George Edwin Wilson (1833 – 1915)

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   1. His childhood

George Edwin Wilson, the son of Jacob Wilson (1785 – 1865) and Sarah Green (1795 – ?), was my husband’s great-great-grandfather. He was born on 6 February 1833 at Kinver (previously spelled Kinfare) in the most southern tip of Staffordshire, England in the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland. His christening was conducted on 30 June 1833 by Rev R. Foley at St Peter’s Church at Kinver. George Edwin Wilson was self-educated and possibly also sponsored by the church as his father, Jacob Wilson was of the poorer working class and did not have the means to pay for his son’s education. George Edwin was a fine Classical scholar and received his theological training from 1857 to 1865 at Trinity College at Dublin in Ireland where he completed two degrees, his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1860 and Master of Arts degree in 1865 .1-7

George lived during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) who ruled from 1837 until her death. The Victorian era saw the expansion of the British Empire through the colonization of Africa, Australia, Canada, Middle East and Asia. It was generally a time of peace and prosperity. This time period is often referred to as Britain’s ‘golden age’, an era of peace and prosperity, industrial, engineering and technological revolution, as well as medical discoveries and religious revival. Better living conditions and improved medical and schooling systems emerged. Living and health standards improved. Some large segments of Victorian English society, particularly among the middle-class, were increasing both in number and power. Social inequality, however, continued to exist.  Numerous poorer working class families barely survived and many of the middle class had to compete for jobs or even lose them due to the exploding population and influx of immigrants.8,9

   2. His wife

2.1 Unknown

George Wilson and his first wife arrived in 1861 at South Crosland to assist Rev George Hough (1797 – 1879) as curate at Holy Trinity Church. The couple leased Croft House on the edge of Netherton, which previously belonged to Robert Wrigley (1784 – 1843), great-uncle of his second wife. His wife died soon after their arrival and was buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, South Crosland. They had no children. Soon thereafter, he became vicar at Linthwaite, but continued to live at Croft House. Even after his second marriage in 1864, he and his second wife continued to live at Croft House until 1868, when he transfered to St John’s Church, Huddersfield to take over the reigns as vicar.4

2.2 Cecilia Wrigley

Reverend George Edwin Wilson, aged 31, then vicar at Linthwaite, married 24 year-old Cecilia Wrigley on 19 October 1864 at Holy Trinity Church, South Crosland, West Riding, Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire). The matrimonial ceremony was conducted by Cecilia’s uncle Reverend James Spurrell, with the assistance of Reverend George Hough, incumbent of the local church who served there for 50 years. The announcement of their marriage appeared in the newspaper, Huddersfield Chronicle, on 22 October 1864. They met while Rev Wilson was a Curate under Rev Hough at the local Parish of South Crosland.7,10-12

Cecilia was the second child and only daughter of Hannah Spurrell (1811 – ca 1872) and Joseph Wrigley II (1811 – 1877). Joseph was a wealthy weaving mill owner and woollen manufacturer who lived at Netherton Hall, Netherton, a small village between Linthwaite and Almondbury in Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire), England. Thirteen years after his daughter’s wedding at Holy Trinity Church, Joseph Wrigley was buried in its churchyard.1,2,4,10  Cecilia was born on 3 August 1840 at Netherton, where she also grew up. She attended the school of Rev George Hough, vicar at Holy Trinity Church, South Crosland. Cecilia died on 14 November 1920.2,4 She was buried in the same grave plot as her husband in the graveyard at St Peter and St Paul Anglican Church of England, Great Missenden. Cecilia had two brothers: Joseph (1839 – 1926) and Norman (1842 – 1906).1,2,4,13 READ MORE on the Wrigleys.3. His career

While still in training, George Edwin Wilson was ordained as a Deacon in 1861 and assisted as a curate (a member of the clergy engaged as assistant to a vicar, rector or parish priest) during 1861 until some time in 1864 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, South Crosland, a small village just south of Linthwaite and Almondbury in Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire) England. Rev George Hough (pronounced “Huff”) (1797 – 1879), first vicar at the Holy Trinity Church who served for for 50 years from 1829 to 1879, must have made a significant impact on George Wilson, as one of his sons was named after Rev Hough. In 1864, George Edwin Wilson was appointed Vicar at Linthwaite and laboured there until 1868. George and Cecilia’s first three children Edith, Herbert and Arthur were born here.4,12,14-18

