There are (at least) two notable William Willetts. The most notable two are probably the father and son pair; the son (b 1856) is noted as the advocate of Daylight Saving, whilst his father is noted for founding the building firm Willetts.
William Willett (the elder) was born in Colchester in about 1837. His father Everard was a Vitular and his mother, Maria (who was Everard’s second wife) was an Innkeeper after being widowed in 1845. The 1851 Census shows that William was an apprentice stonemason living (with his mother and siblings*) at the Queens Head Inn, Hythe St, Colchester. *Siblings were an elder brother, John, a younger sister, Maria, and a probable step-sister, Sarah.
By the time of the 1861 Census he was a builder living at 261 Marylebone Road, London and gave his occupation as ‘Builder’ – He already owned a statutory company employing 7 men and 2 boys. In 1871 he was living at 8 Prince Consort Road, Hampstead. Prince Consort Road (later Belsize Crescent) was one of his developments. In 1881 he was in Hove at 1 Eaton Gardens (another Willett development – now part of the Willett Estate conservation area). In later Censuses he was at 64 The Drive, Hove (still in the Willett Estate), where he died in 1913.
The web-site british-history.ac.uk details a number of places that he and his eldest son, William, developed in London. I have plotted these on a Google Map (click on the blue felt-tip-like lines to see details). They made a habit of building high quality houses in areas that were, or would become, viewed as quality areas such as:
- Belsize Park
- Sloane Square
- Kensington Palace Gardens
- Grosvenor Square
Later they would build outside London, particularly in Chislehurst in Kent and Hove in Sussex.
Although most of the houses were speculatively built, they were built to a high standard usually using in-house architects (such as Harry Measures and Amos Faulkner). The Willetts often built with red brick (made at the company’s brick works at Acton Vale) in a decorative style with features such as bay windows and ornate detailing. Much emphasis was put on ensuring that light could get into all rooms (including basement rooms). “Willett built” became a by-word for quality.
The company is no longer independent; the diagram below attempts to show where it has ended up (as at 2010).