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A History of the Tilley family: Origins and alternatives 1: The Langtons, Leicestershire

by Alan D Craxford, Janice Binley and Megan Tilley


Other articles within the website which relate to particular aspects of this story are noted within square brackets in the text. Links to these articles can be found in the table towards the bottom of column 2

It is appropriate that we should devote a series of articles to the Tilley family in this section of the magazine. My particular interest culminates with my greataunt 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. We will be concentrating on that part of the family who lived in the Cottingham village of Northamptonshire during the 18th and 19th centuries in the later articles. 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. - ADC

Vesta Tilley

Vesta Tilley, Wikipedia (1)

They are tightly enmeshed with our other families of interest both within and outside the village and demonstrate the same propensity for consanguineous and affinal relationships.

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 [Article A.]) "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).

Origins 1: Kibworth

The earliest instance of the Tilley name in the records of Cottingham discovered so far is the marriage of John Tilley and Mary Ellis on May 19th 1771. Although John was declared "of this parish" this was not the case. His ancestry can be traced more than 150 years back over the border in Leicestershire. Four generations earlier, Daniel Tilley married Joan (or Jane) Murton in North Kilworth on February 4th 1625. The hamlet is about two miles west of Husbands Bosworth, a village which sits at the crossroads of the main routes between Leicester and Northampton (north to south) and Lutterworth and Market Harborough (west to east).

Parish Church of St Wilfred, Kibworth

St Wilfred Church, Kibworth Beauchamp (3)

The seventeenth century was a turbulent one in English history punctuated by wars (three against the Dutch and the internal strife of the English Civil War), invasions, pestilence, famine and the ongoing conflict between church and state. Six monarchs occupied the throne punctuated by a two decade period as a republic. There was schism in the Church too. Puritans wrecked churches during the Civil War and nonconformists were persecuted under the different regimes (2)). The English Civil war raged in three periods between 1642 and 1651 - a conflict between the forces of the king and parliament - although the overthrow of King Charles I was brought about by the first of these. Much of the actual fighting in the East Midlands occurred on a line between Oxford and Lichfield with the final battle occurring at the village of Naseby on June 14th 1645.

Daniel was born about 1607 although the whereabouts or his parentage are not known. After the ceremony, the couple set up home in Kibworth Beauchamp, some six miles north of Market Harborough. The village was one of three townships (along with Kibworth Harcourt and Smeeton Westerby) which made up the ancient parish of Kibworth. King Charles I stayed at the parsonage in the village on the evening prior to the battle of Naseby. After the defeat of the Royalists, Cromwell supporter, John Yaxley, installed himself as Rector of the parish in 1647. He was forcibly ejected from the position in 1660 with the Restoration of the Monarchy (5).

Daniel and Joan had one known child, a son they named Daniel who was born soon after their arrival in Kibworth. The ancient Parish records are sketchy and dates to say the least are approximate, but it appears that Daniel was married twice. He married Grace, his first wife in the village in 1648. Grace bore him a son, Robert, in 1649. A second marriage, to Mary, followed in 1655. Daniel Tilley died in the village and was buried in the churchyard Of St Wilfred's Church on July 23rd 1682.

St Thomas Church, Catthorpe

St Thomas Church, Catthorpe (7)

Robert Tilley married Sarah Maling (or Malem) at St Thomas' Parish Church, Catthorpe, a village near Lutterworth on the border with Warwickshire just before Christmas 1687. A transcript from the Leicestershire marriage licences (6) shows that they were both resident in Smeeton Westerby prior to the ceremony. The village lies about a mile south of Kibworth Harcourt. Robert and Sarah had at least seven children, two of whom died in early childhood in 1691. Their oldest surviving son, Francis, was baptised at St Wilfred's Church on February 15th 1680. Next son, Daniel, was baptised in October the following year. Their fourth son, John, was born in 1695 and baptised on October 12th the same year. Their one surviving daughter, Jane, was born in 1693. Robert died, and was buried on December 18th 1705. Sarah survived him for a further 33 years.

John Tilley married Sarah Scampton on October 12th 1714. They were both in their late teens. They had five children (four sons and a daughter), one of whom, Francis, died in infancy in 1731. They named their last born son, Francis, too. John Tilley died in 1796.

Records suggest that both Francis and Daniel continued to live on in the village in adult life. Both were married although no records of the ceremony or the names of their spouses have been discovered. As early as 1668 Smeeton Westerby had been known as a meeting place for The Society of Friends (The Quakers). Although there is no evidence to suggest that the Tilley family in general had turned away from the established church, it does appear that Francis had joined them. In 1724, his house was licensed as a place for nonconformist worship.

What must have been a devastating tragedy struck Daniel's family at the beginning of 1728. They had baptised their most recent arrival, Daniel, on January 3rd. Then, at the end of the same month and within a week of each other, infant Daniel and his two brothers, Robert and William, were dead. A presumptive diagnosis was that they had succumbed to one of the regularly occurring epidemics - perhaps scarlet fever. Francis had a daughter who died young in January 1736. Jane, Daniel and Francis' sister, died in early June 1735.

