The Wrights

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos

The Wrights are something of a marathon, but fortunately I have had dealings with a few of them before, so didn't have to start from scratch.

Sarah Mackley was born in Sibson, Leicestershire in 1806, daughter of John and Lucy, who moved to Radford, Nottinghamshire. Mr Mackley had died before Sarah married surgeon John Wright (born 1802 Bingham, Notts) in 1827. By all accounts, John Wright was a much respected man and the family lived at High Pavement, a historic area of Nottingham; he died of cancer on 18 February 1853. The children were as shown below.

JohnBorn 1830, said to have emigrated to Australia.
PhiladelphiaBorn 1831. See later.
Sarah AnnBorn 1833. See later.
MaryBorn 1837. See later.
JosephBorn 1838, said to have emigrated to Australia.
SamuelBorn 1840, said to have emigrated to Australia.
LucretiusBorn 1842. See later.
DecimaBorn 1844. Twin. See later.
DaphneBorn 1844. Twin. See later.
HoraceBorn 1847. See later.
John JuniusBorn 1850. See later.

Horace Wright will be left to the very end of this story, so after dealing with Lucretius and John Junius, I shall return to the main plot.

Mrs Sarah Wright and her granddaughter*
Mrs Sarah Wright and her granddaughter*
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

*This could be Sarah Jane Cropper (born 1856), Ellen Morrison Smith (step-granddaughter, born 1855) or Sarah Elizabeth Smith (c.1860), but we don't have an exact date for the photo, which is likely to be c.1862-5, to aid the identification.

Lucretius and John Junius Wright

Lucretius was admitted to Epsom College as a pupil, but then got himself expelled the next year for running away twice. It is said that he went to India and was never heard of again, which is probably correct because there is an 1867 newspaper report of a Lucretius Wright, a Private in the 44th Regiment of Foot, being accused of desertion, having overstayed a weekend pass: his defence was that he had missed the last train at Dorking and could not get back to Aldershot in time. The 44th was stationed in India in the second half of the 1860s and Lucretius appears to have been in Kowloon with the regiment earlier on. So far, that is all I know about him, but if anyone has more information please contact the webmaster.

John Junius was admitted to the Infant Orphan Asylum at Wanstead and I have mentioned this institution before when writing about Edwin Harrowell, although Edwin was a much later inmate. Sadly, John Junius died on 26 January 1858, aged just seven.

Philadelphia Wright

In the 1851 census Philadelphia was assisting in a local school, then aged 19, and in 1858 she married widower John Smith, a merchant's agent, originally from Foleshill, Warwickshire. By 1861 they had moved to Epsom and there were two children - a stepdaughter, Ellen Morrison (1855 Foleshill) and Sarah Elizabeth (1860 Glasgow), but misfortune struck the family when Philadelphia died on 15 April 1863, aged only 31. This was probably as a result of childbirth, since a daughter, Alice, had been born on 23 March but died when only four days old and another daughter, Lucy Florence, had been just one day old when buried in December 1861.

Gravestone of Philadelphia, Lucy Florence and Alice Smith
Gravestone of Philadelphia, Lucy Florence and Alice Smith in St Martin's Churchyard.
Photograph courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

John Smith in later life.
John Smith in later life.
Image courtesy of Roberta Tweedy © 2018.

Ellen and Sarah survived, but by 1871 John had remarried, to Mary Ann Fowle, and they were all in Clapham. There were two more daughters with Mary Ann. Ellen Morrison Smith, known as Della, married widower John Milum, but died soon afterwards (1879) on board a ship in Ontario, Canada. John Smith died at Wallington, Surrey in December 1916.

Thanks to Roberta Tweedy, who is Sarah Elizabeth Smith's great granddaughter, we know a lot about Philadelphia's only surviving child and her family.

Sarah Elizabeth Smith (Cade).
Sarah Elizabeth Smith (Cade).
Image courtesy of Roberta Tweedy © 2018.

