The Craxford Family Magazine Red Pages

{$text['mgr_red1']} Cottingham 2.9a

A History of the Tilley Family: Cottingham Part 1, the early generations

by Alan D Craxford and Janice Binley

with contributions from Peter Crane, Sandy Hall (Mrs), Julie Hill, Winston Klein and Tony Vines

Military advisor: Stephen Beeby


It is appropriate that we should devote an article to the Tilley family in this section of the magazine. My particular interest culminates with my great aunt Beatrice Edith who married William Craxford in 1912. It was correspondence from one of their daughters to my father over 25 years ago which sparked my initial interest in family history research. They are tightly enmeshed with our other families of interest both within and outside the village and demonstrate the same propensity for consanguineous marriages and affinal relationships. In this first instalment we will be concentrating on that part of the family who lived in the Northamptonshire village of Cottingham during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, as the roots of their tree have been uncovered, we have followed their journey back and forth along the line of the current A6 trunk road between Leicester and the Welland Valley for at least one hundred years longer than that. - ADC

Vesta Tilley

Vesta Tilley, Wikipedia (1)

The family name Tilley is by no means uncommon in the East Midlands and indeed we have come across four seemingly unconnected family lines in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. There are several theories of how the name arose. One postulate was that it arose from the name of several villages in northern France or as a diminutive of Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror and came to England around the time of the Norman Conquest. Secondly it is derived from Anglo-Saxon words or simply from an early farmer or tiller of the soil. In any event, despite one family's close association with the Britannia Theatre, London (see "The Britannia Comes To The Craxfords"), we cannot lay claim to kinship with the renouned music hall artiste, Vesta Tilley (1864-1952: real name, Matilda Alice Powles).

Cottingham: the first generation

Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

St Mary Magdalene Church, Cottingham: a view across the village from Blind Lane

Although the family can be traced back over one hundred and fifty years earlier, the first appearance of the Tilleys in the Parish Records of Cottingham is a marriage on May 19th 1771. John Tilley was born in Thorpe Langton in Leicestershire in 1748. He moved over the border into the Welland Valley where he met Mary, the eldest daughter of Francis Ellis. After they were married at St Mary Magdalene Church, Cottingham, they settled in the village. John's younger brother, Joseph, was to marry Mary's younger sister, Sarah in 1774.

In the space of nine years, Mary gave birth to five children. Nothing is known of the fate of daughter Sarah, born first and baptised on October 13th 1771 or middle son Francis baptised in March 1778. Their younger daughter, Mary, died aged two years. The remainder of this article will follow the progeny of eldest son, John (born 1773) and youngest son, William (born 1780). Neither John nor Mary were destined to enjoy old age. John died aged 37 years and was buried in the village on August 11th 1785. Mary followed, aged 41 years, barely two years later.

Old map: Middleton 1902.
Old map: Cottingham 1886.

Maps of Middleton (1902) and Cottingham (1886) showing variations of street names and places of interest

Generation 2A: The family of John Tilley and Susannah Ingram

John Tilley was baptised at the parish church on April 11th 1773. He married Susannah, the daughter of James Ingram and Elizabeth Ballard on March 29th 1799. They had seven known children, although only a baptismal record remains of their youngest two: Sarah (1808) and Thomas (1811). John spent his working life on the land as an agricultural labourer. By the census of 1841, he and Susannah were living together in a house on King Street (Church Street). By 1851, they were in receipt of Parish Relief and had moved in with their married daughter, Elizabeth. In later life, they did not enjoy the best of health, and died within days of each other on January 26th and February 4th 1855, their deaths were attributed to "natural decay". They are buried together in St Mary Magdalene churchyard.

1. John Tilley (1800-1849)

Eldest son John was baptised on February 9th 1800. He married Mary Asher, a girl from Marston Trussell (a village just inside the Northamptonshire border between Market Harborough and Lutterworth) at Cottingham on October 29th 1829. He followed his father into the farm labouring and becoming a tenant living in a landowner's cottage. By the early 1840s, the family were living next door to his parents in King Street. They had five children, two boys and three girls: although two, a girl named Susannah died in 1836 and the last, a boy they called John, was born and died in 1842.

John Tilley died of disease of the liver on March 23th 1849. Present when he died was Sarah Jarman, who also reported his death. Sarah was the wife of William Jarman, a Cottingham brickmaker, who subsequently worked for John Neville Chamberlain - husband of Elizabeth Tilley, John's sister. Mary, his widow, continued to live with her son, James, and older daughter, Mary Ann. By the turn of the decade, Mary too was in receipt of Parochial Relief. She was declared a cottager's widow. She died in the spring of 1852.

2. Elizabeth Tilley (1801-1874)

Eldest daughter, Elizabeth's, marriage to and life with John Neville Chamberlain is the subject of a separate article (see "Elizabeth Tilley and the grocery connection").

3. James Tilley (1802-1888)

Parish Church of St Michael & Angels

St Michael & All Angels, Uffington, Stamford (3)

Second son James was baptised on August 15th 1802. He was destined to break the mould of agricultural labourhood. In his early twenties, he moved to Uffington, a small village outside Stamford, Lincolnshire where he met and married local girl Elizabeth Hubbard. The ceremony was celebrated at St Michael and All Angels Church. They had five known children.

