The children who were abandoned

It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.”
― Charles DickensOliver Twist

My 3x Great Grandparents William Reubon and Maria Elizabeth Plaskett did the unimaginable, in 1891 they abandoned all 8 of their children at their then home 60 Abbey Lane, West Ham, Essex.

For the next 7-8 years the children were forced to spend their lives as paupers in one of Victorian London’s most unimaginable places ever. ‘Poplar Union Workhouse’

Children_at_crumpsall_workhouse_circa_1895Circa 1895 – Children of the Workhouse

I find it extremely difficult to understand why parents would abandon their children, William Reubon in his early life was a well respected watchmaker in the East End of London a family trade which had been passed down through the ages and can be traced back to the 17th century just before the Great Fire of London.

But something changed in him in the 1890’s, he began suffering from a mental illness which eventually caused him and his wife to just up and leave. The children were aged between 11 and O, one of the youngest Frederick Nicholas Plaskett died shortly after entering Poplar Union. Sadly his short life wasn’t even recorded, his death just a footnote among the yellowed pages of London’s poor law records.

The 2 eldest children escaped the workhouse much earlier then their siblings, one of which was my 2x great grandfather Edmund Lionel Plaskett who probably found work aged either 14 or 15, but even so Edmund still spent 4 or 5 years of his life in there.

EdmundPlaskett-ClaraWilson-EdmundLionel-Amelia-GeorgeandOliveA family portrait of Edmund Lionel Plaskett and his family – Circa 1915

On the 19th April 1898 negotiations began to remove the children from the unions care, a mistake has been made on this paperwork, it reads that one of the two eldest children was a Robert Plaskett’ but Robert never existed?!? They are actually talking about my 2x great grandfather Edmund, it is such a shame that their lives were so insignificant that they couldn’t even remember his name.

Notes published in the poor union of Poplar abt the plaskett children being abandoned 19 April 1898Source: London, England, Selected poor law Removal and Settlement Records 1828-1930

William Reubon Plaskett went insane about 1899 and spent 18 months hard labour in Pentonville Prison for grievously harming his eldest son and daughter-in-law. He eventually ended up in Poplar Union Workhouse himself before finally being admitted to  Long Grove Lunatic Asylum, he died in 1918.

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12 thoughts on “The children who were abandoned

  1. Oh. my—this sounds like something out of Dickens. It’s heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing this story. It must be very painful for you.

    • I have very mixed emotions about this story, I’m not sure if I can hold anything personal against William Reubon Plaskett (3x grt granddad), in his early life he seemed very sane, professionally respected and hardworking. But his state of mind deteriorated as he aged, to a point where he was beyond help.
      I’m sure his children and grandchildren would have felt very differently about him and sadly the full story is lost, and I may never know if he was nice or not. I am hoping that Barnado’s will be able to shed more light on the story.

      • Barnardo’s is a charity for orphaned and destitute children (or at least that’s how it began) in 1866, it was set up by Thomas John Barnado.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_John_Barnardo

        He helped save abt 100,000 children in England between 1866 and his death in 1905.
        He kept extensive records and photographs for all the children (some of the oldest photographs in the world).
        Sadly, Barnados was also associated with ‘Home Children’ – which is where British children were often sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Many of these children were lied to about their parents having died and vice versa.
        Many were treated appallingly, abused and so on.

        Barnados probably thought he was doing good, but at times he was doing more harm.

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