Sarah was known in her family as Trot and in 1883 she married Edwin Arthur Cade (born 1856 Ipswich), who in the 1891 census was manager of a photographic warehouse, which rather resonates with this article, since it all started out as a product of Victorian photographs. By 1901 he was described as a director of public companies and I now know that John Smith had interests in West Africa, so took Edwin into partnership and they became Smith & Cade.

Edwin Arthur Cade.
Edwin Arthur Cade.
Image courtesy of Roberta Tweedy © 2018.

Edwin made several trips to Africa, specifically to Obuasi, Ashanti, Ghana, which is still gold-mining country today and that is what he was doing there. Conditions were hard and it was dangerous. In 1896 the Ashanti king was overthrown and the region became a British protectorate, whereupon Edwin Cade was granted permission to mine. He then listed the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation Ltd on the London Stock Exchange. The enterprise still exists today as part of AngloGold Ashanti which, at the time of writing, is the third largest gold-mining company in the world. Edwin sadly died of dengue fever on 4 May 1903, leaving Sarah with four children and another on the way.

One of the children was Arthur Gordon Cade (born 1891), who was educated at Haileybury School and became a career soldier, joining the Middlesex Regiment, being gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant in 1910 after a stint with the Inns of Court OTC. On the outbreak of war he was sent to the Front. In 1915 he was awarded both the Military Cross and a bar for two separate actions and subsequently he won a DSO; he was also mentioned in despatches three times. According to the citations, he was a very brave officer, and it almost seemed as if he led a charmed life, since he could have been killed on many occasions. In February 1918, home on leave, he married Ada Ellen Young; he was then sent back to the Front in command of the 1st Batt. Wiltshire Regiment. This was the time of Germany's last big throw of the dice, known as the Spring Offensive, and on 25 April 1918 Arthur's luck finally ran out: he died of wounds at Mount Kemmel, Belgium. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Lt. Col. Arthur Gordon Cade MC, DSO.
Lt. Col. Arthur Gordon Cade MC, DSO.
Image courtesy of Roberta Tweedy © 2018.

Some months later Ada gave birth to their only child, Annette Gladys. Sarah Elizabeth Cade, who lived in Southgate, Middlesex, died on 28 September 1931. Neither she nor Ada remarried, the latter dying in 1970.

Mary Wright

Mary is out of chronological order because Sarah Ann and Decima need to go together, for reasons which will become apparent imminently. It looks as if Mary was an assistant teacher at Woodford, Essex in 1861, but she was with her mother at the College in the 1871 census; she is thought to have died, unmarried, in Hackney at the beginning of 1880, so was more than likely with the Cropper family (see below).

Sarah Ann and Decima Wright

Sarah Ann married Samuel Cropper in Nottingham in 1855: Samuel was a native of Nottingham, but by 1861 they were in Epsom at Eagle Cottage, East Street. There were copious Cropper children eventually, so we shall have a list momentarily ( I cannot guarantee that I have found them all!), but, unfortunately, Sarah died in 1870, aged 37, most probably from childbirth issues, as a son, Leonard Ambrose, had died a few weeks earlier at the age of 12 days. Samuel started out as a draper's apprentice, becoming a lace and ribbon merchant and he had business connections with America.

Then, in January 1872, Samuel married Sarah's younger sister, Decima, in Edinburgh. Decima had been at the College with her mother in 1861, but I couldn't find her in 1871 (transcription errors probably). Nevertheless, it seems they decamped to Addiscombe for their next abode - it might be that there was some gossip in Epsom - and children recommenced. Next stop was London, but I shall list the children first.

