The Wafforne Family – Part One

As a genealogist I am often drawn to names, sometimes I see a rare surname on TV and it piques my interest, or I meet people with interesting names, either first names, middle names or surnames or all three. During the last 18 years I have been doing genealogy I have also come across names that interest me either in my own tree, the trees I have researched or names I have found in the records that bear no relation to my research but I have noted down because they amused me, like Golden Death, Rhoda Freak, Epigony Pike, Septimus Aberdeen, Dick Styffes and Christopher Crocodile to name a few.

In this instance I was researching my husband Paul’s family tree and came across a surname that seems to be quite uncommon. Certainly not a surname I had come across before and in general just sounded quite interesting.

Paul’s maternal grandfather’s mother was Mary Ann Brightwell Rawlins, she was born at the Leicester Union Workhouse on 26th August 1890. Mary Ann was the illegitimate child of Amelia Brightwell Rawlins who was just 17 when her daughter was born. Amelia worked as a Shoe Fitter – a common occupation in Leicester as many of her family worked in the shoe trade. In 1891 Amelia was with her parents and siblings at 19 Elbow Lane, Leicester which had been given as the family residence on Mary Ann’s birth certificate, and her daughter was not listed as her daughter, but as her sibling. Amelia’s parents seem to have wanted to perhaps avoid the stigma of having an illegitimate grandchild by passing her off as their own. It didn’t appear too out of place, as Amelia was the eldest child of William Brightwell Rawlins and his wife Julia, and their youngest child Arthur Alfred was just a year older than Mary Ann.

William Brightwell Rawlins had married Julia Wafforne on 5th June 1870 at St Mary de Castro church in Leicester. They were both residing at Red Cross Street with William being 24 and Julia aged 22. William was a Shoemaker and gave his surname as Ralling(s) rather than Rawlins and gave his father as also being called William Brightwell Ralling – also a Shoemaker. Julia had no occupation stated but gave her father as William Wafforne a Boot Binder.

St. Mary de Castro church by NotFromUtrecht – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

William and Julia had nine children in all, Amelia b. 1873, Maria b. 1874 d. 1875, Joseph William b. 1876, Annie Elizabeth b. 1878, John Thomas b. 1880, Martha Harriet b. 1883, Mary Ann b. 1885 d. 1886, Frederick b. 1887 and Arthur Alfred b. 1889.

The year after they married they were recorded on the census living at 3 Cardinal Street, Leicester where William was still a Shoemaker and Julia was a Worsted Scarf Maker. Jump forwards ten years for the 1881 census and they were living at 19 Orchard Row, Leicester. William was a Shoe Rivetter and Julia had no occupation as by now they had four children aged 8 and under to care for, so she already had a full time job. They had also suffered the loss of their daughter Maria who had died in 1875 not having reached one year old.

We know they were at 19 Elbow Lane in 1891, at that point William was working as a Shoe Finisher and Julia, despite also being a full time mother, was also occupied working on Fancy Hosiery – likely she might have been working from home making stockings etc. They had also lost another child in the 10 years between 1881 and 1891 with the loss of a daughter Mary Ann in 1886 aged just 1.

Sadly William and Julia suffered another blow, just six years after giving birth to Mary Ann in 1890, their daughter Amelia died on 2nd Oct 1896 aged 23 of Enteric Fever. She died in the workhouse infirmary – but I believe she was only there as a patient rather than as an inmate of the workhouse as the informant of her death was her mother, rather than a workhouse attendant. This then definitely meant that William and Julia had to become the proper full time parents of their six year old granddaughter, who quite possibly may have never known that Amelia was really her mother. At that time the family lived at 10 Mill Street, Leicester.

In 1901 the family were living at 12 King Richards Road, Leicester, William was a Shoe Rivetter and Julia a Fancy Hosiery Machinist, Mary Ann is stated as being their granddaughter now, rather than in the 1891 census when she was listed as being their daughter. By 1911 they were at 22 Ruding Street, Leicester with William still working as a Shoe Rivetter and Julia’s occupation given as Fancy Hand (Hosiery). Mary Ann by then was a woman of 20 and working as a Machinist in the shoe trade. She was given as being William and Julia’s granddaughter again in this census, so perhaps she may have known she wasn’t their daughter after all.

Mary Ann went on to get married in 1912 to Thomas William Johnson and she gave her father’s name as William Brightwell Rawlins a Shoe Rivetter on her marriage certificate. While this wasn’t biologically true, it was very much true in the sense that her grandfather brought her up as his own child and was the only father she ever knew.

