On the 5th June, 1837, Edward Wilkins purchased the former ‘Town House’ in Long Street. Since the erection of the Wayland Union Workhouse in nearby Rocklands, the ‘Town House’ was no longer needed to house the poor of Great Ellingham. Accordingly, it became surplus to requirements.
I believe this property – or at least the land, remained in the ownership of the same Wilkins family for several generations.
Sale at Auction
In 1836, the Guardians of the Poor for the Wayland Union, the Overseers of the Poor of Great Ellingham and the Churchwardens offered the property for sale at auction.
Extract from 1802 Map of Great Ellingham. Original held at Norfolk Record Office. Russell James Colman Plans. Cat. Ref. C/Ca 1/84. With kind permission of NRO
‘Town House’ Built c.1769
Built around 1769, the house for the poor was erected on a parcel of land upon Town Green Common. The land was given to the village by then then Lady of the Manor of Ellingham Hall, Margaretta Colman.
The above extract from an 1802 map of Great Ellingham shows the position of the Town House on the west (left) of Long Street . [North is to the top of the map].
At the turn of the 19th century, this is the only building on that side of Long Street stretching from the area we know today as Town Green down to Shruggs Lane.
Purchaser Edward Wilkins
Edward Wilkins’ bid of £92 was successful at the auction. He purchased:
“all that freehold cottage in two tenements with one acre of land in Great Ellingham abutting upon premises belonging to the said Edward Wilkins towards the north, upon the King’s Highway leading to Attleburgh and Harling towards the east, upon other premises of Edward Wilkins towards the south, and upon land late of William Norton deceased occupied by Benjamin Busk [Buck] towards the west.”
At the time of his purchase, Edward Wilkins already owned the land on either side of the former ‘Town House’. Wilkins also owned other land and property in the village, including the modest farmhouse on the opposite side of Long Street which was later known as Fir Tree Farm.
Robert Wilkins inherits the ‘Town House’
On the 20th April, 1849, Edward Wilkins died at the age of 82. The majority of Edward’s property and land passed to his wife Mary in accordance with his will.
However, it seems that the former ‘Town House’ passed to his eldest surviving son Robert. It may be that this was because Edward made his will before he purchased the former ‘Town House’. I have not investigated this point further.
‘Town House’ conveyed to Mary Wilkins
Nevertheless on the 19th January 1853, Robert conveyed the property to his mother. He confirmed in the Conveyance Deed that he ‘was fully convinced’ that this was what his late father had intended. Robert’s wife Hannah also joined in the Deed. She released any right or claim she had to a dower from the property.
Fir Tree Farm. Courtesy Fiona Rainbird Clarke
Edward and Mary Wilkins lived in the the farmhouse in Long Street which was later known as Fir Tree Farm.
Following Edward’s death, Mary continued to live there along with her unmarried son, William Warren Wilkins. However, by 1856 Mary had moved ‘over the road’ into one part of her double cottage (the former ‘Town House’). Widow Sarah Chaplin lived in the other part.
Death of Mary Wilkins
On the 16th May, 1857, Mary Wilkins née Carley died.
In her last will and testament dated the 14th April, 1856, Mary left the former ‘Town House’ together with an additional piece of land, to her son, William Warren Wilkins. She instructed that the remainder of her property and land be sold.
William Warren Wilkins inherits the former ‘Town House’
In consequence, William Warren Wilkins became the owner of the double cottage and outbuildings (the former ‘Town House’).
The above plan on the right shows the extent of William Warren Wilkins’ double cottage and land in 1857. To the north is a piece of land then owned by William Lebbell and to the south is land then owned by Robert Utting.
Although the two maps do not show the cottages in exactly the same position or orientation, I am confident that the ‘cottages’ shown on the map of 1857 are indeed the former ‘Town House’.
From my investigations, there is no suggestion that the double cottage built as the ‘Town House’ to house the poor was replaced. I wonder if either or both plans were drawn by someone who had not actually looked at the property ‘on the ground’.
Parents & Siblings
William Warren Wilkins was born in Great Ellingham around 1808. He was one of at least six children of Edward and Mary Wilkins.
Although I found baptism entries in the Parish Church registers for his brothers, Edward, Robert and James, I cannot find a baptism for William or his siblings, Mary Ann and Thomas.
Baptist Chapel Long Street Great Ellingham. Attleborough Heritage Group
However, given that William’s brother Edward was buried in the Baptist’s Burial Ground in the village in 1824, I think it more than likely that this Wilkins family worshipped at the local Baptist Church in Long Street. Accordingly, it is possible that at least William, Mary Ann and Thomas were baptised in the Baptist Church.
