The Gillyatt family in my line is almost legendary if only because of the great difficulty I had in tracking the family down. Great cousin Phyllis the daughter of Annie Eliza and Joseph Atkinson always talked about the Gillyatts and the Kelseys with affection and authority and I took almost everything that she told me as the truth.  As far as she knew it that’s what it was.  However as I became more and more involved with the pursuit and genealogical records became more available I was able to track the Gillyatts down.

The starting point was my great grandmother Mary Gillyatt.  Phyllis said that she and her grandmother Mary Gillyatt regularly visited relatives in the village of Waddington in Lincolnshire.  The Gillyatts she visited were “landed” and involved in cattle hides and skins and Phyllis always spoke of them with pride and claimed the close relationship of Mary with them but she could never explain the connection.  Part of the legend was Susannah Gillyatt who everyone knew had drowned in the Sheffield Flood of 1863.

This is the story.  In 1815 John Marshall and his wife Ann had a daughter called Susannah in the village of Glentham in Lincolnshire.  John was listed as an Agricultural Labourer an expression that covered most work carried out on the farmlands of that time.  In the nearby village of Kirton-in-Lindsey John Gillyatt also an Agricultural Labourer was born to Thomas (1771) and Mary Gillyatt (nee Smith 1791) who had at least two other children William (1818) and Dinah (1828).  Though it is clear from both legend and the records, his family had strong connections with the landed gentry of the time.  During the early 1830s Susannah married John Gillyatt in Kirton-in-Lindsey and in 1835 they had a daughter whom they named Maria.  John and Susannah had two other children, Elizabeth (1830) and Benjamin (1839)

Family folk-lore says that Susannah left her husband probably in the early 1850s though there are no records to support that.  Maria, though, does turn up in various census records in Lincolnshire.  In 1841 she is staying with her Great-Grand Parents Thomas and Mary Gillyatt in Kirton-in-Lindsey; Thomas was seventy years old and Mary fifty.  Maria’s father John was with her but there’s no sign of Susannah.  By 1851 Maria was seventeen years old and working as a servant with the Whiteley family in East Butterwick about 11 miles from Kirton on the Messingham road.  She is listed as an unmarried visitor. 

In 1853 however, Maria gives birth to an illegitimate son called John.  The birth was registered in Kirton-in-Lindsey.  I suspect she was living with her mother Susannah in Kirton up to that year and together, with baby John and Susannah’s sister-in-law Dinah (1828) they left to find work in Sheffield.  I know of no reason why they should have moved to Sheffield other than that industry was taking off in the bigger townships and work was probably more readily available.  Agricultural work was also on the decline because of improvements in farming methods.

The next positive fix on their movements was in 1856 when another illegitimate child was born, my Great-Grand Mother Mary Gillyatt.  She was born on April 1st in a house at 10 George Lane in Sheffield.  A third illegitimate child was born to Maria in 1859, another girl whom she called Elizabeth.

In 1861 Susannah is found living in Fenton villa Gardens in Sheffield with her daughter Elizabeth and husband Charles Spencer.  They had five children.

In 1861 Maria was living on Hallam Lane in Sheffield with her two daughters Mary and Elizabeth Gillyatt.    John was staying with his Great Grand parents in Low Fields Coleby, Lincolnshire.  At this time Maria is listed as a Tailoress, a respectable profession at that time giving an indication of the potential quality of this person.    Also living with Maria in Hallam Lane was a lodger Richard Perks; he was born in 1800 in the Birmingham area he was therefore already sixty one by this time.  His trade was a German Silver Filer.  It’s not known how long he had been living with Maria but in 1861 she and Perks were married in Sheffield.  I wonder if this was Maria’s attempts to give her children a father or could it be that Perks was their father anyway.  In 1866 Richard Perks died.

In the devastating floods in Sheffield in 1863 Susannah was drowned.  The record says she was living at Neepsend Gardens that is an indication of the ferocity of the floods that started as far away as Loxley in the north.  

The census records of 1871 give Maria living at 3 Court Young Street, a place just off The Moor heading south out of Sheffield.  Her name then was Maria Perks and with her was her daughter Mary who had been given Perks as her temporary surname and another son called Fredrick Perks who had been born in 1865.

Not far away just across the moors on Williams Street lived 18 years old Frank Crookes.  He had recently left his parent’s home in the centre of Sheffield on Silver Street Head where they lived with their several ailing children.  All the Crookes men as a rule worked in the factories grinding agricultural tools such as scythes and cutters.  It was a deadly occupation due to the muck and dust deposited from the grinding machines that was breathed in by the workers.  The three brothers Frank, Herman and Malin were all to die young from pneumoconiosis, a disease of the lungs caused by inhaling mineral or metallic dust over a long period.  Mary and Frank met and were married at the Parish Church St Peters in Sheffield; it was later to become the Cathedral.  This was not only the coming together of Mary and Frank but also of the Gillyatt and Crookes families.

Mary and Frank had five children; Jessie Ann, Frank, Malin, Fred and Annie-Liza.  Mary maintained her links with Lincolnshire through her mother Maria and regularly took her children visiting her family.  Malin was a particular favourite and he was a regular visitor, as was Phyllis Atkinson, the daughter of Annie-Liza.

In the 1891 census Maria Perks (Gillyatt) is married to Alfred Lee.

In 1915 Malin, the son of Mary Gillyatt, married Ada Gillyatt Mary’s cousin.  They had met during Malin’s frequent visits to Waddington with his mother.  Ada was born in 1876.  The first child of Malin and Ada was Minnie who was born in 1908, their second child was Eleanor born in 1917 and died two years later.  Minnie married Leslie Clarke and lived in Lincolnshire until her death in 1997.

Maria Lee (Gillyatt) died in 1898 at the age of 63.  I had regarded her as the backbone of this area of the family’s history.  Phyllis had always spoken of Maria Lee as Grandma Lee and described her as if she knew her but in fact she was dead before Phyllis was born in 1908.  She finally died in 2000 in a care home.  I last saw her at Ringstead Avenue shortly before that when her mind had deserted her.  Mary Crookes (nee Gillyatt) was the mother of five children, six if I include a daughter Winifred who died in infancy, the five produced twenty two grandchildren and who knows how many great grandchildren.  The most prolific were my grandparents Frank and Lily Crookes who had twelve children.  Mary died at the age of seventy-three in 1929.


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