Records of two further generations of Tilley in eighteenth century Smeeton Westerby, both named Robert, have been discovered. Robert Tilley would have been born around 1720 but we cannot attribute him directly to any of the previous residents. He was married in the 1740s and produced one son, also named Robert. Robert the elder became a master tailor. By the early 1770s he had employed at least two indentured apprentices, John Bazzard and Thomas Norton. The 1775 Poll Book for the Gartree Hundred (which included the village) showed that he owned both his own house and an area of land. He expressed a keen interest in natural history as shown by his subscription to Thomas Wildman's book "A Treatise on the Management of Bees", published in 1768. He died in January 1789.

His son, Robert, became a grazier on his own land. He married local girl Mary Jordan in 1771. They had one daughter, Mary, who married local barrel maker, William Tear. Robert died in 1827. His will disclosed that he owned four parecls of land in Smeeton Westerby and a further one in the nearby village of Saddington where William and Mary lived. Robert directed that the land should be sold (at a price of £70 per acre) and the proceeds devoted to his daughter's family.

Origins 2: The Langtons

St Leonard's Church, Thorpe Langton

St Leonards Church, Thorpe Langton (8)

The Langtons (Church, East, Thorpe, Tur and West) are a chain of five small communities buried deep in the heart of rural south Leicestershire between Kibworth and Medbourne and to the north of Market Harborough. According to census returns the population of Thorpe Langton varied from a high of 160 in 1841 to a low of 83 in 1881. The population of East Langton remained fairly constant during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries at around 240.

John and Sarah Tilley's eldest son, John, was baptised on August 7th 1715. In his early thirties, he had made the move eastward and had settled in Thorpe Langton. There, he married Mary Smith on October 11th 1747. They were to have three sons and two daughters (Ann born in 1757 and Mary born in 1763).

Their eldest sons, John and Joseph, were born within a year of each other. John was baptised on July 9th 1748 and Joseph less than eight months later on February 27th 1749. They were to marry sisters, Mary and Sarah, the daughters of Francis and Sarah Ellis, from over the border in Cottingham. Mary was the older by two years. There is no record, in Cottingham at least, of a marriage between Francis and Sarah Ellis. John married Mary at the parish church of St Mary Magdalene in Cottingham on May 19th 1771, whereas Joseph brought Sarah back to Thorpe Langton for their ceremony on December 17th 1774. Is it possible that the Ellis family originally hailed from The Langtons and their move was the instrument which introduced the Tilleys to Cottingham? [Article B.])

There is documentary evidence that Joseph and Sarah had five children during the first twelve years of their marriage. One daughter, Mary, was born in December 1775 but does not appear again. Joseph John was born on July 8th 1777 and baptised on February 4th 1778. His records are incomplete. As a young man he appears to have had a son, John, in 1806. Then he moved to London where he married Sarah Marsh in Hendon on August 5th 1816. John Joseph died in Hendon on April 27th 1823; Sarah in March 1825. Their son John married Elizabeth Smith on August 16th 1826 in Thorpe Langton when he was a carrier. They had three sons (Thomas, 1827; Charles, 1835 and Henry, 1839) and four daughters (Damarius, 1829; Caroline, 1832; Ann, 1834 and Jane, 1837). They were residing in East Langton, John working as a sawyer in 1841. Little is known of the family after that except for someone described as their nephew in the same year. Charles and Jane were working on the farm of Ann Smith in 1851 as servants and 11 year old Henry was lodging with the Harley family in Kibworth Harcourt in the same year.

Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

St Mary Magdalene Church, Cottingham

Joseph and Sarah's sons William, Francis and Joseph, will be followed in their own sections below. The consensus view is that Sarah (Ellis) Tilley died in Leicester on July 17th 1810. Further records suggest that Joseph may have married again. The parish records for Cottingham show that a Joseph Tilley, a resident of Thorpe Langton married Mary Robinson on July 29th 1811 at the parish church of St Mary Magdalene. Banns were read in both villages. It appears they returned over the border to Leicestershire after the ceremony.

Youngest son of John Tilley and Mary Smith, William, married Ann Panther in the village of Warkton near Kettering in August 1774. It was from this point that the paths of their descendents would diverge. John and Mary made their home in Cottingham. Joseph and Sarah remained in Thorpe Langton. In 1793, Joseph was appointed Master of the Market Harborough workhouse in 1793 at an initial weekly payment of four guineas which was to include his wage and the running costs of the establishment. His duties included teaching the workhouse children to read. The inmates were expected to carry out spinning or knitting. (9) In 1796-7, payment was based on a formula of 2s.6d per inmate per week at a time when there were generally between 15 and 20 in residence. William and Ann ultimately moved to Great Oakley, Northamptonshire. Nothing is known of the history of John and Sarah's daughters.

