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

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Tracing the stories of the six Wilton Sisters

Shops in Great Dunmow
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Stephen McKay -

Somehow I sensed that we hadn't finished with the family monopoly of Great Dunmow High Street and, it turns out, I was right. My goodness, we're more like the mafia! First there was Henry Wilton, uncle to HenryRichard (my 3rd great-grandfather) and Joseph, who all had their presence in this retail therapy thoroughfare, but their eldest sister had preceded them. 

Stephen Wilton and Elizabeth Hankin (my 4th great-grandparents), who married in 1803, produced no less than nine children who live to adulthood. There were three girls: Mary, Elizabeth and Martha, followed by the three brothers, and then a further three younger sisters: Ann, Sarah and Ellen. Now, I realise they're hardly the Bennet Sisters (also from Hertfordshire), but the Wilton girls - who were born between 1804 and 1819 - will have come of age between 1825 and 1840 and it helps to look at the styles of their age.

Stephen Wilton died in 1839 in Royston. In 1841, the widowed Elizabeth is living at Lewers Cottages, Royston with two of her younger daughters. There is then a record of a death and non-conformist burial of an Elizabeth Wilton of around the right age (69), born 1777, in Great Dunmow in 1846.

Eldest daughter, Mary Wilton, born in 1804, was baptised, as were her two closest sisters, on 25 Feb 1807, in Royston, Hertfordshire

Mary Wilton married Charles Prior (son of John and Elizabeth Prior, bap. 15 Jun 1809 in Great Waltham) in Great Dunmow on 24 Dec 1833. In 1841, they are found in the High Street, Great Dunmow. Later records show that Charles Prior was a Basket Maker. Mary and their daughter, Elizabeth, were Straw Hat Makers.

Not only were they in the High Street, after a further study of the census returns, I can see that they were actually next door to Charles' parents, John and Elizabeth Prior, who, in turn, were next door to her brother, Henry Wilton, who had a Henry Prior in his household, who was an apprentice tailor. (And the other side of them was uncle Henry Wilton; the other side of him, a pub and then my other relative, Robert Hockley). There must be every chance that Henry Prior was a relative of Charles, apprenticed to either Robert Hockley, or the other brother, Joseph Wilton, tailors. Living the other side of Charles and Mary Prior, was my 3rd great-grandfather, Richard

Charles and Mary Prior had four children: 
  1. Henry Prior born 1835
  2. Mary Prior born 1st quarter of 1838
  3. Elizabeth Prior born 1840 - later straw bonnet maker
  4. Ann Prior born 2nd quarter of 1842
Henry Prior (1835), originally also a basket maker, married Eliza E (maiden name as yet unknown) and became a Furniture Dealer on Market Hill, Maldon, Essex and later a House Furnisher in Cambridge. Henry and Eliza Prior had at least 6 children: Florence A, Rosa J, Alice G, Alfred E, Ada E & Winifred.

Mary Prior (née Wilton) died in the 3rd quarter of 1887, aged 83. Charles Prior died in the 4th quarter of 1891, aged 79, both in Great Dunmow.

Second sister, Elizabeth Wilton, born 1805, had married John Pryor in Royston on 4 Sep 1823. Her sister, Martha Wilton was living in John Pryor's household in 1841, along with Lydia Pryor (17), William B Pryor (3) and Alfred Pryor (2). Either something had happened to Elizabeth, or she was away from home. There are several potential deaths of an Elizabeth Pryor between 1840 and 1845, but none I can confirm as a positive match.

In 1849 there is a marriage of a Martha Wilton to a James Pearce. And there's a death of a Martha Pearce, born in 1807, in 1904, aged 97, in Royston. 

Of the younger girls, Ann Wilton, born 1817, other than her mention on the 1841 census with her mother, is currently proving to be evasive.

Sarah Wilton, born 1819, married Thomas Clark on 3 Apr 1839 in Royston. 

