Andrew Howcutt (1845-1915)


In the 19th century, many people suffering from epilepsy were committed to live in asylums. Andrew Howcutt was one of them.


He was born at Brixworth at 11 pm on 9 July 1845, the sixth child of John & Sarah (Moodey) Howcutt, and christened at Brixworth church on 17 August the same year.


Northampton Infirmary

Andrew was not living with his parents at Silver Street, Brixworth when the 1851 census took place but was recorded as a patient at Northampton Infirmary, seven miles away. It is not known what disorder he was being treated for.


In 1861 census Andrew was recorded as a 15 year old apprentice shoemaker, living in the household of Francis Gammage at Silver Street.


By the time the next census was held in April 1871, Andrew had moved to London and was working as a coachman. He was lodging with his sister Harriet and her husband Robert Whitehorn at 72A Grosvenor Mews, Westminster.


On 9 July 1871, Andrew married Elizabeth Eales at St James Piccadilly. Elizabeth had been born about 1840 at Solworthy, Somerset. The 1881 census records the couple at 5 Laconia Mews, Kensington; Andrew was still working as a coachman. Laconia Mews had been built in 1877-8 and were three-story buildings of an unusual design. The ground floor was a coach-house, the first floor stables opening to a wide gallery approached by a ramp and the second floor to living quarters that were reached by a stair and gallery. [1]


The earliest evidence found of Andrew’s mental health problems is dated 18 January 1889, when he was admitted as a pauper patient to Fisherton House Asylum. [2] This privately-run establishment at Fisherton Anger, to the west of Salisbury, was licenced to accommodate a total of 672 patients. At the time of a report in 1896 the establishment was almost fully occupied, most of the patients being paupers paid for by poor law unions, many of them being from London. [3] In the 1891 census, Andrew was recorded at Fisherton as “A.H.”, a 41-year-old groom and lunatic who had been born at Brixworth. His wife has not been located in the census for that year.


On 28 June 1892, Andrew was transferred from Fisherton to Cane Hill asylum, Surrey, from which he was discharged as “recovered” sixteen days later. [4]


The electoral register for 1895 lists Andrew Howcutt at 25 Bennerley Road, Battersea, where he was renting two first floor rooms unfurnished from M Hendron of the same address. In 1899, the electoral register included Andrew Howcutt at 59 Bennerley Road occupying three rooms that were rented unfurnished from Ralph Clegg who was also a resident landlord.


At the time of the 1901 census, Andrew’s wife Elizabeth was living in two rooms at 29 Auckland Road, Battersea, where she was self-employed, working at home as a dressmaker. Elizabeth was described as head of the household and married, but there is no reference to Andrew at that address or, as far as can be discovered, elsewhere in the records of that census. While living in Battersea, Andrew was presumably in contact with his brother Joseph (1851-1939) who was living nearby at 113 Ingelow Road (1892-1896) and at 10 Garfield Road (1896-1904).


Claybury asylum

On 22 February 1907, Andrew was admitted as a pauper patient to Claybury asylum, (also known as London County Lunatic Asylum, Romford), which had been opened in 1893. Claybury was to be Andrew’s home for the remaining eight years of his life. [5] It was situated at Woodford Bridge, about 11 miles north-east of central London. In 1909 it housed some 2,600 patients and employed a total of 400 staff. The grounds extended to 145 acres. A detailed description of the asylum’s layout and facilities appears on the “Lost Hospitals of London” website. [6]


By the 1911 census, Elizabeth had moved to a single room at 31 Auckland Road, Battersea and stated that she was supported by “private means”. The census schedule that she signed confirms that there had been no children of her marriage.


Elizabeth was buried at Wandsworth cemetery on 7 December 1914. The cemetery records with entry number 17742 give her address as 16 Bennerley Road and the grave number as 276 in block A.


Andrew did not long survive his wife, as he died at Claybury on 12 February 1915. The death certificate gives his home address as Northcote Road, Battersea and his occupation as a domestic groom. The causes of death were reported as epilepsy and chronic Bright’s Disease – he had suffered from both of these for some years. The informant who registered Andrew’s death was his nephew William Howcutt, who was then living at 60 Ashburnham Road, Greenwich. [7] Andrew was buried at Wandsworth cemetery six days after his death. [8]




[1]    'De Vere Gardens area', in Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court, ed. Hermione Hobhouse (London, 1986), pp. 121-129 [accessed 15 November 2017].

[2]    The National Archives (TNA): MH92/11, number 41459.

[3],_Salisbury [accessed 15 November 2017].

[4]    TNA: MH94/31, number 27099.

[5]    TNA: MH94/42, number 43556.

[6] [accessed 15 November 2017].

[7]    William Howcutt (1878-1936) was a son of Andrew’s brother Mark Michael.

[8]    The register entry number is 18274, grave 94, block A. Block A has since been covered by an upper level of burials known as block 51.