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25 May, 2015

The Willetts of Colchester, Essex (and Daylight Saving) 1 of 2

Relationship to William Willett senior, father of Daylight Saving Willett

The change to and from British Summer Time can bring about a flurry of interest in William Willett, the original advocate in Britain of Daylight Saving. He was the eldest son of another William Willett. For some reason this spring Google and that ilk have pointed a larger number of people than usual towards this family blog. Some of them have familiar family stories about being related to “Daylight Saving” Willett.

In addition another comment by a relative (about William Willett senior – Daylight Saving Willett’s father – running away from his step-mother) has prompted me to re-examine “the top” of the Willett tree as I have previously understood it.

This article is fairly long and detailed – a briefer post about Willett Antecedents summarises some of the relationships.

I have split it into two posts:

  1. (This Post) How I am related (through an adoptive line) to the William Willett of Daylight saving fame. He is my Great Great Uncle, so I need to trace back to his father (also William Willett) and thence to him.
  2. (Next Post) Checking out the structure of the family at the beginning of the 19th Century – I know Everard Willett, William Willett senior’s father was married twice.

1. Relationship to William Willett of Daylight Saving fame.

I “know” that I am related (through an adoptive line) to the Willetts not just because that was the surname of the man that I knew simply as my Grandfather (my mother’s adoptive father) but also because, as a child, twice a year I got told “the story” about my Grandfather’s uncle William, “the inventor of British Summer Time”. However “knowing” on the basis of a shared surname and a family story is not quite enough.

A number of years ago, I sought to verify this relationship. Starting from what I knew with certainty I can try and trace back generation by generation to William Willett (senior) – who founded the building firm and was the father of William Willett of daylight saving fame. (Details of both these William Willetts are found in the Dictionary of National Biography)

