During the 1960’s my great grandmother Avice Hill (née Fathers) set the groundwork for The Hill Family Tree Project. In an age before computers and the internet Avice had need only for her brains, a pen and a typewriter: research was conducted mainly via post, the results of which were left behind for us to appreciate at will.
It appears her greatest level of interest lay with the Howards on her mothers side. In July 1967 she wrote the following:
“The earliest I have been able to reach in family history so far is my great-great-grandfather, John Howard, and his wife, Susanna Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel W. Adlom. They had 6 children, the youngest of whom, Mary, married George Wilkinson of Oswald House, Durham, (which, according to Mr Hester, John Hester’s father) still exists. John Howard’s will, which I have seen at Somerset House, was proved on the 30th May 1861, so presumably he died about 1860-61. It was dated 29th December 1851 and a codicil was added dated 20th January 1854.
By his second marriage to Martha Compson he had a son, John, born 19th March 1815 and baptised on the 28th March in Ripon Cathedral. His father’s profession is given as solicitor. There was also a son, my great-grandfather, Thomas Compson Howard, born in 1813 (also a solicitor), who died in 1857 at the age of 44. He married Mary Ann Simpson and this was considered a misalliance. There was also a daughter Harriott Martha, who lived at Doncaster. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was called Mary Anne Harriott Howard, presumably after her aunt, Miss Harriott Howard. She may also have been her godmother, as my mother used to tell me that when my dear grandmother married Edward Davis, my grandfather, it was considered a marriage so much beneath her that her godmother, Miss Howard, never spoke to her again.
To return to John Howard. His youngest daughter by his first wife, Susannah, had three children, the first of whom was George Howard, born at Oswald House, Durham, on 12th May 1833. He was afterwards Bishop of Truro and then of St Andrew’s and Primus of Scotland. He went to Truro from St Peter’s, Eaton Square. When I was at Truro Cathedral in 1930 I saw the treasury and among the things in it is a gold chalice studded with jewels which was given to the Cathedral by Bishop Wilkinson. He was apparently a most loveable man and when he left St Peter’s, Eaton Square on the occasion on which he preached his last sermon ladies in the congregation put articles of jewellery in the offertory bag. The gold from them was melted down to make the chalice and the jewels to decorate it. Round the knop of the cup they pushed three especially handsome rings while the gold was hot so that they are fastened in the knop forever. At Lis Escopthe Bishop’s house, there is a portrait of him which shows a strong family resemblance to my own grandmother (his first cousin). While he was Vicar of St Peter’s, Eaton Square, the vicarage was at 2 Grosvenor Gardens. The Bishop died in 1907.
There was also a second son called Henry, after a brother of Mrs Wilkinson’s and a daughter, Mary, who married Mr Ernest Widdrington. (Cf. the Widdrington’s with Canon W. now deceased, but for many years Rector of Great Easton, near Dunmow).
I have not yet discovered when John Howard was born, but he must have been a good age when he died in 1860 as he had 6 children by his first wife before he started his second family, presumably in 1813 with the birth of Thomas Compson Howard, my great-grandfather. If he was eighty when he died in 1860-1 he would have been born about 1780. His grandson by his youngest child of the first marriage was born in 1833. (Bishop George Howard Wilkinson).
During my searches at the Public records Office I found that Thomas Compson, was articled at Ludlow on the 24th August 1772 to Benjamin Baugh and on writing to Ludlow Parish Church to see if they had any records of people by that name I found that on 24th September 1772 Benjamin Baugh, gent. Married Elizabeth Holland and the witnesses were Martha Compson and Bernard Holland, so there would seem to be sme connection between the Compson family and the Baughs, even if they were merely friends.
Also on 29th November 1770 Thomas Compson was a witness to another marriage (the bride’s name being Pardoe), and on the 24th November 1809 Martha Compson was a witness to the marriage of another Pardoe.
