Thomas Murfin’s melancholia

Thanks to the very helpful service provided by staff at the Derbyshire Record Office at Matlock, I now have some more information about Thomas Murfin. They were able to send me four pages. One was the Register of Removals, Discharges and Deaths, which says that he was admitted to Mickleover Asylum on 1 April 1896 (so he was in the asylum for three years). The record says that he died from tuberculosis of the lungs and cerebral degeneration, and the archives assistant who sent me the pages said “possibly this refers to senile dementia”. There was a post-mortem.

The pages from the male patient case books were also provided. First come the patient’s details:

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Then the details about the reason for being in the asylum:

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I didn’t know that he had a brother, so it was very exciting to see that.

The other pages describe Thomas’s symptoms and behaviour:

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Over the following weeks and months there was no change, until December when he was “much stronger in bodily health”, “still subject to delusions, but … not so much influenced by them”.

Then in March 1897:

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And a year later, another report noted that he was not improved, “remaining profoundly depressed, with a constant expression of abject misery”.

He died at 9.20 in the evening of 5 March 1899, and the Statement to Coroner is pasted into the case notes:

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Finding a brother wasn’t difficult, with a Charles Murfin listed in the UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846–1912 on Ancestry (admitted in 1881, died in 1895). This in turn allowed me to find other siblings, including some born after 1837, which enabled me to find out their mother’s maiden name.

So I now know that Thomas’s parents were John Murfin and Hannah Allsop, and that has given us another generation further back, to her parents Charles Allsop and Sarah, who lived in Bradley.

In May 1898, the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald published a long article on an inspection visit to the asylum. This is just a small part, giving us some idea of what it was like.

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Elizabeth Frampton

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This photo, kindly shared with me by her descendant, Claire, is of Elizabeth Frampton, a 5x great-grandmother of Ari’s.

Elizabeth was born in 1803 in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, the daughter of James Frampton and (I think) Elizabeth Miller. (The baptism record doesn’t mention the mother.)

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Dorset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812,
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The amazing tower ceiling at Wimborne Minster, which we visited in 2014, on our way to Thomas Hardy’s cottage.

On 15 December 1832, Elizabeth married a miller’s labourer, Isaac Dibben, also in Wimborne Minster.

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Marriage banns. Dorset, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921,
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The marriage. Dorset, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921,

The couple had four sons: James Pottle, George, John Frampton, and Fred Albert. (I am intrigued to know where the Pottle came from. There was a 1785 marriage between an Elizabeth Pottle and a John Frampton in the right place, but I can’t connect them to our families yet.)

The 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses all show the family in Witchampton.

Former mill house overlooking the River Allen, on Witchampton Lane.

(This could be the mill where Isaac worked. Witchampton had two.)

Elizabeth died in July 1869 and was buried at Witchampton on the 2nd of August.

Spotted in the church at Witchampton.

Ari, this is how you are related to Elizabeth:

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Thomas Murfin of Mugginton and Mickleover

I recently received the death certificate for Ari’s 5x great-grandfather, Thomas Murfin. It says that he died at the County Asylum, in Mickleover, Derbyshire.

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The asylum was opened in 1851. It became Derby County Mental Hospital and then Pastures Hospital. It closed in 1994, as part of the change to “care in the community”.

There is a page about the asylum here, giving details of its history. Google also brought up this page from the Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology, of 1853:

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So why was Thomas there, and for how long? There are some admission records, casebooks, etc. in Derbyshire Record Office, including photos, so this is definitely something to pursue (the Lunacy Act of 1845 stated that all asylums must keep an admission book – a contemporary record of each admission with basic demographic data and details of diagnosis, cause of disorder and age of first attack. It also contained records of the date of discharge or death and whether the patient had recovered or not).

The cause of death may provide a clue:

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This could have been Alzheimer’s, dementia or another neurogenerative disorder or disease.

We know quite a lot about Thomas before this.

In 1876, Thomas, who had been a widower since 1862, married Mary Smith. They can be seen in the 1891 census living in the village of Windley, where Thomas, aged 66, was working as a farm labourer. (Mary outlived Thomas, so he was not on his own when taken into the asylum, at some point between 1891 and 1899.)

Working backwards, in 1881 Thomas and Mary were at the same place, which looks as though it was Windley Hall Farm.

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Sale of the farm in 1888, notice in the Derby Mercury, 15 Feb.

On 27 Dec 1881, Thomas’s daughter Elizabeth had married in Mugginton, and his name was on the marriage certificate although not as a witness. (Her older brother and sister Moses and Hannah signed the register.) This doesn’t help us though, as he didn’t sign the register when an older daughter, Mary Ann, married in 1871, and we know he wasn’t in the asylum then.

Thomas’s first wife, Elizabeth, had died in 1862, shortly after Elizabeth’s birth and before her baptism, leaving him with six children under 13. It is hard to imagine how Thomas would have coped after Elizabeth’s death. No doubt the older girls took on much of the work. We can see the family the year before, living at The Lodge, Turnditch Hall Farm. Thomas was 36, and a farm labourer. Daughter Mary Ann and son John (Ari’s 4x great-grandfather) were both at school, and there were two babies, Hannah and Moses. The oldest child, Emma, was living next door, at Ash Hall, and working as a servant.

I found this in 1860, but I am not certain that this is our Thomas:

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Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 12 October 1860

(Elizabeth Argile was a cotton mill hand, and the child was called Harriet. One day her descendant will no doubt turn up as a DNA match …)

Thomas’s funeral was three days after his death, at Mugginton on 8 March 1899.

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Derbyshire, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1991,


Ari, this is how you are related to Thomas:

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Alice Cundy of Old Brampton

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Alice was Ari’s 8x great-grandmother. She was born in 1712 in Old Brampton, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, the daughter of John and Mary.

Here is her baptism record, in Latin:

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Derbyshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 on

The baptism took place at the church of St Peter & St Paul on the 1st of June, 1712.


The church booklet says that “Old Brampton lies on the ancient road westward across the moors; for many centuries this was the only way from Chesterfield to Baslow and beyond”.

On 18 Aug 1734, Alice married Matthew Thickett in the same church. He was a cordwainer. Their daughter Sarah (Ari’s 7x great-grandmother) was their first child, born in 1735. As usual in this period before the national census, the only evidence we have of Alice is the baptisms of her children, in this case up until 1757 when her daughter Alice was born, although she doesn’t get a mention:

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Derbyshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 on

We know that she died in May 1797 and was buried at the church on the 31st.

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Derbyshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812. 

The above entry is from the Old Brampton Waste Book, which describes where the burials took place, and also how people are related. It says that she is buried on the south side. The church also contains a helpful plan:


Unfortunately, we still didn’t manage to find the grave!

Ari, this is how you are related to Alice:

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