Joseph Penny Ivens, a watery demise.

One of the witnesses at the inquest of Joseph Cole Ivens, was Joseph Penny Ivens, son of the deceased. His address was given as Seven Sisters Road….., and it was only 18 months later that he was himself the subject of an inquest, at only 29 years old……


A Shopwalker is a senior employee in a large shop who supervises assistants, directs customers, and answers queries, so Joseph held a position of responsibility at Charles Baker’s. In the 1891 census his occupation was given as ‘Tailor’, and when living in Warwick with his parents as a young man, he was a ‘Clothier’s Assistant’-his father Joseph Cole Ivens had a Drapers shop.

One phrase which caught my attention in his Inquest Report is when he was explaining to his wife that images of his poor dead father “who drowned himself” had been placed in the shop. Those words rather contradict the evidence given by Joseph junior at his father’s inquest, when he stated that his father had been perfectly well mentally, and there was no reason to think he might take his own life.

It would seem that young Joseph had been deeply affected by his father’s tragic end, which perhaps had preyed on his mind ever since, exacerbating his excitable temperament. Sometimes delusional people hear voices, or see ‘signs’-this is only speculation but I’m wondering if he thought that his father was trying to contact him in some way, even to the extent of joining him in a watery grave? In fact the New River is not a river at all, but a man made canal, another similarity to the parental drowning.

He had only been married for just over two years, and left a small daughter, Lilian, as well as his widow. It isn’t clear why he had moved to London-in the Electoral Rolls for 1898 he was living at 7 Ellington Street, in the ‘front room, second floor, furnished’, and a J Wesson at the same address, so he was obviously renting whilst looking for more permanent accommodation. By the 1901 census, he is married, he and Deborah are at 37, Northolme Street, Highbury, close to Seven Sisters Road where Charles Baker had his emporium, and sadly, the New River was not far away.


Joseph Cole Ivens, (Joseph Penny Ivens’ father) and his wife Elizabeth Penny had eight children, of whom three died as small children, and two committed suicide, leaving Ernest, apparently an alcoholic, who died at 44, but Annie made it to 79 and Maud triumphantly lived into her eighties!

The other suicide was Ethel, if you’re not too depressed by these tales of woe I’ll give her a separate story.

One response to “Joseph Penny Ivens, a watery demise.

  1. Pingback: More about Joseph Cole Ivens (1845-1900) | All about Ivens·

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