James moved the family into the centre of Stamford, first to Scotgate next door to the Star and Garter public house and then to St John Street. He started work as a general broker (salesman) before taking over licensed premises as a publican in the early 1870s. Elizabeth died towards the end of the decade after which James returned to the furniture trade in 1881. He died in Stamford in the early months of 1888.

4. William Tilley (1803-1882)

Main Street, Middleton

Main Street, Middleton (about 1904)

Youngest son, William, was baptised on December 4th 1803. He, too, became an agricultural labourer. On October 9th 1828 he married Millicent Gilbert in Great Oxendon, a village in Northamptonshire just to the south of Market Harborough. His brother John and sister Elizabeth acted as witnesses. They settled in Middleton where they had two sons (Thomas, born 1829; John Gilbert, 1834) and two daughters (Elizabeth, 1832; Maria 1837).

For many years, they lived in a house on Middleton High Street next door to William Aldwinckle's bakery and two doors away from the Exeter Arms public house. Between the pub and the bakehouse was near neighbour James Craxford living with his second wife, Sarah Shaw. William obtained his own smallholding which he slowly increased with the passage of time (eight acres in 1851; eleven acres in 1861) and on which he was able to employ a boy to help him.

Millicent died in November 1877. William retired to spend his remaining few years with his now married son, Thomas. William died and was buried in St Mary Magdalene churchyard on November 23rd 1882.

5. Ann Tilley (1807-1887)

Second born daughter, Ann, was baptised on April 29th 1807. In 1834, she married Richard Crofts, a shepherd from Desborough. She moved back to the town with him before settling in Braybrooke, a village midway between Desborough and Market Harborough. They had five children, a son and four daughters.

At the time of the 1861 census, eldest daughter, 23 year old Susannah Tilley Crofts was staying in Cottingham with her married aunt, Elizabeth, the wife of grocer John Neville Chamberlain. Susannah married gardener, Arthur Phillips, in 1869. By 1881 they had moved into a house next door to Richard and Ann in Braybrooke. Second daughter, Elizabeth (born 1841), married George Clamp, a labourer from Cadeby in Leicestershire. They had five children and had moved to Staffordshire by 1871, but not before their oldest daughter Anne, who was three years old at the time, had been sent to live with her grandparents.

Richard and Ann's youngest daughter, Fanny, worked for a time as a cook in Market Harborough before moving back to the family home. She died in February 1877 at the age of 43 years. Ann died in the same winter. Richard then moved to Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, to live with his third daughter, Ann, who had married farmer John Franklin. Richard died there in the spring of 1896. They are commemorated on a headstone in All Saints Churchyard, Braybrooke.

Generation 3A-1: The family of John Tilley (2A.1) and Mary Asher

1. James Tilley (1830-1881)

There had never been much money in the family household. James, the oldest of John Tilley and Mary Asher's children was born barely a year after their marriage. He was baptised on October 4th 1830. As soon as he could handle the tools, he started work as an agricultural labourer. His father had died when he was 18 years old; his mother, already registered for parish relief, when he was 21.

The post office

The Chamberlain shop, Church Street (from an old postcard about 1900)

He spent his whole adult life in the family home on Church Street, Cottingham. A little further down the same street was Chamberlain's grocery shop where his aunt, Elizabeth, and his grandparents, John Tilley and Susannah Ingram lived. In 1851, his next door neighbours were the family of William Sculthorpe and Sarah Crane and a couple of doors away the family of Charles Sculthorpe and Susannah Ward. Charles and William were brothers. They were closely related to Brian Smith Sculthorpe, who, at the age of 30, farmed 40 acres.

A steam thresher

Steam threshing about 1890 (4)

James married Martha Hector, the daughter of a woodsman from Brigstock, on Christmas Day 1853. Over the next ten years, they had five children: a son and four daughters (including twins born in 1865) although the oldest girl, Sarah Louise, died aged 2 years in 1860. James spent his working life on the land. During the 1870s, he became skilled in the use of a steam threshing machine. These contraptions had revolutionised the way in which corn was harvested. In 1879, he was called as a witness to give evidence on the custom and practice of hiring out and charging for the use of such equipment in a case before the County Court in Kettering.(5).

By the turn of the decade, the family had moved into a house in the High Street, midway between the Three Horseshoes and the Spread Eagle public houses, next door to James' married sister Mary Ann. James died on March 2nd 1881. At the time of the census the following month, Martha had taken in a lodger, Erwin Tristan, a joiner from Thrapston, and was also looking after her four year old grandson, John James. She was also described as the proprietor of the steam threshing machine.

On November 1st 1887, now in her middle 50s, Martha married again - to William Sculthorpe, the son of William Sculthorpe and Sarah Crane, who was some thirteen years her junior. William had served time in the Army. After the marriage, William worked as an agricultural labourer while Martha continued to manage the threshing operation. For a time, they looked after her granddaughter, Elizabeth.

By the turn of the century, William and Martha had moved into a cottage in Water Lane. William was in receipt of an Army pension. At the time of the 1901 census, they were looking after another of Martha's grandchildren (Ethel) and one of her great grandchildren (Florence).