The family of William Tilley and Mary Ann Swingler

William, second son of Joseph Tilley and Sarah Ellis, was baptised in Thorpe Langton on July 26th 1780. He married Mary Ann Swingler, who was baptised in the same month that he was, on May 25th 1800. She was the illegitimate daughter of Ann Swingler whose parents William and Kezia Swingler came from Lubenham near Market Harborough. William and Mary Ann had two known sons (William, about 1807 and James, 1813) and three daughters (Sarah, 1816; Alice, 1819 and Ann 1822). Nothing is known of Sarah after her birth. Alice and Ann married the brothers Abraham (on August 2nd 1841) and Frederick (on September 30th 1844) Dawkins from Kettering. The 1841 census for East Langton contains a situation that has been only partly explained. William and Mary Ann were living with their daughter Alice. On one side their neighbours were his brother Francis with his wife Hannah, three of their children and Hannah's brother Favel. On the other side, William's neighbour was Mary Ann Tilley with two children, Caroline (5 years) and Samuel (4 years). Although absent from the census this was probably the wife of their son William. William died over Christmas 1850 and was buried on January 1st 1851. His wife Mary Ann lived on until 1862.

William (1807 - 1889)

Son William was probably born in 1807. There is a marriage report of a Mary Ann Tilley marrying a William Tilley in Thorpe Langton on August 10th 1826 "after Banns and with the consent of parents" which means he was probably under age by today's standards and in addition she was about 14 years older than him. As well as Caroline and Samuel, the couple also had another daughter, Emma (1830) and a son, Charles (1841). As yet, Mary's relationship to the Tilleys has not been positively established. The census of 1841 suggests that she was 30 years of age and born in Leicestershire. Other census returns are contradictory. The 1851 census states Thorpe Langton, but the next two census returns list places in Derbyshire. There was a Mary Tilley, the daughter of a William Tilley, baptised in South Derbyshire at the village of Rolleston on March 25th 1786. However the more likely link is Mary born on November 4th and baptised on November 10th 1783, the daughter of Thomas Tilley and Anne Berry, in Lubenham which is only 5 miles distant from Thorpe Langton. This was also where William's mother's family, the Swinglers, came from. Mary died on February 6th 1888 in Thorpe Langton aged 95 years. William survived until April 17th 1889. Little is known of three of their children but Caroline never married and died in Thorpe Langton in 1917. The headstones of parents and daughter eloquently expand their history.

James (1813 - 1896)

The younger son of William and Mary Ann was baptised in Thorpe Langton on September 11th 1814. He married his first cousin Anne Tilley in August 1835. Although they spent their whole lives in the village, many of their offspring made the journey to Leicester. Their story continues in a separate article [Article D.].

The family of Francis Tilley and Hannah Beldam


St Peter & St Paul, Fenny Stanton
(from an old postcard)

As far as is known, Francis was the third of the four sons of Joseph Tilley and Sarah Ellis, born in Thorpe Langton in 1782 and baptised on March 23rd 1783. As a young man he travelled to Fenny Stanton (now Fenstanton) in the old county of Huntingdonshire. It is a village 12 miles north west of Cambridge. There he met and married Hannah Beldam, who was a couple of years older than him, on July 29th 1803 in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul. Witnesses to the event were Phoebe Beldam, who was probably one of Hannah's sisters, and a John Tilley, who had married Anne, another of Hannah's sisters at the same church about six months previously. As yet a relationship to Joseph has not been established for John.


St Mary's Church, Haverfordwest
(from an old postcard)

The early years of their marriage are shrouded in mystery. There seems little doubt that Hannah was pregnant by the autumn of 1803 and she gave birth to a son the following year. A boy was baptised at St Mary's Church Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire on June 17th 1804. No reason had been found to explain why the couple would have travelled the nearly 300 miles to South West Wales (and back again). The baptismal records for St Peter and St Paul confirm that John and Ann Tilley had a daughter Susannah (baptised on October 16th 1803) and a son William (on July 2nd 1805) and that Francis and Hannah were back in the village for the baptism of their daughter Mary Ann on August 7th 1808.

By the middle of the next decade Francis and Hannah had returned to Thorpe Langton where two more sons (John, 1818 and William, 1822) and three daughters (Anne, 1814; Susannah, 1816 and Elizabeth, 1820) were born. As noted above, daughter Anne married first cousin James Tilley in 1835. Francis was a sawyer and carpenter by trade. By 1851 the couple had moved to the hamlet of East Langton (paradoxically a mile to the west of Thorpe Langton). They were both registered annuitants (which means they were living on income from investment) and had Hannah's brother Favel Beldam lodging with them. Their next door neighbours were the family of their now married son William. Francis died in East Langton and was buried on August 7th 1855. Hannah died five years later and was buried on August 23rd 1860.