Sarah JaneBorn 1856 Brooklyn, New York; married 1879 William Henry Ullmann. Emigrated to New South Wales and died 1914 NSW.
Horace JohnBorn 1857 Epsom; married 1887 Annie Murray. Died 1945 Weybridge. Architect and Company Director.
William SingletonBorn 1860 Epsom; died 1885 NSW.
Shirley Wright (male)Born 1861 Epsom; married 1887 Gertrude Annie Smith. Died 1947 Hove. Merchant.
Digby LeopoldBorn 1863 Epsom; married 1897 Amy Florence Cropper (cousin). Died 1953 Hove. Cardboard box manufacturer. Lived at Ranelagh, Mill Road, Epsom for some years.
Samuel ClementBorn 1865 Epsom; married 1896 Louise Jane Seymour. Died 1936 NSW. Originally a lawyer but suffered lifelong debility after being invalided home from his service with the Australian forces in WW1.
Claude Worthington1866 Epsom-1876 Hackney.
Alice DaphneBorn 1869 Epsom; died (unmarried) 1914 Horsham.
Leonard AmbroseBorn and died Epsom 1870.
Decima MaryBorn 1873 Addiscombe, Surrey; married 1899 Frank Meredith Jarrett*. Died 1953 London.
ConstanceBorn c.1874 Addiscombe; died (unmarried) 1960 Frinton-on-Sea, Essex.
AdaBorn c.1874 Addiscombe; mislaid after 1911 census.
Beatrice JuliaBorn 1875 Addiscombe; probably married Welshman Arthur Cyril Bright (died 1933) and emigrated to US; died 1955 California.
Ethel Maud1876 Hackney-1877 Epsom.
Gertrude AgnesBorn 1879 London; married 1911 Ernest Leggott Stockall; died 1963 Malvern, Worcs.
Pink = Sarah's children, Blue = Decima's children

*Frank Meredith Jarrett was Clerk and Steward to the Manor Asylum at Epsom (per Andrews' Directory 1899) and had previously performed a similar role at the Horton Asylum, but he seems to have lost his job after the discovery of the systematic thieving from Horton, which resulted in a 1904 trial. There was no suggestion that Frank was implicated in any of the offences but, despite his grandiose title, he was actually a storekeeper and it was clear from reports of the Horton thefts that control of the institution's supplies and movable property was laughable. Frank must have been at Horton when all this was happening, since it had begun as soon as Horton opened in 1902 and continued until 1904. See our article entitled 'Theft from Asylum' for more information. He went bankrupt in 1905 and emigrated to Canada with Decima Mary and their son Dudley: they were in Saskatchewan in the 1911 Canadian census. However, Decima and Dudley were with Mrs Cropper in the 1911 England census, and I think Frank had already gone out to prepare the way (the Canadian census was taken over a long period starting in June 1911, so it was perfectly feasible that Decima and Dudley appeared to be in two places at once). Frank is said to have died in 1948 and Decima certainly returned to England at some point, as she died at the same address as her mother had, more than 15 years earlier.

I don't know when Samuel got involved with the manufacture of folding cardboard boxes, but Cropper & Co was a large concern in Southwark and I can point you to pictures of the factory but cannot reproduce them here for copyright reasons (see the Historic England website); a couple of the sons continued the business after his death. I rather get the impression that money might have become a problem and there may even have been a separation because in 1891 Samuel was not at home and Decima was stated to be 'living on her own means; in1901 Samuel was in Islington with his daughter Alice, and Decima was working as a dementia nurse at a household in East Hillingdon, Middlesex. When Samuel died in Horsham on 1 April 1907 he left effects of only £ 500. By 1911 Decima was back in Islington with four of her daughters, all of whom were very much old enough not to be living at home; she died on 28 April 1937, aged 92, in Mill Hill, London, leaving just £ 85.

Apart from all the aforementioned Cropper offspring, there is the mysterious Marie E Stuart, who is described as his adopted daughter in the 1901 census and is also with him in the 1891 census; in both cases she is described as a nurse. In the 1911 census she was visiting Samuel Clement Cropper in Sutton, Surrey, so she clearly has some close connection to the family. It appears that this lady was called Marie Elizabeth Stuart and she could have died in 1931 in Nottingham, although the GRO age is significantly adrift. We shall not dwell on her, as we have had more than enough Croppers for one article.

Daphne Wright

Daphne and Decima were twins and, whilst the latter was at the College in 1861, Daphne, then 16, was visiting a small school in Gloucestershire. However, the labelling for the photo below says she is of Hawthorne Place, Epsom, which is in the warren of streets between East Street and Upper High Street, so she was probably living with the Croppers.

