Charles Alfred MARTIN: Ordered to be detained until Her Majesty’s pleasure be known

June 22, 2015

Charles Alfred MARTIN, the son of a Battle of Trafalgar veteran, was baptised on 21 February 1824 in Frome, Somerset. His older sibling, James Charles MARTIN (my great, great grandfather) was a master cordwainer who remained his entire life in their home town of Frome. But what became of Charles Alfred?

A cousin traced him to London where he married Mary Ann FLATTERY in 1850 at St Martin in the Fields. The couple had four children and lived in Marylebone and Bermondsey according to the 1851 and 1861 Census. The trail then goes cold until, amazingly, I take receipt of an email from the Berkshire Record Office enquiring whether the Broadmoor Asylum records they now possess, might include my ancestor.

Broadmoor Asylum (above) courtesy of the Wellcome Library

Broadmoor Asylum (above) courtesy of the Wellcome Library

It was quickly confirmed on the basis that this Charles MARTIN had a brother James in Frome who had exchanged correspondence with the asylum regarding his brother.

The reason Charles had been incarcerated in 1869 was to be shockingly reported in numerous newspapers. The articles provided a brief insight into the then recent life of Charles, ‘a small diminutive man’, and his family, which was significantly enhanced by what was to be revealed in the Broadmoor records I was able to access at the Berkshire Record Office (BRO) in Reading. I must now tread carefully as not to infringe copyright. Charles had written a long letter regarding his life (and an all too brief mention of his father who died when he was an infant) to Dr Orange, Superintendent of Broadmoor, shortly before his release in 1879.

The most significant revelation was that his father was a man of colour and thought to be of African (my Y-DNA says otherwise) descent. (Charles’ mother was an English rose of Somerset). A photograph of Charles, taken sometime during his 10-year incarceration (which was initially at Fisherton House Asylum, Salisbury, Wiltshire), clearly reveals he is of ‘dark complexion’. (A recently deceased uncle bears a striking resemblance to Charles, albeit the generations since passed have lost all trace of this skin colour.)

Many of the newspaper articles found provide conflicting accounts of Charles’ origins such as having creole parents, being mulatto (I consider this an accurate description) and dispelling the notion he was Spanish. He was also named as Carlos MARTINI!

The BRO’s Senior Archivist produced an article for the November 2010 Who Do You Think You Are? magazine entitled “Beyond Broadmoor” which featured Charles.

Extract of the Dr Orange letter (above) courtesy of the BBC magazine Who Do You Think You Are?

Extract of the Dr Orange letter (above) courtesy of the BBC magazine Who Do You Think You Are?

A subsequent television programme entitled Inside Broadmoor could so easily have chosen Charles as their case study of an inmate who was successfully rehabilitated.

I and fellow cousins know little of Charles and Mary’s four children and their many descendants traced up to births in the 1920s. Most interestingly, at least one newspaper reported Charles as having five children.

Following Charles’ release from Broadmoor, into the care of his brother James in Somerset, he returned to London for the remainder of his life. He was living with his widowed daughter Rosetta COLES in Camberwell, London when he died age 93 (questionable) on 27 October 1913 and was buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery.

A recent search of the British National Archive found that James MARTIN (‘a little man’) was himself a victim of crime in 1857!

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