Joseph (1804 - 1863)

First son Joseph presents another conundrum. He moved with the family via Fenny Stanton back to Leicestershire. On April 27th 1827 he married Jane Barrett, a girl who was born in Foxton, a village four miles south west of Thorpe Langton, at St Leonard's Church. Initially settled in Thorpe Langton, Joseph plied his trade as a sawyer. Their son Thomas Barrett Tilley was baptised in the village on November 4th 1832. Two years later, Jane died and was buried on October 23rd 1834. Joseph was single for two years. On January 9th 1837 he married again, to Jane Tilley after banns had been read. His bride is something of another mystery. The banns declare her to be a resident "of the same chapelry" but in subsequent census returns she was born about 1816 in Fenny Stanton. No trace of her has been found in that timeframe in the area. They moved five miles east and set up home in Medbourne, Leicestershire. Jane gave birth to eight children: four sons (Francis John, 1839; William, 1843; Henry, 1850 and Joseph George, 1859) and four daughters (Ann, 1838; Susannah, 1841; Susannah, 1845 and Mary Ann, 1847) although four are known to have died by 1863. The birth records confirm that her maiden name was Tilley. John died and was buried in Medbourne on October 29th 1863.

Susannah (1816 - )

Susannah, who was known as Susan during her adult life, was baptised in Thorpe Langton on February 9th 1917. She married Thomas James, originally from Middlessex, in the village on November 20th 1837. They then moved to the All Saints district of Northampton and to a house in Bridge Street. Thomas was a hairdresser although in the census of 1851 he described himself rather grandly as "an artist in hair". They were known to have had two sons and four daughters between 1841 and 1855. After 1861, the couple moved south to London and a property in Great Warner Street in Clerkenwell. Thomas died there on November 11th 1866. Susannah continued working as a hairdresser after her husband's death into the 1870s.

William (1822 - 1864)

All Saints

All Saints Church, Northampton (10)

Francis and Hannah's youngest son was born in Thorpe Langton in 1822 and baptised William on January 5th 1823. He married Hannah Warren from Husbands Bosworth in Leicestershire on September 30th 1844 at All Saints Church, Northampton. Curiously he entered his occupation as hairdresser and it seems likely that he was working temporarily with his sister Susannah's husband. They made their home in East Langton where William became a carpenter. They were to have seven children: six sons (Joseph Warren, 1845; Edwin, 1849; Alfred, 1852; Harry, 1855; Frederick, 1860 and Walter George, 1861) and two daughters (Mary Elizabeth, 1851 and Clara, 1857). The family spent the middle years of the 1850s in Kibworth Beauchamp before heading south west to Gillingham, Dorset. Walter George died and was buried on May 6th 1864. He was just two years old. His father died in the autumn the same year aged 42 years. Mary Elizabeth had been suffering from the effects of phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis) for some time and died after having acute symptoms for eight days on February 12th 1865. She was buried four days later. No trace of Harry has been found after the census of 1861.

Joseph Warren

St Giles

St Giles, Northampton (11) (abt 1911)

Joseph Warren Tilley presents more enigmas. He was born on November 20th 1845 in Thorpe Langton but baptised at St Giles Church, Northampton on July 23rd 1846. He followed the family to Gillingham where he became a railway porter. In the summer of 1867 he married 23 year old Fanny Payn from Bexley in Kent in the Lewisham Registration District.

Almost immediately they moved to Abbas Combe, a hamlet attached to Templecombe near Wincanton in Somerset. Fanny presented him with two daughters, Mary Elizabeth (1868) and Hannah Louisa (1870), both baptised in the local parish church of St Mary. The census of 1871 shows Fanny with her two infant daughters but Joseph is missing. Also in residence is her now widowed mother-in-law Hannah with her youngsters Clara and Frederick. No trace of Hannah has been found after that date. Fanny was still living in Abbas Combe with her two daughters in 1891 working as a dressmaker. She was still there with daughter Mary Elizabeth in 1901 when she declared herself a widow. However Hannah Louisa moved to London where she married soldier George Eaton Tomkins at All Hallows Church in Tottenham on March 10th 1895 witnessed by her sister Mary Elizabeth. Significantly she declared her father to be Joseph Tilley, deceased. Mary Elizabeth married butcher Hubert Hockey on August 26th 1907 at St Nicholas Church, Guildford Surrey. Hannah's husband George was one of the witnesses. Fanny died in Abbas Combe in the summer of 1907.


St Mary's Church Templecombe (12)


All Hallows, Tottenham (13)


St Nicholas Church, Guildford (14))

Continued in column 2...

