Subject Name: Letitia Hunt (b1845 – d1919)
Henry Thomas Hunt (b1869-d?)
Fanny Elizabeth Hunt (b1872-d1961)
Researchers: Barbara Hester, Mike Brock, Carol Thompson
Letitia Hunt was born on 5 July 1845 in the village of Shere, about five miles south-east of Guildford. Her birth came just a few weeks after her parents Job Hunt, a gardener, and Mary Hopkins, were married at Shere’s St James’ Church on 8 May. Letitia was baptised at the same church on 25 July.
Letitia proved to be one of the fortunate members of the Hunt family, as tragedy struck time and time again in the next few years. Of her six siblings, born between 1846 and 1854, four died before reaching five months, and a further brother died aged two. Only Letitia and James, the fifth child born in 1850, reached adulthood.
1855 was the family’s lowest point, with the deaths in February of Letitia’s siblings Henry and William followed by their mother Mary, age 41, in November.
The family had moved seven miles east from the village of Shere to the town of Dorking in about 1848 with the 1851 Census showing them living in Back Lane (now known as Church Street), in the centre of the town. They moved a number of times in and around Dorking and at the time of Mary’s death in 1855, they were in Cotmandene, just a few hundred yards from Back Lane in the east of the town.
After the death of his wife, 38-year-old Job now had to care for Letitia, age ten, and James, just turning five, while trying to continue working. By 1861 Letitia, now 16, had moved back to Shere where she was a general servant living with 70-year-old Thomas Tilley, an importer of Alderney cows, and his wife Mary. Without Letitia to help care for her younger brother, it seems that Job turned to a fellow gardener for practical help. The 1861 Census shows James, noted as eight years old but actually ten, boarding with gardener James Clark and his wife Emma in Mill Lane, Dorking (8), just a short walk from Back Lane where Job was living.
Less than three years later, Job passed away from pneumonia in Shere on 25 January 1864 age 51, meaning that Letitia had lived through the deaths of five siblings and both her parents by the age of just 18.
Things became tougher still for Letitia when at the age of 23, she gave birth to her first child Henry Thomas Hunt on 2 January 1869 in the Guildford Union Workhouse. No father’s name is recorded. Henry Thomas was baptised on 24 October that year with both him and his mother still in the workhouse.
Within the next 18 months, Letitia was out of the workhouse and back working as a general servant, employed at the Drummond Arms in Albury, the next village to Shere, by 52-year-old licensed victualler Henry Potter. Letitia had arranged for her son to live with 35-year-old William Ladd and his family in Shere, the 1871 Census noting two-year-old Henry as a “nurse child”. This meant that Letitia would have paid the Ladd family a fee to care for Henry full time so that she was free to work.
Early the following year, Letitia was pregnant again, giving birth in the Guildford Union Workhouse to a daughter, Fanny Hunt, on 4 October 1872. Like Henry, no father was named on the record. The baptism was held on 9 February 1873 at the Workhouse, with the chaplain also conducting on the same day nine other baptisms of children born to single mothers there. There are no existing admission/discharge records for the Guildford Union Workhouse, but it seems most likely that Henry would have been in the Workhouse with his mother and his new sibling, as Letitia would have unable to earn any money to pay for his keep as a nurse child.
The 1881 Census showed Letitia, Henry and Fanny all as inmates at Guildford Union Workhouse. The most likely scenario is that all three would have been there since 1872 because Letitia would not have been able to earn sufficient money to look after them, or to put them into the care of others. Henry was now twelve and Fanny eight, and both would have received their education in the workhouse.
What became of Letitia, Henry and Fanny after 1881 is difficult to unravel, but none of them were in the Guildford Union Workhouse according to the 1891 Census. Unfortunately, no further records can be verified for Henry. However, it does look as though Letitia and Fanny remained closely linked, with both moving to London.
In the 1891 census, Letitia was noted as a general domestic servant for a lodging house keeper at 51 Lupus Street, Pimlico, London. She is down as a widow, age 40 and born in London. This is, of course, inaccurate personal information about our Letitia, and there were more errors concerning her daughter who was living in Claverton Street, a road which adjoins Lupus Street. The Census named her as Fanny Hart, an 18-year-old unmarried servant, born in Sussex (sic), Guildford. This is probably a combination of enumerator errors and “little white lies” told by Letitia to legitimise her situation.
