Sarah Wilda was the middle child of James and Lydia Viner born on the 31st May 1856 at Collier Rents, Southwark in London. Charles Booth in the 1890sí described Collier Rents as "a shady area and the people living there as a queer mixture including thieves". Sarah was named after her grandmother Sarah Wilder Viner who had been born in 1780. Her childhood was short lived with the illness of her father and having to help her mother who worked as a matron to help make ends meet. Her father finally died of tuberculosis just before her 15th birthday.
She married Frederick Ennever on the 14th February 1877 in St Maryís church Stratford le Bow, East London, Frederick was her 1st cousin once removed and the two families were very close, Sarahís father was the brother of Frederickís grandmother and Frederickís grandfather had been a witness at Sarahís parentís marriage, and later both families moved to London from Essex. They would have looked forward to a contented married life ahead. For the first few years life did appear good, Frederick had a steady job as a bar and cellar man at the Lovatt Arms, in Burdett Road, Limehouse where he had worked since he was 14, although they were regularly moving house within the Limehouse area, their family began to grow with a son Albert Frederick William born in 1878, followed by another son Ernest James Cyril in 1880. It was about this time that her husband Frederick began to suffer from epileptic fits. A daughter Nellie Alice Elsie Maud was born 1882 followed by another daughter Grace Lydia born in 1884 and named after Sarahís mother and sister, but then their problems began to start. A further daughter Wilda Nellie was born in 1886 but was only to live for two months, according to the coroner she died from violent suffocation at night time but there was no evidence to prove how this happened. Then tragically their daughter Nellie now aged 4 was to run straight out into the Mile End Road where she was knocked down by a carriage, she was rushed to the Royal London Hospital with fractured ribs but died there three weeks later. A son Fred was born in August 1887 but as his health was causing concern he was baptised at St Paul Bow Common Church in October together with their four other surviving children who had never been baptised, however Fred was to die a few days later, again in suspicious circumstances, according to the coroner from Ďviolent suffocation in bed by overlying while in bed with his motherí.
The death of three of their children within such a short period of time, although common in the East End of London, was traumatic for both Sarah and Frederick but Frederick was unable to cope mentally, the epilepsy he suffered from became worse and he was having more fits, finally he had a complete breakdown and Sarah requested that he be admitted as a lunatic to Poplar workhouse in November 1887 where he was recorded as suffering from delirium tremors. He was to spend only two days in the workhouse and discharged home quite well.
Sarah gave birth to their 4th son Oscar William in September 1888, however within six weeks, Frederick was again acting strangely and unable to work, so Sarah having to look after their four children and with little money coming in, had no option finally but to ask for help from the Poplar Union Workhouse, the stigma of having to ask the Union for help was something that most people struggled to avoid. Her father in law Francis John Ennever was currently in the workhouse and this fact would not have been spoken of, Sarah asks that her husband Frederick be taken into the workhouse as she was unable to cope with him, the Medical officers there committed him to Colney Hatch Hospital on the 6th November 1888 as a lunatic. however as they had lived in Mile End Old Town for less than three years a removal order was issued by the Union for removal to Stepney Union and it was Stepney Union that had to fund his internment. When first admitted he was paralytic, demented, his limbs tremulous and unable to make any intelligible reply to any questions. He had no idea where he was sometimes imagining he was serving in the bar, he had to be watched all the time as he was destructive with his clothes and bed linen and threw the crockery about. It is not recorded what treatment he received at Colney Hatch Hospital but from his medical notes it was about three months before there appeared to be any improvement and he began to conduct himself reasonably, but it was over seven months before he was well enough to be released. Initially Sarah was receiving a small payment of 10/- per week from her husbandís employer this was later reduced to 5/- out of which she had to pay 2/- per week for the rooms in which she lived and had to take in washing to earn a few more pence.
The Relieving Officer interviewed Sarah and also her neighbours to assess her own eligibility for help from the Union. Two neighbouring landladies said that Sarah was a drunkard and neglected her children, how much of Sarahís state might have due to the current situation in which she found herself and trying to escape from her problems with four young children to support, her husband in a lunatic asylum, three children recently buried and little income. On the other hand was it Sarahís drunkenness and neglect of her children that had caused Frederickís problems in the first place with two of his children dying suspiciously, he was probably worried given Sarahís behaviour for the safety of their new born son. Frederick was recorded as being devoted to his children and his governor thought so highly of him that he helped him on a number of occasions. Part of the relief given by the Union was to send her two eldest boys away to Sutton School, Surrey to receive some education but they were only to stay there for a short time and returned home when their father Frederick eventually came out of the asylum.
