They died too young

This series, highlighting the untimely deaths of some of the pupils of the School, may give a disproportionate view of the care afforded to them in their time at RMIG. This could not be further from the truth. To date, the numbers of pupils who have received an education at the school since its inception are numbered at 5000++ so the relative few that died as children is a huge tribute to the care they received. “To-day one child in seventeen dies before it is a year old, but in 1840 the figure was about one in six, and about a third of the children born died before the age of five” On that basis, the 34 examples in this series are a triumph!

Grace Proctor left the school in 1897 but didn’t see the new century. Aged just 18, she died in her home area of the East End of London. She had 10 siblings so ascertaining if there were a genetic reason for her death would be a major project on its own!

Hannah Margaret Inglis was born and died in Gravesend, Kent. The daughter of a mariner who died in the same year his daughter was born, her only ‘memories’ of him would have been through her mother and two older brothers. The Era of 15 October 1881 reported that 25 applications for entry to the School had been balloted of which 15 had been successfully elected. Hannah was one of these with 1409 votes. The two census returns that bracket her time at the School show that she returned to her family home in Gravesend upon the completion of her time at school. In 1891, she is recorded as a school governess and living in Westham Road, Gravesend. Sadly, this is the same address recorded 18 months later in her burial record in the Municipal Cemetery.

Mary Ann Norris died of consumption on 9 October 1797. She was one of the earlier pupils being listed in the 1818 Book of Governors as entering the school in 1796 so a probable birthdate is 1788. The School had recently moved to its second site in St George’s Fields when Mary Ann joined it from her home in Holborn. Her school career, sadly, was very short-lived.

The school at St George's Fields, Southwark
The school at St George’s Fields, Southwark

Frances Jane New was elected to the school in 1880 and can be seen on the census return for 1881 there. Her parents (Frederic James & Sarah Sophia New) had been married in Highworth, Wiltshire in 1870 so Frances would have been their first born. Sadly, she was also their last as her mother died in childbirth. Frances was elected to the School in 1880 and would have left in about 1887. We do not know what occupation, if any, she held as, before the next census return, she had died – another who did not last into adult life once beyond the nurture of the school.

Lilian Mary Nelson not only did not survive long after leaving school, she was also a promising life cut cruelly short. In the year she left she won the Gold Medal and was probably well set for a career as a governess or similar. She left in 1876, returned to her family home in Scarborough and, sadly, was struck down by ‘enteric fever 14 days’ – in other words, typhoid. “In the second week of the infection, the person is often too tired to get up with high fever in plateau around 40 °C (104F)” (Wikipedia). Nowadays, treatable with antibiotics or prevented by vaccine, in 1876 neither of these was possible.

Gold Medal
Gold Medal

Charlotte Ann McMillan became a pupil after her father, a civil engineer, died. Upon reaching school leaving age, she became a pupil teacher at the school and was listed as a governess at the time of her death. However, whatever promising teaching career she may have had was cut short when she died in her 20th year. Her death, attributed to a gastric ulcer & acute gastritis, occurred on 17 December 1894 at the school and another former pupil, Effie Rose Bellamy, by then a nurse in the Sanatorium there, was present at the death. The School doctor of the time, Dr T Howell, certified her death.

Gertrude Laura Massey was a pupil at the school in 1905 aged 10. In 1906, whilst still at the school, she died of complications following an operation for appendicitis. Her sister was able to be with her and the funeral took place in Shropshire, her place of birth. Which of her three sisters was with her the records do not say but their mother had died in 1900.

Jemima Thompson Laws (who was actually baptised Jemima Thomasine Laws on 4th December 1850) was one of the eight children of George & Elizabeth Laws of 25 Fair St, Stepney (although father originally came from Aberdeen). Charles Booth described the housing in Fair Street as being two storeyed and having 6 rooms and a scullery. He also described it as working class so it had perhaps deteriorated since 1850.

Jemima’s death in 1864 is recorded as being in Wandsworth so probably therefore occurred at school although this, and its cause, has not yet been recovered from the school records.

Caroline Elizabeth Lamming died aged 17 in 1862. She had been baptised on 28 Nov 1862 at Stoke Newington St Mary, which record also recorded her birthdate of June 5 1862. The petition for her admittance to the School was successful on 14 October 1869 at which time the family lived at 302 Mare St, Hackney. Her father, William Pulleyn Lamming, had died in 1868 and her mother subsequently remarried. After leaving school, Caroline probably returned to her family. By the 1881 census (i.e. about a year after her death), her mother, stepfather, sister and step-siblings were living at the curious address of Metropolitan District Railway Station, Fulham. As Caroline’s death is recorded in Fulham it seems the most likely scenario that she was with her family at the time.

S Johnson (no forename given in the record) “died in a decline” in 1811. Her death was recorded in the Book of Governors of 1818 although quite what dying in a decline means is open to interpretation. She was admitted to the school in the year she died so was she already ill or was it all too much for her constitution? She was only about 8 years old.

Jessica Johnson, born on 7 September 1859, applied for a place at the school and her name appeared on a ballot paper. The family address was given as 9 Shakespeare Terrace, Stoke Newington. However, she appears to have died aged 10 and not in an area for the school. Because she never appears on extant school records, it is not possible to say if she ever became a pupil although it was intended that she would. Perhaps as she died this might explain why she did not become a pupil.

Stoke Newington 1877
Stoke Newington 1877

Baggs, A P, Diane K Bolton and Patricia E C Croot. ‘Stoke Newington: Growth.’ A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes. Ed. T F T Baker and C R Elrington. London: Victoria County History, 1985. 143-151. British History Online. Web. 14 June 2015.


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