Daphne Wright
Daphne Wright
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Daphne evidently had theatrical ambitions, for the 1881 census found her in lodgings at St Pancras, described as an actress. On your behalf I have diligently rummaged in the newspapers of the period and can produce only one thespian Daphne Wright (assuming she was using her own name) and I don't think she was on the Judi Dench/Helen Mirren scale. It looks as if she toured in a repertory company, because I have found some snippets from 1876 covering various places. For example, she performed in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire in what appears to be a (very) supporting role in 'The Ticket-of-Leave Man', a melodrama, of which a review said in the very last lines that 'Misses Jenny Ramsay and Daphne Wright gave careful renderings of their respective parts', whatever that may mean. The play was of a sort that was very popular with provincial audiences in those days, but derided by the critics, and here is a poster to give you the flavour.

The Ticket-of-Leave Man
Poster for The Ticket-of-Leave Man
Image Source National Library of Scotland (CC BY 4.0)

Daphne probably realised that she was unlikely to become a superstar and on 22 July 1890, now 45, she married widower Robert Robey, a land agent of 37. In the 1891 census (Robert having correctly gained a year in age and Daphne having shed several) they were living at the small village of East Tytherley, Hampshire, which was Robert's home patch and he was actually the Estate Manager for Lockerley Hall, a pile so stately that even the gatehouses looked like miniature stately homes. His two young children were with them and they remained in East Tytherley. As far as I can tell, their house, 'Oaklands', is still there, as is Lockerley Hall.

When Daphne died on 21 January 1928, Letters of Administration of her modest estate were granted to the Public Trustee, which is strange, since Robert was still alive and did not die until 1942. He had lost his younger son, Leonard Ernest, aged 29, in 1915: Leonard was a Corporal in the 14th Batt. Canadian Infantry (Quebec Regiment).

Grave of Leonard Ernest Robey at Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium
Grave of Leonard Ernest Robey at Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium
Image source: Veteran Affairs Canada website

Horace Wright

Horace was a tragedy: he clearly had mental problems for much of his life and the fact that he mostly remained at liberty, with an escalating pattern of bizarre and criminal behaviour, had a very disturbing finale.

Horace became a pupil at Christ's Hospital ('the Bluecoat School'), which was then in Newgate Street, London. Traditionally it educated fatherless boys and orphans on a charitable basis,. The 1861 census placed him in the school's infirmary, aged 13. Whether the reason for that was a routine illness or something more serious I do not know.

Christ's Hospital School
Christ's Hospital School, Newgate Street, City of London, 1831.
By John Shaw


It seems that Horace became a medical student of some kind, or that is what he said, but I am not sure he was studying for a formal qualification. However, he was working in that sphere, as a medical assistant and chemist's assistant, and there is evidence that he moved around in such jobs, probably because of his odd behaviour. He first came to the attention of the courts in 1868 (source: Jackson's Oxford Journal of Saturday, 14 November 1868), when he was charged with attempted armed robbery. This was not conventional armed robbery for the late 1860s but Dick Turpin style, masked and on horseback. Horace was so obviously deranged, and he knew it, that something should have been done about him at that juncture, but it wasn't.

On 5 November police heard that a man on horseback had been pointing a pistol at various people and demanding money. On being refused, he rode away. Next day the local Superintendent was told that the man had been detained and took him into custody. The Superintendent told the court that the accused was a gentlemanly-looking young man, about 22, 5 feet 9 inches, dressed in a black cloth riding coat, light trousers and patent leather jack boots. He had given his name as Horace Wright and his last residence as Hastings. It soon came out that he had suffered a disappointment at Hastings concerning a position as a medical dispenser. When taken into custody he had a loaded pistol in his boot and a mask in his pocket. He had wanted to wear the mask on the way through Henley to the police station, so as to cause a sensation. A significant piece of information appeared at the end of the report: it said that a telegram had been received from Hastings saying that Horace 'had some time since received a hurt on the head and at times he still suffered from its effects'. He was committed for trial at the next Assizes and the upshot was that he was found guilty (albeit with recommendations of mercy from the jury and prosecuting counsel) and sentenced to just one month's imprisonment, plus he got a serious 'talking-to' from the judge. And that was that.