  1. My mother’s adoptive father was Everard William Willett.
    1. I knew him as my Grandfather.
      • My mother’s “short form” birth certificate only lists her name, date of birth and country of birth. I may at a later stage write a post about the genealogy of adoptive, birth and genetic families.
      • My parent’s marriage certificate (All Saint’s Crawley Down, 2 March 1957, Ref: Cuckfield: Q1 1957; Volume: 5h; Page: 369) lists him as “Everard William Willett, Solicitor”. My mother’s abode was given as Kilnwood, Crawley Down – which was her parents’ home.
    2. There is a medal index card (WO 372/21/176703 at The National Archives) for Lt Everard William Willett, ASC:
      • First Theatre of War: Mespotamia. My mother remembers him talking about serving in “Mespot” with the ASC (Army Service Corps)
      • The reverse of the card (accessed via Ancestry) gives: permanent address: Raffles Place, Singapore; address for despatch of medals: 27 Cromwell Road, Hove, with a note indicating that Mrs R Willett accepts receipt of the medals. My mother remembering visiting “Grannie Bec” (Rebecca) in Hove.
  2. I can remember my Grandfather dying in the early sixties. I was too young at the time to go to the funeral but I can remember being told and aware that I would not see him again.
    • FreeBMD gives the death registration details as Willett, Everard W., aged 79, Cuckfield: Q4 1964; volume: 2H; page: 224; – Cuckfield being the registration district for his home (Kilnwood, Crawley Down – where he died). The age 79 implies a birth in 1885.
  3. My Grandfather’s marriage Certificate (24th September 1919 at Wimbledon Parish Church, Kingston: 1919-Q3; Volume: 2a; Page: 1340/8;) shows:
    • that he was a 34 year old Barrister-at-law,
    • giving 27 Cromwell Road, Hove as his address.
    • His father was listed as a deceased Builder, Everard John Willett.
    • Rebecca Willett was a witness.
  4. The World War One Officer’s Service Record for Willett, Lieut E W (WO374/74619 in TNA Catalog) held at The National Archives shows the following details on the Attestation (25th October 1917):
    • He attested at Chichester and was appointed to the Army Service Corps initially at Grove Park
    • Full name: Everard William Willett – a fairly distinctive but not unique name (There is, for instance, a bankruptcy order gazetted against an Everard Willett, Stonemason of Hammersmith, in 1904 ref: Issue 27669, Page 2626. Below I trace various appearances of this individual for the purposes of exclusion.)
    • Address: Raffles Place, Singapore – which accords with my Grandmother’s recollection (recounted to my mother) of his life before she met and married him. The Directory And Chronicle For China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Malay States, Siam, Netherlands India, Borneo, The Philippines, 1917, (Page 1225, Accessed via Find My Past) lists him under “Allen & Gledhill, Advocates, Solicitors and Notaries Public – 22A, Raffles Place”. After their marriage they lived in Singapore again.
    • Profession: Barrister – which again accords with my Grandmother’s recollection. (He trained at the Inner Temple with my Grandmother’s brother, George Evans Williamson.) After their marriage he worked at the Singapore Bar. On returning to the UK he worked as a solicitor.
    • Age (at 25 October 1917) : 32 Years 2 Months. This implies a birth in August 1885. (A later sheet in the file gives 1 August 1885 as the actual date).
    • Next of Kin: Mother, Rebecca Willett of 27 Cromwell Place at Hove. This accords with my mother’s recollection of going to visit “Granny Bec” at Hove. Another sheet in the file adds his brother, T G Willett as a second next of kin.
  5. The 1911 Census:
    1.  shows for 27 Cromwell Road, Hove (RG14PN5182 RG78PN229 RD80 SD2 ED8 SN269) Everard William Willett, Barrister, as “Head of Household” with his 24 year old brother Thomas George (and a more distant cousin Alice Maria Chapman). His age is shown as 25 – implying a birth in 1885/6 and making him the older of the brothers. Both brothers are shown as born in Hove.
    2. shows for Lymington (RG14PN5784 RG78PN264 RD94 SD1 ED2 SN157) Rebecca Willet, Widow, 56yo, born Chesham Bucks. She is listed as having had 2 children both of whom are still alive. She is staying at the Sagel Hotel, and despite the single “t”in Willet is almost certainly the usual “head of household” at Cromwell Road Hove.
  6. The 1901 Census then reveals both my Great Grandparents:
    1. It shows for 27 Cromwell Road, Hove (RG13 938 133 6):
      • Head of Household: Edward J Willett, 42 Living on own means, born Rugby
      • Wife: Rebecca Willett, 57, born in Chesham Bucks
      • Son: William E Willett, 15, born Hove
      • Son: Thomas G Willett, 14, born Hove
      • Housemaid and Cook (Emily Capelin & Barbara Steyning)
    2. Despite the apparent reversal of the eldest son’s Christian names this is the same family as in the 1911 Census. (The Image of the household return confirms the transcription on Find my Past). The Head of Household’s name later proves to be Everard John not Edward J. It is probable that these are enumerator’s errors.
    3. (There is also a Willett, Everard W, Stonemason’s apprentice, 12yo, b Marylebone living in Hatton Street, Marylebone with his Parents George (52) and Clarissa (52) – both born in Colchester. Could the 12yo Everard be the Stone Mason who had the bankruptcy order laid against him 3 years later? Unlikely as he would still be an apprentice at 15.)
  7. The 1891 Census:
    1. shows for 27 Cromwell Road, Hove (RG12 818 101 17)
      • Head of Household: Everard J Willett, 33, Builder’s son not working due to ill health, b Rugby
      • Wife: Rebecca Willett, 37, b Chesham
      • Son: Everard W, 5, b Hove
      • Son: Thomas Geo, 3, b Hove
      • Visitor: Daisy Gee, 17, Pupil Teacher, b Chesham
      • Nurse and General Servant (Emily Capelin and Louisa M Tone[?])
    2. Again we have the same family at the same address, but with the names by which they are most generally recognised.
  8. The Indices to the BMD Registers:
    1. list births of the two sons:
      • Thomas George Willett: Steyning: 1887-Q1; Volume: 2b; Page: 274a;
      • Everard William Willett: Steyning: 1885-Q3; Volume: 2b; Page: 286;
    2. list the birth of our apprentice stonemason (see above)
      • Everard Walter Willett: Marylebone: 1888-Q4; Volume: 1a; Page: 563;