In 1868, he transferred to St John’s Church of England at Huddersfield, Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire) and ministered there for 32 years until 1890. The vicarage had sweeping lawns and a fine outlook onto the adjacent moors.4,14,19 St John’s Church, a typical Gothic-Revival Church, was designed by William Butterfield on behalf of Sir John William Ramsden (1831-1914) who built the church in memory of his father, Sir John Ramsden (1755-1839). The builder was Joseph Kaye (1779-1858) who was already in his 80s. He was selected being a master at his profession who demanded of his workforce the highest standard of workmanship.  The foundation stone was laid in 1851. The building was completed and consecrated in 1853 with about 4000 people attending the occasion.20Lucy, Helen, Hannah, George, Ernest, James, Hilda and Frank were all born at Huddersfield. There the big family lived happily in the large, rambling vicarage with a very pleasant garden surrounded by large acres of green fields. George was a very involved father and taught his sons and daughters several languages and elementary mathematics. He also taught his sons how to play cricket, tennis and football. The children regularly visited their wealthy grandparents, Joseph and Hannah Wrigley at Netherton. The family also spent most of their summers in Merionethshire (now Caernarfonshire & Gwynedd) in Wales where the children visited ancient villages, castles and churches. They scaled the heights of Caderidris (the traditional headquarters of King Arthur) and explored abandoned gold mines, only to find large nuggets of manganese which the children pretended to be gold, of course. For Rev George, his family came first. Being available to all his children was important to him. That was the main reason why he declined the nomination for Bishop of Leeds in 1890, and rather accepted an appointment as vicar to the small parish of St Peter and St Paul Church, an ancient little church in the village of Great Missenden, about 60 km northwest of London. He laboured there for 24 years until his death and was responsible for the restoration and enlargement of the church.14,21,22As a trained vicar employed at local parishes, Rev George Wilson and his family were able to have a decent middle-class life in the mid-Victorian era in England. They were highly regarded in their community and Rev George Wilson treasured family and kept in contact with relatives.

On one occasion, Reverend Charles Henry Spurrell (1855 – 1925) came to preach at St Peter and St Paul Church, presumably at the the invitation of Reverend George Edwin Wilson. On 21 February 1914, the Bucks Herald Newspaper reported that Spurrell had preached the previous Sunday at Great Missenden. Charles was the first cousin once removed of George Wilson. Their grandfathers, Charles Spurrell and James Spurrell respectively, were brothers.10

4. His death

George Erwin and Cecilia Wilson were married for 51 years when he died at the age of 82 on 18 May 1915 at Great Missenden. He was buried at site #485421 in the graveyard of St Peter and St Paul Church where he was the local minister at that time. His widow, Cecilia was buried in the same gravesite five years later.1,2,4,13,14 In the same graveyard is also the grave of renowned author Roald Dahl.23Roald Dahl (1916 – 1990) was a British novelist, poet and short story writer. His children books in particular, were very popular and many have been adapted into movies. Some well-known works include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine. Roald lived in Great Missenden from 1954 until his death on 23 November 1990. Although buried in the church cemetery, Dahl was not a church goer or believer of Christian doctrine.23,24

   5. His children

George and Cecilia Wilson had eleven children – six sons and five daughters. They were: Edith Cecilia (1865 – ?), Herbert Wrigley (1866 – 1940), Arthur Joseph (1868 – 1931), Lucy (1870 – 1923), Helen Mary (1871 – 1929), Hannah Spurrell (1873 – >1912), George Hough (1875 – 1950), Frederick Ernest (1876 – 1955), James Bromley (1878 – 1968), Emilie Hilda (1880 – 1964) and Francis Norman (1882 – ca 1934).1,2,4,7Their children received good schooling. Being a fine scholar himself with a great aptitude for teaching, Rev George Wilson taught all his children elementary Mathematics, Greek, Latin and some Hebrew. The family also had a German governess who taught them German and in their younger years the children spoke German as often as they did English.14 Four of the six brothers eventually became journalists.