Her grandfather William passed away on 26th June 1924 at 16 Ruding Street, Leicester. His cause of death was Chronic Bronchitis and Nephritis Toxaemia. The informant of his death was his married daughter Annie Wade of 12 Old Mill Lane. Julia outlived him by 13 years as she died on 28th May 1937 at 12 Old Mill Lane – having presumably moved in with her daughter Annie Wade, who again was the informant of the death.

Prior to William’s death the family also lost their married daughter Martha Harriet King who died in 1922 aged 39 – leaving behind her husband and two children aged 14 and 15. Then following William’s death their son John Thomas died in 1925 aged 45 – leaving behind his wife and three children aged 22, 21 and 13.

All of the streets the family lived at either no longer exist or have been developed so much that none of the houses that once stood there still survive. When looking up Elbow Lane I had found reference to some roman and medieval archaeology finds in that area.

The Rawlins Family Tree

So back to the title of this blog post – The Wafforne Family – we have now established where the surname Wafforne comes in – with Julia Wafforne being my husband’s 3x great grandmother. To me initially it sounded like perhaps the name might be foreign, perhaps French or Belgian/Flemish or Dutch. So far I’ve not really found much to explain the origins of the surname and of course over time the spelling may well have morphed and changed into Wafforne and likely had a different original spelling, I have certainly seen it spelled in different ways over the course of my research, Wafforne, Wafforn, Wofforne, Waffern etc.

Julia Wafforne was born in 1848 in Leicester, the second child of William Wafforne and his wife Maria Bradshaw who married on 3rd May 1846 at the same church their daughter had married William Brightwell Rawlins some 24 years later. At the time of their marriage they both resided at Knighton Street. William Wafforne was 21 – a Book Binder and gave his father’s name as William Wafforne – a Tailor. Maria was 27 and had no occupation and her father was given as William Bradshaw a Carpenter. One of the witnesses was a John Wafforne – William’s younger brother.

The first, and sadly, only census that William and Maria appeared on together was the 1851 census. They were living at 64 Wellington Street, Leicester. At that point they had three young daughters, Amelia born in 1846, Julia born in 1848 and Adalia born in 1850. William was still a Book Binder. They would go on to have a son Arthur William in 1851 and a son Alfred in 1853. Then the family would suffer a series of tragedies from 1855 onwards with the loss of their son Arthur William at the start of that year, they had some joy with the birth of another son Joseph William later that year, then in 1856 their daughter Adalia died, followed by the birth and death of another son Frederick in 1857 and then the death of their other daughter Amelia in 1858, followed several months later with the death of William Wafforne on 23rd June 1858 of Phthisis – another name for Tuberculosis, he was just 33 years old. This left poor Maria a widow aged 39 with three young children, having lost four children and her husband in the space of just three years.

You may have spotted that when I noted the details from when Julia married William Brightwell Rawlins in 1870 she gave her father’s occupation as a Boot Binder, when he was actually a Book Binder. Given that Julia was only about 10 years old when her father died, it is conceivable that she had read his occupation somewhere and mis-read it as Boot rather than Book or indeed if she had to provide the information to the parish clerk to fill in the certificate it might have been mis-written.

Maria took in work to help keep the family afloat – the 1861 census sees her and her remaining children still at the same address and her occupation is Charwoman – a woman who cleans in an office or a house. Maria eventually went on to marry again, marrying John Moore in 1870. He sadly died four years later. She and John had been running the pub the Old Mitre at 1 Lower Red Cross Street and in 1875 ownership passed to Maria’s third husband Josiah Langham who she married that year. She eventually passed away in 1891 aged 71 of Bronchitis. Josiah died in 1905.

William Wafforne b. 1824 Family Tree

So what of Maria’s first husband’s family – going back to the Wafforne line?

William Wafforne was born around 1824 in Leicester – I have not found a baptism for him. He was one of nine children of William Wafforne and Sarah Ann Burr who had married on 27th March 1806 at St Margaret’s Church in Leicester.

They had the following children, Elizabeth Ann b. 1806, Sarah Anne b. 1809, John Thomas b. 1811, George b. 1813, Mark Oliver b. 1816, Susannah b. 1819, Lavinia b. 1822, William b. 1824 and John b. 1826. The children were mostly born in Leicester with Sarah being born in Great Wigston. Not all the children seem to have been baptised – as mentioned above I hadn’t found a baptism for William, and it also appears that George, Mark, Susannah, Lavinia and John weren’t baptised either. I also believe that their son John Thomas must have died in infancy as they had another son called John but I have not found a burial record.

The 1822 Pigot’s Directory lists William Wafforne at Silver Street in Leicester, although he appears under the section related to Tallow Chandlers – given he was a Tailor it seems this is likely a mistake and his name was put in the wrong section. William was mentioned in an advertisement in the Morning Advertiser of 5th Jan 1826 looking for journeyman tailors to come and work for tailors in Leicester.