Martha was widowed again in the winter of 1903. For the remaining years of her life, she moved in with the family of her married daughter, Martha Louise, in Loddington, a village a couple of miles to the west of Kettering. She died in the winter of 1917.

2. Mary Ann Tilley (1833-1910)

Mary Ann Tilley was born and baptised at the end of July 1833. She lived firstly with her parents and then her older brother until she was 20 years of age. We will return to the story of Mary Ann and her descendants in a separate article.

3. Louisa Tilley (1836-1906)

Louisa Tilley was born a twin on October 16th 1836. So seriously ill was Susannah, her sister, that the two little girls were baptised immediately. Sadly, Susannah did not survive. With the death of her father when she was not yet in her teens, it was inevitable that she was destined, like so many others of the period, to enter domestic service. She went to live in her aunt, Elizabeth Chamberlain's household where she worked as a house girl.

Braunstone Hall about 1930

Braunstone Hall (6)

In her early twenties, Louisa obtained a position on the domestic staff at Braunstone Hall, Leicester, the family seat of the Winstanley family since the conclusion of the Civil War. The Georgian building stood in its own parkland. At the time, ownership of the estate was invested in Anna Jane Winstanley (the first time it had come to a female) who had married Royal Navy Commander Ralph George Pochin. Whilst in service, she met the estate's gardener, Thomas Lambert who originated from Great Glen. They were married at St Mary Magdalene's Church on October 31st 1859.

The couple moved on from service, setting up home in Cosby, a village on the south west edge of Leicester. They were to have three sons and four daughters. Thomas set up his own market gardening business, employing two garden labourers in 1871 and grew to four acres by 1881. His two younger sons, John and Charles, followed him into the company.

Louisa died in Cosby in 1906. Thomas retired and joined his married daughter Elizabeth in the Leicestershire countryside at Sutton in the Elms.

Continued in column 2...

Generation 3A-2: The family of James Tilley (2A.2) and Elizabeth Hubbard

1. John Tilley (1829-1902)

Eldest son of James and Elizabeth Tilley, John, was born in Stamford in 1828 and baptised at All Saint's Church on April 2nd the same year. As a young man, he took up work as a fishmonger, one of several traders working from the Star and Garter Public House. On April 26th 1853 he married 20 year old Susannah Fracey who had been working as a domestic servant for her uncle, Henry Boon, further down the same street. Her father Thomas Fracey was also a fishmonger. They were to have seven children, two sons and five daughters.

Older son, Alfred born 1861, and all five daughters followed in their father's footsteps in some form of the retail trade. None of the six were to marry. Alfred spent some time as an assistant to a dealer in game. He died in Stamford in December 1889. Eldest daughter Elizabeth (born in 1854), second daughter, Harriet (born in 1861) and third daughter Mary Ann (born in November 1863) all worked alongside Alfred for several years. Harriet died in the winter of 1897. When her father John died in 1902, Elizabeth took over the running of the family fruiterer business taking Mary Ann with her. They were joined by younger sister Sarah (born on August 25th 1867). The three women shared a house at 9 All Saints Street at the time of the 1911 census. Elizabeth died in 1913. Mary Ann and Sarah were still together at the same address in September 1939.

Only William, the younger son born in 1862 bucked the family trend. He became a railway clerk and by 1891 had moved away to settle in Derby. He married a girl from Stafford named Elizabeth but otherwise their history remains uncertain. John and Susannah's youngest daughter, Kate, was born in 1868. She died in Stamford in April 1900

2. James Tilley (1831-1903)

James was the second child born to James and Elizabeth Tilley. In adult life he became an agricultural labourer. He never married but lived quite close to the rest of his family in Scotgate White Swan Yard. By 1901 he had been admitted as an inmate of the Stamford Union Workhouse in Barnack Road where he died in the winter of 1903. He was buried on January 8th 1903 at St George's Church, Stamford.

3. Frances Tilley (1833-1885)

Francis, the third of the sons of James and Elizabeth Tilley achieved some notoriety in life. He was born in Stamford in 1833. He started his working life as a fishmonger with his brother John at the Star and Garter. It was during this time that he developed an association with Mary Fracey, the younger sister of Susannah, John's future wife. By the middle of the 1850s, Francis had become a hawker. He was summoned to appear before magistrates in August 1855 charged with the theft of a gold ring valued at £ 2. (7) Mary too had been in trouble with the law. By 1855 she was a known prostitute in the town. On July 1st 1855 with another woman she was brought before the Mayor charged with causing a breach of the peace. She was given a severe reprimand. (8) Then in April 3rd 1857 she was brought before the Stamford Sessions charged with the theft of gold and silver coins from Robert Tinkler. She was found guilty and sentenced to six months hard labour. (9).

