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  • Writer's pictureJessica Feinstein

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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