The Wilson Ancestors

The Wilsons

This page tells the story of the Wilson line of the family. If you want to see a detailed diagram of the Wilson ancestors, then click Wilson Tree. This will open in a new tab so that you can flip between this page and the diagram.

These are the ancestors on the paternal line of Grandad Dewis Wilson. The Wilson surname is the 7th most common surname in the UK. It is derived from ‘son of William’ and as there were lots of Williams in Medieval times, the name does not have a single place of origin.

The Wilsons in our family lived most of the time in Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire. The earliest reference I have found to the Wilson ancestors was in 1748, so the story starts from there.

Thomas and Jane Wilson

The earliest reference was when Thomas and Jane Wilson. had their son Joseph christened at St Mary’s church, Sutton-in-Ashfield in 1748. This was just after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the battle of Culloden which had put an end to any threat of invasion from Scotland. Although he was christened in Sutton, it does not mean they lived in Sutton, as St Mary’s was also the parish church for Huthwaite. The later census records show the Wilsons living in Huthwaite, so it is likely that Thomas and Jane lived there. The Wilsons continued to live in Huthwaite until my grandfather moved to Sutton, following his marriage in 1924. I have not been able to find any other details about Thomas and Jane.

Joseph Wilson and Charlotte Berry

Joseph was a son of Thomas and Jane and was christened in 1748. He then married Charlotte Berry on 4 Feb 1783. They had nine children. Charlotte died in 1804 and Joseph died in 1829. I have not been able to find Charlotte’s christening.

Matthew Wilson and Sarah Mathers

Matthew was a son of Joseph and Charlotte and was born in Huthwaite in 1800. He married Sarah Mathers on 19 Nov 1826. Sarah was born in Blackwell Derbyshire in 1804 which is about two miles west of Huthwaite. Sarah was the illegitimate daughter of Ann Mathers. Ann originally came from Shirland Derbyshire which is five miles west of Huthwaite. Ann did get married two years later to Richard Chapman, but I don’t know if he was the father of Sarah.

Matthew was the first of the Wilsons to appear in a census in 1841 showing he was a coal miner. He probably worked at the Hucknall Colliery which was on the outskirts of Huthwaite. The Wilsons would continue to be coal miners right up to Grandad Wilson. I have created a separate page with more information about coal mining.

Matthew and Sarah had 10 children. One of their sons was christened with the name Dewis. Subsequent generations of Wilsons have used this unusual Christian name. I have given more detail about this on the page about Grandad and Grandma Wilson.

Matthew died in 1873 and Sarah died in 1879

Joseph Wilson and Esther Ashley

Joseph was a son of Matthew and Sarah and was born in Huthwaite in 1828. He married Esther Ashley in 1849. Esther was born in Huthwaite in 1833. I have written a section about her family at the bottom of this page.

Joseph Wilson also became a coal miner. Joseph seems to have escaped both Huthwaite and mining at some point in his life. In the 1851 census he was working in Huthwaite as a miner and in 1858, his son Joseph was also born in Huthwaite. But by the 1861 census he was living in Shireoaks near Worksop, still as a miner.

In 1859, one of the two seams being worked in the Old Hucknall Colliery was abandoned and a few years later the colliery closed down. So, he may have needed to move to find work if the colliery was winding down. Sometime between 1866 and 1870, he moved again, this time to Wales. This did confuse me for a while until I realised it was not the country Wales, but a small village in South Yorkshire called Wales.

There is a wonderful story where a coach full of Belgium football fans were coming for a Wales v Belgium match. The driver had just put Wales in the sat-nav and they ended up in this village of Wales, when they were meant to be in Welsh Wales.

The next surprise was in the 1871 census where I found Joseph was now working as a grocer. This was confirmed in the Whites 1879 directory where he is listed as a grocer and draper. I did find one reference which suggested that he lived at 99 Wales Road. If the current house numbering is still the same, then no. 99 is still a shop, it is currently a Lloyds Pharmacy. On the right is a photograph of a grocer’s shop in Wales. Could this be the one that belonged to Joseph?

Some of his children worked in the shop before they married, but went their own way after they married. None of them seemed to want to take over the shop because in 1908, he advertised in the Sheffield Independent that the shop was to rent or buy. I guess this is when he retired.

grocer's shop in village of Wales
Grocers in Wales

One of his sons, George, continued to live in Wales. In the 1901 census, he is shown as a Carriage Proprietor. He was still alive and living in Wales when the 1939 registration was carried out. I don’t know if there are any of his descendants still living there.

Some of Joseph’s children didn’t move to Wales with him but stayed in Huthwaite, in particular his son Dewis. Dewis obviously kept in touch with his father, as one of his daughters was born in Wales.

Joseph died in 1912 and Esther died in 1893.

Dewis Wilson and Francis White

Dewis was a son of Joseph and Esther and was born in Huthwaite in 1850. He stayed in Huthwaite when his parents moved. He married Francis White in 1871. Francis was born in Skegby in 1854, although her family originally came from Tibshelf. They had six children. Dewis also continued the family tradition of being a coal miner.