William was a shoemaker (also found as cordwainer).
Around the age of 30, William Warren Wilkins found himself in financial difficulties. His name (as William Wilkins) appears in Perry’s Bankrupt and Insolvent Gazette published on the 10th March, 1838. He was one of many insolvent persons applying to be discharged. His case was listed for hearing at the Court-house, Norwich Castle on the 23rd March.
The 1841 census captures William living with his parents in Long Street. Following his father’s death, William continued to live with his mother, Mary Wilkins.
Ten years later, the 1851 census finds 74 year old widow Mary Wilkins with her 42 year old son, William, in Long Street. Given that Mary is described as a farmer of 21 acres, I believe mother and son were living in the farmhouse (later known as Fir Tree Farm). William is still working as a shoemaker.
It is likely that following his mother’s death and the subsequent conveyance to him of the former ‘Town House’, William occupied part or all of the double cottage on the western side of Long Street.
Death of William Warren Wilkins
On the 23rd February, 1859, William Warren Wilkins died in Great Ellingham. Coincidentally, William died on the very same day on which he executed his last will and testament.
Content of Last Will & Testament
In his will, William describes himself as a yeoman – he farmed his own land.
He appointed local farmer Richard Wilemer and his brother Thomas Wilkins both of Great Ellingham as his executors.
William left all his real estate to his brother Thomas for his use during his lifetime. However, this was subject to Thomas keeping the estate insured and in good repair.
It was also subject to Thomas paying an annuity of £5 to their brother Robert Wilkins “.. while the cottages are occupied ..”. Thomas should pay this to Robert on the 1st November every year.
William Wilkins also directed that immediately on the death of his brother Thomas, Richard Wilemer (the other executor) should sell and dispose of William’s real estate by auction or private sale.
The proceeds of the sale to be shared equally between all the living children of his brother Thomas and the children of their late sister, Mary Ann Duffield.
William Wilkins’ will was proved by his brother Thomas Wilkins on the 23rd May, 1859. Power was reserved to Richard Wilemer.
When his brother William died in 1859, Thomas Wilkins had been widowed for some two years. He was left with two surviving children – his sons James and William. The death of Thomas’s wife could be the reason (or one of the reasons) as to why Thomas and his children were beneficiaries of William’s will.
Church of St James, Great Ellingham
Thomas married local girl Harriet Chaplin in St James’s Church, Great Ellingham on the 24th May, 1836.
Harriet was the daughter of local wheelwright Edmund Chaplin and his wife Elizabeth née Barnard. She had been baptised in the Parish Church on the 7th February, 1813.
The 1841 census captures Thomas and Harriet Wilkins with three year old James and one year old Harriet living in Great Ellingham – possibly next door to Thomas’s parents, Edward and Mary Wilkins and brother William in Long Street.
1843 Death of Daughter
Sadly in 1843, Thomas and Harriet’s three year old daughter died. The couple were left with two sons – James and William.
Ten years later, and now 40 years of age, Thomas Wilkins is working as a farming bailiff. The 1851 census finds Thomas and Harriet with their sons in Long Street. Now widowed, Thomas’s mother Mary is still living nearby along with Thomas’s unmarried brother William.
1857 was a difficult year for this Wilkins family.
Thomas Wilkins’ wife, 44 year old Harriet Wilkins, died in April, 1857. She was buried in the churchyard of St James on the 23rd April.
Within weeks, Thomas’s mother Mary Wilkins née Carley died on the 16th May, 1857.
Just two month’s later, on the 22nd July, 1857, Thomas’s sister Mary Ann died. She was the wife of Edmund Duffield.
1859 Death of Brother
Two years later, Thomas’s brother William Warren Wilkins died.
From this time, Thomas had the use and benefit of all his late brother’s property (including the former ‘Town House’) for the remainder of his life.
By 1861, 51 year old widower Thomas Wilkins with his two sons, James 23 and William 17, were living next to the Crown Public House. Thomas was now working as a butcher.
37 year old widow and general servant Martha Carter is working for Thomas. Martha has a 13 year old son Robert who is also part of the household. 61 year old widow Mary Norton is a visitor on the night of the census.
However by 1871, Thomas is no longer working as a butcher but as a shepherd’s page. This would appear to be quite a drop in the occupational status. I wonder why.
Further, Thomas and his housekeeper Martha Carter (with Martha’s adult son, Robert) are living at Low Common.
The Wilkins/Carter household is still in Low Common in 1881. Thomas Wilkins is now 70 and working as a farm labourer. Perhaps slightly better paid employment?
Death of Thomas Wilkins
Thomas Wilkins died in 1889 at the age of 78.