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The family of Francis Tilley and Hannah Beldam (Continued)

Joseph Warren (Continued)


RMS Dorunda (15)

Joseph next appears in the England census for 1881, lodging with the family of railway labourer George Anderson at 5 Althorp Street, Northampton. His occupation was listed as mechanical engineer. Curiously his entry under Where Born is annotated Thorpe Langton; U.S.A. Naturalized Subject. On September 26th 1883 he boarded the RMS Dorunda in London bound for Australia. The vessel docked in Brisbane, Queensland on November 14th 1883. On board too was 36 year old Anne Maria Neale who he had obviously met while in Northampton. Her family had lived in Silver Street, half a mile away from Althorp Street. They were married (bigamously given the details laid out above [Further Reading: 1, 2]) in Queensland the day after landing. They made their home in Charters Towers, a town in northern Queensland about 800 miles north of Brisbane. They had three sons: Frederick James, born in 1884 who died aged 5 years; Joseph William, born 1886 and Edwin, born 1888. Annie Maria died at Lady Maria House in the town on April 5th 1895. After her death Joseph continued to live alone, becoming something of a recluse. It is on record (16) that he had been charged with indecent exposure but failed to attend the Police Court on September 9th 1909. He was found dead in the street in Charters Towers the same evening. An inquest was held which reached the conclusion that he had committed suicide by taking cyanide tablets. One witness testified that Joseph had received a summons and he could not face the thought of going to Court (17).

Edwin, Alfred

Although separated by almost five years, Edwin and Alfred share a common history. Edwin was given the second name Henry at baptism on July 2nd 1848. Alfred William was baptised on February 9th 1853. Edwin started his working life as a painter but he soon turned to being a carpenter. Alfred shared this occupation. The brothers decided to emigrate to America. They boarded the Steam Ship New World in London in March 1869, landing in New York on March 24th 1869. There is evidence that Edwin married a girl from Connecticut in 1870. The New York census of 1900 shows four children but first son Charles born 1867 belonged to Sarah before the marriage. The others were Frederick (1885) and Harry (1886) and a daughter Susan (1881). Edwin died in Manhattan on January 7th 1907. Alfred married Constance Hudson and settled in the township of DeWitt, Illinois. They had a son and five daughters. He died in DeWitt on March 22nd 1921.

The family of Joseph Tilley and Catherine Waterfield

Joseph was the youngest son of Joseph Tilley and Sarah Ellis, born about 4 years after Francis and baptised in Thorpe Langton on February 4th 1787. He married Catherine Waterfield in the village on October 24th 1810. Catherine, baptised on April 20th 1788, was the second daughter of William Waterfield and Catherine Berridge. This Waterfield line traces back to the beginning of the seventeenth century in Great Easton and is distantly related to the Waterfield family in Gretton, Northamptonshire. Catherine was the fifth cousin twice removed of her namesake, Catherine Waterfield who married Robert Craxford there in 1841.

Joseph and Catherine spent their whole lives in Thorpe Langton, Joseph working as a sawyer. Over 24 years, they had ten children: three sons and seven daughters. Their first daughter, Mary, was born in 1813 but died within the first year. Almost immediately another girl was born and was named Mary in her stead in 1814. Her story appears below. Their third daughter, Ann, was baptised on August 25th 1816 but died just after her fourteenth birthday on September 12th 1830. Next daughter Catherine, born in 1818, married her first cousin, John Tilley. Joseph and Catherine's fifth daughter was baptised Jane on February 18th 1821. She barely survived into her teens, dying on December 7th 1834. They named their sixth daughter Elizabeth who was born on September 5th 1823 but who lived for only three days. Little is known of the life history of last born daughter Eliza, baptised on January 18th 1829. She is listed as a visitor on the census of 1851 at the home of Thomas and Susannah (her first cousin) James in Bridge Street, Northampton. It appears that she died in the All Saints district of Northampton in the autumn of 1872 but she was brought back to Thorpe Langton for burial on October 8th 1872. She did not marry.

Joseph died and was buried in Thorpe Langton on May 10th 1844. After her husband's death, Catherine went to live with her oldest son William (born November 1811). He spent his working life in the village as a carpenter and late on became a parish clerk. He never married. Catherine survived Joseph by over thirty years and was interred on October 10th 1875. William died two years later and was buried on October 25th 1877.

Mary (1814 - 1896)


Church Langton, St Peter's (18)

The second of the daughters of Joseph and Catherine to be named Mary was baptised on August 7th 1814. She never married. She was 24 years old when she gave birth to a daughter in East Langton which she named Ann Nutt Tilley at baptism in St Peter's Church, Church Langton on June 7th 1840. For over twenty years she lived with publican Nathaniel Nutt as his domestic servant and latterly his housekeeper at the Bell Inn. He was a widower and also had his own daughter, Ann. Mary's daughter, Ann, gave birth to a girl she named Jane in 1858. Nathaniel died in the village on May 3rd 1861. Mary was the sole executor of his will. Mary's daughter Annie married William Harker in the early part of 1868. They had a son, Edgar, in 1869 and a daughter Louisa in 1870.


