Benjamin Willetts

The Willetts family lived in and around Oldbury. It is one of the most repeated names in the Parish Register of St Giles’ Rowley Regis in the 1700’s. One branch, the descendants of Joseph Willetts, butcher,  seems to have accumulated wealth, attested to by a number of wills. Significantly Joseph was married to Amphillis Russell a member of the Russell family of ‘the Portway’ in Rowley Regis.

One of the few direct male grandchildren of Joseph was Benjamin Willetts, similarly a butcher, who died aged 48, buried 27 Mar 1798. It is from his many daughters that we can find a number of marriages into the families discussed on this site.

Benjamin was baptised on 1 Jan 1750 and married twice, first to Nancy (possibly Cooper?) in about 1776 and secondly to Sarah Walker on 22 Oct 1792 in St Peter’s Wolverhanpton.

From his will it is obvious that Sarah was his mistress for a while and bore him three ‘natural’ children including two sons – William and Thomas Walker. His only legitimate son was Samuel Willetts (bap 9 Feb 1781). Nancy Willetts, the first wife is recorded as being buried on 20 Jun 1787 in St Giles.

Samuel was the principal beneficiary of his Uncle Thomas Willetts’ will of 1804 who died without any children of his own and was keen to assist Benjamin’s widow Sarah and her young children. Uncle Thomas amongst other bequests left £300 to the Sunday School of the Methodist Meeting House in Oldbury.

Benjamin’s daughter Hannah married Samuel Clifton on 17 Nov 1808 in St John’s Halesowen – Samuel calls himself as a farmer and butcher and was the son of Job Clifton and brother to Edmund Clifton. Samuel Willetts was the executor of Samuel Clifton’s will probate 1852.

Benjamin’s youngest daughter was Charlotte born posthumously (b 13 Oct 1798). Whilst not mentioned in her father’s will for obvious reasons, she is listed in Uncle Thomas’s will. Charlotte married John Onions Cheshire the eldest son of John Cheshire.

More speculative is the probable marriage of his daughter Sarah, as it has not been possible to locate a baptism for her. She probably married Samuel Nightingale in Tipton on 29 Nov 1804. Samuel Nightingale was yet another butcher and he and Sarah were the parents of Sarah Nightingale the wife of Richard Clifton (m 2 Apr 1829 St John’s Halesowen), the eldest son of Edmund Clifton and therefore the sister in law of William Edmund Downing.

It should be noted that Amphillis Willetts’s branch of the Russell family is descended from the marriage of John Russell and Joanne Ireland in about 1601.  Joanne Ireland was the granddaughter of Edmonde Darby (will 1598) who would therefore appear to be the ancestor of all these members of the Darby, Clifton, Willetts and latterly Downing families.

Sources

  • Parish Registers of St Giles Rowley Regis (BMSGH Transcript)
  • Will of Benjamin Willetts, Probate 15 Oct 1798. Lichfield Record Office
  • Will of Samuel Willetts, Probate 1792, PCC (Father)
  • Will of Thomas Willetts, Probate 12 Jul 1804, PCC  (Uncle)
  • Will of Anthony Willetts, Probate 1810, PCC (Uncle)
  • DE/1/6/158 Dudley Archives, 1819
  • The Gentleman’s Magazine Vol 54 1784 (Ancestral tree of Amphillis Russell)
Last updated on November 28, 2017 by JJ Morgan