But that wasn't that. On 30 October 1869 the Reading Mercury reported that a man of about 23, calling himself Charles Trevor, but actually Horace Wright, had appeared at Cambridge petty sessions charged with highway robbery. This time he had stopped a lady in her carriage and demanded a sovereign, which he got after threatening to shoot her coachman; he then stopped other people for the same purpose. The disturbing thing is not so much that he was exhibiting the same behaviour again - he pleaded guilty -, but the statement he wrote for the police. After admitting that he had hired a horse in Grosvenor Square, London, he said this.
'I did leave London on that said horse, impressed with the idea that I was riding to deathless fame. My intention was to ride to York and, after I had reached my destination, to return home and trust in God to be received into the arms of my family again, they knowing the affliction under which I labour. I further declare that I had no control whatsoever over my mind, nor was it in my power to deter myself from committing this rash act. I was dragged on by an irresistible fate to achieve the purpose settled in my mind and I declare on my oath that I would rather have sacrificed my earthly existence than given up the idea stamped so firmly on my brain; and now I would rather die the death of a mad dog than that it should have occurred.'

The police witness, who was the Deputy Chief Constable, said that Horace had been working as a medical assistant to a doctor in Soho: he had told the police about the previous offences and suggested that he should be restrained or he would do it again. Horace was committed for trial. Another newspaper reported the hearing in shorter form, but under the headline 'A Candidate for an Asylum'. And yet another report concluded with the words 'Prisoner is respectably connected and his friends live in the neighbourhood of Epsom. He has no father alive'. At the assizes he was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment with hard labour, for which he seemed grateful.

There was an almost immediate sequel to the sentencing (i.e. within weeks), which once more demonstrates Horace's peculiar state of mind. His task in prison was to make mats and, when locked in his cell, he studied the poetry of the Roman Horace (who died in 8 BC), quite possibly in the original Latin, since he was a well-educated young man. However, on entering the cell one day, a prison officer noticed that some mortar had been dug out from the wall and the bricks loosened. At that point the potential hole was only about 11 inches square, but it was treated as an escape attempt and he was put on bread and water as a punishment. The curious thing was that escaping from his cell would not have made him free, since he would still have been within the prison.

Mr Cropper takes a hand

If you've got this far with the Wrights you will know that Samuel Cropper was Horace's brother-in-law; he had business premises in Cheapside, London and gave Horace a job on his release from prison, which was probably the last chance saloon for the highwayman as far as his family was concerned. Inevitably, it went wrong, for Horace decamped back to Cambridgeshire, having stolen £ 30 in notes from Mr Cropper. The newspapers reported this widely, since Horace was rather well-known by now, but a succinct report in The Leeds Mercury of 8 April 1871 tells us all we need to know.
'Horace Wright, the young man who is known as "the Modern Dick Turpin", pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to a charge of stealing £30 from Mr Cropper, his employer, and was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. His friends suggested that he was insane but the Governor of Newgate said that the prisoner had been under the observation of the surgeon, who did not consider him to be of unsound mind; and the Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, who had the prisoner in his custody for nine months in 1869, said he thought the young man very stupid but nothing more. Once or twice during his confinement in gaol he attempted to commit suicide, but whether he meant to do it the witness added he could not say.'
The Morning Advertiser of 10 April 1871 produced a horribly pompous sermon and concluded by saying 'After all, this young man is, perhaps, to be regarded more as a crack-brained enthusiast than a criminal; and although everyone must deeply sympathise with his friends, it is just as well that he is protected from himself, and that the public are protected from him. The advantage is mutual, the lesson read to persons of over-heated imagination is a strong one; and it is to be hoped the world has heard the last of the "modern Dick Turpin"'.


You knew this was coming, but the world hadn't heard the last of him by a long chalk. Horace had made his way to Australia, presumably to make a fresh start in a place where he was not notorious, but then it all started again.

At least one Australian paper (the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, dated 18 May 1871) had picked up the story of Horace's exploits and his theft from Samuel Cropper and this particular report contains one statement that sheds significant light on both Mr Cropper and Horace. The latter had said in court, 'If I had £ 10,000 I would give all of it to him: he was exceedingly kind and good to me and I have been very ungrateful. When I see a horse with a saddle on I must be there if I have money. I think I am mad.' The paper also said that he had just one halfpenny on him when apprehended.

