Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Setting 'Essex Style' in Great Dunmow

The Saracen's Head Hotel, Great Dunmow, Essex
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © William Metcalfe -

Having often joked that I come from a long line of Essex girls (white stilettos optional), little did I know quite how much influence on 'Essex style' (stop thinking TOWIE), my relatives may have had, having served the clothing needs of the population in Great Dunmow for probably three centuries or more - and these are only the ones for which records can be found. 

Robert Hockley (1723-1796) - my 6th great-grandfather - had been a weaver. One of his daughters had married William Lammus in 1779 and, according to the listings of Country Apprentices 1710-1808, a William Lammas was apprenticed to Robert Hockley, tailor, in Great Dunmow, in 1799. It seems too similar to believe they're not in some way linked. 

Grandson of the first, also Robert Hockley (bap. 1775) - my 1st cousin 6 times removed - was listed under tailors in Pigot's Directory of Essex 1823 and still listed as a tailor and draper in the High Street in 1841.

The difference between tailor and draper is that tailor makes, repairs, or alters clothes professionally, especially suits and men's clothing while draper is one who sells cloths; a dealer in cloths; as, a draper and tailor. And a clothier is a person or company that makes or sells clothes or cloth, while an outfitter is a shop selling men's clothing.

In 1841 too, we find listed, Joseph Wilton, tailor, for the first time also in the High Street. Yes, Joseph Wilton is the third and youngest of three brothers, the middle one having been my 3rd great-grandfather, Richard Wilton. There's also older brother, Henry Wilton, their uncle Henry WiltonWilliam Hockley (of The Chequers) still lived in Star Lane ... If one could take a time-machine back to Great Dunmow in 1841, imagine how long it would take to get any shopping done after greeting all the members of the family en route

They may have been in competition, but as Robert Hockley was then 65, there also exists the distinct possibility here that my Wilton relatives took over the business from my Hockley ones. But I've only just scratched the surface.

High Street, Great Dunmow
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © William Metcalfe -

Joseph Wilton, like his brothers, started life in Royston, Hertfordshire. He was born around 1815. Their father, Stephen Wilton, having died in 1839 in Royston, in the 2nd quarter of 1841, Joseph married Ann Thurlbourn in Cambridge and brought his new wife to set up home and business in the High Street, Great Dunmow. As we now know his uncle was already established in the town, as well as his two older brothers. Joseph Wilton was once again listed in White's Directory of Essex 1848, as a Tailor and Draper.

Ann Thurlbourn - the daughter of John and Rhoda Thurlbourn (née Poarcher), born on 9th September 1820, in the Parish of St Michael Cambridge, was baptised 2nd January 1821.

As the census returns for 1851 in Great Dunmow are missing, we have to wait until 1861 - when Joseph's occupation is described as Tailor And Clothier - to encounter them again. That census locates Joseph's premises three-doors-down, on the same side of the road, from the The Saracen's Head Hotel, with a confectioner and a clockmaker between them and a draper and grocer on the other side. We also find he and Ann have been a tad busy in the intervening two decades, with eight of the nine then surviving children still at home
  1. Sarah Ann Wilton born 1842 (died 1874)
  2. Edwin Joseph Wilton born 1843
  3. Eleanor Wilton born 1845
  4. Kate Wilton born 1846 (died 1870)
  5. Clara Jane Wilton born 1848
  6. Arthur Thurlbourn Wilton born 1851 
  7. Alice Maria Wilton born 1852 (died 1854)
  8. Lydia Ann Wilton born 1853
  9. Alice Maria Wilton born 1855
  10. Herbert Charles Wilton born 1857 (died 1858)
  11. Fanny Wilton born 1859
  12. Marion Louisa Wilton born 1860 (died 1861)
  13. Frederick John Wilton born 1862 (died 1879)
Eldest, Sarah Ann Wilton, a milliner, in 1861, was a boarder in the household of Alfred Sprent, Draper & Grocer, in Watling Street, Thaxted. She married William Thomas Jarvis, in Great Dunmow, on 17 Jan 1866. Although, by 1871, Sarah, Dressmaker, had been widowed and was living with her two children and sister Clara Jane. Sarah Ann died in 1874, aged just 31.

Watling Street, Thaxted. The B184 curves around the churchyard on the right. All of the buildings here are listed at grade II. cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Robin Webster -

Joseph Wilton, Clothier, employing 3 men and 1 boy, in 1871, is still in the same position with the Willis brothers next door (although the clockmaker has changed career to become an insurance agent) and then the Parker family, confectioners. In the Wilton household are Joseph (56), wife Ann (50), Edwin Joseph (27), Eleanor (25), Arthur (20), Lydia Ann (17), Alice Maria (15), Fanny (12) and Frederick (8). Kate had died, aged 23, in 1870. 

Joseph Wilton died, aged 58, on 11 Aug 1873, leaving effects valued the following year of 'Under £600'. Wife Ann died three years later, in the 4th quarter of 1876. Son, Frederick John, died, aged 17, in 1879. 

The level of loss between the 1850's and 1870's is heart-breaking. 

In 1881, the second Alice Maria (25) and her remaining sister, Fanny (22) - I've not yet located the whereabouts of sisters Eleanor, Clara and Lydia that year - are listed in the High Street, Great Dunmow as Governesses, while it fell to their eldest brother, Edwin Joseph Wilton (37), listed at Outfitters Shop, High Street, Great Dunmow, a General Outfitter, employing 4 men and 1 boy, to carry on the family business in the town, assisted by his brother, Arthur Thurlbourn Wilton (30), Clothier, and one Domestic Servant. 

Edwin Joseph Wilton had married Maria Seaton, from Holbeach, Lincolnshire, in Hackney, London, in 1877 and have sons, Sydney (3) and Frederick (1). 

In 1891, only Alice and Fanny, now Schoolmistresses, remain in Great Dunmow. Their sisters, Eleanor and Clara, Dressmakers, and Lillie (Lydia), Governess, are merely visiting, while Edwin Joseph Wilton, Clothier, and his wife Maria had moved to North Road, Brighton, Sussex. They'd added three more children; Reginald (7), Dorothy (3) and Frank (0) and employed four assistants. Edwin Joseph died in Brighton, aged 82, in 1925.

F J Staines Footwear - admittedly, I've yet to plot the exact path to them in the present day - was, until retirement in 2020, the local go-to for shoes to compliment all this, but then the eagle-eyed regular reader will have spotted that the Wiltons were twice married to the Staines, who were already my relatives, being descended from the Hockleys. Literally can't escape us!

Meanwhile, there is reportedly a gents outfitters in Great Dunmow today (alas, I haven't yet located it), still owned by the Hockleys. 

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