george goddard

Subject Name :  George Goddard (b 1859 – d 1918)

Researchers : Mike Brock & Carol Thompson

George Goddard was born in 1859, the sixth of seven children of George and Amelia Ann Goddard née Willett.  He was baptised at St Nicholas Church, Compton on May 8th 1859.  George had been born with a mental disability, with him indicated on the 1871 Census as being, in the forthright language of the time, an ‘imbecile from birth’

George senior was an agricultural labourer.  As many such families with limited income in the mid-1800s, the Goddards did not have an easy time.  Not just poverty but also poor health blighted George and Amelia Goddard, along with the extra strain of looking after their mentally impaired son George junior.  As paupers, they turned to the Guildford Union for assistance.  From 1864 to 1869, George senior, of Compton Street, Compton, regularly received outdoor relief in money, payment in kind, and medical orders for a sick wife, illness and ‘child idiotic’.  It seems this was sufficient to keep them out of the Workhouse.

George senior passed away in January 1869 aged just 43 in Farncombe of diseased heart and lungs.  Just before his death, the family had moved the short distance from Compton to Farncombe.  The Guildford Poor Law Union Accounts for the six months ending Lady Day (25th March) 1869, spanning the time of George’s death, show that the family were given £3 8 shillings (£3.40) in money and £3 8s 3d (£3.41) payment in kind at that time.  This works out to be nine old pennies per day – less than four pence in today’s money.  To give an idea of the value of their benefit, a four-pound (1.8kg) loaf at that time cost around 6 ½d (about 3 pence).  The Goddards also received £1 15s 10 ¾d (£1.79) for medical expenses and for ‘Illness, 2 funerals &c widow and children’.  The second funeral was for 10-year-old Daniel, who had passed away three days after his father, of ‘disease of brain’.  Daniel and father George were buried on the same day at the Godalming Nightingale Cemetery.

Two years later, in the 1871 Census, the remaining Goddards were still in Farncombe, at West Lynch Cottages, Meadrow.  George’s mother Amelia, age 39, was working as a charwoman, whilst also looking after 12-year-old George and his brother John, 11.  George’s older sister, also named Amelia, a 17-year-old house servant, was living there too.  She had given birth to a son, George William, in November 1870, but he died just a few months later from ‘atrophy’ (wasting away).  He was buried on 11th March 1871 at the Nightingale Cemetery, the third family funeral in just two years.  Life was certainly tough for the poor in that era.

Amelia senior continued to receive outdoor relief from the Guildford Union.  In the six months to Michaelmas (29th September) 1871 she received money for ‘her children, one idiotic, and shoes’.  Entries now indicate that Amelia herself was partly disabled.

Eight years later, George’s mother Amelia died age 57 on 24th February 1879 of phthisis (tuberculosis) at her daughter Fanny Goddard’s home in Bridge Street, Godalming and was buried at the Nightingale Cemetery.  George by this time had been an inmate of the Guildford Union Workhouse since about 1875 when he was 16.  The 1881 Census confirmed him to be in the Workhouse, age 21, with ‘no occupation’ and an ‘idiot from birth’.

However, George’s behaviour was starting to become a problem, so on 23rd September 1882, seven years since becoming an inmate, he was transferred to Brookwood Mental Asylum by
Mr Portsmouth, the Guildford Union Relieving Officer for Guildford.  23-year-old George’s admission report said that he had been at times ‘violent and uncontrollable’ and had ‘marks on his hands where he has bitten himself’.  His initial examination said that ‘he hides his eyes with his hands when spoken to and refuses to speak’, but was generally in good health, weighing eight stone five pounds (53kg).

The move to Brookwood seemed to improve George’s state of mind.  A report less than three weeks later on 10th October 1882 noted that ‘he is quiet, works well and has shown no signs of a violent temper since admission’.  A further entry from 9th September 1883 said that he ‘goes out regularly to work at the laundry’, and subsequent reports over the years indicated that he continued this work, remaining in good health with no sign of the violent tendencies he displayed before his admission to Brookwood.

Throughout the next 35 years, George was regularly assessed, with his mental condition and general health remaining much the same, illustrated by a typical entry from 10th February 1918 which said, ‘He is usefully employed in the laundry and is no trouble’.

The next entry on 23rd April 1918 said that ‘he complained of feeling ill’ and was taken to the infirmary with ‘heart action bad’.  Two days later, at 8.15 in the evening, he passed away, aged 59.  The cause of death was noted as morbus cordis – an unspecified heart disease.

October 2020, updated April 2024

Sources / British Newspaper Archive
      Government Register Office
      Nightingale Cemetery, Godalming Burial Records
      Surrey History Centre, Woking

For a full list of references click here.