Deaths by Pandemic and Natural Causes

Alan, my source for Skipsea COLLEY information, explains how George Toyn met Charlotte WARLEY.

My great grandfather, George Toyn Colley, now orphaned at the age of three, was packed off to live with his cousin, Robert Pape of Beverley. He was a Master Builder and the £600 G.T.C. had inherited from his father was left in his trust. Robert Pape brought G.T.C. up as if he were his own child. At age 21 then, my great grandfather came into his father’s bequest, and set upon moving to London to start up a bicycle business. Before leaving Yorkshire, he had occasionally to stay the night at Middleton on the Wold. He was unable to find lodgings and was directed by staff at a local public house to try at the grocers. Here he met the daughter of the house, Charlotte Warley. He fell instantly for her, exclaiming that she was the most beautiful lass he had ever seen. He stayed much longer than intended, and eventually leaving for London, vowed that once his business had been established, he would return to marry her. This he did, marrying on 26 December 1885 at Middleton on the Wold. They returned to London and had four children, adopting another: George (born 11.05.1886).

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Alan has provided this photograph of a portrait painting of Charlotte. The artist is unknown and one can only guess at the painting’s date.

Charlotte married at eighteen, gave birth to her first child aged 20 and her fourth (and last) at 35. If a hundred people were asked to guess her husband’s occupation on the evidence of this image, I would be surprised if any would hazard “bricklayer”, his trade in 1901 and 1911.

In 1911, the family is at 103 Whitehorse Lane, South Norwood, Croydon. It seems that the house has been demolished to make way for a Sainsbury’s supermarket and petrol station, but other properties in the immediate vicinity are modest – two up, two down at a guess.

The most lethal pandemic in human history, until now, began in military camps in the United States and came to Europe in the lungs of soldiers. It seems odd, though, that Spain was the first old-world country to be seriously infected. The “Spanish ‘Flu”, soon spread to Britain where peak deaths occurred in October and November of 1918.

Charlotte was 51-years-old when she succumbed to the infection. Find her on the Shared Tree.

The “most beautiful lass” (and handsome woman) was, perhaps, not all that she seemed. In the last year of her life, she was a witness at a Coroner’s inquest into the death of her younger sister.

THE DEATH OF AN IMBECILE

An Inquest was held by the Croydon Coroner on Tuesday on Foly Warley, 40, a spinster, who died in Croydon Infirmary. Mrs Charlotte Colley, of Whitehorse Lane, South Norwood, sister of the deceased, said she was an imbecile, and had been so all her life. Witness had not been advised by any doctor to send her to the infirmary. “I liked to keep her for company,” said the witness. “She was no good to me, but she was not quite helpless.” The Guardians contributed 4s. weekly to her maintenance. By Dr. Passman’s directions she was taken on Saturday to the infirmary, and died the next day. Ellen E. Wing, an adopted daughter of the last witness, assured the Coroner that the deceased was well cared for. Dr. R. W. Wilson, medical superintendent of the infirmary, said he received her as an imbecile. She was in a verminous condition, and had bronchial pneumonia, to which death was due. The Coroner thought the deceased was not so clean as she might have been. Dr. Wilson added that the deceased was well nourished and apparently had not been treated unkindly. A verdict of “Natural causes” was returned.

Norwood News, 25 January 1918

Penny Farthing Thoughts

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George Toyn COLLEY is a first cousin once removed to Anne Elizabeth GRAINGER (Wednesday’s post), and the only one of George Colley and Sarah TOYN’s children to live longer than five weeks.

The photograph, kindly supplied by Alan Hardcastle, (George Toyn’s great-grandson), is undated but was probably taken in Wandsworth or Lambeth in the mid to late 1880s. Reaching the age of 21 in 1883, George had received a bequest from his father and used the money to start a bicycle business in London. High wheelers were all the rage in that decade but, as you can easily imagine, were somewhat dangerous to ride in competitive races. The introduction of “safety bicycles” in the 90s saw the penny-farthing go out of fashion.

George apprenticed in Beverley as a bricklayer. The 1881 census caught him there aged 19, living with cousin Robert PAPE. Ten years later he is a married man in Wandsworth with two infant children – and working as a bricklayer. His bicycle business had failed.

Considering his reasons for leaving a steady trade to speculate in a new-fangled and fast-moving business (sorry, couldn’t resist), I thought of Filey’s World Champion racing cyclist, Herbert Liddell CORTIS. He was “at his zenith” in the years 1878 to 1880, riding in 128 races, winning over half, and amassing trophies valued at £1500 (about £140,000 today). On the 2nd of August 1882, aged 25, he had his last race, breaking several distance records on the way to becoming the first man to ride twenty miles in an hour.

Did Herbert’s renown encourage the Filey born bricklayer to sell bicycles? For a short time, the Colley and Cortis families had been near neighbours in Filey, the one at Cliff Terrace and later 6 North Street, the other on the corner of North and John Streets. George was only three when his father died, and four when he was orphaned. Soon after, the Papes in Beverley took him in as one of their own. Herbert was five years older and the two may never have met but news of the champ would surely have reached George by the early 80s, and perhaps influenced his move to London and the career change.

George reached his majority on 17 August 1883. Two weeks earlier, and the day after his Final Race, Herbert had married Mary BRUCE. Four days after George’s 21st, Herbert and Mary set sail for Australia on the Carlisle Castle. Herbert died just over three years later in Carcoar, New South Wales.

George Toyn married on 26 December 1885 and had four children with Charlotte WARLEY. The “Spanish ‘flu” took Charlotte in 1918 and George died in Croydon in July 1940.

You can find George and Herbert on the Shared Tree. Herbert has a blue plaque on the Evron Centre wall in Filey.

HLCblueplaque