The Tragedy of Selina Aylott

My relationship to Selina Aylott

Selina AYLOTT (1853 – 1909)
is my 3rd great grandmother

Clara WILSON (1885 – 1970)
daughter of Selina AYLOTT and my 2nd great grandmother

Edmund Samuel PLASKETT (1906 – 1977)
son of Clara WILSON and my great grandfather

Joyce Margery PLASKETT (1934 – 2013)
daughter of Edmund Samuel PLASKETT and my grandmother

The loss of someone you’ve been close to, whatever the cause of their death can bring intense feelings of grief.

But losing someone through suicide can cause reactions and emotions that are different to those felt after death from illness, an accident or natural causes. The fact that a person’s death involved an element of choice raises painful questions.

Shock, social isolation and feelings of guilt can be greater when bereavement is caused by suicide than when it’s caused by other types of death.

Throughout Victorian and Edwardian England accounts of suicide are well documented one such famous case was that of Margaret Moyes in 1838 who ascended the stairs of Monument alone, climbed over the railing and leapt to her death. Her fall ended miserably. On the way down, her body hit a bird cage and a potted lilac, and her arm was severed by the railing at the foot of the Monument. Moments later, when the first looker-on arrived at her side, she was dead. You can search many more cases that were publicised and swooned over by the newspapers of their time. Sadly this is just a small amount of cases, many more were left undocumented and lives of those people forgotten.

In 2008, I began a search for the burial of my 3x great grandmother Selina Aylott, it was close approaching the 100th centenary of her death and I was hoping to be able to pay my respects to her on this very sad anniversary. I made countless phone calls, sent many e-mails, and visited cemeteries in the hope of finding her place of burial, each time with no avail.

Her death you see was one of tragedy and sorrow, and I still remember that feeling when I opened the envelope from the GRO and read silently to myself the manner of her death. It made no difference to me that she had died some 69 years before I was born or even that there was no one alive who remembered her.

Before I uncover more of this story, I should really showcase her life as best I can.

Selina Aylott was born on 5 June 1853, like me she was a Gemini and from what I know of star signs is that June Gemini’s tend be very loving, sensitive people (Marilyn Monroe was a June Gemini).

Selina was born in Albury, Hertfordshire and was the second eldest child of Joseph and Rebecca Aylott she was baptised almost a month later on the 3rd July 1853 in St. Mary the Virgin, Albury. Her father worked as an agricultural labourer and the family lived in the small hamlet of Patmore Heath.

Hertfordshire, Albury, Patmore Heath Windmill
Patmore Heath, Albury, Hertfordshire

In 1871 she is recorded as working as a servant for a 51 year old widow named Mary Taversham in Wanstead, Essex, Selina disappears from the records for the next ten years or more and then re-appears in 1885 living at number 4 Downsall Road, Leyton, Essex, where her daughter Clara Wilson was born.

Her daughter’s birth certificate gives us the impression that Selina was married to a Samuel Wilson a Labourer who was born on the 18 November 1840 in Duxford, Cambridgeshire.
Sadly the truth was very much the opposite; Selina and Samuel were never married at all, I am not sure how their relationship with each other played out other the years their second and last daughter was born in 1899 nearly 14 years after the first child was born.

Between 1891 and Selina’s death in 1909 the families address remained the same, 54 Sutherland Road, Bow, Poplar. The home was eventually shared by her daughter Clara’s new family from 1906 onwards when she married Edmund Lionel Plaskett and their first two children were born here and spent their early years with both Samuel Wilson and Selina Aylott.
Something happened during this period which must have sent Selina into deep despair and depression.

I have my theory; firstly Samuel Wilson and Selina Aylott were never able to get married, because he was already married to an Annie Amelia Wakefield of Duxford, Cambridgeshire and through that marriage they had seven children with the last being born in 1879. Annie continued to use her married name and list herself as married through all of the recorded census years and until her death in 1916.

Was Selina ever aware of Samuel’s previous life in Cambridgeshire, did she discover the truth sometime in 1908, these are questions I shall never know. This history and the true reason for the passing of her life is sadly lost to my family the only hints of her death were passed down through the generations and attributed to an accidental death by drinking bleach. I guess the family were too ashamed to speak the truth, especially as suicide was and still is very much of a taboo subject.

On the 26th January 1909 whilst at home 54 Sutherland Road, Bow, Selina Aylott, 55 years of age and mother of two the youngest being only 10 years old committed suicide. The following was written as the cause of her death;

Violent poisoning by hydrochloric acid. Suicide whilst of unsound mind through trouble.

We can only imagine the pain she must have endured during this very violent death, references have claimed that the pain can be so bad that people have been known to throw themselves through closed windows to end the pain quicker.

Her death and the manner in which she died must have had a devastating effect on the family, I have a photograph in my collection of Selina’s daughter Clara Wilson and family, taken in 1918 at the end of World War One, there is sadness in her eyes which for me reflects a sad truth and a loss that most of us could never imagine.

Clara Plaskett (Nee: Wilson) and family


8 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Selina Aylott

  1. What a sad, sad story. Today she would have been able to get therapy, support, even drugs to help her through. I can only imagine what impact that had on her children.

    • It’s a very sad story, one that really touched me and one I often think about. I have never been able to find her burial, so I guess she may have been cremated and her ashes scattered.

  2. Very sad. Certainly with a death in 1909 it could be more likely to have been buried in a municipal cemetery or have been cremated as cremation was starting to become a more viable option, especially in London with burial ground space becoming more limited. I hope you do eventually track down what became of her.

    • Thank you Alex, I hope so too. I have pretty much eliminated all of the burial sites in and around London, so I may need to extend my research a little further perhaps in her home parishes around Albury, Hertfordshire. Also Her daughter’ Clara holidayed a lot in Margate and maybe Selina did too. perhaps she was taken here where she was most happiest.

  3. This is a very sad story. My heart really goes out to Selina. If she would have been living today, she would have had more options AND support in coping with her situation. This is also a very interesting story and one that we can learn from.Perhaps sharing her story will help others.

    • Hi Becky, thank you for your comment. I agree that her life was very sad and tragic and it must have been a difficult period in history for families to deal with suicide. luckily there is a lot more help for people now.

  4. I felt incredibly sad when I found a direct ancestor of mine had taken his own life. The poor man, to have come to that point in his life, apparently living away from his family. Fortunately his children all seemed to have lived fulfilling lives and did well.

    • Thank you for your comment and reading my post, I agree that it’s very sad. I’m sure most people have a relative in their tree somewhere who sadly took their own lives. Sadly the situation would have been much harder years ago.

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