In accordance with his late brother’s will, all the land and property owned by William Warren Wilkins at the time of his death in 1859 (and which Thomas Wilkins had the use and benefit of during his lifetime) would now be sold.
Mary Ann Wilkins
All Saints Church, Old Buckenham
Mary Ann Wilkins may have been the only daughter of Edward and Mary Wilkins.
On the 27th November, 1833, Mary Ann married Edmund Duffield in the Parish Church at Old Buckenham. The marriage register confirms that Edmund Duffield was of Old Buckenham and Mary Ann Wilkins of Great Ellingham.
The couple had at least 7 children. The elder children Robert, Edward, Mary Ann and John and their youngest child (Alfred) were born in Old Buckenham. Sons Walter and David were born in Great Ellingham
Given that William Warren Wilkins’ sister Mary Ann predeceased him leaving children, I wonder whether this is why William favoured Mary Ann’s children in his will.
As mentioned, William Warren Wilkins left instructions in his will for his brother Thomas to pay an annuity of £5 to their brother Robert. I assume that this annuity would cease on the death of Thomas Wilkins, as it was at this time that all the late William Warren Wilkins’ property would be sold. In any event, Robert Wilkins died in 1878.
Robert had a trade – a carpenter. Further, I believe that he and his wife Hannah (née Houchen) did not have had any children.
What happened to William’s Estate on Thomas’s Death?
This brings us to what happened to the late William Warren Wilkins’ property and land following the death of his brother, Thomas Wilkins.
William Wilkins had, of course, directed that all his property and land is sold immediately after Thomas’s death. Thomas’s children and the children of his late sister Mary Ann Duffield, would each take an equal share of the proceeds of sale.
William’s property included the the former ‘Town House’. However, this may well have been the only property which William owned.
The Former ‘Town House’
So what happened to the former ‘Town House”? Was it sold?
William Warren Wilkins’ Executors both Deceased
By the time Thomas Wilkins’ died, the other executor Richard Wilemer had also died.
Accordingly, I do not know who dealt with the administration of William Warren Wilkins’ last will and testament following Thomas Wilkins’ death in 1899.
Who dealt with any sale of the property, and who dealt with the distribution of the sale proceeds to the beneficiaries?
However, it may well have been one or more of the beneficiaries.
Thomas Wilkins left two surviving children – James born 1838 and William born 1843. Mary Ann Duffield (née Wilkins) probably left five surviving children. All these seven children would take an equal share of the sale proceeds of their late uncle William Warren Wilkins’ property.
Further, I do not have any evidence as to whether or not the former ‘Town House’ was sold.
However, I have a theory based on the fact that I know that the piece of land on which the double cottage (the former ‘Town House’) once stood, was sold in 1920 by a member of this Wilkins family.
William Wilkins, son of Thomas Wilkins
I think it very likely that Thomas’s son William Wilkins (presumably named after his Uncle William Warren Wilkins), purchased the former ‘Town House’. He was after all one of the beneficiaries of his Uncle’s will. This William Wilkins was at one time a postmaster and grocer in the village.
Thomas William Wilkins, son of William Wilkins
It was his son, Thomas William Wilkins (born c.1868), who in 1920 sold the land on which the former ‘Town House’ stood.
Accordingly, I believe this very same land was in the ownership of the same Wilkins family from Edward Wilkins in 1836 until it was sold by Edward’s great grandson, Thomas William Wilkins, in 1920.
1799-1842. F W Horner, Records of the Surveyors to the Commissioners for Inclosure in Parishes in Norfolk and Suffolk. Great Ellingham (Act 1799). Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: BR 90/2.1802 Russell James Colman Plans. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: C/Ca 1/84. All rights reserved by Norfolk Record Office.
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office PD 609. Also available at www.familysearch.org.
Old Buckenham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office PD 107. Also available via www.ancestry.co.uk
24 September 1836. The Norfolk Chronicle & Norwich Gazette. Viewed via https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.
Original deeds (Private Collection). Thanks to Drs D & J Richards
England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970. RG4: Registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths Norfolk Baptist Piece 1254: Great Ellingham (Baptist), 1817-18378. RG4.1254 viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
10th March 1838. Perry’s Bankrupt & Insolvent Gazette. Viewed via British Newspaper Archive website https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk 21st March 2022
1841 census HO107/781/8
1851 census HO107/1823/129
1861 census RG9/1237/91
1871 census RG10/1841/92
1881 census RG11/1974/93
23 May 1859. Probate with Will of William Warren Wilkins of Great Ellingham. Copy obtained from www.probatesearch.service.gov.uk
Indenture 13th November, 1920. Wilkins to Sadd. Wilkins Family Private Collection