John Hartill

John Hartill was a relatively wealthy merchant and tradesman in Dudley (c1735-1812). It is not clear when and where he was born, but there is good reason to believe he is descended from one of the many Hartill families of nearby Willenhall.

He would appear to have had a brother called Joseph. It was probably the marriage of this brother to Mabel Mason in Dudley in 1759 that brought John first to Dudley. The Masons were thread and silk merchants and were well connected to the leading burghers of Dudley. Mabel’s brother was Benjamin Mason a Silk mercer in London and her sister Sarah was married to William Dudley, daughter of Thomas Dudley, the mayor of Dudley in 1765.

John Hartill himself married Margery Cartwright on 27 Dec 1761. Little is known about Margery but the Vicar of Dudley was a Joseph Cartwright and the Rev Joseph Cartwright appears on a few documents alongside Joseph Hartill still extant in the Dudley archives. It is reasonable to presume the families were connected in some way.

Joseph’s career and wealth clearly outstripped that of his brother John, but, having himself become mayor of Dudley in 1788, Joseph died in 1789. His will of this date indicated the extent of his wealth, amounting to several thousand pounds in total. He left most of his business interest to his wife Mabel and his good friend Joseph Wainwright, surgeon. Joseph Wainwright again appears in numerous documents in the Dudley archives alongside a close circle of business colleagues.

Joseph Hartill mentions three unmarried daughters in his will, Betty, Ann and Hannah. He may have had older children who had already been provided for.

Betty Hartill married Richard Powell, plumber and glazier in 1790. Richard Powell appears as one of the executors of John Hartill’s will of 1812, alongside his surviving son Joseph.

St Thomas Dudley lists the children of John and Margery Hartill as Sarah (b 1763), William (b 1766), Ann (b 1768) and Joseph (b 1772)

The will of “John Hartil, Broker of Dudley” of 1812 is a key document in sorting out some facts about his life.

First he mentions his sister-in-law Elizabeth Pitt to whom he leaves £100. This indicates that John Hartill remarried on 13 Aug 1802 at St Martin’s Birmingham to Charlotte Pitt. John Hartill was in his late sixties or early seventies and his bride must have been a lot younger. They had a child Charlotte, baptized in Harborne 1805. All three are buried under one memorial slab in St Thomas Dudley. The infant Charlotte died in 1808, the second wife Charlotte in 1809 and John Hartill himself in 1812.

The witnesses to the wedding in 1802 were Moses Bird and Eleanor Bird. Moses Bird was a locksmith and had married Esther Hartill in 1779. Esther Hartill could be John’s younger sister or perhaps more likely a niece, an older daughter of his brother Joseph.

Whilst the baptisms of the children of John Hartill are all registered in St Thomas, none of Joseph’s children appear there – perhaps indicating some non-conformity. Both the Bird and Mason family would appear to have non-conformism strands in their respective family trees.

The 1791 Universal British directory of tradesmen in Dudley lists a number of Hartills. Mabel Hartill is there as a thread dealer, although we know from an entry in the London Gazette that she handed over control of much of her deceased husband’s business interests to her sister Sarah Dudley and brother Benjamin Mason in that same year. There is a possibility that the John Hartill listed there as a breeches maker is our John Hartill. Other Masons in Dudley were engaged in the clothing trade and breeches makers amongst them. A document in 1806 is the first that identifies John Hartill specifically as “a broker” – perhaps reflecting the accumulation of business contacts and dealings over a long life time.

John Hartills will of 1812 only mentions two of his children Ann Cooke, wife of James Cooke and his son Joseph, who is the joint executor together with his niece’s husband Richard Powell. Ann Hartill would have married James Cooke in Clent in 1787. Joseph married Ann Pitt in Halesowen in 1800 two years before his father married another Pitt in Birmingham.

It is not clear what happened to John’s other children. From about 1760 a number of other Hartill’s appear in Dudley and it is still difficult to entangle. Some further research into non-conformist records might shed further light.


  • Dudley Record Office DSCAM/3/197/1 and DSCAM/3/260/1
  • The Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce, and …, Volume 2