5.1 Edith Cecilia

She was born in 1865 at Linthwaite, West Riding, Yorkshire, England. Her sister-in-law, Sarah “Sybil” Hearn, married to George Hough Wilson, remembered her as a fussy old lady who quarreled constantly with her sister, Hannah. The two sisters lived with their parents and moved with their mother to live with their brother, Herbert after Rev George Edwin Wilson had passed away. Edith never married.4

5.2 Herbert Wrigley

The eldest son, Herbert Wrigley, won a scholarship to Durham School and later attended Oxford University. At that time, Durham School was an independent boarding and day school for boys at Durham, in the County of Durham, North East England. The school was founded in 1414 by Thomas Langley, the Bishop of Durham and was awarded royal foundation by King Henry VIII in 1541.14,25

Herbert was a bright young man – at the age of 18 years (ca 1884), he submitted his completed designs for battleships and cruisers which were to be propelled by oil fuel to the Naval Admiralty, as he was convinced that this form of fossil fuel would be far more efficient than coal. The Admiralty politely turned his proposals down with a “thank you, but no thanks. We prefer coal.” Herbert became a journalist and well-known naval historian and author who poured his formidable energies into the writing of more than 20 books on naval and military history, including works on World War 2 and the Second Anglo-Boer War, as well as serial journals and headline newspaper articles. At the age of 30 in 1896, Alfred Harmsworth, 1st  Viscount Northcliffe, took him on to help him launch a new, national daily newspaper, the Daily Mail, a London-based newspaper. Herbert laboured there until his death on 12 July 1940, by then holding the position of Chief Leader Writer as well as Assistant Editor of the newspaper.14,26 According to the newspaper’s owner, Lord Northcliffe, Herbert Wilson was the “mental backbone of the newspaper”.27

Herbert never married. He was an intelligent, wealthy, yet very generous man who often assisted his family financially. He himself never owned a car and used the train to get around. He sponsored his 14 year-old nephew, George Herbert Wrigley Wilson, son of his brother George Hough Wilson who resided in Cape Town, South Africa, to continue his schooling at Oundle, Northamptonshire, England. George arrived with his son at Great Missenden one day after their parents’ golden anniversary celebration in 1914 – their ship was delayed because of the outbreak of the war. Herbert also supported his youngest brother, Frank when his business went bankrupt. Their widowed mother and three unmarried sisters, Edith, Nellie and Hannah, also lived with him and they took care of the household and ran the two houses. They lived in a large turreted house at 203 Maida Vale in Elgin Avenue, north of Hyde Park, London and on weekends retreated to Birchfield House in Verulam Road in Hitchin, Herefordshire, 60 km northeast of London. In 1940 at the age of 74 years, Herbert was laid to rest in the cemetery at Hitchin.4

5.3 Arthur Joseph

Arthur Joseph, the second son, was born on 25 March 1868 at Linthwaite, West Riding. Like his elder brother, he also won a scholarship to Durham School where he matriculated in 1886 and then attended Cambridge University where he completed his BA degree in 1889. Thereafter Arthur worked for some time as Assistant Master at Mostyn House School, Parkgate, Cheshire, England, before he moved to Abingdon School at Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. In 1904, he joined the newspaper staff of the Daily Mail in London where he worked until his death on 10 June 1931, when he was 63 years old. He also was Assistant Editor of the Canadian Gazette, but it is uncertain exactly when.14,27

Arthur married Edith NN, a maid who worked for the Wilson family. The marriage, incidentally, was kept a secret and his family thought him to be a bachelor. During the week he lived at his bachelor flat in London and many weekends he spent at home with his parents at Great Missenden, unless he said he had been invited to stay with ‘friends’ in the country. It was only after both his parents had died that he revealed to his siblings that he was a married man with a wife and two daughters, Dorothy and Sylvia. His younger brother, George Hough Wilson, who was visiting from Cape Town in 1930, was the first to meet this secret family.4Margaret Muir, great-niece of Arthur Wilson, gives the following explanation in her Wilson Family Album (1994) as to the most likely reason for the need to secrecy: 45.4 Lucy

She was the first of their children to be born at Huddersfield, in 1870. Lucy was a very attractive woman. She married a barrister called Norman Armitage, in 1906 at the age of 36 years. They were very wealthy, with a beautiful home filled with lovely furniture en decorations. The couple had no children. The 53 year-old Lucy died in 1923.4

5.5 Helen Mary

Helen Mary “Nellie” was the fifth child born in 1871, at Huddersfield. She never married and after her parents died, went with her sisters, Edith and Hannah to live with their brother, Herbert. She loved organising social events such as badminton and tennis games at their weekend home, Birchfield at Hitchin. Nellie also had an keen interest in the Wilson’s ancestry and is said to have traced the family tree back to a poor, humble, working-class charcoal burner in Staffordshire. Seems, though, as if some members of this upper-middle class family didn’t want to hear any of it, as Nellie was told to shut up! Nellie died of cancer at the age of 58 years in 1929.4

5.6 Hannah Spurrell

She was born in 1873 at Huddersfield. She never married and lived with her parents at Great Missenden, and later on in London with her brother, Herbert. Apparently Hannah and Herbert squabbled regularly over windows being open or shut. In the middle of a game of cards or go-bang there would be a cry, “Hannah! You have left a window open”, to be followed by a snort, and “Really, Herbert!” It was a ritual.4

5.7 George Hough

George Hough was the seventh child and named after Rev George Hough of Holy Trinity Church at South Crosland. He completed his schooling at Oundle School in Oundle.4,14  Like his brothers Herbert, Arthur and James, George jr. also became a prominent journalist. He became my husband’s great-grandfather. READ MORE on George Hough Wilson.