At the Melbourne County Courthouse, in August 1874, Horace pleaded guilty to a charge of larceny as a bailee, which again involved a horse that was not returned. He said, as he stood in the dock for sentencing, that he committed the offence in a state of mental aberration, which happened occasionally as a consequence of a severe head injury he had sustained as a child. He was not intending to appropriate the horse to his own use and he had not stolen £ 100 which his employer had given him to deposit in the bank - he had deposited it. The judge responded that he could not take account of the alleged mental aberration on a guilty plea, but suggested that he spent the night thinking about whether he should change his plea to not guilty and offer that as a defence.

Next day Horace did just that. It emerged in evidence that he had borrowed the horse from its owner on 15 June and then sold it elsewhere on 30 June. His excuse was that the mental aberrations appeared after he had drunk a couple of glasses of beer. The judge was unimpressed and said that if two glasses of beer had that effect then he should only drink one. The jury found him guilty, but with a recommendation for mercy. He was sentenced to eighteen months.

I believe that in 1876 Horace married a lady called Rose Morley and in that same year he received another sentence of eighteen months for passing a valueless cheque. In 1889 he passed other dud cheques but a much more serious charge was brought at the same time. It seems that he had been passing himself off as a qualified doctor and had set up in practice at a small town called Raywood in northern Victoria. He was known to a Dr Atkinson of Sandhurst, Victoria, who asked him to act as a locum while he was on an extended honeymoon trip and Horace went to Sandhurst in advance to familiarise himself with the rounds etc. He rented a house and furnished it on credit; his visits to patients were erratic and on one occasion he appeared to be intoxicated when attending a confinement. There were so many complaints that Dr Atkinson was telegraphed and returned. The Bendigo Advertiser of 12 October 1889 also said that Horace had been in the habit of accosting little girls as they came out of school and kissing them. This came to the attention of the police, who placed him under surveillance. Then, he attended a patient and the man's wife sent her eight year old daughter to collect the prescribed medicine from the surgery. It was alleged that Horace had inveigled the little girl into the house and indecently assaulted her. He was arrested and taken into custody. The trial never happened and the Bendigo Advertiser of 19 November 1889 contained the following report.
'THE MEDICAL QUACK MAD - Yesterday afternoon Messrs R F Howard and Mr J M Harcourt Js.P. attended at the Sandhurst gaol, at the request of the authorities, for the purpose of inquiring into the medical condition of a prisoner named Horace Wright, otherwise known as "Dr" Wright who, it will be remembered, was committed for trial some weeks back for having committed an indecent assault on a little girl and also for uttering valueless cheques. Wright's conduct during the time he has been in gaol has been most peculiar and, as stated above, the governor of the gaol decided upon taking steps to ascertain if he was insane or not. Drs. O Penfold and J M'Intyre Eadie deposed that they had examined the prisoner and found him to be a raving lunatic. On their certificates, the magistrates ordered the removal of the prisoner to the Kew Lunatic Asylum.'
Kew Asylum
Kew Asylum, circa 1885-1887
Image source wikimedia

There were people with kind things to say about Horace. For example, someone wrote to the editor of the Euroa Advertiser following publication of the 'Medical Quack Gone Mad' report and said that Horace had worked with eminent medical men in both England and Australia and had received excellent testimonials of ability; about three years earlier he had taken on a dispensing business which failed and he lost everything. The writer went on to talk about the head injury and also said that Horace had suffered sun-stroke about 18 months previously, which meant he could not find proper employment. The cumulative effect of all that had preyed on a sensitive mind and had led to the events in Sandhurst.

Eight months later, in July 1890, the following announcement was published.
'WRIGHT - On the 10th inst., Horace, the beloved husband of Rose Wright, youngest son of John Wright M.D., M.R.C.S. and nephew of Samuel Wright M.D., D.C.L, LL.D., F.R.S., late of Nottingham, England, aged 43 years. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" - Rom., 8-35. Home papers please copy.'
The full text of Romans 8-35 is 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?'.