View from Market Square in Hitchin, with St Mary's Church in the background
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Lucas -

And finally, youngest, Ellen Wilton, married John Day in 1842, eventually went to live in Hitchin and produced half a dozen children: 
  1. Henry Wilton Day born 1843 in Buntingford, Hertfordshire
  2. Martha Hobbs Day born 2nd quarter of 1845 in Cambridgeshire
  3. Ellen Wilton Day born 3rd quarter of 1847 in Hitchin
  4. Sarah Ann Day born 1850 in Hitchin
  5. John Alfred Wilton born 1852 in Henlow, Bedfordshire
  6. Arthur Stephen Day born 1855 born in Hitchin
John Day was a Cabinet Maker Journeyman and Ellen Day, a dressmaker. In 1851, they lived in Dead Street, Hitchin - later renamed Queen Street, but that didn't improve it fundamentally. It was compared to the worst slums of London. In 1919, the cottages in the Queen Street area were described:  
Some houses had earth floors. The windows and doors were small and in a few cases the only window downstairs opened to a passage where there was no light and very little air. The only bedroom was like a stable loft, reached by a decrepit stairs or a ladder. Tea chests served as tables and 5 or 6 children in one bed was not unusual.  It was very much survival of the fittest.
In 1861, John and Ellen Day were living in Church Yard, but that was the same squalid, underworld area, of which was said, "Although the area was central, the whole district was taboo for the rest of Hitchin’s inhabitants."

Miraculously, given those circumstances, all three sons survived into adulthood (maybe the daughters did too, but I've still to track them). 

Henry Wilton Day in 1871, has moved to the parish of Southwark St Saviour, in South London, where he is employed as a Railway Porter, having married Emmeline Emma Sell, in 1867, in Lambeth. The couple have two children at that point. In 1881, are living at 2, Farnham Place, St Saviour Southwark with a further four children. A further search turned up the birth of the 7th.
  1. Frank H Day b. 1866
  2. Emma Day b. 1868
  3. Ellen Day b. 1872
  4. William Day b. 1874
  5. Mary Day b. 1877
  6. Alice Day b. 1881
  7. Harry Day b. 1884
In 1911, Harry W Day (67), Pensioner and Former Booking Clerk, now a Widower, is living in Camberwell with his married daughter, Emma Pocock (40ish). Emmeline Emma Day had died, aged 56, in 1897, in Southwark. Henry Wilton Day died in Camberwell, aged 71, in 1915. 

John Alfred Day, at birth was later always listed as Alfred John Day. In 1871, aged 19, his occupation is listed as Reporter. In 1881, Alfred John Day married Alice Gaunt in Southwark and the couple and eldest son are living in Southwark, with Alfred's profession changed to Compositor. In 1891, he's a Traveller For Printing Machinery, living in Evelina Road, Camberwell and they've added another six children. In 1901, they've moved to Thornton Heath, Croydon, added yet another four kids and Alfred's occupation is Journalist. And in 1911, still in Croydon and still employed as a Journalist. 
  1. William Alfred Day b. 1879
  2. Arthur Day b. 1883
  3. Alfred Day b. 1884
  4. Florence Day b. 1886
  5. Herbert Day b. 1888
  6. Frank Day b. 1889
  7. Walter Day b. 1890
  8. Sidney Day b. 1893
  9. Frederick Day b. 1895
  10. Ethel Day b. 1897
  11. Lily Day b. 1899
Alfred J Day died in 1919 in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.

Arthur Stephen Day, aged 15 in 1871, was listed as a Photographic Artist. On 29 Mar 1879, he married Mary Ann Ray (daughter of William Ray) and in 1881, he took a job as a Grocer's Assistant in High Street, Chipping-Ongar, Essex. But later in life, still in Chipping Ongar, in 1901, Arthur's occupation is given as Photographer. The couple had at least five children. 
  1. Arthur Wilton Day b. 29 Dec 1879, bap. 22 Feb 1880
  2. Daisy Rhoda Day b. 10 Feb 1881, bap. 8 Apr 1881
  3. Cecil Alfred Day b. 20 Nov 1886, bap. 23 Jan 1887
  4. Mildred Constance Day b. 19 Aug 1891, bap. 1 Nov 1891
  5. Florence Gertrude Day b. 18 Sep 1893, bap. 25 Mar 1894
Arthur Stephen Day died, aged 89, in Jan-Feb-Mar 1943 in Epping, Essex.

High Street, Chipping Ongar
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Stuart Shepherd -

Throughout my research of the Wiltons, I've been surprised by the frequent use of mother's or the grandmother's maiden name as a second given name and I've found the same practice among the Thompson clan, which is an entirely different branch of my family. It's interesting to see how prevalent this was, even amongst these mostly lower classes and it has proven invaluable to identify the correct families while doing research. 

There is, of course, still much to research, but even if I were to live to 100, I don't think I'd have enough time to trace each of these families forward for what, another 5-6 generations. And it's amazing how far they disperse.

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