Rebecca Duff 1878 - 1913

A brief history of Rebecca Duff 1878 - 1913

Twins Rebecca and Rachel were on born 16 th June 1878, assumed at Kingston-upon-Thames. After her mother Phoebe's death in 1884 her father Robert James could not cope with nor support his family. The Union Workhouse Kingston did not accommodate children and placed paupers' children to other institutions, mostly to Cowley Oxford but lesser numbers also to Brentwood and Grays in Essex, and Margate and Ramsgate in Kent. The Duff children, Rebecca, Rachel, Esther, William, Catherine and Elizabeth were sent to the Cowley Industrial School, an austere institution run on strict and harsh disciplinary lines on the outskirts of Oxford . The site is now the BMW factory. However, the children benefited from a basic education of the four "R"s - r eading, w r iting, a r ithmetic and r eligion. It is believed that this stood them in good stead when it came to employment. Upon leaving Cowley Industrial School they were found employment in the Kingston area by the "Guardians".

Rebecca is recorded as being at the Brentford Union Workhouse in the 1901 census, a hand laundry washer. Rebecca is known to have suffered from ill health (as with her deceased twin) and depression. Aural tradition handed down through the family had it that she committed suicide by jumping off Kingston Bridge . Her death certificate notes that she drowned in the River Thames at Ham on 25 th September 1913 (but see below) aged 35. A contemporary report in the Surrey Comet notes that she had been unwell, depressed and out of work (as a domestic servant) for some time and was washed up at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. Given the weir at Teddington/Ham and it being a tidal stretch of the river towards Twickenham, the death certificate and Surrey Comet report appear to tie up. There was a Coroner's Inquest on 27 th September 1913; unfortunately (upon enquiring at the Kingston Heritage Centre) the Coroner's Court reports about that period are missing. However according to her funeral memorial card she died on September 19 th 1913. She was buried in Kingston Cemetery on September 29 th, grave ECon 4253 .


This page was last updated on 17th October 2010.