On October 27th 1857, while visitng Great Bowden near Market Harborough, Leicestershire, Francis and Mary accosted John Billington, a farmer from the nearby village of Dingley, stealing from him a gold brooch. Francis was arrested almost immediately; Mary sometime later from her description in Stamford. They were committed for trial at the Leicestershire Assizes on March 4th 1858. They were found guilty of assault and robbery and were sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude (10). Francis was transferred to Pentonville Prison in London to await his fate. He was transported to Western Australia on board the convict ship "Merchantman" on October 10 1862 along with 191 other convicts, arriving in Fremantle on February 14th 1863. The ship's log described him as being 5 feet 8 inches tall and modestly overweight. He had black hair, dark blue eyes and a sallow complexion. (11)

Little is known of his placement or activities whilst in Australia. He did duly return to England at the end of his sentence and arrived in London on February 13th 1877. He made his home again in Stamford living in Britton's Court which was about 100 yards west of White Swan Yard on Scots Gate. He married Sarah Ann Newman at Stamford Register Office on June 19th 1883. He died in the town on May 4th 1885. He was 53 years old.

Mary Fracey also returned to England after her term of transportation had been completed. She married William Bland on November 20th 1874 at Eaton Socon and settled in nearby St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

4. Mary Ann Tilley (1839-1861)

Mary Ann, the only daughter of James and Elizabeth Tilley was born in 1839. She married Robert Tebbutt, a bootmaker from Raunds in Northamptonshire, in Stamford in the summer of 1861. Robert had previously married to Sarah Mackness at St Mary's Church in Rushden, Northamptonshire on Christmas Day 1855. They had two sons. Sarah died in early 1859, presumably as a result of childbirth. Robert and Mary Ann set up home in Broad Street. In the nine years between 1862 and 1873, nine children (five boys and two girls) were born. They were all baptised at the Church of St. Michael. Those nine years also saw tragedy for the family. Older daughter Harriett (born in 1867) died in 1871. Mary Ann died shortly before Christmas 1873. Youngest sons Harry (born 1872) and Walter (born 1873) both died in 1874.

There is evidence that remaining elements of the family emigrated to New Zealand after Mary Ann's death. Robert died there in 1901. Younger daughter Minnie (born in 1870) married Oliver Cotterill in Whangarei, New Zealand in May 9th 1890. She died aged 35 years on October 3rd 1905 in Paiaka, New Zealand shortly after the birth of her sixth child.

5. William (1849-1906)

Youngest son, William was born in Stamford in 1849. As a young man he became a letter carrier. He married Mary Ann Neal in 1872. They had five children (two sons and three daughters). After a short period as a boot and shoe salesman he returned to work as a postman. He died and was buried at All Saint's Church in the town on December 3rd 1906.

Generation 3A-3: The family of William Tilley (2A.4) and Millicent Gilbert

1. Thomas Tilley (1829-1901)

William and Millicent's oldest son, Thomas was born on October 21st 1829 and baptised four months later. He lived with his parents in Middleton until he had turned 21 years. On October 15th 1857, he married Sarah Walton, the daughter of husbandman (a tenant farmer looking after livestock) Thomas Walton from Carlton Curlieu, Leicestershire. The couple set up home in Cottingham.

Thomas acquired a cottage on Rockingham Road and a small holding initially of 4 acres. After the death of his mother, Thomas and Sarah moved to Middleton to take over a larger plot of 30 acres. They took up residence a little further down the High Street from his father's old abode, who moved in with them. It is an interesting curiosity that, in 1881, whilst the Exeter Arms and the old bakehouse were still in operation, proprietorship of the bakery had passed to another (and as yet totally unrelated) Tilley family who were descended from a line of master bakers in Lubenham, Leicestershire. James and Sarah Craxford still lived in the same cottage, although now its address was given as Tilley's Yard.

Townsend, Middleton

A view of Middleton (about 1907)

By 1891, Thomas and Sarah had returned to Cottingham, moving into the house next door to the Chamberlain grocery shop in Church Street. For a time, Sarah's unmarried sister Elizabeth lived with them. She was a miliner and dressmaker and presumably took the opportunity to supply the drapery branch of Chamberlain's organisation.

Sarah died in 1898. Thomas spent the last year of his life with his sister in law in a cottage on Corby Road. He passed away in October 1901. They had no children.

2. Elizabeth Tilley (1832-1901);

Elizabeth Tilley married silk weaver Titus Coe from Desborough on March 25th 1856. Although spending the first few years of married life in Middleton, they returned to Desborough in the early 1860s. They had two daughters (Agnes and Mary Jane), a son who died in infancy and a second son who died in 1872 aged 5 years. Elizabeth died in Desborough in 1901, Titus the following year.

3. John Gilbert Tilley (1834-1889)

John Tilley, William and Millicent's younger son, saw tragedy in his lifetime. He was born on October 2nd 1834 and baptised the following April. He spent his life labouring on his father's plot. He married farmer's daughter, Lucy Norman, in Cottingham at the beginning of 1862. Her father, John Norman, hailed from the village of Braybrooke, her mother from Desborough. They had four daughters and two sons. For a time, they had lived in Husbands Bosworth, where Lucy had been born. John Norman had moved to Middleton prior to 1850 taking his younger son, George, with him. Lucy and two of her sisters, Caroline and Amelia, spent their teenage years in domestic service. Amelia Norman married William Cross, a gardener from Harbury in Warwickshire in 1858. Their son, George was born in Middleton in 1861. William and Amelia acted as witnesses for John and Lucy.