Clipping from the Morning Advertiser 5 Jan 1826 – from Findmypast

William was again mentioned in the local papers in 1829 twice, once relating to being a contact in relation to creditors for a recently deceased gentleman Godfrey Topliss Gamble to whom he was an executor of his will, and secondly to do with an incident with his apprentices.

Leicester Chronicle 15 Aug 1829

Exchange, Tuesday

A youth named Agar, apprentice to Mr Wafforn, tailor, was brought up on a charge of violently assaulting a fellow apprentice. It was stated that on Friday night last, owing to something that had transpired between the parties, at which the prisoner was offended, he took up a pair of shears and threw them at the other boy and hit him on the head, which it is supposed caused a concussion of the brain. The youth has been obliged to keep his bed bed ever since, and the surgeon who attends him does not yet consider him out of danger. It was also stated that the prisoner had repeatedly treated him with great violence previous to this affair, but through his threatening to kill him if he told his aster, the youth was afraid to relate his grievances to any one.
The prisoner said that he did not mean to hit the boy with the scissors when he threw them.
He was remanded till the future state of the boy should be known.
Mr Wafforn preferred a complaint against Mr Agars stating, that after the above unfortunate circumstance had transpired, the defendant came to his house, and encouraged his son to “clout” the other apprentices if they attempted to aggravate him in future; and on his (the complainant) remonstrating with him on the subject, the defendant menaced him with his firsts, when he was under the necessity of knocking him down to protect himself. He also began with him in the Market Place this morning, in a most violent and abusive manner.
The defendant said that he went to the complainants shop to enquire what was the cause of the affray between the boys, when he was informed that the other apprentices had been aggravating his son by asking him “if his grandmother had got a little tiddy and plum pudding!”
This being contradicted by the complainant, the defendant in a most violent manner called him “a lying villain” and conducted himself with such impropriety that the Magistrates ordered him to be put in the “lock up” for a short time, and to find sureties, himself in £50 and two others in £25 each, to keep the peace for 6 months.

In the 1832 and 1835 Electoral Rolls he is listed at Duke Street, Leicester and as a Tailor.

Once again William was in the papers in 1838.

Leicestershire Mercury 23rd June 1838

Most Impudent Robbery – On Saturday night two impudent thieves stole a quantity of unwound sewing cotton (worth about £3) about four yards of broad cloth, and two or three yards of lavender-coloured striped kerseymere, from the premises of Mr Wafforn, tailor, Cank Street, in the following daring manner:
About half-past nine o’clock one of Mr W’s sons (John) was walking along Cank Street, when finding the shop door was not locked, he walked in, and, on receiving no answer to his shouts, went up stairs and sat down in one of the rooms. While there, he saw two men come down stairs from the attic, one of whom asked him if Mr Wafforn was at home. To this young Wafforn replied “No Sir”, “Are the apprentices come back, then?” “No Sir.” “Oh! We’ll call again in the morning then.” was the rejoinder, and away they went. The boy looked out of the window but could not see which way they went. After staying a short time, and finding that neither his father, nor any of the apprentices returned, he went to the dwelling house in Duke Street, but before he went into the house he met one of the apprentices, to whom he mentioned the circumstance. The latter, remarking that they had left off work long before and locked the door, and it was strange two men should have been found in the house, immediately informed him master who of course, was much alarmed, knowing that if the thieves had carried off his money he was a ruined man, Mr W being treasurer to a benefit society. On reaching the house in Cank Street, his fears greatly increased when he found his drawers had been forced and his papers tossed about, but his alarm was suddenly turned to joy when he perceived the rogue had missed his cash (about £200), it being very clear that the boy disturbed them before they had discovered the money. The boy again saw the same men, about a quarter of an hour afterwards (before he knew his father had been robbed) near the door in Cank Street, and noticed that one of them had a flag basket in his hand; but we are sorry to state that they have not yet been apprehended.

William was very lucky to have not lost more – especially the money for the benefit society which would have been a major blow and his young son John who would have been about 12, was also lucky that the thieves were not violent.

In the 1841 Pigot’s Directory William is listed at Cank Street, Leicester as a Tailor, but on the 1841 census he is living at Free School Lane, Leicester so between 1839 and 1840 the family had moved from Duke Street to Free School Lane but retained the business premises in Cank Street for some time. In the Leicester Mercury on 3rd Oct 1840 his name is mentioned about paying less rent for his property on Free School Lane than it was worth paying £8 rather than £10. In 1841 William was living with his wife Sarah and their children William, John and Lavinia along with an apprentice Tailor named James Conduit.

