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One of Eileen's great-great-grandmothers was called Ann Marsden. She became Ann Entwisle when she married James at St Peter's Parish Church in Bolton in 1836. By the time of the 1841 census they were living at Grimehills, Entwistle and had 3 children with a fourth born in 1843. We know about the last child because young Ralph appeared on the 1851 census but, curiously, his mother didn't. This puzzled us. Why wasn't she living with her husband and children? Was she, perhaps, visiting a neighbour or a family member on census night? A search around the Entwisle census area gave no clue and a labourer's wife couldn't have taken a holiday - life must have been hand-to-mouth in the good times.

The Search

Eileen set out to find her. Ann wasn't dead because she appears in the 1861 census and although there were many Ann Entwis(t)les recorded in the 1851 census, none seemed to be the woman we wanted.Lancaster Asylum - main entrance today Eileen then checked on the Ancestry site and found an entry for an Ann Entwisle living in Lancaster - a patient in the District County Lunatic Asylum. This woman was 34, married, a hand-loom weaver born in Bolton. The description fitted and we knew that Ann had a gap in her childbearing until 1853 after which she had at least 4 more babies. The final clue came with her entry in the 1871 census which has the word 'imbecile' next to her name!

Success in Preston!

Section of planWe needed to know more about the woman in the asylum. By searching the internet we found that the County Record Office at Preston held the Lancaster Asylum records. We raced to Preston and asked to see the case books from 1843 to 1853, the time when Ann had no new babies. The books arrived in foolscap, leather-bound, manuscript volumes, one for each year, so we split the work between us and searched for entries about her.

On a page dated 26 March 1846 it said: "Ann Entwistle. Admitted this day from Entwistle, 30 years of age, married and has 5 children, handloom weaver, can read imperfectly, Church of England Religion, temperament phlegmatic".

Lancaster Asylum - datestoneDespite being a patient from 1846 to 1852, Ann's notes took only 1 foolscap page. The book was bound so the entries were chronological. Of course, this means that when Ann's page was full, the pages following were already in use for other patients. No problem! The doctor simply wrote across the previous notes, from the bottom of the page to the top!

The case notes are brief by today's standards but contain entries covering her entire stay, Lancaster asylum male and female wingsdescribing her health and behaviour at intervals thoughout the 6 years. On entry, her mental condition was recorded as "restless, impatient". She missed her children and after her husband's visit in July of that year was said to be "worse in mind". The medicines given to her were detailed and included calomel, morphine and henbane. In 1851 "whilst excited, broke several panes of glass". Ann's final entry dated 6 July 1852 reads, "No improvement. Removed by her husband by permission of magistrates but in opposition to the opinion of the Superintendent". Had her husband made the journey during Bolton holidays?.

Bolton and the Workhouse

Map of Bolton Fletcher Street workhouse - 1848 In Ann's notes, the doctor wrote that she had "been twice to the Bolton Workhouse during the last 6 months", so Bolton Public Library became our next port of call. The workhouse records are held there on microfilm. Under the New Poor Law of 1834, the new workhouses, locally run but centrally advised by the Poor Law Commissioners in London, kept very good records. The Commissioners required it, but the local ratepayers paid the Poor Rate and they would demand that every penny of their money be accounted for by the Board of Guardians! The microfilms showed that Ann had been first admitted on the 26 February 1846, "insane, not able-bodied" and discharged on March 11. She was re-admitted on April 1st and discharged to the Lancaster Asylum on April 7th.

We know nothing of her treatment at Bolton workhouse although, in general, the mentally ill were dealt with in the same way as paupers, and worked for their board and lodging. The food would be boring but enough to prevent starvation and medical treatment was provided by the poorly-paid Medical Officer. The report of a visit made shortly before Ann was admitted described the mentally ill in Bolton as being quiet so, this was not a chaotic Bedlam. A change in workhouse regulations said that the District Asylum should take the mentally ill, so she could be sent there if the local workhouse agreed to pay. She must have been seriously disturbed if the Board of Guardians agreed to foot the bill for her as well as for 22 others!

Later Years

From the census records, we know that when Ann's husband removed her from the Asylum, she returned to her family at Penny Shore, Whittlestone Head where she had at least 4 more children. Her husband James may have died in 1874; Ann is recorded in 1881 as living at Banister, Entwistle (also known as Penny Shore), doing house work for three of her children, Simeon, Amos and Mary Jane. We don't know when she died.

The chapel

Page last updated 17 July 2008