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Charles PENFOLD (1885-1907)


Charles Edward PENFOLD, Tree001-W13

1 Charles Edward PENFOLD (1885-1907) [109], son of John Robert PENFOLD (1857-1924) [86] and Mary Jane WILMSHURST (1856-1905) [87].

Born 1 Dec 1885, Chelsea, Middlesex, England. Died 24 Apr 1907, Vauxhall Bridge, London, England.


Charles was born on 1st December 1885 at Chelsea, the third of John Robert’s children.

He went to Ashburnham Road School and attended Pimlico Chapel on Sundays, morning and evening and afternoon school as well.

The family moved from Chelsea to Westminster and John Robert took up his own shop again. The following is an extract from Charles’ brother Arthur’s reminiscences:

One does wish that father had not insisted that Charles should give up his temporary job as a junior in the Colonial Office, at a time when Joseph Chamberlain was in charge. Charles used to relate some droll stories about the man with the monocle and the orchid. Father would not see his way to put in a full day at the shop, hence it did not prosper as it might have done. Charles became disheartened, went off and found another clerical job, whereupon he was ordered to leave home and did so. However, about this time, father married again, and one of the conditions of this second mating may have been a change of feeling for the exiled member of the family. Charles celebrated his return to the fold by contracting scarlet fever, and this was the prime cause of his death on 6th April 1907.

Charles did not seem to recover from the scarlet fever, which he had contracted in October 1906. He had been treated in the Fulham Fever Hospital where he stayed for seven weeks but once home he became melancholy and depressed. Perhaps the death of his maternal grandmother (who lived with the family) in August 1904, followed by the long illness and eventual death of his mother in January 1905. The expectation his father had of him to assist in the shop contributed to the depression, and being banished from home would certainly not have helped.

On the evening of 6th April 1907 he went out with his brother Arthur. They were walking over Vauxhall Bridge when suddenly Charles vaulted the parapet and jumped into the river. He was carried away by the tide and drowned. His body was recovered from the River Thames at Anchor Wharf, Upper Thames Street 18 days later. He was only 21 years old. An inquest was held and the jury recorded a verdict that the deceased took his own life whilst insane.

The death certificate states that ‘Dead body found twenty fourth April 1907, River Thames, off Anchor Wharf, Blackfriars’, that his occupation had been a Commerical Clerk of 32 Rampayne Street, Westminster, and that the cause of death was ‘asphyxia by drowning. Took his own life while insane by jumping over Vauxhall Bridge on 6th April 1907 p.m.’ The death was registered on 26th April 1907.

(notes by Diana Smith)


Westminster & Pimlico Times: April 12, 1907

A Vauxhall Bridge Tragedy - Suicide of Mr. J.R.Penfold's youngest son.

Vauxhall Bridge was the scene of a distressing tragedy on Saturday evening. Mr Charles Edward Penfold, the youngest of the three sons of Mr. J. R.Penfold, of Chapter Street, Westminster, was walking over the bridge with his brother, when he suddenly vaulted the parapet and sprang into the river. He was carried away by the tide, and was never seen again. The deceased was only 21 years of age, and his studious habits made him a young man of great promise. Recently he had been suffering acutely from melancholia, which set in after an attack of scarlet fever in October. When he contracted the disease he was removed to an isolation hospital, and his letters to his parents from that institution were full of humour, and seemed to show that he was recovering in an eminently satisfactory manner. But when he returned home, it was at once recognised that his health was not fuly restored. He was subject to fits of depressin, and although every effort was made to arouse him out of his despondency, he never regained his good spirits. As time went on his health showed no improvement, and a

month ago it was resolved to try the effect of a change of air and scenery. Accordingly he went on a visit to some friends at Godstone in Surrey. He stayed there three weeks, and returned home on Thursday night last week. There was no improvement in his condition, and he remained under medical treatment.

The doctor who was attending the deceased last saw himat tea-time on Saturday - within a few hours of his death. After spending half-an-hour with him, he told his father that he might expect him to get better soon, and he certainly appeared to be brighter than usual. Later in the eveing the deceasd went out for a walk with his brother. He apperd to have relapsed into one of his despondent moods again, and it was remarked that he walked slowly and wearily. The brothers turned towards Vauxhall Bridge, which they crossed on the west side.

Suddenly, without speaking a word, the deceased took a step backwards and, before anything would be done to prevent him, leaped over the parapet and flung himself into the water. It was quite dark at the time, and there were few people about. Before the distraught brother could obtain asistance of any kind the deceased had been carreid away by the tide, and he was seen no more. The body has not yet been recovered.

Deep and widespread sympathy is felt with the unfortunate young man's parents. His father has taken and active and prominent part in public affairs, and is one of the best known men in the neighbourhood. He was until November last a member of the Westminster City Council. Many years ago he was a wel known figure in Chelsea, where he carreid on business in Royal Hospital Road.

Mr. J.R. Penfold wishes, through the mdeium of our columns, to acknowledge the numerous leters of sympathy and condolence which he has received.