Subject Name : Kate Smith (b 1879 – d 1882)
Researcher : Heather Turner
Kate Smith was born on 5th October 1879, in Westfield, Woking, Surrey, almost certainly at her grandparents George and Catherine Smith’s home (1). She was the second illegitimate daughter of Sarah Ann Smith, a domestic servant, her elder sister Ellen having been born in Woking in 1876 (2).
When Kate was only four months old, on 3rd February 1880, her 42-year-old mother Sarah was admitted to the Brookwood Asylum (3, 4). She was taken there by the Receiving Officer of the Guildford Union Workhouse, although her Brookwood notes say that she had been admitted from Haslemere.
From Sarah’s case notes, it is clear she was suffering from severe postnatal depression. She had apparently ‘been getting strange ever since the last child was born and a friend who accompanied her to the asylum thinks that the worry of suckling is the cause of this attack’. Her case notes further stated that ‘on admission, appears to have been suffering from dementia, the result of debility from prolonged lactation, being quiet and apathetic’. This condition was not understood at the time and therefore not treated appropriately, the Brookwood medical staff sadly believing that administering a purgative to Sarah would help her recover.
Despite her mother now being an inmate at Brookwood, Kate’s baptism took place less than three weeks later, on 22nd February 1880 at St Peter’s Church, Woking (5). ‘Sarah Ann Smith’ of Westfield, Woking, was noted in the Register as the single parent, but it seems very unlikely that Sarah would have been able to attend the service.
There is no record of any of Sarah’s family including her children going to see her in Brookwood although it was only about 4 miles (6.4km) from Westfield. It was noted by Brookwood that a visit by Sarah’s friends a few months after her admission “appears to have upset her. She is much excited and inclined to violence – she flew at the charge attendant”.
When her mother Sarah had entered Brookwood in February 1880, Kate would have been separated from her, a distressing time of course for both. The baptism record indicates that Kate was in the care of her maternal grandparents in Westfield at that time, but the 1881 Census on 3rd April 1881 showed Kate, at the tender age of 18 months (rounded up to 2 years old on the Census), listed as an inmate of the Guildford Union Workhouse (6). Kate’s sister Ellen, age five, was living with their grandparents, George, age 64 and Catherine, 63, at Westfield (7). There are no records to show when Kate entered the Workhouse, but either ill-health or just the difficulty for her grandparents to care for two small children may have resulted in her move from the family home.
It is not known if Kate ever returned to Westfield. Sadly, on 11th May 1882, she died in the Workhouse, at a little over two and a half years of age, from ‘tuberculosis’ (8). With little protection from disease at that time, the child mortality rate in the UK at this time showed that nearly one in four children died before the age of five (9). Kate was buried on 16th May at St John the Baptist, Woking (10).
Kate’s mother Sarah never recovered her health, remaining in the Brookwood Asylum until she passed away there on 29th March 1892, age 54 (4). Like Kate, her cause of death was tuberculosis. Sarah was buried, as Kate had been, at St John the Baptist Church (11).
December 2019, updated August 2023
- Kate Smith (1879) England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915, Registration Year: 1879, Registration District: Guildford; Quarter: 4, Volume: 2a, Page: 58. Ancestry.co.uk Copy original certificate available from General Register Office GRO.gov.uk
- Ellen Smith (1876) England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915, Registration Year: 1876, Registration District: Guildford; Quarter: 2, Volume: 2a, Page: 53. Ancestry.co.uk
Ellen Smith (1876) Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Baptism Registers; Woking St John 1866-1897; Reference: WOKJ/1/2; Page: 63. Ancestry.co.uk
- Sarah Ann Smith (1880) Brookwood Hospital Woking, Female Case Book No 6 26 Apr 1878 – 20 Apr 1880, reference 3043/5/9/2/11, page 267. Surrey History Centre, Woking.
- Sarah Ann Smith (1892) Brookwood Hospital Woking, Chronic Female Case Book No 2 19 Jul 1879 – 17 Mar 1889, reference 3043/5/9/3/4, page 10. Surrey History Centre, Woking
- Kate Smith (1880) Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Baptism Registers; Woking St Peter 1851-1891; Reference: WOKP/2/4; Page: 63. Ancestry.co.uk
- Kate Smith (1881) Census return for Guildford Union Workhouse, Union Lane, in the parish of Stoke next Guildford, registration district of Guildford, Surrey. PRO: RG11/778, folio 94 p.10. TheGenealogist.co.uk
- George, Catherine & Ellen Smith (1881) Census return for Westfield, in the parish of Woking, Guildford, Surrey. PRO: RG11, piece: 772, folio: 95; p.21. Ancestry.co.uk
- Kate Smith (1882) England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915. Registration Year: 1882, Registration District: Guildford, County: Surrey, Quarter: 2, Volume: 2a, Page 51. Ancestry.co.uk Copy original certificate available from General Register Office GRO.gov.uk
- Child mortality rate (under five years old) in the United Kingdom from 1800 to 2020 Statista.com
- Kate Smith (1882) Surrey, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1997. Woking St John 1874-1886; Reference: WOKJ/4/2; Page: 54. Ancestry.co.uk
- Sarah Ann Smith (1892) Surrey, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1997. Woking St John 1886-1896; Reference: WOKJ/4/3; Page: 54. Ancestry.co.uk