Lucy soon became pregnant and the following year, she gave birth to their son, William. Sadly, Lucy died of bronchopneumonia in October 1863. She was just 30 years old. John and William continued to live with William and Millicent. Then, within five years, both of John's parents and his son, William (in 1879) were dead. With little resources of his own, he was taken into the Union Workhouse, London Road, Kettering. He died in 1889.

4. Maria Tilley (1837-1880)

Younger daughter, Maria, was born on March 2nd 1837. At the age of 19, she married James Pettifer Freeman, a young baker from Denford, a small village near Thrapston about five miles east of Kettering. They initially made a home in Cottingham where Maria gave birth to two daughters. At the time of the 1861 census they had returned to Middleton where James was trading as a grocer and baker. The shop on the High Street adjacent to the Wool Pack Inn. There was another small grocery store five doors away, was run by cordwainer, William Thorp.

Over the next ten years, Maria presented James with five sons. Second born son, Charles, was born in Middleton in 1865. He moved to Leicester as a young man learning a trade as a carpenter. He married Mary Elliott from the village of Narborough, Leicestershire in 1897 - their son Sydney being born two years later. Around the turn of the century, Charles decided to explore the possibility of emigration and made the journey to Cape Town, South Africa in April 1900 to seek work. Mary and Sydney joined him twelve months later. In 1905 the family moved to Sydney-on-Vaal, a settlement in the diamond mining belt near Kimberley, where daughter Evelyn was born. Charles continued to work as a joiner and cabinet maker and was involved in the construction of many of the civic buildings (the Masonic Hall, town hall, library and church) in the town. He also did some small scale prospecting for alluvial diamonds on his own. Charles died in 1933; Mary in 1946.

Charles and Mary

Charles and Mary Freeman (© Winston Klein)

James Pettifer and Maria Freeman's last son, James, was born in 1873. Towards the end of that decade, James wound up the business in Middleton and moved his family to Geddington, Northamptonshire where he took over the management of the bakery on Church Hill (the establishment mentioned in "Brothers in arms: The Moores and Walpoles of Geddington"). Sadly, Maria died and was buried there in 1880.

The census of 1891 shows James Pettifer Freeman to have moved again and to be in residence in Grange Road, Kettering. The household was supervised by housekeeper, Sarah Coe (we believe a relative of Titus, Elizabeth Tilley's husband). James had found work as a timekeeper (a job usually at a train or bus depot making sure things happened on time). His son, James, was still with him. Now aged 18 years, he had signed on to the Royal Navy. Nothing is known of his further history. Also in the household there were three further children, all under nine years of age and all listed as Freeman. Research has shown that the two girls had been born in Geddington to Emma, the 29 year old daughter of gamekeeper James Freestone. The first, Alice, was born in 1882. The second daughter was born in 1883, her given names being registered as Frederica Freeman but no father was named on her birth certificate. Another son, Richard, was born in 1887. There is no trace of a formal liaison between James P Freeman and Emma Freeston.

James did marry again in 1893 to Louisa Hagen. She had been born in 1857 to Matthew Bland, a saddler, in Wilbartson. At the time of the marriage she was a widow and was working with her mother, Elizabeth, as a laundress in Queen Street, Kettering. There appears to have been little love lost between his new wife and her step-son, Septimus, as one altercation ended up in court in 1895. (12) James died in 1897 and was buried in Geddington. His son, Septimus, followed him a year later in October 1898.

Alice Freeman

Alice Freeman about 1900

Alice Freeman first gained work as a domestic servant for farmer William Colwell in Lydington, Rutland while still in her teens. In the early years of the new century she had travelled south to London. Surviving postcards to her siblings show that she took several positions in domestic service ultimately becoming housemaid to Miss May Fairholme at Glendower Mansions, Kensington. She never married. In later life she took up residence in one of the Alms Houses in East Carlton. She died on January 4th 1958 in St Mary's Hospital, Kettering of pneumonia. Her death certificate notes her as the daughter of master baker, James Pettifer Freeman (deceased).

Richard Freeman

Richard Freeman about 1920

Richard Freeman was initially apprenticed to a print works in Kettering. He moved to Northampton where he joined the Police Force. He married Gertrude Ellen Butlin, daughter of the Superindendent of Police in the town, in the summer of 1915. He was one of five constables who enlisted for war service under the Police (Emergency Provisions) Act on June 15th 1915. He was posted Corporal (20051) to the 7th Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment. He was shipped out to France in September the same year. He was promoted to Acting Warrant Officer and then became a Provost Sergeant with the Regiment by 1916. At some stage he was accepted as a Cadet for officer training and was granted a commission as a temporary second lieutenant by Royal Warrant on December 30th 1918. (13). He was demobilised on February 3rd 1919. He rejoined the Police Force and gained the rank of sergeant.

Frederica, too, entered domestic service, with the Kettering household of grocer and beer seller, Harry Hughes Barber. As Frederica Freeman she married Charles Lewis Crane (grandson of Henry Crane) at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Cottingham on February 27th 1913. More of the history of the Cranes can be found at "The Crane Family of Cottingham". Prior to the event, Frederica was working as a tailoress and trouser finisher at the clothing factory.