Records then note that on 13 June 1895, a Letitia Hunt, born in 1845 and an unmarried servant – all correct information regarding our Letitia – was admitted to the St George’s Union Workhouse in the Fulham Road, London. This Workhouse was just a couple of miles from Lupus Street, and given the rarity of her name, it seems very likely that this is our Letitia. She entered the same workhouse at least three times in the next two years, including one occasion in 1896 when she appears to have just had breakfast there before releasing herself the same day.
Letitia’s only other close relative, her brother James, had moved from Shere to London sometime after 1871. He had married in Wandsworth in 1879 and in 1881 at the age of 28 was a gas-fitter living in Lambeth. He was living in nearby Camberwell in 1891, and remained there until his death in 1932, so this may have influenced Letitia – Lupus Street is less than five miles from Camberwell.
Letitia has not been traced on the 1901 Census – her last confirmed record being New Year’s Day 1897 in the St George’s Union Workhouse. Daughter Fanny, 28, is by then an unmarried general servant working for civil servant James Charles Coombs and his family at 18 Hinckley Road, Camberwell, just a few minutes’ walk away from her uncle James. On this Census, Fanny has acquired a middle name, noted with the letter E. This is revealed to be Elizabeth on the 1911 Census, with Fanny, now 39, still single and servant to James Coombs and family at the same address. Although Fanny was not registered at birth or baptised with the middle name Elizabeth, both Censuses state that this Fanny Elizabeth Hunt was born in Guildford. No record has been found of someone of that name being born in the Guildford area around 1872/3, so it seems that she had decided to give herself a middle name. Stronger proof that she is the correct Fanny Hunt is shown on her mother’s death certificate in 1910.
Over 13 years had passed since Letitia’s last known whereabouts. Then on 1 July 1910 a Letitia Hunt is recorded as having been admitted to the Hampshire County Lunatic Asylum in Fareham, close to Portsmouth, where she passed away on 30 October 1910 from heart disease. The Fareham Asylum notified the Farnham Workhouse Board of Guardians of the death, which suggests that she was in the Farnham Workhouse prior to being moved to the Asylum. Farnham is some 15 miles west of Letitia’s birthplace of Shere.
The death record at first glance appears to be the wrong one, as it says Letitia was a widow of Bartlett Hunt, a general labourer, of Farnham Workhouse in Surrey, although her age of 66 is only a year over what our Letitia would have been. However, the witness to the death is Fanny E. Hunt, of 18 Hinckley Road, clearly linking the two together. There are no admission records existing for the Farnham Workhouse, and no trace of Bartlett Hunt, so the full story of Letitia’s latter years will probably never be known.
Fanny’s future was clearer, although no less sad. On Saturday 26 May 1923 she was admitted to the Constance Road Workhouse, Camberwell, from her home with the Coombs’ family where she had been for well over 20 years. The admission record said that she was “alleged insane”. Less than two weeks later, on 7 June, she was discharged to the Banstead Asylum. She was 50 years of age.
The 1939 Register recorded Fanny as a patient of Banstead Hospital, the new name of the Banstead Asylum. She lived for another 22 years, passing away there on 2 June 1961 of broncho pneumonia and senility, age 88.
Letitia Hunt had an extremely difficult life. She came through a traumatic childhood surrounded by so many deaths in her family, and then as an adult had the problems of trying to raise two illegitimate children without family support. Perhaps it is not surprising that she ended up with mental problems. Although Letitia’s son Henry’s fate remains unknown, her daughter Fanny was clearly much loved and respected by the family she served for so many years. It’s very sad that she, like her mother, ended up with issues and spent her long later years in a mental institution.
Barbara Hester, Mike Brock, Carol Thompson
Sources : Ancestry.co.uk
Government Register Office GRO.gov.uk
Surrey History Centre, Woking surreycc.gov.uk
For a full list of references click here