    3. Searching across the country for Everard Willet[t] born between 1881 and 1891 on FreeBMD only brings up the above two Everards.
    4. Show an Everard John Willett marrying in Hampstead during Q4 1884
      • Hampstead: 1884-Q4; Volume: 1a; Page: 1198;
      • Bride: either Rebecca Neal or Mary Hannah Hill (at that time the index would list the two marriages on each page of the register – but would not make clear who married who. Census records resolve this issue.)
  9. The 1881 Census gives us the next generation back (My Great Great Grandparents):
    1. It shows for 1 Eaton Gardens Hove (RG11 1098 30 3):
      • Head of Household: William Willett, 45, Builder, b Colchester St Leonard
        (This man I designate as William Willett Senior)
      • Wife: Maria Willett, 45, b Southwark, St John
      • Son: Everard J Willett, 23, b Rugby
      • Son: Thomas H Willett, 18, b Marylebone
      • Two Servants: Mary Ann Chapman, 35 and Charlotte Head, 13
        • Mary Ann Chapman is probably the sister of the Alice Maria Chapman shown above on the 1911 Census
    2. It shows for 11 Belsize Crescent, Hampstead (RG11 169 11 16):
      • Rebecca Neal, Lady’s help, 27, b Chesham
      • The good match on date and place of birth and on residence indicates that this women is probably the future Rebecca Willett
      • Belsize Crescent was (possibly coincidentally) a Willett built development in around 1869
  10. The 1871 Census shows the family again together with Everard John’s elder brother William Willett (of daylight saving fame):
    1. It shows for Prince Consorts Road, Hampstead (RG10 192 66 39):
      • Head of Household: William Willett, 35, Builder, b Colchester, Hythe
        (William Willett Senior)
      • Wife: Maria Willett, 40, b Southwark, Surrey
      • Son: William Willett, 15, b Farnham Surrey [of daylight saving fame]
        (This man I designate as William Willett Junior)
      • Son: Everard J Willett, 13, b Rugby [my Great Great Grandfather]
      • Son: Thomas Willett , 8, b Marylebone
      • Niece: Mary Ann Chapman, 26, General Servant, b Middlesex, City
      • Nephew: Edward Chapman, 13, Visitor, b Middlesex, Hackney
    2. The Dictionary of National Biography details the relationship between the two William Willetts.
      • Willett, William (1856–1915), builder and inventor of daylight saving, was born at Farnham on 10 August 1856, one of three sons of William Willett (1837–1913) and his wife, Maria, née Box.
        Andrew Saint, ‘Willett, William (1856–1915)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36912, accessed 1 Jan 2007]
    3. Why William Willett (junior) was born in Farnham is not entirely clear.
      • His birth certificate shows he was born on 10th August 1856 in “Waggon Yard” (listed as the abode of his mother who was the informant) – although this line of Willetts do not seem to have any prior link with West Surrey. His father is listed on the Birth Certificate as a Journeyman Stone Mason, so it is possible that he was working for a builder in Farnham rather than for his father.
      • The 2017 Farnham Town Council leaflet Farnham Industrial Heritage Guide states that the Yard (now a Car Park) used to be a Builder’s yard. The 1871 Ordnance Survey 1:500 Town Plan of Farnham shows a yard but does not make clear the business carried on in the yard. The buildings in that area date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
      • His mother’s family (the Box family) has links with the other end of the county (Bermondsey). His mother had not “gone home to Mum” for her first child’s birth as her mother had already died.
  11. The 1861 Census shows the same family:
    1. For 260, Marylebone Road, Marylebone (RG9 80 132 18) we see:
      • Head of Household: William Willett, 35, Statutory Company 7 men and 2 boys, b Colchester
        (William Willett Senior)
      • Wife: Maria Willett, 36, b Bermondsey, Surrey
      • Son: William Willett, 5, b Farnham, Surrey
        (William Willett Junior)
      • Son: Everard John Willett, 3, b Rugby
      • Daughter: Maria Willett, 1, b Rugby
      • Servant: Elizabeth Jeffriess
    2. Despite William Willett’s age being reported as 35 (when the census records for 1871 and 1881 would tend to indicate that in 1861 he would be 25) the other members of the household would tend to indicate that this is the same family.
      Data from Census Records Reported Age:
      Name born 1881 1871 1861
      (the elder)
      Colchester 45 35 35
      (his wife)
      Southwark /
      45 40 36
      (their son)
      Farnham n/a 15 5
      Everard J
      (their son)
      Rugby 23 13 3
      (their daughter)
      Rugby n/a n/a 1
      Thomas H
      (their son)
      Marylebone 18 8 n/a
  12. The Indices to the BMD Registers:
    1. Show the births of the Children above
      • Willett, William, 1856-Q3 Farnham Vol 2a Page 68
        (William Willett Junior)
      • Willett, Everard John, 1858-Q2 Rugby Vol 6d Page 387
      • Willett, Maria, 1859-Q3 Rugby Vol 6d Page 401
        (Maria died 1861-Q3)
      • Willett, Thomas Henry, 1863-Q1 Marylebone Vol 1a Page 511
    2. Willett, William marrying in Stepney in Q1 1856
      • (William Willett Senior)
      • Stepney Vol 1c page 801
      • Bride is either Maria Box or Elizabeth Plastow

The above verifies how I am connected to William Willett.

Others who think they may be connected in some way to Daylight Saving Willett may want to either discover how they fit into the above genealogy, or do their own genealogy for another of Thomas Willett’s descendants. (Thomas Willett is William Willett senior’s grandfather – see second post.)


  1. […] (Previous Post) How I am related (through an adoptive line) to the William Willett of Daylight saving fame. He is my Great Great Uncle, so I need to trace back to his father (also William Willett) and thence to him. […]

    Pingback by The Willetts of Colchester, Essex (and Daylight Saving) 2 of 2 « Faulder Family Genealogy — 27 October, 2016 @ 1:39 am

  2. […] How I am related (through an adoptive line) to the William Willett of Daylight saving fame. He is my Great Great Uncle, so I need to trace back to his father (also William Willett) and thence to him. […]

    Pingback by Are We Related: Willett « Faulder Family Genealogy — 31 August, 2020 @ 9:45 am

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