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Poorhouse People

20 October 2016

Our article in the November 2015 eNewsletter about Westfield Park's (our head office) "Poorhouse Past" was inspired by The Lothians Family History Society who have kindly provided us with more details on the lives of two of the female inmates who inhabited our building for a while, which we thought we would share with you:

Margaret Baxter 1861 - 1890

Margaret was the fifth of seven children and was born at Niddrie Colliery Cottages on 1st January 1861.  She moved with her family to 11 Ramsay Square, Loanhead and when she was only 5 years old her mother died of kidney disease. Her father, William, then married again and produced a second family of six more children.  By 1881 the family are living in Prestonpans and Margaret is employed as a field worker.  

It's around this time that Margaret (aged 20) is found in the Combination Poorhouse at Dalkeith, where her behaviour goes from fair to bad to unruly, becoming increasingly violent.

Eventually Margaret was certified as being of unsound mind and sent to the Midlothian & Peebles Lunatic Asylum (Rosslynlee Hospital) on 29 March 1888.  It appears that Margaret had been suffering epileptic fits, perhaps the reason she ended up in the Poorhouse in the first place - we will never know.

Margaret was treated using "anaethetise with Chloroform" and "wet cupping over the ligamentum muchae" (blood letting), but eventually died on 18 March 1890 aged just 39, after suffering 38 fits in 24 hours.  She is buried in a communal grave in Hawthornden Cemetery, Rosewell.

Susan Crease 1846 - 1915

Susan was born in Dalkeith on 19 April 1846 and by 1849 had moved to 31 Home Street, Edinburgh where her mother, Margaret, contracted cholera and died on 9 September 1849.  Tragically, on 9 April 1863, when Susan was only 17, her father, a drover, was found dead near the bridge at Oldhamstocks in East Lothian. 

That same year, Susan gave birth to a daughter, Margaret Jane, and four years later, a son, William.  The name of the father was not given on either birth certificate.  It's about this time that Susan, on her own with two young children, entered the Poorhouse and is recorded in the punishment book for being riotous and fighting, which resulted in part of her diet being withheld.

Thankfully Susan doesn't appear to have stayed in the Poorhouse for long and on 4 July 1870 she married Thomas Kerr, a maltman in the Canongate.  Thomas died of influenza in 1905 and Susan then lived with her son William until January 1915 when she met with an accident, was admitted to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with burns to her chest, neck and arms and died of shock on 28 January 1915 aged 69.

If you would like more information on the Lothians Family History Society contact


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