On Frederickís release from Colney Hatch Hospital the family moved again to a new address and tried to return to a normal life. Frederick returned to his job as a bar and cellar man. Their next child, another son named Fred was born in 1890 but again was only to live a short time dying of bronchitis within nine months . There was another child Samuel Francis born in 1892.
It was on 21st February 1893 that Sarah was admitted to Poplar Union workhouse as a lunatic on information supplied by Frederick. This was her first attack and she was said to have no previous history of madness. From the workhouse she was sent to Colney Hatch Hospital where the medical authorities said she looked vacant and didnít understand anything said to her, it is recorded that when placed in the padded room she stripped herself completely and torn her clothes and bedding, kept rubbing her knees and was covered with soiled faeces. On another occasion she is recorded as refusing food and shouting and singing all night. She improved gradually over the next three months and was finally discharged in May 1893.
Their final daughter Ada Rosalie was born in 1895. However Frederickís health had deteriorated since his breakdown and he became vulnerable to the many illnesses which were rife in the East End of London, finally he was admitted to the lunatic ward of Poplar Union Workhouse on the 30th December 1897 where he died one day later of meningitis and inflammation of the kidneys. Rather than let him be buried in a pauperís grave, his friends collected his body and his governor John Friend for whose family he had worked for 26 years paid for his funeral to made sure he had a decent burial.
Sarah was now on her own. She managed to support herself for the first seven months, having to pay 6/6- and later 7/6 for the three rooms she rented, but eventually had to apply for relief. Initially help was refused as her eldest son Albert was earning as a labourer and gave all his wages to her. She repeatedly applied each month and in October 1898 the Relieving Officer ordered that the two youngest boys should be sent away to school. Both boys were sent to Forest Gate school but were only to spend seven months there before Sarah applied to have them back home. On this application both Albert and Ernest were recorded as working at Allens Chemical Works and receiving 12/- per week in wages, whereas Sarahís occupation was described as doing mangling work for which she received 5/- per week.
Sarahís youngest daughter Ada Rosalie was a sickly child and Sarah was repeatedly requesting help from the Union Visiting Medical Officer, some help was given in the form of food or medicinal treatment, during this time she requested help for Ernest who also suffered from ill health.
Her eldest son Albert Frederick was a keen member of the 2nd Tower Hamlet Rifle Voluntary Corps, and in 1900 aged 20 years he joined the army, being described as a man whose face was pitted through small pox. Albert was sent to Aldershot for six months basic training, then spent the next year in this country before being send to South Africa.
In 1902 on the commendation of the Rev Dollings of St Saviourís Church, Poplar her two youngest boys were offered the opportunity of further education, this wasnít the usual union schools, but mixed background schools where the boys would have the opportunity of learning a trade and mixing with all classes. Both Oscar William and Samuel Frances were baptised at St Saviours Church immediately prior to their applications being sent. On Oscarís application to Gordons Boys Home which Sarah signed was a clause that if she removed him from the school she was liable for the cost of his maintenance whilst he was at the school. Also included with the information that her son Ernestís wages had increased to 24/- per week and Grace was now earning 10/- weekly. The application was approved and Oscar William started at Gordon Boys Home in Woking, Surrey in May 1902. This home, founded as a memorial to General Gordon who died in 1885, usually took in boys between ages of 14 and 16 to train and encourage their better natures with the emphasis of military discipline and Christianity. At the same time her youngest son Samuel Francis was sent to Glenbourne, Hampshire, this was the home of Charles Burgess Fry, the cricketer and his wife Beatrice. Beatrice Fry was second in command at the Training Ship Mercury moored on the River Hamble where suitable boys from mixed backgrounds could be prepared as sailors for a life at sea. Samuel having passed the interview and assessment with Beatrice was sent to the Training Ship Mercury also in May 1902.
In February 1903 Ada was again very ill and was sent to the Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum where she spent three weeks before being discharged.