The Langton Arms (19)

By 1871 Mary was the occupant of 13 acres of land. She had William, Annie and the grandchildren living with her. William was employed as a groom. Jane was living with them as a nursemaid. By 1881 Mary had taken over the licence of The Langton Arms public house. As she grew older, Mary gave over the licence to her niece Elizabeth Potter, now a young widow. Also present was Elizabeth's sister Sarah Ann, the wife of Nathaniel Moore. Both were daughters of John and Catherine Tilley. Mary died in the village and was buried there on December 4th 1896. She left her effects valued at £924 2s. 7d. to her daughter Annie Nutt Ward in her will published the following year.

In the early 1870s William and Ann had moved on to take over licenced premises in Northampton leaving daughter Lousia the care of her grandmother. William died at the beginning of 1876 at the age of 37 years. Ann married again in Northampton to Edward Ward in 1888. Edward too had been a licenced victualler running the Robin Hood public house in the Dallington district of Northampton. By 1881 he had retired but both of Ann's sons were now working, Edgar as a printer, William as a butcher. Ann died in Northampton on September 24th 1898.


Joseph, the middle son and eighth child of Joseph Tilley and Catherine Waterfield, was baptised on August 23rd 1824. He followed the family tradition to become a sawyer and carpenter. He married Sarah Nichols a girl from the village eight years his junior, on July 15th 1852. They made their home in East Langton. They were to have eight children: five sons (George Thomas, 1853; Harry Martin, 1860; Frederick William, 1865; Arthur John, 1868 and Albert Edward, 1873) and three daughters (Caroline Mary, 1855; Sarah Jane, 1858 and Eliza Ann, 1871). Frederick and Harry were baptised together on July 8th 1866 in Thorpe Langton. By 1871, the two older girls had left home but there were still five living with their parents. Eldest son George Thomas, who had been baptised on February 9th 1853 - the same day as his second cousin Alfred - died on March 8th 1877 from pulmonary tuberculosis and was buried three days later. Next son, Harry Martin, died in his early twenties also from pulmonary tuberculosis and was buried on September 13th 1883.

Caroline Mary


Cap badge of the Army Remount Service (20)

Caroline, the oldest of the three daughters, was baptised May 4th 1856, the same day as Edwin Jesse, son of John Tilley and Catherine Tilley her both first and second cousin; and James, the son of James and Anne Tilley her second cousin. She married William Biddle at Church Langton on April 30th 1879 witnessed by her uncle John Potter (husband of Catherine Tilley) and her younger sister, Sarah Jane. William, a railway signalman was born in Barcott Heath in Warwickshire. The couple made their home in Little Bowden on the edge of Market Harborough. Caroline presented William with nine children between 1880 and 1894, five sons (Walter Henry, 1882; Thomas Frank, 1883; Frederick William, 1887; Percy John, 1888 and Ernest Leonard, 1891) and four daughters (Florrie, 1880; Edith, 1881; Ethel Mary, 1885 and Maggie, 1894). Edith (at 11 weeks), Walter (at 3 months) and Thomas (at 9 months) all sadly died within their first year of life. Their deaths, all recorded by a Dr Costin, were attributed inanition (severe malnutrition) and diarrhoea. By 1911, only Ernest, now a blacksmith's apprentice, and Maggie, a worker at the corset factory, remained at home with their parents. William was member 514337 of the National Union of Railway Workers Trade Union between 1913 and 1921. Ernest enlisted for Army service during the first World War on July 15th 1915 and was assigned to the 52nd Squadron Remounts of the Army Service Corps. This company was responsible for the provisioning of horses and mules for all other Army units. He was discharged the service in 1919. Caroline died in Little Bowden the fourth quarter of 1925. William remained at home at 84 Caxton Street Market Harborough in 1939 accompanied by his now married eldest daughter Florrie Theobold. He died in the spring of 1941.

Sarah Jane


St John the Baptist, Kingsthorpe (21)

Middle daughter Sarah Jane was baptised in East Langton on July 10th 1859. In the late 1870s she moved to Northampton where she married George Henry Austin at St John the Baptist Church in the Kingthorpe district on March 20th 1881. George was the son of William and Hephzibar Austin and at the time of the wedding he was a carpenter. Their first home was in Semilong Road, Northampton which ran in a north south direction to the west of the Roman Catholic Cathedral. They were to have four sons (George Frederick, 1883; Walter Henry, 1885; Frank Herbert, 1887 and Edward Maurice, 1889) and two daughters (Emily Hephzibah, 1882 and Kathleen May, 1894). First son George died on August 13th 1883 aged 6 months. His doctor attributed his death to "teething and convulsions for two days". The other five children continued to live at home until at least 1911. George moved the family regularly. In 1891 they were at St Mary's Road where he was a practicing monumental mason. That year his brother, William John Austin, a monumental sculptor, was living with them. The census of 1901 found them in the Horsemarket where George was now a joiner and undertaker. The children were also starting work with Emily as a music teacher; Walter was a carpenter and fourteen year old Frank a telegraph messenger. Another move by 1911 found them in St James Road in the Duston district. George remained a carpenter and joiner and seemingly had given up the undertaking business. Emily and Kathleen were employed as manufacturer's clerks. Walter was also a carpenter in the building trade. Frank built cycles and Edward had become a bricklayer. George Henry died in Northampton in the early months of 1927. Sarah Jane followed him two years later.