Crane Coles wedding

George Crane's son, Charles, married Frederica Freeman, 1913

Generation 2B: The family of William Tilley and Catherine Woodcock

William Tilley, who was born in Cottingham about 1780, was the youngest of John Tilley and Mary Ellis' three sons. On November 13th 1806, he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard Harwood and Ann Cole. Elizabeth's sister, Ann, had previously married Pridmore Chambers (named after two long standing families from the village) whose ancestry also included the Aldwinckles. William and Elizabeth's marriage proved childless. She died just before Christmas 1812.

William married again, to Catherine Woodcock from Caldecott, Rutland, on May 20th 1814. They had six known children, although first born son, Thomas probably died in infancy in 1815. William traded for several years as a thatcher before moving onto the land. They moved into a cottage in Blind Lane where he died in October 1850. After William's death, Catherine moved into a house around the corner on Hill Road (the main route out of the village to the north east which was renamed Rockingham Road during the 1850s) taking her four youngest children with her. She took on work as a laundress to supplement her income. Later that decade she moved the family and business back into Blind Lane. She died in 1867.

1. William Tilley (1816-1894)

Oldest surviving son, William, was baptised on April 20th 1816. As soon as he was old enough, he started work as an agricultural labourer, an occupation he pursued his whole life. He married Ann, the daughter of Robert and Sarah Wingell from Barton Seagrave, on October 7th 1838. Their family consisted of three sons and two daughters. Last born son, Albert, died in infancy. Their story resumes in the next section.

Continued in column 3...

Generation 2B: William and Catherine Woodcock (continued)

2. Joseph Tilley (1818-1900); 3. Mary Tilley (1820-1869); 4. Sarah Tilley (1820-1902)

Second son, Joseph, was born on April 11th 1818 and was baptised six weeks later. He too took a job on the land, living first with his parents in Blind Lane and then by 1851 with his mother in Hill Road.

On Christmas Day 1856, Joseph married Sarah Binley (the daughter of Thomas Binley and Mary Reynolds). The families already had a close relationship (see "A Family Photograph Album: The Binleys, Jacksons and Tansleys"). Sarah's brother, Charles Binley had married Sarah Charlotte Wingell (Joseph's sister in law's sister) just a few weeks before. Charles first wife, Mary Ann West, had died in 1852 aged 25 years.

Joseph and Sarah moved back into a tied cottage in Blind Lane which was next door to his mother's house, from where he continued to work as an agricultural labourer. Their son, William, was born in 1858. William did not marry and continued to live with his parents. He became a shoemaker.

Mary and Sarah were the twin daughters of William Tilley and Catherine Woodcock, born on August 19th 1820. Sarah was born with a birth defect (probably cerebral palsy: a later census return declared her an "imbecile") Neither of them were to marry. They both continued to live at home, following their mother to the cottage in Blind Lane. They both joined in the running of their home laundry, an occupation they continued after their mother died in 1867. Mary died just two years later in the summer of 1869.

At the time of the census of 1871, Joseph's wife, Sarah, had taken over the laundry business. They also took in Joseph's sister, Sarah, to provide for her ongoing care. This arrangement continued for another thirty years. In 1881, William and Amelia Cross had moved into a cottage two doors away from them on Blind Lane. Amelia took up work as a laundress. Joseph died on March 9th 1900. For a time, the two Sarahs continued living together. Ultimately, Sarah Tilley's condition deteriorated and she was admitted to St Andrew's Hospital for Mental Diseases, Northampton where she died in October 1902. Joseph's widow, Sarah, died on March 30th 1904.

5. Samuel Tilley (1823-1901)

Youngest son, Samuel, was born on May 30th 1823. His early years mirrored those of his brothers and he was still living with his mother at Hill Road in 1851. His further history will be expanded in a future article.

Generation 3B1: The family of William Tilley (2B.1) and Ann Wingell

1. Harriett Ann Tilley (1839-1912)

East Carlton Alms Houses

The Alms Houses, East Carlton (14, 15)

Harriett Ann was born on May 12th 1839 and was baptised five weeks later. Her childhood and early adult life was spent with her parents as they moved from house to house. As a teenager she spent some time working as a framework knitter making up lace pieces. Then, prior to her wedding she was employed as a laundress. She married shepherd, John Green in the spring of 1866. He was from the neighbouring village of East Carlton which is where they set up home. Over twelve years, they had six children, three boys and three girls. By the Easter of 1881, two of Harriett's brothers had joined them in the village.

John Green died in the summer of 1881 after which she moved her family back to Cottingham. By 1891 she was working as a charwoman and living in Church Street next door to her parents and surrounded by close family. Towards the turn of the century she retired and was granted a pension from the Palmer estate at East Carlton Hall and a place in the alms houses on Church Lane in the village. Her youngest daughter Louisa moved in with her, becoming a dressmaker. Harriett died at the end of 1912.