5.8 Frederick Ernest

Ernest was born in 1876 at Huddersfield, West Riding, Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire), England. He was also educated at Oundle School. He continued with further studies and became a medical doctor.4,27,28 Ernest had a practice in either Lewisham or Bromley, near London. During the First World War, he served as a medical officer at Halton Royal Air Force training base, situated approximately 10 km north of Great Missenden. Thereafter they lived in Prestwood, a small village 3 km southwest of Great Missenden.4

He married Jane “Jennie” Dawson (1874-1947). The couple had two children, Norman Wrigley (18 October 1906 – 16 September 1983) and Margaret Cecilia “Bunty” (30 October 1913 – ?). Norman became a geologist and worked in Sierra Leone and South Africa (near Klerksdorp). Both Ernest and Jennie were delightful, warm people. Ernest died on 13 August 1955, aged 79 years.4,28,29

5.9 James Bromley

James Bromley “JB” was born on 23 April 1878 at Huddersfield and died on 17 September 1968 at Hitchen.4,30 He wanted to become a doctor like his brother Ernest, but his family’s money had run out and he instead became a journalist. He first worked at the Canadian Gazette, but joined the London-based Daily Express in 1900, when it was launched by Sir Arthur Pearson. At the age of 34 years in 1912, JB became News Editor and held this position until 1940. In 1917, the newspaper was bought for 17 000 pounds by Lord William Maxwell Aitken (1st Baron Beavenbrook). During wartime, Aitken was appointed Minister of Aircraft Production by Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister of Great Britain, and he took JB with him as Director of Public Relations of the Spitfire Fund. When Aitken was moved to the Ministry of Supply, JB was also transferred along with Aitken. After the war, JB continued his work at the Daily Express until his retirement. 4,18,19

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey was JB’s idea and caught on after he posed the question in the newspaper “Shall an unnamed hero be brought from France and buried beneath the Cenotaph?” Although there were others such as Horatio Bottomley who tried to claim fame to the idea, Parliament confirmed that the idea came from J.B. Wilson.4

He married his cousin Ethel Margaret “Effie” Wrigley (10 March 1877 – 13 October 1968), daughter of his uncle Joseph Wrigley, in 1904. Effie was a beautiful woman, even in her old age, and used to wear soft pastel colours such as pink and turquoise. Her oft repeated, shocked exclamation, “Isn’t it awful! caused much amusement among family members. JB and Effie lived in Brunswick Square, Bloomsbury, Borough of Camden, London, but on weekends retreated to Hitchin to Birchfield House which JB jointly rented with his eldest brother, Herbert, for 90 pounds a year, to be used for the enjoyment of the whole family. When JB retired, they moved to Hitchin permanently where both James and Effie died in 1968 within a month of each other, both at the age of 90 years.4The couple had three sons, Harold James (1905 – ?), John Wrigley “Jack” (1908 – ?) and George Thomas Wrigley “Tom” (1911-2001). Both Harold and Tom also became journalists and later News Editors. Jack became the manager of Dyraaba Tea Estate in Ceylon, where he learnt to speak Urdu fluently. After 31 years, he transferred to Egypt becoming Second Secretary in the British Embassy in Cairo, and finally worked in the Treasury Library in London.4

5.10 Emilie Hilde

She was 31 when she married Douglas Bloxham in 1911. Douglas was Surveyer-General in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). They had one child who died at birth. After his retirement, the couple moved from Ceylon to Somerset-West in South Africa, a small town 45 km southwest of Cape Town, where her brother, George Hough Wilson resided. Her husband died in 1945 and Hilda came to live with the widowed George in Rondebosch, Cape Town from 1947 until 1950, when George died. Hilda returned to Great Missenden where she lived as a lodger with a local family. Her great-niece, Margaret Muir, remembers Hilda doing cross-word puzzles while chain-smoking Benson and Hedges cigarettes through an long, elegant cigarette-holder.45.11 Francis Norman

