Frederic Arnold Armitage part 2

Since I wrote my article in June 2011 I have found the answers to almost all the questions I raised about Frederic Arnold Armitage (FA).  His life story is a sad one  but before I recount more of it I must first correct my statement that FA’s aunt Edith married Richard C J Hewitt. In fact she married Richard Andrew James Hewat (R A J Hewat), a widower, on 06 June 1889 becoming his second wife. This makes far more sense for it was R A J Hewat who was recorded on the manifest of the ship on which FA sailed to the US as his friend. In fact he was his uncle by marriage. R C J Hewitt and R A J Hewat are one and the same person and the former name is the result of recording errors made when the 1910 US census was compiled.

I was fascinated as to why FA had died in Keighley and I therefore decided to find out more about his death in the hope that this would in turn reveal more about his life. By obtaining a copy of his death certificate, I discovered that the cause of his death at age 27 was acute pleurisy but, more surprisingly, that he had died at West Riding Asylum Scalebor Park and not in Keighley as stated in the National Probate Calendar.

Through the West Yorkshire Archive Service, I was able to prove to the satisfaction of the Bradford District NHS Care Trust that there was no living relative of FA closer than me and thereby obtain their permission to access FA’s medical records.

FA was admitted to Scalebor on 13 October 1920 and immediately became upset on finding that he was in a lunatic asylum.

His admission was preceded by a medical examination on 06 October, details of which are set out in a letter of the following day to a Dr Irving (presumably FA’s general practitioner). This letter gives interesting insight into FA’s later life. He was diagnosed then as having dementia praecox (premature dementure) and the letter says he first became peculiar at about the age of 21. It goes on to say that he was sent to visit an aunt in the United States where he developed delusions of persecution about his uncle and ran away from his aunt’s house being lost for a time. He was brought back to England and has been at home since. He ostensibly works at a woollen mill but stands motionless in front of the machine sometimes for an hour at a time. Physically he is described as thin, sallow and hollow eyed, as speaking slowly and gulping food without chewing. FA had had his teeth removed as a result of gum disease and complained that with false teeth he could not eat. The letter concludes that FA is unfit to stay at home.

The record of his time in the asylum up to his death on 23 December describes FA  a single man of 34 Temple Street, Lindley, as obstinate, dilatory and often refusing food, the latter being attributed to “his father neglecting to come and see him and his relations not having played the game straight with him”.

So we now know why FA went to the US – he was sent to visit his aunt. We know that he lived with his aunt and uncle although perhaps not for very long, as he ran away and was lost for some time. We know that he was single when admitted to Scalebor and we know that before admission he lived at 34 Temple Street the home of his father and stepmother.

I have been unable to find any information on when and how he returned from the US but I believe he could not have been there for very long. I suspect that he returned to the UK during World War 1 which would explain the absence of information as to the ship on which he sailed and the date on which it left the U S.

If this is correct then FA must have spent several years living, until 13 October 1920, at the then family home at 34 Temple Street, Lindley, with his father, stepmother and eventually four stepbrothers and two stepsisters.

There is no indication that FA was not a healthy boy when he was born, albeit apparently prematurely. His mother died when he was 2 years old and doubtless his father was much preoccupied with developing his career which must have resulted in a less than normal childhood. It appears that his health problems became apparent by age 21 and  that he became increasingly disturbed over the next six years until his death at age 27.

A sad story indeed.

Michael Armitage
May 2012