2. John Thomas Tilley (1842-1929)

John Thomas, usually known by his second name, was born in May 1842 and baptised the following month. He became an agricultural labourer. When he was aged 22 years he married Elizabeth Taylor, a woman some 12 years older than he was, apparently from the village of Cranham near Stroud in Gloucestershire. For a time they lived in a cottage in Middleton. Elizabeth died on March 20th 1872. There were no children

John Thomas married again soon after Christmas 1874. His new bride was Mary Ann Jeaves from Thrapston. Prior to the wedding she had been employed as a laundry maid at the Rectory House by Thomas Owen Hall, the curate of Carlton near Peterborough. They took up residence in East Carlton, next door to his sister, Harriett Green. They had a son (Alfred Joseph) and a daughter (Alice Maud) within the next three years. A second daughter, Ellen, appeared at the beginning of April 1891. For over twenty five years he worked as a general labourer on the Palmer estate. He died in the village aged 88 years in 1929.

3. Alfred Robert Tilley (1846-1936)

Three Tilley sons

Three of the sons of Alfred and Elizabeth Tilley. Herbert is standing on the left

Alfred Robert, William Tilley and Ann Wingell's second son, was born in Cottingham in 1846. Like other members of the family, he started out as an agricultural labourer. He married Elizabeth Boon, the daughter of Thomas, a farm worker, at St James the Great Parish Church in nearby Gretton on December 28th 1880. Their witnesses were John Dunkley, the husband of his sister, Mary, and Mary Ann Boon, Elizabeth's sister. For a few months after the wedding, they were given a temporary home with his other married sister, Harriett Anne, in East Carlton.

The following year, the couple moved to Gretton where Elizabeth gave birth to their first son, Thomas William, on February 4th 1882. Almost immediately Alfred moved his family again, first to Cottingham, where he gained employment as a carpenter, and then to a cottage on The Hill, Middleton. Five more sons were to follow: John Henry (1883); Albert Robert (1886); George (1888); Arthur (1891) and Herbert (1895).

Of their own sons, John Henry (Harry) Tilley emigrated to Canada in 1903 where he set up home in Winnipeg. He returned to Cottingham where he married Harriet Annie Jones, one of the daughters of Frederick Jones and Maria Oliver, on July 19th 1915. Upon their return to Canada, they had three sons. John Henry died on March 24th 1932. Harriet and two of her sons, John and Alfred returned to Northamptonshire where they were living in Rothwell near Kettering at the time of compilation of the 1939 Directory.

15 year old Alfred Robert had left home to enter domestic service by the turn of the century. He was living in Kettering at the home of John T Smith and was earning a living as a milk seller. He also emigrated to Canada to join his elder brother in 1906. Thomas William married Emma Ethel Hanson in Middlesex in 1904 before emigrating to Canada in 1909. He also followed the family line, working in the grocery business. He became a Canadian citizen and died in Winnipeg in May 1954.

At the time of the 1911 census, younger sons George and Herbert remained at home in Cottingham. Both were working as shop assistants - George in the butchery trade. Alfred and Elizabeth were also providing a home for their nephew, Henry Robinson Dunkley, who was working as an assistant at a nearby grocery shop. Then, after he retired in June 1912, Alfred, Elizabeth, George and Herbert set sail from Southampton on the Cunard liner RMS Ascania bound for Canada. They, too, settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Son Alfred Robert followed aboard the RMS Alaunia from Liverpool on January 1st 1914 bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia after a visit to England.


Tilley Brothers Advertisement (16)

Arthur Tilley

Pte Arthur Tilley (17)

The family made their home at 538 Clifton Street in the area to the west of the Red River. The sons set up Tilley Brothers, a market garden and greenhouse business, which had its premises in neighbouring Spruce Street. When war was declared, Arthur Tilley was the first to enlist, joining the 78th Battalion, the Winnipeg Grenadiers as private 147677 in 1916. He was sent out to France where he sustained a gas injury on the Somme in December 1917. His brother George was drafted into the Army in November 1917 and joined the same battalion. They served together until their return to Canada and demobilisation in June 1919.

Son, Alfred Tilley, married Grace Lilian Payne from Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire on September 6th 1915. Just over two years later, Grace presented him with a son they named James Alfred. Tragedy struck this family in the early hours of Sunday morning, January 27th 1920. They were travelling in one of the sleeper cars on the overnight Canadian Pacific train which was bound for Vancouver. It was a bitterly cold night with the temperature well below freezing. On an isolated spot near North Bay, Ontario, the train was in a collision which wrecked two of the cars. Alfred, Grace and their son were all killed. He died was in his mid thirties.

Youngest son, Herbert married Doris Kathleen Hewlett of Toronto on May 18th 1918 at St Patrick's Church, Winnipeg. They had a son, Raymond, in 1924. Alfred Robert Tilley senior died in Winnipeg on March 3rd 1936 having reached his ninetieth year. He was buried in St James Cemetery in the city. Elizabeth survived him. Son Arthur died in 1976.

4. Mary Catherine Tilley (1849-1940)

Younger daughter, Mary Catherine, was born in 1849. She lived with her parents until the time of her marriage to John Dunkley in 1869. They settled down to married life in Middleton where John worked as a carpenter. Their first daughter, Eliza, was born in 1874. Six more children were to follow.

At the turn of the century, John had found work as a carpenter for the Palmer estate in East Carlton. He died in October 1904. Mary was granted a pension from the estate and continued to live in the village into the early part of the next decade.