Horace died of 'Tubercular disease of the brain, lungs and Mesentery' , as decided by the coroner at an inquest on 12 July. A quick look through the Victoria newspapers of the period shows that a coroner was kept extremely busy by the asylums and the city of Melbourne generally, and I doubt that any great effort went into enquiries about patients who died from what might be termed natural causes. However, it comes to light from the death certificate that Horace did not die in Kew Asylum, but in the nearby Yarra Bend Asylum.

Engraving of Kew Asylum circa 1880. Buildings of Yarra Bend Asylum are depicted in the foreground
Engraving of Kew Asylum circa 1880.
Buildings of Yarra Bend Asylum are depicted in the foreground
Image source wikimedia

Yarra Bend was one of the first purpose-built asylums in Australia and opened in 1848, but as early as 1854 there were proposals to close it. The wrangling went on for years, with lack of funds being cited as the reason for not building the new facility of Kew. Eventually the building began but was halted when the costs spiralled out of control. Despite the fact that an Enquiry found Yarra to be 'wholly unfit for the reception and treatment of lunatics', the feet-dragging over Kew continued and Yarra was actually expanded. As we know today, back in Victorian times asylums were seen as a repository for a wide range of people and you certainly did not need to be a 'raving lunatic' to find yourself incarcerated: the result in Melbourne was that Yarra filled up and the overspill was accommodated in prisons and hospitals. Some new asylums were built in the meantime but by 1870 there were over 1000 patients in Yarra. Kew finally opened for business in 1871. Yarra was falling apart and closure was again recommended in the 1880s, but the establishment remained open, in an increasing state of decay, until 1925.

When Rose Wright carried out the necessary formalities to prove Horace's estate, such as it was, she stated that about ten years previously he had received correspondence from his sister Daphne and brother Samuel (Samuel was living in Australia), so it seems that he had not been forgotten by some members of his family.

Main source re Kew and Yarra: 'The History of Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum, Melbourne' by R Bonwick


Mrs Sarah Wright died on 27 June 1878 and was buried in Grave F25A at Epsom Cemetery. There are three generations of Wrights in the grave, spanning a period of nearly 80 years. The other incumbents are Ethel Maud Cropper (aged 1), daughter of Samuel and Decima Cropper, buried in 1877, Decima Cropper herself (aged 92, buried 1937) and Decima Mary Jarrett (aged 86, buried 1953). And, if we include those in St Martin's Churchyard, we have a span of 90 years.

You could say, that the Wright girls were somewhat lucky in that they were able to stick together for a time, largely because John Smith and Samuel Cropper moved to Epsom, but the boys were another story altogether, scattering far and wide. We don't know what happened to Lucretius ultimately but, given his history of running away from any semblance of discipline, I doubt that he came to a happy end. We know that, by and large, Horace had a fairly wretched life and his end was awful, whilst poor little John Junius died in childhood, separated from his family, in the Wanstead Orphan Asylum. As yet, I have not traced John Senior and Joseph, but Samuel surfaced in Australia at one point, so I haven't given up hope of finding out the fate of the others.

There is every indication that John and Sarah Wright were devoted parents to their large brood when they lived in Nottingham. John read and wrote poetry and was a reader of Latin works in particular - hence the names of some of the children, no doubt. In 1851 a collection of his poems, entitled 'Poetry, Sacred and Profane' was published. There was a particular copy (now lost) of this book, inscribed as follows.

To Sarah,
My dear wife
Who, as Heaven's best gift
Has never ceased to 'serve', 'love' and 'honour' me
Through all the waywardness implied
In the pursuit of literature
John Wright

It seems to me that Horace Wright, out of all the children, was the one who wanted to and could have followed in his father's footsteps, had it not been for the mental issues. Who knows what might have been had John Wright survived even a few years longer. There is a biography of John Wright online at and I have borrowed bits and pieces of information from it with the copyright owner's permission. It is well worth reading for an insight into the kind of man John Wright was and the sort of life a doctor endured in those far-off days.

Linda Jackson 2018