Subject Name: Francis Faggetter (b1873 – d1940)
Researchers: Julie Cameron, Carol Thompson
Francis Faggetter came through a childhood of domestic violence, truancy and the workhouse to successfully raise a family and have a long career with the newly formed London County Council.
Francis Edward Faggetter was born on 11th November 1873 in Pirbright, Surrey (8), and baptised on 5th April 1874 at Pirbright Parish Church. He was the eighth of ten children of Edward and Phoebe Faggetter, all of whom had been born in Pirbright.
At the time of Francis’ birth, his father Edward, although only aged about 40, had been suffering from hip disease for around 15 years. As a consequence of Edward being unable to work, the family was very poor, living off monies provided by the Guildford Union as out-relief, supplemented by no doubt meagre earnings from Francis’ mother Phoebe working as a charwoman or laundress.
Shortly after the birth of Francis’ youngest brother Ephraim James in 1877, when Francis was three years old, his father Edward savagely attacked Phoebe over her inability to find money for one of their sons – most probably eight-year-old Jesse – to attend school. Phoebe was lucky to survive. For this assault, Edward spent twelve months in Wandsworth Prison.
Just three months after his release, in July 1878, Edward was back in court, this time charged with throwing a large stone bottle at Phoebe. The Court heard that Edward had frequently assaulted Phoebe. He was bound over to keep the peace for 12 months, and locked up because he was unable to pay the fine. Phoebe, though, was refused a separation order to enable her to live apart from her husband.
It seems certain that Francis’ early years were scarred by these events and his school record shows that he was clearly unsettled. He had been enrolled in Pirbright school in June 1878, age 4. On 16th October 1879, the school log book noted that Francis was “very idle and careless”.
This was followed on 31st October by a further note from his school teacher who believed that Francis had been “playing truant”.
On 3rd November the attendance officer Mr Portsmouth informed the school that Francis had “left the parish”. Francis was taken off the school register, however later that month, just before his sixth birthday, Francis was reported to have been “running about the common”.
It may well have been about this time that Francis, clearly a handful and with a difficult home life, was taken into the Guildford Union Workhouse. Mr Portsmouth, the school attendance officer, may have been involved, as he was also the “relieving officer” for the Guildford Union. As relieving officer, he would have evaluated the requirements of individuals and authorised entry into the workhouse.
Although there are no records to show when Francis was admitted, there are no further Pirbright school records for him, which suggests that he was now living and receiving his education in the workhouse.
The 1881 Census showed that seven-year-old Francis was indeed a scholar living in the Guildford Union Workhouse. His father Edward, age 47, noted as an agricultural labourer, was also living there, although they would have been housed in different areas – Francis in a children’s ward and Edward in a male ward.
Francis’ mother Phoebe, 46, now free from Edward, was working as a laundress in Knaphill, just a short distance north of Guildford, living with her own mother and Francis’ youngest brother, four-year-old (Ephraim) James. Francis’ other surviving siblings were all old enough to have left home. Perhaps Phoebe felt she had been unable to look after Francis properly as well as his younger brother, especially as Francis had been missing school so frequently. Whether she maintained contact with Francis in the Guildford Union as he was under the same roof as her husband is not known.
Francis had certainly experienced a difficult early childhood, but the next traced record for him, the 1891 Census, showed that his fortunes had been turned around. Age 19 according to Census but actually only 17, Francis was employed as an assistant house porter at the London County Asylum in Friern Barnet, Middlesex. This would seem to be a responsible position, and suggests that the education and discipline that would have been imposed on Francis at the Guildford Union Workhouse had borne fruit.
His employer was the London County Council, forerunner of the Greater London Council and the Greater London Authority, which was formed in 1889. Francis remained with the LCC for the rest of his working life. His retirement notice in 1928 showed that he had been with the LCC since its formation, when Francis was aged just 15.
By the 1901 Census, 28-year-old Francis had moved eastwards to Kent. He was recorded as married, living at 16 Salisbury Road, Bexley, and working as “Head cook in Lunatic Asylum”. This was the Heath Asylum, Bexley which had opened just three years earlier and, like the London County Asylum, was under the auspices of the LCC.
No record of Francis’ marriage has been found, but living with him was his “wife” Ada Rose, 24, born in Islington. Living there also were Ada’s brother Arthur Bird (15, an errand boy) along with Francis’ and Ada’s daughter Dorothy. She was noted as age 12, but actually was just 12 months. Her full name was Muriel Dorothy Faggetter, and she had been baptised at Christ Church, Southgate, Enfield on 13th May 1900, the same church where her mother had been baptised.
By 1911, Francis had settled at 30 Gloucester Road, Dartford, with Ada and now three children, Muriel (11), Edward (9) and Rose (7). He was still working at the asylum, but now as a “stores porter”. Sadly, Muriel was described as “mentally deficient from birth” .
Bexley Asylum Minute books record a little more about Francis’ working life. In August 1906 “stores porter” Francis was given permission to apply for a job as cook at the West Ham Infirmary. Although he didn’t get this job, he was clearly well thought of and flexible, as in April 1912, he was a “stores porter (acting butcher)”.
Little had changed by the 1921 census. Francis and Ada were still living at 30 Gloucester Road and he remained as a stores porter at the LCC’s Bexley Asylum as it was now known. Daughter Muriel Dorothy, now 21, was helping her mother in the home. Son Francis Edward, 19, was a machinist at Vickers in nearby Crayford. Daughter Rose Lily, 17, had a position as a live-in nursery maid 35 miles (56km) away in Goudhurst.
Francis retired age 55 from the London County Council in November 1928. Not only had he worked for the LCC for 40 years, 30 of which was at the Bexley Mental Hospital, he had also been the Secretary of the Westgate House Working Men’s Club in Dartford for the previous 15 years.
Sadly, Francis and Ada did not enjoy a long retirement together. Ada was operated on to remove a tumour in July 1929. Doctors advised a further operation, which Ada did not want.
Although there was nothing to indicate that she would take her own life, Francis found Ada in the scullery of their house dead from coal gas poisoning on 7th December 1929. The verdict of the coroner’s inquiry was “suicide during temporary insanity”.
In late 1931, Francis married Eliza Rumley in Dartford. Francis, Eliza, and Francis’ daughter Muriel Dorothy continued to live at 30 Gloucester Road, but tragedy struck again when Eliza passed away in February 1938 of anaemia and a kidney disorder at the age of 62.
Francis remained in Gloucester Road with daughter Muriel before, age 65, he married 56-year-old Munro Lucy Reeder in Spring 1939. The 1939 Register taken in September showed Francis, Munro and 39-year-old Muriel at 30 Gloucester Road. It also noted that Francis was still the secretary of the Dartford Working Men’s Club, a position he had held for over a quarter of a century.
In fact, Francis never moved from Gloucester Road, where he died on 13th January 1940, age 66, of “myocardial degeneration and arteriosclerosis“.
Married for less than a year, his widow, Munro Lucy, seemed to revert back to her previous married name, as she was buried at Greenwich Cemetery on 29th December 1969 as Munro Lucy Reeder, age 88.
Updated January 2023
A full biography of Francis Edward Faggetter’s father, Edward Faggetter, can be found here
Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre
British Newspaper Archive
Government Register Office, GRO.gov.uk
North West Kent Family History Society
Surrey History Centre, Surreycc.gov.uk/culture-and-leisure/history-centre
For a full list of references click here