THE STILWELLS

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos


We already have a comprehensive article on Silver Birches, the Stilwells' private asylum in Church Street, Epsom, but in this piece we shall say more about the family itself.

A postcard of the Silver Birches, c.1934
A postcard of the Silver Birches, c.1934
Photograph courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The Stilwells were something of a dynasty in terms of caring for the insane and mentally ill. We have said elsewhere that, before the large public institutions were established (see, for example, The Epsom Hospital Cluster, which also tells you about the situation which led to the building of such hospitals), people with funds would usually be admitted to a private facility. Some of the institutions took poor people too, but unsurprisingly the upkeep and staffing of such places was expensive and private paying patients were preferable. Incidentally, there was a practice in the 18th century of charging the general public to go and gawp at the patients in 'Bedlam' (the Bethlem Royal Hospital), but this appalling idea of treating the mentally impaired as a freak show was stopped.

In truth, not much could be done with the chronically impaired in olden days, other than to lock them up and administer various 'treatments' which were more like legitimised torture than anything else. However, a large number of private asylums appeared where, by and large, the emphasis was on therapeutic pursuits and the patients were reasonably treated. These might be licensed facilities in private houses, such as Silver Birches, with just a few patients, or in substantial buildings with many patients and a large contingent of staff, such as Moorcroft House in Hillingdon, Middlesex. I mention Moorcroft deliberately because it was another Stilwell operation.

Moorcroft House Retreat, Hillingdon c.1843
Moorcroft House Retreat, Hillingdon c.1843
Source not known

The Stilwells are quite complicated but James Stilwell was the Moorcroft man. He had a number of children, including William, James, Arthur and George (born 1805 Stoke Next Guildford). I am far from clear which one was which at any given moment, but it doesn't matter for present purposes. The Stilwells had operated a private asylum at Lea Pale House, Stoke Next Guildford at one time. However, George and his immediate family are the people who interest us.

George married Jane Catherine Ratheram (born 1809) at Coleshill, Warwickshire on 2 May 1831: he was a resident of Ewell at the time. Jane's father, Robert, was a grocer and draper in Coleshill, who died in 1843.

Mrs Jane Catherine Stilwell
Mrs Jane Catherine Stilwell
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Here is a list of George and Jane's children and what immediately struck me was that the males generally did not live all that long, especially the ones who were doctors. The two who were brewers seemed to fare a little better. All of them were born in Epsom, except George James, who first saw the light of day in Ewell.

NameInformation
George JamesBorn 1833.
Married 1866 Emily Morel (died 1929).
Doctor of Medicine.
Died 22/7/1867 Moorcroft House, Hillingdon.
Buried St John the Baptist, Hillingdon.
Robert RatheramBorn 1834.
Married Angela Emma Mary Fabris (died 1902).
Doctor of Medicine.
Died 28/12/1887 Beckenham.
EdwardBorn 1836; died 1864. Buried St John the Baptist, Hillingdon.
Licenciate of the Society of Apothecaries.
Jane CatherineBorn 1837.
Married lime and cement merchant Joseph Peters (died 1876 in an asylum at Ticehurst).
Died 11/4/1904, then living at Bentley, Hampshire.
Charles WarnefordBorn 1838; died 1857. Buried St John the Baptist, Hillingdon.
Mary ElizabethBorn 1840; died 1860. Buried St John the Baptist, Hillingdon.
Ann Louisa (or vice versa)Born 1841; unmarried.
Died 1908 Kent.
Agnes MariaBorn 1845.
Married 19/2/1868 William Clement Daniel MD (died 1905).
Died 25/1/1910
William ArthurBorn 1846.
Brewer.
Married Ellen Butler (died 1913).
Died 17/12/1919 Beckenham.
Charlotte AnnaBorn 1849; died 23/9/1943 Croydon. Unmarried.
AlfredBorn 1853.
Brewer.
Married Margaret(te) Anne Errington MacGuire (died 1929).
Died 1905 Kent.

Having eleven children in roughly 20 years must have taken its toll, especially for the wife of a doctor running an asylum, and losing three of them when they were young adults must have been very hard indeed. Jane did not last all that long after the above photograph was taken, dying on 26 November 1865, aged 56.

We have just one photo of a Stilwell offspring, labelled 'Miss Stilwell', so by process of elimination (Mary had already died, Jane was already married, and Charlotte was too young - I would date the photo at around 1862/63) then it has to be either Ann Louisa or Agnes Maria. If you know which one it is, please contact the webmaster.

