through all the records for the area but he seems to have temporarily moved somewhere else. However his future wife, Martha Blackman, is living with her parents and 7 siblings in the “The Five Bells” public house.

He marries Martha in 1866, the marriage is registered in North Aylsebury, and in 1881 Time Of is now the licensed victualler of “The Bell Inn“, which it’s current website states (it’s now named the Fenn Bell Inn) was probably named for the bells that were used to guide people across the marshes in poor weather, ringing to enable travellers to find a safe way across without getting stuck in the mud. Martha’s Father’s pub was probably named for the same reasons.

The 1881 census shows them with no less than 15 lodgers, and Time Of’s nephew Thomas. Martha and Time Of never do have any children, and on the 7th December 1890 he dies at the Inn, leaving Martha around £60,000. It gets a little difficult to trace her after this, but I’m almost 100% certain she moves over the river to Balmoral Rd, in Gillingham, and in 1911 she has a companion in the way of her sister Ellen’s niece, Blanche Spree.

However, whilst looking on the Free BMD Index for Time Of’s death I was made aware of two other Time Of Days, one before and one after the one I have just written about.
The earlier Time Of was a Journeying Blacksmith also from Hoo (you can actually see their ‘Smithy’ on the link above for the Bell Inn, a little down Fen Street) so we can actually probably pass the blame for the original people to name their child after this partial idiom to his parents, Thomas and Elizabeth. Our Time Of was no doubt a relative named for this one.

The Later Time Of Day is born in 1899, he is born to Alice and Thomas Day, I believe the nephew who grows up with Time Of and Martha at the Inn, as the birth date matches and this Thomas is Inn Keeper of The Privateer, which was to close 3 years later in 1914.
The younger Time Of marries Jennie Barker in 1924, and they have two daughters.
It seems no one else decided to carry on this name – but of course, there’s still time…

The Old England Goodsons.


Was there ever a more patriotic, stalwart, dependable sounding name as this?
The first Old England I found was born in 1875 in Aston Clinton, a village sited at the crossing of two Roman roads, Akeman Street and Icknield Way, between Tring and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

His parents were John and Mary, and when Old England was born John was working as a Straw dealer. Straw was actually a large part of the local economy in Aston Clinton, so much so that even the Postmaster was a Straw dealer on the side!

By the age of 15, Old is in St Bride’s in London, working as a Grocer’s assistant to Thomas Crook, who was from a village only a mile or two from his – presumably Old’s family knew Thomas before his move to London and Old decided he wanted to try living in the big city – however 10 years later we find him back living with his parents, his father now a Duck Breeder (presumably the famous Aylesbury Ducks) but himself still working as a Grocer, only this time on his own account.

1911 finds him with his widowed Father and a wife, Eliza Matilda (Stevens), they’ve been married 6 years but have no children.

1905 Married At the Church of Holy Cross, Hankerton, on the 30th ult. by the Vicar. Old England,
only son of Mr John Goodson, of Aston Clinton, to Eliza Matilda, daughter of Mr G
Stevens, of Hankerton.
Bucks Herald Saturday 4 February 1905

The are living in Green End Street, between Gingers Farm (The farmhouse still exists, but the Farm now seems to be Ginger’s Close) and The Partridge, which means it could well be this house, now known as Dormer Cottage. Old E. is now a Duck breeder and dealer. Sadly however Old E. dies later that year, in early September, leaving his wife around £24,000 in today’s money, aged just 36.

So, why ‘Old England’? Well his Grandfather was called England Goodson, and his Father and Grandfather before him were Old England as well, so although it seems the Old was temporarily dropped it is, by the time we come to this Old England, a family name. The original, presuming there are none before and it’s not just that the records no longer exist, is born in 1703 (the same year the Mount Gay distillery was founded, irrelevant but sort of interesting!) to Thomas and Mary Goodson, living in Halton, just a few miles from Aston Clinton.

One possibility of the origin is that on the 7th February 1703 (Old England is baptised on the 21st, and children were usually baptised within 3 weeks of birth at this time) the original negotiations for the Union of Scotland and England were temporarily thrown out, thus preserving the cultural ideology of Merry ‘Old England’. It might seem a little tenuous, but it was a subject many people felt strongly about (and still do!), and as the other children have relatively normal names (aside from the excellently named Aquilla) we can assume that this reason could be a strong contender.

Incidentally it was Aquilla’s son Francis who was the only other person to revive the name with his son, born circa. 1821. In 1841 Francis was a court Door and Office keeper for the courts, and Old England no. 2 is a police constable living  on Bow street (The Bow street runners come to mind). I came across an article of a constable Goodson breaking up a fight in a train station, however the first name was not given.

the black lion

The Black Lion c. 1820

Old England no.2 does not stay in this job however, he becomes the landlord/licensed victualler first of The White Horse in Covent Garden and then of the Black Lion on Church Street in the Chelsea borough. 

However he too dies young, just a year after moving to the Black Lion in 1858.

So now, we must say Adieu to Old England, Adieu! (sorry).