William then next appears on the 1851 census – living at 22 Wilton Street, Leicester and still working as a Tailor. However on this record he is a lodger in the house of a woman named Ann Hartless. Ann was a Dressmaker, unmarried aged 47. William is noted as being unmarried but with him also lodging at Ann’s home was his son George, also working as a Tailor. William’s wife Sarah was down as a lodger at Applegate Street, Leicester as a Worsted Shirt maker in the household of her married daughter Lavinia Bland. Had Sarah and William separated?

The next record involving William was a passenger list, his arrival aboard the Phoenix in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA on 28th October 1852 and he wasn’t alone – Ann Hartless also travelled with him…

The arrival record for William Wafforne (name written more like Wagton) and Ann Hartless in 1852 from Ancestry

William’s time in America was short however as there was a death notice published in the Leicester Chronicle on 23rd July 1853 stating William had died of Cholera on 21st June that year in New Orleans aged 66. However a death notice from an American paper states he died on the 20th June aged 65 of Chronic Diarrhoea. His entry on FindaGrave states he died of Yellow Fever (that his name was on a list of people with yellow fever) on 20th June aged 65 and buried at Cypress Grove Cemetery No. 2 in New Orleans. In any case we can assume his death was not pleasant and likely down to contracting some kind of virus or disease, which these days would be very treatable and survivable.

Clipping from the Leicester Mercury 23 July 1853 from Findmypast

After William’s death there was some issues relating to the benefit society that he at one point was treasurer of. From newspaper articles in 1855 it seems that William was a member of the Leicester Widows and Orphans charity who helped pay for funerals and other charitable donations. His son George who was one of his executors had challenged the society over an amount of £100 that it was understood his father’s executors were due from the society upon the death of a member. It unfolded that sometime in the August of 1852 William Wafforne had left Leicester and had gone to Lancashire and wasn’t sure whether or not he would stay in Lancashire or go to America. After a couple of weeks he had then decided to go to America – arriving in October as is corroborated by the passenger list. His son George had apparently informed the secretary of the society that his father had left the country and that George’s brother in law Thomas Bland who had been recently making the society payments on William’s behalf would cease to make those payments and George asked to be provided with details of any final monies due so they could be settled but heard nothing more.

Apparently the secretary had not passed on any of this information and had still tried to obtain fees and when a funeral due had not been paid which was expected to have been done by William Wafforne, he was then noted to be an excluded member of the society and therefore no longer eligible for the £100 payment. The magistrates involved decided that the society and indeed the Wafforne family/executors had taken too long to bring the matter to their attention – given that William had left the country in 1852 and died in 1853 and the case was only now being brought to them at the start of 1855. They suggested that the society should look to ask it’s members for a contribution towards a sum for the executors given that William Wafforne had been a subscriber since the society’s inception in 1815. The case was apparently settled as such, but it seems George Wafforne was not happy, and felt he had not been given enough money as there were mentions of the situation later that year in October. Inside the Widows and Orphan’s Society itself they believed they could not provide the £100 sum as per the rules given the default of the funeral payment and insisted that they had done the right thing by the society and that the members had contributed a considerable sum from their own pockets to George and the executors.

There seems to be no further mention of the issue, so presumably George backed down and accepted the decision. The situation seems like there was fault on both sides, the error of the secretary of the society for not processing the changes in the related administration given the changes William’s family had advised them of, and also of George and the executors for not bringing the situation up sooner to perhaps have had the case more thoroughly reviewed.

William’s widow Sarah died on 16th January 1857 at Russell Street, Leicester and was noted as being the widow of William Wafforne a Master Tailor. Her cause of death was Paralysis – another term for a stroke, and the informant of her death was her son George Wafforne of 1 Spencer’s Yard, Harvey Lane, Leicester. A death notice in the local paper also referred to her as William’s widow. I guess technically she was as she and William didn’t divorce, despite him seemingly having left her for Ann Hartless. I have found a later reference to Ann marrying a John Lang in Mount Barker, South Australia in 1857. Her name is listed as Ann Hartless Wafforne Harley. So it appears she may have married a man with a surname Harley at some point between William Wafforne’s death and her marriage to John Lang, or indeed just took up the name like she seemingly had with William’s surname – as I have not found a marriage record for them, she was baptised as Ann Hartless so the Harley name is not related to being a maiden name. Ann died in 1879 in Blakiston, South Australia. Her entry on FindaGrave gives her name as Ann Wafforne Lang.

William Wafforne b. 1786 Family Tree

The rest of the Wafforne family line will be covered off in my second post.

4 thoughts on “The Wafforne Family – Part One

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