Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Friday, 13 August 2021

Frederick Southcott and Eliza Harris

Tiverton : Former Belmont Hospital
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Lewis Clarke - geograph.org.uk/p/4587272
Now known as Perreyman Court, this used to be a hospital and workhouse.

Frederick Southcott, son of William Southcott and Temperance Cosway, married Eliza Harris in Tiverton, in 1879. They had five children: 

  1. Lucy Southcott b. 30 Aug 1880, bap. 13 Sep 1880 at St Peter's Church, Tiverton. (Died in the first quarter of 1881, aged 0.)
  2. Alice Southcott b. 22 Mar 1882, bap. 14 Apr 1882 at St Peter's Church, Tiverton. (Died at the beginning of 1885, aged 3.)
  3. Arthur Southcott b. 30 Jul 1883, bap. 9 Aug 1883 at St Peter's
  4. Frederick William Southcott b. 27 Feb 1886, bap. 28 Mar 1886 at St Peter's Church, Tiverton. (Died in the 2nd quarter of 1886, aged 0.) 
  5. Bessie Southcott b. 1889, bap. 12 Feb 1892 at St Peter's, Tiverton.

In 1881, Frederick Southcott (29) and his wife Eliza (25) were living in Kiddles Court, Tiverton - off Fore Street - and he was employed as a Milk Carrier (these listings of Victorian Occupations 'helpfully' lists this as "Someone who carries milk" - no doubt from dairy to customer in a hand cart as shown here.)

However, already on the 1886 baptism, under what is usually the father's occupation, was listed "Inmate of Workhouse". And on Bessie's baptism in 1892, their address was given as Tiverton Union, i.e. Workhouse too. 

In 1891, Frederick, Eliza, Arthur and Bessie had all been Inmates at The Tiverton Union Workhouse. It becomes clear why they were there, as the records explain that Frederick Southcott, former milk carrier, had become "Blind not from birth".

Without buying all the death certificates, it's not possible to know for sure what it was, but clearly something happened within the five years between 1881 and 1886. The fact that two of the children died around the same time, in 1885 and 1886, tends to suggest - to me anyway - that disease, rather than an accident, was implicated. Smallpox was a common killer in nineteenth century Britain, and was responsible for a third of all human blindness. The risk of death after contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies.

Unsurprisingly, Arthur went to sea, joining the Royal Navy in March 1899, when he will have been 15½. While Bessie was enrolled in Elmore School in 1899, with her address on the school records once again listed as "Workhouse".

Bessie and her parents were still in the Workhouse in 1901, after which she just disappears. Art Southcott (17), in 1901, was a Boy 1st Class, part of the crew of HMS Nile, while she was the coast guard ship at Devonport

Frederick died in 1906. Arthur served in the Royal Navy until 4 Jun 1908, when he was Invalided, so by 1911, Arthur Southcott (27) was back in the Tiverton Union Workhouse. Eliza was still in the Workhouse in 1911 and died in 1913. 

Utterly heart-breaking that accident or illness had consigned them to what was undoubtedly a miserable existence for the rest of their lives. 

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If you're related to any of the people written about, I'm guessing you'll recognise them from the surnames. If you are, do please get in touch.