My great-grandfather, Thomas Compson Howard, evidently lived at some time at Walsall, as his son William Little Howard, was born there on 14th February 1840. The address is given as Bradford St., Walsall Foreign, which seems to mean merely outside Walsall proper. I searched the census records at the P.R.O. but could not find anything further about them. When they removed t London I do not know, but Thomas Compson Howard died at 6 Bentinck St. W. on 10th March 1857 at the early age of 44. The cause of death is given as “Paralysis left side 1 year” Hamolisement certified (? – R.N)”, but I have not been able so far to find what that last word means. My son, Christopher, a doctor, does not know it, so it has evidently passed out of use. I have been to see No. 6 Bentinck St., which unfortunately has been rebuilt, but the line of the façade on Bentinck St., has been kept and the house is now neo-Georgian. It was probably a comfortable Georgian house of 3 (or 4 I forget) stories, so that he would seem to have been prosperous.
His death was witnessed and registered by his daughter (my grandmother) Mary Ann Harriott Howard, then 20. It is evident from that that Thomas Compson Howard married young as I can remember my grandmother (who was a delightful woman and to whom my mother was devoted) telling me that she was born in the reign of William IV. This ended in June 1837, so that she must have been born in the first half of the year.
My mother told me as a child that her grandfather had a friend who was wrongly convicted and transported overseas, and that he spent a great deal of time, and presumably, money, in getting fresh evidence by which his friend was in the end given a free pardon and brought home, but I have no details of this. Whether this had anything to do with his health failing so early I do not know, but he was evidently stricken with paralysis at 43, leaving a young family.
There was another son, Harry, who was apparently rather wild, and again according to my mother, was driving home one night, having had too much to drink, when he was pitched out of his gig (or whatever it was) and died of his injuries.
Thomas Compson Howard married Mary Anne Simpson, who was, so my mother said, very pretty, but it was considered a great misalliance and she was rather looked down upon by the Howards. Apparently, so my mother said, she used to get her own back on them by doing things calculated to annoy them. She had rather a short married life and may well have had a hard time after she was left a widow. My mother said they used to live in Osnaburgh St., and this was presumably a smaller and cheaper house that she took after she was a widow.
When I was about 12 or so I can remember being taken by my Mother to call on two Miss Simpsons who lived at Brixton. It was a small very old-fashioned house and I remember they had candles for lighting the room. Miss Simpson was a small, in my eyes very old-fashioned lady. I do not know the year, but it was after my grandmother died in June 1901 as Miss Simpson enquired after my mother’s ‘mother’ and I remember Mother telling her she was dead, but it appeared that she meant ‘mother-in-law’.
My dear grandmother, Mary Anne Harriott Howard, spoilt her life by making another misalliance, as I said above. At the age of 24 she married Edward James Davis, whose occupation is given on the marriage certificate as ‘locksmith’. The witness were my great-uncle, her brother, William Little Howard, and a certain Emily Martha Howard, but who the latter was I do not know. Whether her mother did not come to the wedding I do not know either. The marriage was at St Thomas’s, Lambeth on 6th July 1861. It seems to have been a disastrous step for my grandmother to take, for they were always, apparently, very poor, and in the end they separated.. My grandmother was a devout Church woman and helped a great deal at St Mary-the-Less, Lambeth, of which church Canon Bromfield was then, and for many years, vicar. My mother took me to see him once when I was a child. She was married by him and baptised there by him also. He was a dear old man and was very fond of my Mother. In a speech he made at her wedding breakfast, she told me he referred to her as ‘his daughter’.
I seem to remember that her godmother, ‘the rich Miss Howard’, lived at Dulwich, but I have no confirmation of this. I was nearly 9 when my grandmother died at her son’s house at Honor Oak. She must have been a very nice woman, from the way I remember people speaking of her, and she was a great needlewoman. She used to come on a visit to my mother once a week, and I can remember that she used to sit and sew. She once said that she could tell I should be a good needlewoman by the way I held my needle, but unfortunately this prophecy was not correct. She had 4 children, my uncle Edward Howard Davis, who was very musical and was choirmaster and organist of (I think) St Mary-the-Less), my mother, Mary Ann Simpson Davis, George Davis and Emily Frances Margaret Davis. They lived at Kennington, and I remember my Mother telling me that she used to go to the 8 o’clock service at , but it was rather a long walk, so that she used to have breakfast at the Vicarage.