Miss Stilwell, either Ann Louisa or Agnes Maria
Miss Stilwell, either Ann Louisa or Agnes Maria
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Obviously, there was limited capacity for more Stilwell doctors in Epsom while George was still alive, so George James went to Moorcroft, where his cousin Henry was also a physician. The patients in both Epsom and Hillingdon were paying 'gentry': Silver Birches took ladies only and you can read about some of them on our Private Asylum Inmates page. Moorcroft, on the other hand, mainly took gentlemen and, looking through censuses for this establishment, there were an alarming number of clergymen, army officers, barristers and even doctors.

George James also had premises at Park Street, Grosvenor Square, but he survived only until 22 July 1867, having married Emily Morel in just the previous October. In the 1871 census she was residing in Worple Road, Epsom and she was still there 20 years later, but by 1901 she had moved to Aldrington (part of Hove). Subsequently she became a boarder in Wandsworth and ultimately gravitated to Beckenham, which was another Stilwell stronghold; she died in 1929, never having remarried.

Robert Ratheram Stilwell was the Beckenham man and he ran a private asylum there called Springcroft. He lasted rather longer than his elder brother but still only survived until 28 December 1887. Springcroft had originally been the family home of Antonio Fabris, Mrs Angela Stilwell's father. Angela took over Springcroft after her husband's death, but must have left during the 1890s, for in 1895 the house was placed on the market by 'the executors of the late Dr Stilwell'; Angela died in Brentford district in 1902.

Back in Epsom, Dr George Stilwell had died on 5 January 1879 and Ann Louisa and Charlotte took charge of Silver Birches. Agnes Maria had married Dr William Clement Daniel on 19 February 1868 at St Martin's. William's parents were John Edgar and Mary Ann Daniel, originally from Somerset, who latterly lived at Railway Terrace: they died in 1882 and 1890 respectively. In 1871 William was running a surgery in Waterloo Road and in 1881, following the demise of George, he and Agnes were at Woodcote End House, raising their ever-burgeoning brood of children. They were licensed to take in two male patients, but there were none present in 1881, although there were two attendants to look after them. Previously the establishment had been the residence of Dr Thomas John Graham, so there was presumably purpose-made accommodation for two mental patients. By 1891 the Daniels had moved into the Silver Birches operation and there were six female patients in residence. Charlotte and Ann Louisa had retired from the fray and were living in Addlestone, but then gravitated to Beckenham.

William Clement Daniel died on 31 December 1905, but Agnes continued at Silver Birches until she expired on 25 January 1910. However, there was still a Daniel presence in Epsom: two of William and Agnes's daughters, May Olive and Gladys Allen, took over the Church Street licence and a son, Edgar George Clement, was a GP in St Martin's Avenue. Another son, Dr Alfred Wilson Daniel, became the medical superintendent of Hanwell Mental Hospital in West London, which was a huge public facility, much along the lines of the big Cluster establishments. Alfred eventually retired to Petersham.

You will have noticed that, so far, this article has been scandal-free for a change, but there is a bizarre tale to finish with concerning the eldest Daniel daughter, Kate Hilda Agnes. There was a Polish man called Eugene Charles Schrottky and he was an agricultural adviser to the Government of India. I have no idea how he and Kate met, but they were married at Bombay Cathedral on 19 February 1904. I show you two newspaper reports. The first is from The Globe of 17 December 1913.

SEARCH FOR AN ALLEGED BIGAMOUS BARON

Search is being made by Scotland Yard detectives for Baron Eugene Charles Schrottky, a Pole of considerable educational attainments, who is 'wanted' on a charge of bigamy.

His alleged bigamous marriage was solemnised at St George's, Hanover Square within the last few years. It is believed that he has unlawfully married other ladies of position. He was in India for many years, holding office under the Government of that country as an agricultural adviser, and his real marriage took place at St James' Cathedral, Bombay in 1904. He was born at Breslau, is sixty-five years of age and speaks twelve languages. He is described as an agricultural chemist, botanist and indigo planter and has travelled extensively, especially in the East.
The following report appeared in The Globe of 24 February 1914.

BIGAMOUS BARON'S ARREST AND SUICIDE

A tragic development has followed the Scotland Yard search for Baron Eugene Charles Schrottky, who was 'wanted' for an alleged bigamous marriage at St George's, Hanover Square.

The 'Express' learns that after three months' pursuit all over the country the detectives recently received information that the Baron was staying in Antwerp. An urgent message was dispatched to the police authorities there and as soon as his identity was positively established he was taken into custody.

He was detained pending the necessary extradition proceedings and was to have been brought to this country for trial, but the 'Express' understands that rather than face the exposure the Baron has committed suicide.
Linda Jackson 2019