Frederick William

St Nich

St Nicholas Church, Little Bowden (22)

By his middle teens Frederick had moved down the road to Little Bowden Lodge with his now married sister Caroline. He met and married Emma Kendall, a girl six years his junior, at St Nicholas Church in the village on June 4th 1892. His younger sister, Eliza, stood as a witness. The couple settled in Granville Street in Little Bowden where they had four children: sons Percy William (1894) and Harold Frederick (1901) and daughters Doris Clara (1895) and Emma Gertrude (1897). Doris died on September 28th 1895 having suffered from sickness and diarrhoea caused by infantile enteritis for seven days. By 1911 Frederick had been apppointed a foreman at the corset factory with son Percy working for the same concern as a junior clerk. Emma was an apprentice dressmaker with a local costumier. Frederick died at home in the winter of 1937. Emma lived on until her death in the winter of 1958 at the age of 86 years.

Arthur John

Fourth son Arthur John was baptised in East Langton on August 23rd 1868. As a young man he became employed on the railways as a horsekeeper and by the 1890s he had settled in New Basford, a northern suburb of Nottingham. He married Elizabeth Sutcliffe, who had been born in Chesterfield in 1878, at the Church of St Augustine on August 10th 1896. They made their home in Blackstone Street where Elizabeth was to have five children: daughters Gertrude (1898) and Mabel (1901 but who died the same year) and sons Arthur (1906), Frederick (1908) and John William (1909). Gertrude was baptised at St Augustine's on May 15th 1898. Arthur was noted to be a member of the National Union of Railway men, roll number 553748, commencing January 11th 1914. He was attached to the Great Central line. His membership continued until November 21st 1926. He died in the spring of 1927.

Eliza Ann


Clifton Road Cemetery chapel, Rugby (23)

Youngest of the daughters, Eliza Ann was born in East Langton in 1871. She married Herbert Oakley Hall at Church Langton on February 27th 1893 witnessed by her brother Frederick. Herbert was a house furnisher at the time and was the son of Henry and Margaretta Hall from Birmingham. Herbert was born on May 7th 1863. The couple intiially went to live in Birmingham where their first daughter Margaretta was born in 1894. Before the turn of the century they had moved the 35 miles east to Rugby in Warwickshire where their second daughter Gladys was born. By 1911 they were established in Railway Terrace near the town centre and Herbert had become a foreman with a removals firm. They had Herbert's widowed mother living with them. Herbert died just before the second World War on July 17th 1938. Eliza Ann lived on until December 20th 1950. Their older daughter did not marry and died aged 65 years on January 23rd 1959. They were all buried in Plot P357 of Clifton Road Cemetery in Rugby.

Albert Edward

Youngest of the children of Joseph and Sarah, Albert Edward, was baptised in East Langton on October 12th 1873. He met and married Lavinia Knight, who was born in Stanwick near Wellingborough on April 1st 1876, in her local church in the spring of 1898. The couple moved back to East Langton where Albert plied his trade as a domestic gardener. They had a son, Bernard Edward and a daughter Violet Lavinia. Bernard was baptised on April 1st 1900 in the village but sadly died on January 21st 1906. He had contracted diphtheria eight days before and had suffered from heart failure and vomiting for the last fourteen hours. Violet was born on March 24th 1911. At the time of the census they had employed 49 year old single Mary Wiggins from Pavenham, a small village 5 miles north west of Bedford, as a live in nurse. By the late 1930s Alfred and Lavinia had moved to the village of Groby, 5 miles to the west of Leicester where they were occupying Pool House Cottage which stood on the edge of the lake opposite Markfield Lane. Daughter Violet married Ronald Brown in Groby in the summer of 1936.

At the outbreak of the second World War, they were living a couple of miles to the east on Anstey Lane. After the war Albert and Lavinia moved to Cedar Road, Leicester. Lavinia became ill in the New Year of 1949 and was admitted to and died in Leicester General Hospital. She was buried in Sector Xx Plot 429 of Gilroes Cemetery on Groby Road, Leicester on January 14th 1949. Albert died seven years later and was buried alongside his wife on April 5th 1956. Daughter Violet died towards the end of March 1967. Her husband Ronald died in March 1979. Both were cremated at Gilroes Crematorium and their ashes were scatter at their parents' grave site.


L: Pool House viewed across Groby Pool from Markfield Road; R: Pool House Cottage (24, 25)

George (1834 - 1907)

Last born son George married Sarah Edgley in 1858 and moved with the family to Uppingham. The story of their family continues in a separate article [Article C.].