The youngest child of George and Cecilia Wilson was Francis Norman “Frank” and was born in 1882 at Huddersfield.4,31 He was regarded by the family as a “ne’er do well’. Maybe by being the youngest in the family, he was treated more leniently by his parents, with less expected of him, and therefore his laid-back attitude towards life. However, at the age of 32 years in 1914, Frank joined the British Army and fought in a tank brigade during the First World War.4

He went out for a while to stay with his favourite sister, Hilda in Ceylon. He married Margaret Annie “May” Jones in 1915. Three sons were born from their marital union: Herbert Francis (*14 November 1916), John Cecil (*27 January 1922) and Michael Hugh (*7 April 1925). Frank Wilson died young, presumably in 1934. May later married again to Noel Harrison.4,31

Frank partnered with a fiend in a car sales business , but this went bankrupt. He was thereafter supported by his eldest brother, Herbert.4 At what time in his life this initiative backfired, is uncertain.

 

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

REFERENCE 4: The outstanding research work of Margaret Muir of England (great-granddaughter of George and Cecilia Wilson) requires special acknowledgement. Without her intensive research, collection of photos and documentation of facts as well as anecdotes over many years, a significant and invaluable portion of the history of the Wilson family would have been lost. Much gratitude is due to Margaret Muir for graciously granting permission to use her work as reference material for the purpose of this website.

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  1. George Edwin Wilson. http://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/george-edwin-wilson_97448264
  2. Jamison Family Tree Website by Rob Jamison. https://www.myheritage.com/site-family-tree-302515751/jamison
  3. Christening of George Erwin Wilson. England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N8RM-BSM : 10 February 2018, George Edwin Wilson, ); citing Kinfare, Stafford, England, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,040,764
  4. Muir, M. 1994 The Wilson Family Album. Copy made available to me in March 2018 by Bob Hölstrom of Portland, Oregon, USA, with permission granted by Margaret Muir
  5. Kinver. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinver
  6. Dublin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin
  7. The Wrigley Family. 1999 Copy of family notes made available in April 2019 by Simon Wrigley of Tel Aviv, Israel
  8. The Victorian Period. https://faculty.unlv.edu/kirschen/handouts/victorian
  9. Victoria Era. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era
  10. Personal communication and information received electronically in September 2017 from Jonathan Spurrell, great-great-great-grandson of Charles Spurrell, based in United States of America at www.spurrell-genealogy.com
  11. Holy Trinity Church, South Crosland. https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/Holy_Trinity,_South_Crosland
  12. Holy Trinity Church. https://library.hud.ac.uk/files/mylibrary/img/maps/d/0d/a680ac118bd1d061a74e8d7613bbb40d.1949.jpg
  13. Gravestone Photographic Resource. http://www.gravestonephotos.com/public/gravedetails
  14. Wilson, G.H. 1947 Gone down the years. Howard B. Timmins Monarch House: Cape Town
  15. South Crosland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Crosland
  16. Rev George Hough (1797 – 1879). https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/Rev._George_Hough_(1797-1879)
  17. Ahier, P. 1938 The history and topography of South Crosland and Netherton. Part 1. Eli Collins & Co. Ltd., Printers: Holmfirth, England. Copy made available by James Wrigley of Totnes, Devon, England
  18. Linthwaite. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linthwaite
  19. Huddersfield. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huddersfield
  20. St John’s Church, St John’s Road, Huddersfield. https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/St._John’s_Church,_St._John’s_Road,_Huddersfield
  21. Great Missenden. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Missenden
  22. St Peter & St Paul. Parish of Great Missenden with Ballinger and Little Hampden. http://www.missendenchurch.org.uk/stpp_history.php
  23. Roald Dahl. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roald_Dahl
  24. Marris, S. 30 June 2014. Roald Dahl beats Enid Blyton JK Rowling to top children’s writer. Express. Home to Daily and Sunday Express. http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/485681/Roald-pips-Enid-and-JK-as-BFG-of-writers
  25. Durham School. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_School
  26. Herbert Wrigley Wilson. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Wrigley_Wilson
  27. Venn, J. 15 Sep 2011. Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900. Vol 2, p 516. Cambridge University Press. https://books.google.com
  28. Frederick Ernest Wilson (1876 – 1955). https://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/frederick-ernest-wilson_63334216
  29. Family tree notes by Jean Jamison, made available by Katie Taylor of Germany, October 2017
  30. James Bramley Wilson (1878 – 1969). https://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/james-bramley-wilson_54422917
  31. Francis Norman Wilson. http://search.ancestry.com.au

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