Sarahís daughter Grace Lydia first worked as a needle woman and later as a tea packer until her marriage to Walter Henry Pugh in August 1903 when they went to live in Plaistow. Grace and Walter were to go on and have one son and 3 daughters, Grace dying in Harrow in 1971.
Albert Frederick now with the Army in South Africa was within 8 months promoted to 2nd Corporal, however six months later he was to die at Pretoria in November 1903 of Enteric Fever.
Sarah was very much on her own at this time trying to cope with all the family problems, another son dead, an sickly son and an ailing daughter at home and two children away at school. With her family diminishing, Sarah together with Ada moved to Canning Town to share the home of her daughter Grace.
Ernest Cyril hoping the sea air would prove beneficial for his health joined P&O as a baggage handler in 1904, whilst in Australia in 1913 he met and married Alice Layzell, he worked at sea throughout the war receiving the mercantile marine and British medals, their first three children, a son and two daughters were born in England, later emigrating to Australia they had twin daughters, he continued to work for P&O finally rising to the rank of Chief Steward in 1934.
Oscar William spent over three years at Gordon Home being trained as a carpenter. He had married Alice Renecle in Farnham in 1913 and they had a son and two daughters, tragically their eldest daughter died within a year of her birth. At the start of the first world war he joined the Royal Engineers and was among the first to be sent abroad, unfortunately his war records have not survived, . He worked for six years in Uganda as a Overseer in the Government workshops where furniture was made, returning to England in 1931, he died 1946 in Bristol.
Samuel Francis aged ten years on joining the Training Ship Mercury, was to serve over five years there. Beatrice Fry ruled the arrangements on board ship in a very strict manner and it was not uncommon for the boys to run away due to the harsh discipline and corporal punishment, if they did they would be returned home. During Samuelís time on the Mercury he received glowing reports, he was of excellent character and received several good conduct awards, he was a leading boy in the band and a excellent sportsman, in the 1st XI at cricket, a good footballer and excellent swimmer. He was described as a most desirable and trustworthy boy, and his school reports state that he had studied hard and passed his examinations favourable. On leaving the training ship Mercury at the age of 15 he decided a life at sea was not for him and he applied to join the army and enlisted in 1909 with his motherís consent, with the 2nd Norfolk Regiment for a period of twelve years to train as a drummer and musician, his present trade being given as musician. After completing his training at home he was sent to Gibraltar where he stayed over a year including four months spent in hospital suffering from enteric fever, initially he communicated regularly with his mother, a habit instilled in him from his time on the Mercury. From Gibraltar he was sent to India in February 1911 with the Indian Expeditionary Force where he spent he next three years. Communication between him and his mother then appears to have become spasmodic, in 1914 Sarah was writing continually to Aldershot requesting information on her son but with limited response. In November 1914 Samuel was sent to Mesopotamia, in June 1915 he was reported a casualty in Amaran. Again Sarah continued to write desperate for information as she has heard nothing of Samuel for a long time, in one letter she states that she is receiving 5/- per week for her daughter Ada who is dying from consumption and 5/7d. from the military authorities for her son and that she does what she can to earn a few shillings to keep the home together. In August 1916 Samuel was reported a Prisoner of War and interned at ĎAngoraí, this was after the siege of Kut and eventual surrender in which the British suffered their greatest defeat and loss in military history up to that point, Kut is situated south east of Baghdad in Iraq. After the fall of Kut, the prisoners, sick, unfit, undernourished men of the garrison were force marched across country to Turkey. Eighteen months later a report was received from the Netherlands Minister at Constantinople of the death of Samuel in the Maltepe Hospital from dysentery whilst still a Prisoner of War this was in February 1918. Samuel Francis was awarded the 1914-1915 Star for his service to the country but Sarah was not to receive this medal until 1920.
Ada continued a sickly child, and from Sarahís correspondence she was still ill in 1916 but survived another three years until 1919 when she finally succumbed to tuberculosis.
Sarah Wilda having given birth to ten children only five of which reached adulthood, she was to outlive all but three of her family, spending the rest of her days with her daughter Grace. Finally when Sarah became ill she went into Central Home in Leytonstone, this was originally the West Ham Union Workhouse but from 1930 it was run by West Ham County Council as a home for the chronic sick, aged and infirm, it was here she died on 6th June 1934 at the age of 78.