Further Reading

The Changing Face of Legal Regulation
Marriage Law

The book covers

1: "Marriage Law for Genealogists: the definitive guide. Revised Second Edition"; Rebeca Probert (2016) Takeway Publishing, Kenilworth, Warwickshire. ISBN 978-0-9931896-2-3.
2. "The Changing Legal Regulation of Cohabitation: From Fornication to Family, 1600-2010"; Rebecca Probert (2012) Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-53630-2.

Rebecca Probert is Professor of Law in the Law School at the University of Exeter. She has interests in both legal history and how the law affects families. She has carried out extensive research into all aspects of cohabitation and marriage. She has written many volumes, both textbooks (book 1 above which appears in the Law in Context series) and aids to the family historian (book 2). Of particular interest to this article is the subject of bigamy. Divorce was difficult to obtain and extremely expensive in Victorian times. By definition it requires the guilty part to marry a second time knowing that the first spouse was still alive. It was fairly common for the marriage to break apart and there are several recorded occasions in our magazine pages of one party fleeing the country to marry again elsewhere in the world. The authors would like to thank Professor Probert for her helpful advice and comments in various aspects of our research.

Links to the articles mentioned in the text are in italic capitals below:

Article A: A family association with music hall The Britannia comes to the Craxfords
Article B: The move from Leicestershire to Northamptonshire begins A History of the Tilley Family: Cottingham Part 1, the early generations
Article C: The move from Leicestershire to Rutland A History of the Tilley family: Origins and alternatives 2: Uppingham, Rutland
Article D: The move to Leicester A History of the Tilley family: Origins and alternatives 3: Leicester


The authors would like to express their thanks for the help, comments and suggestions from the following in the construction of this article: Contributors to the Leicestershire Forum (including Annette7 and David (DCB)) and the Rutland Forum (Christine53) at RootsChat.Com.


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. A dissertation on Protestantism and Non-Christian Religions by Father John A Hardon Nonconformists The Real Presence Association
3. St Wilfred's Church (south west aspect) photograph from Kibworth Church, Kibworth Leicestershire & © Rutland Churches: A Photographic Journal. Reproduced with permission
4. Family tree graphic: Freeware Graphics: Vintage Kin Design Studio Australia
5. "Digging up the past - John Yaxley (Rector, 1654-1660)" by Dr Kevin Feltham in Anecdotal stories about St Wilfred's and its Rectors St Wilfred's Church, Kibworth in the Diocese of Leicester
6. Robert Tilley married Sarah Maling 1687: Leicestershire Marriage Licences Abstracts of Bonds and Allegations (1570-1729) transcribed by Harry Hartopp (1910): The Internet Archive (2009) for the Library of the Brigham Young University, Utah, USA.
7. St Thomas' Parish Church, Catthorpe, Leicestershire English Parish and Local Church Pictures in England - Churches, Walks, Canals, Wildflower; © John at Reproduced with permission
8. St Leonard's Church: photograph from Thorpe Langton Church Leicestershire & © Rutland Churches: A Photographic Journal. Reproduced with permission
9. Joseph Tilley, master Market Harborough, Leicestershire Peter Higginbotham: The Workhouse - the story of an institution.
10. Photograph of All Saints Church, Northampton © Thorvaldsson; Permission for use granted under the terms of the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence by Creative Commons from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
11. Photograph from a history of the Church of St Giles, Northampton about 1911 by Robert Meyricke Serjeantson (1861 - 1916) no restrictions via Wikimedia Commons from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
12. Photograph: St Mary's Church, Abbas Combe and Templecombe, Devon: © Jaggery, on Geograph and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
13. Photograph: All Hallows Church, Tottenham: © Jim Osley, on Geograph and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
14. Photograph: St Nicholas' Parish Church, Guildford: facebook
15. Photograph: RMS Dorunda from WikiTree
16. CH. TOWERS, Thursday: Suicide by Cyanide The Cairns Post Page 4. Friday, September 10th 1909. Australia Trove
17. Inquiries: The inquiry into the Death of Joseph Warren Tilley Northern Miner Page 7 Friday October 8th 1909 Australia Trove.
18. Photograph: Church Langton, St Peter Leicestershire & Rutland Churches
19. Photograph: The Langton Arms facebook
20. Photograph: Cap badge of The Army Remount Service Hoby & District Local History Society
21. Photograph: Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Kingsthorpe. Plate 30. Vol 5. Page 30. British History on Line
22. Photograph: St Nicholas Church, Little Bowden © Richard Dear, on Geograph and licenced for reuse under this Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence by Creative Commons
23. Photograph: Chapel at Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby © Jim Osley, on Geograph and licenced for reuse under this Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence by Creative Commons
24. Photograph: View towards Pool House from Markfield Road © Mat Fascione, on Geograph and licenced for reuse under this Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence by Creative Commons
25. Photograph: Pool Cottage. a grade II listed building in Groby, Leicestershire. British Listed Buildings

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