Dewis got into trouble with the school attendance officer in 1882 when he was charged with sending his children irregularly to school and fined five shillings. In 1880, the government had made school attendance compulsory from ages five to 10. I wonder if mining families didn’t see the advantage of education as they expected the boys to follow the family tradition of working in the mines.

The census records show that it was usual for the Wilsons to become miners as soon as they left school. One of Dewis’ uncles is shown in the 1851 census as working as a miner at the age of 12 and another uncle in the 1861 census is working as a miner at the age of 10. They also seemed to marry daughters of miners. Dewis married the girl next door, Francis White whose father Aaron and grandfather Christopher were both miners. It looks as though mining took its toll on Dewis as he is shown in the 1911 census as invalided at the age of 60.

The Wilson’s wives often don’t have any occupation shown in the census. This is probably because it was usual for them to become full time housewives, looking after the house and children and making sure there was a dinner ready for their husbands when they arrived home from work. Sometimes they do quote an occupation which was usually sewing related. In one census, Dewis’ mother is shown as a dressmaker and his aunt is shown as seamer of hose.

Dewis died in 1931 and Esther died in 1930.

Joseph Wilson and Harriett Bettison

Joseph was a son of Dewis and Francis and was born in Huthwaite on 24 Feb 1874. He married Harriett Bettison in 1895. He was also a miner and is shown in the 1891 census as working in the mine at the age of 14. At some point, he moved from Huthwaite to Sutton.

As I have already mentioned on grandad Wilson’s page, six of their 10 children died in childhood. Harriett died in 1913 and Joseph died in 1958.

These are the parents of grandad Dewis Wilson so I have come to the end of the Wilson ancestors.

Joseph Wilson
Joseph Wilson


This is some background information about Huthwaite where they lived. Huthwaite is derived from ‘haugr’ an Old Norse word for a hill and ‘thwaite’ means a clearing, so literally, a clearing on a hill.

Huthwaite was originally called Hucknall-under-Huthwaite or just Hucknall Huthwaite and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Hockenhale Houthweit’. It was renamed to just Huthwaite in 1907. Until the early 1800s, it was a just a small rural hamlet. The main occupation was framework knitting. Then the population started to grow with the opening of Hucknall Colliery (also known as Mellor’s Colliery), a drift mine at the bottom of Blackwell Road. It soon acquired the name Dirty Hucknall.

In an 1832 directory it gives the population as 929. It was described as follows – ‘It is situated on a lofty declivity and has an extensive colliery, many framework knitters and two chapels‘.

The colliery closed in the 1860s, but then the New Hucknall Colliery opened in Huthwaite in 1877. Later, the main industry in the town became the manufacture of hosiery products, especially with the opening of the CWS factory in 1907. By the 1911 census, the population had risen to over 5,000. A local historian Everard Guilford said of Huthwaite ‘There are few more depressingly sordid places in the country’.

There is more information about Huthwaite on the Huthwaite Online website
There is also a website with some photographs of Huthwaite

Huthwaite Map 1835
Huthwaite Map 1835 showing location of Old Hucknall Coiilery

The Ashleys

Esther Ashley married the Joseph Wilson who moved to Wales. Both her father and grandfather were called Caleb. I have found a few bits of information about them.

Caleb Ashley Jnr

Caleb Jnr was born in Blackwell in 1808 and worked as a coal miner.

The newspaper report on the right records Caleb taking on extra responsibilities because he is being sworn in as a parish constable for Huthwaite on 4th April 1861.

newspaper report Caleb Ashley

Before there was an organised police force, parish constables were the main law enforcement officers for a parish. They had their origins in the medieval period. The post was usually unpaid and done in addition to the person’s usual day job. They were responsible for keeping order, arresting and sometimes carrying out punishments. Local people were duty bound to help the Constable if he requested it. If there were serious problems, they could call in the army.

The County Police Act 1839 changed all this giving counties the opportunity to establish full-time police forces. The Nottinghamshire Constabulary was established in 1840 and from then on, law enforcement was the responsibility of this full time police force.

There was also another act in 1831. This act included provisions allowing local authorities to appoint Special Constables for the purpose of preserving the Peace should they consider existing police numbers inadequate for doing so. I presume this swearing in of parish constables in 1861 was the use of this act to give the police additional local support.

Caleb Ashley Snr

Caleb Ashley Snr was born in Morton Derbyshire in 1784 and then moved to Newton Derbyshire . He was a framework knitter.

On the right is a newspaper report from 2nd March 1832. This is a report of him being discharged from debtors prison after 8 months.

The early 1800s were a difficult time for framework knitters with many of them living in poverty. Caleb seems to be an example of this poverty. I have created a separate page with more information about framework knitting.

As a result of him not being able to pay his debt, he finished up in prison. The £12 9s 3d he owed is equivalent to about £1400 in 2021.

newspaper report Caleb Ashley

It says ‘the society’ had offered to pay this, but I have not been able to identify which specific society had offered. In the end it seems the parish had paid the debt so that he could be discharged. This was before the 1834 Poor Law which saw the setting up of workhouses. Up to then, it was the parish that was responsible for aiding the poor.