Sarah Ann, the second born daughter, found work as a dressmaker. Shortly after her father died, she married Alfred Bull from Derby. They lived with her mother until 1910 when their son Roger was born. They then moved to Erdington, Birmingham, where Albert became a storekeeper for a rubber tyre firm.

Daughters Mabel Elizabeth (1884) and Evelyn (1894) both went into domestic service in their late teens as nursey maids. Mabel joined the staff of retired Army Captain John Ravenhill Prescott who lived at Dalton Grange near Wigan, Lancashire at the turn of the century. Later she moved with the household to Torquay, Devon. Evelyn found employment at Llanfair Hall, Caernarfon, North Wales.

Oldest of their three sons, John Alfred (1886), served his apprenticeship and joined his father as a carpenter in Middleton. Middle son became a stone mason, ultimately moving to East Carlton. Youngest son, Henry Robinson (1891), started working as a shop assistant and at the time of the 1911 census was living with his uncle Alfred Tilley in Middleton.

By the outbreak of the first World War, John Alfred, Henry Robinson and their mother had moved to Erdington, Birmingham. Both sons enlisted in the Armed Forces. Henry joined up in Birmingham in Early 1915. After basic training on Salisbury Plain during the winter months, he became Private (24822) in the 14th (Service) Battalion (West of England), the Gloucestershire Regiment. The battalion landed at Le Havre, France, on January 31st 1916. By April 1st, they were stationed in trenches at the front near Laventie, a small town about 10 miles south west of Armentières. Entries in the Battalion War diary for the first ten days of the month (18) report no major offensives but there were intermittent exchanges of rifle, machine gun and mortar fire across the front line with the enemy. Henry was killed in action on April 11th 1916. He was buried in the Rue du Bacquerot cemetery, Laventie. John Alfred enlisted as Sapper (139644) with the Corps of Royal Engineers. After his initial training he was transferred out to Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). He died on July 3rd 1916. He was buried at the Basra War Ceremony. Both sons are commemorated on the Cottingham War Memorial.

The Cottingham War Memorial
Dunkley dedication on the north face of the memorial

The Cottingham War Memorial and Dunkley dedication

CWGC commemoration
CWGC commemoration

The commemorations: LEFT: John Dunkley; RIGHT: Harry Dunkley


Our thanks are due to Sandy Hall for her comprehensive searches of the records in Desborough and surroundings and for her help in providing background information for this article. She is an active contributors to the Northamptonshire forum at RootChat.Com the Index of Genealogy, Family History and Local History.

Stephen Beeby's interests include the Northamptonshire Regiment (mainly 6th Bn.), 12th Div Signals R.E., 9th Black Watch, Royal Engineers. We would like to thank Simon Dew for his help with Henry Robinson Dunkley and the 14th Battalion, the Gloucershire Regiment. His particular interests include the Gloucestershire Regiment and the Royal Marine Light Infantry. They are both members of and active contributors to The Great War Forum.


1. Vesta Tilley, one of the most famous male impersonators of her age. from Wikipedia. Public Domain photograph In and out of drag reproduced under the terms of Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
2. Family tree graphic: Freeware Graphics: Vintage Kin Design Studio Australia
3. St Michael & All Angels Church, Uffington, Lincolnshire: Photograph: © Geoff Pick, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
4. "Farm labourers with steam engine and threshing machine" Photograph S.W.A. Newton The Last Main Line Image ref: 671077 © Leicestershire County Council
5. "Richards v Styles". Report from the County Court, Kettering: Northampton Mercury Friday 18 October 1895: British Library Newspaper Archive
6. The Winstanley family: Photograph in The History of Braunstone Park Parks & Open Spaces, © Leicester City Council
7. "Magisterial Business" Francis Tilley, hawker of nuts etc, charged with theft of a gold ring value £ 2. Town Hall, Stamford Lincolnshire Chronicle page 5 August 24th 1855. The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
8. Mary Franey: Breach of the Peace: Discharged: Lincolnshire Chronicle July 6th 1855. The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
9. Mary Fracy, a prostitute, charged with theft from Robert Tinkler at the Glazier's Arms Inn. Lincolnshire Chronice February 20th 1857 The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
10. "Assault And Robbery" County Criminal Business: Crown Court Leicester. Leicestershire Mercury Mary 6th 1858. The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
11. Francis Tilley, transported Merchantman: Western Australia 1863 Convicts to Australia.
12. "A Trumpery Case". Report from the Divisional Petty Sessions, Kettering: Northampton Mercury Friday 18 October 1895: British Library Newspaper Archive The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
13. Richard Freeman, Northamptonshire Regiment. Promotion from Cadet to temporary second Lieutenant: Regular Army: Supplement to London Gazette Issue 31197 February 21st 1919.
14. The Alms Houses, East Carlton. 'Hospital of the Blessed Jesus in Carlton': Photograph: © Tim Heaton, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
15."Alms Houses, 38-46 Church Lane East Carlton" History and List Entry Summary: Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 English Heritage
16. Tilley Brothers advertisement: The Winnipeg Tribune Friday September 11th 1925
17. '78th Battalion man reported gassed': The Winnipeg Evening Tribune Thursday August 15th 1918
18. April to June 1916: The War Diary: The 14th battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment

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Page added: April 2nd 2013
Last update: June 10th 2019

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