My mother always told me that one of the Howard forebears was the first Recorder of Doncaster, but I have never been able to get any confirmation of this, though John Howard lived at Doncaster.”
For your interest I have below uploaded all the extra little snippets of research and information from Avice that has landed in my lap. All the information either is or will be included in my own research and to complete the tales of our ancestors; however no doubt some of you will find her scribbles to be informative and interesting.
Letter from Edward Hill to Avice, dated 19 March 1963
Transcript to follow after the images
The following letter was sent to Avice at 16 Lloyd Square, London regarding her research into the Hill family history. Edward was living at Inwood, Croham Manor Road, South Croydon according to the letterhead. The “enclosed” refers to the Marriage Certificate of John William Hill and Elizabeth Matson. Out of interest he makes reference to living at 29 Catford Hill, presumably in Stratford, in around 1905.
My dear Avice,
It was very clever of you to obtain the enclosed, which I send you at Wills’ request. “Full age” usually conceals maturity but even if my grandparents were only 21 in 1850, they must have been born in the last year of George IV’s reign (d. 1830) which is frankly astounding as I don’t feel all that old!
If I am right and they were well over 21 when they married, the Gt. Grandparents would have been born in the last years of the XVIII century (don’t say they were out with the ’45!). I wonder if you can go any further back.
The Stratford locale is interesting because when we lived at 29 Catford Hill, say about ’05, I remember periodical visits from a handsome younger sister of my father’s, who was still living there.
I take you are well.
Letter from William Matson Hill to Avice, dated 19 November 1965
Transcript to follow after the images
The following letter was sent to Avice in response to her enquiring after information on William Matson’s family. William was living at Old Court, Cowbeech Hill, Hailsham according to the letterhead. It is very interesting to note that William was under the impression his father had died of influenza when in fact a verdict of suicide was recorded.
Many thanks for your letter of 17th November. According to the enclosed [illegible]₁ of 14-4-61 from Ted, which I lent you at the time, Emily Fox was born on 31-3-1861. Her birthday certainly fell on the last day of March.
But Somerset House were unable to trace her birth certificate – see the attached [illegible]₂ letter of 10-5-1961. She died in 30-11-1924 at age 63. My father, John William Hill, was born on 27-4-1851, and died on 10-3-1899 at age 48. He was born at Stratford (in the High St), Essex. [illegible]₃ was for a time (at all events) a chemist in that [illegible]₄ – but whether in a chemist ship or in the wholesale chemist business, I do not know. I was not 4 years of age when he died of I think, influenza. Under the date of 24-5-1961, Somerset House said that they could not trace his birth certificate.
I am sorry – and ashamed – to have to admit that I can’t give you anything at all in reply to the second part of your letter! You have already … [illegible]₅ … the past Hills which was entirely unknown to me!
I hear that Robert has certainly made the grade at Felsted and I was interested to hear about Justin. What wonderful luck that the school could take him and board him! I hear that Geoffrey has started again to work at his Contractors and is to be a postman at Christmas. I must say I have the greatest admiration for the way he is tackling things after the [illegible]₆ bad luck of having to leave his chosen profession. How on earth he is managing financially I can’t think and don’t like to probe too deeply. If you get any information I shall like to have it – in the strictest confidence of course.
All regards from us both and I am only sorry I can’t help you in your praiseworthy quest for more information about the undistinguished Hill family! I [illegible]₇ that poor Kenneth is about the same. I think of him and ask for help for him every morning at about 7 am – what a pitiable [illegible]₈!
Snippets of information pertaining to the Hill Family Tree
Snippets of information pertaining to the Howard and Compson Family Tree
Extra snippets of information