John Willing Dolton was born on 18 August 1816 in Brixton, a parish east of Plymouth. He was my great-great-great grandfather. John was the son of Elizabeth Dolton and Joseph Willing, a neighbour of Elizabeth. Joseph and Elizabeth did not marry; both ended up with other people. Two days before his birth Elizabeth had been discharged from her apprenticeship in husbandry for being “guilty of several Misdemeanors, Miscarriages, and Ill-behaviour in his Service, as an Apprentice; and in particular in being with child of a Bastard child”. My jaw dropped when I saw that one of the signatures on her original indenture was a Joseph Willing… It’s a different Joseph Willing, but disconcerting to see.
John himself was indentured into service as “a poor Child, aged ten Years, belonging to your said Parish”. He was apprenticed to a farmer called Matthew Revell in Brixton parish.
In 1838, when he was 21, John married his first wife, Susan/Susanna Gulley, a quarry-man’s daughter in Plymouth. Together they had 3 children: Ann Cook Gully Dolton (1839), John Dolton (1841) and Sarah Jane Dolton (1844). Sadly their time together was cut short as Susan died on 1 September 1845, leaving John to look after 3 children under the age of 6.
He must have found this impossible whilst bringing in money for food and rent as in April 1851 the children were staying with his mother Elizabeth (now married to Nathaniel Ramsen). He was living with his brother-in-law Thomas Gully, Thomas’ wife Ann and family.
John’s second wife Selina Ann Horn was born in Dover, Kent, in 1836. Her father, Joseph Horn, had worked as an agricultural labourer in Plymstock, Devon, in the 1825s, but later became a customs man. Sadly he died before the 6 June 1841 census. My friend Chris has done a lot of work following up leads – perhaps I should spend my British Newspaper Archive credits on checking for accidents…
John and Selina married in 1865, by which time they’d had five children together, which I think is sweet as it shows commitment, or maybe it just shows bowing to community pressure! John is listed at various times as a quarry man and also a labourer, an agricultural labourer and a husbandman, so I guess he would just work at anything which would bring in a wage for his (now two) families.
He and Selina had 10 children together will a range of amazing names:
- Archealeus Joseph Avery Horn Dolton 1857;
- Sarah Ann Horn Dolton 1859;
- Florence Selena Dolton 1860;
- My ancestor William Henry Thorn Dolton [we think the vicar misheard the name Horn] 1862;
- Catherine Amelia Dolton 1865;
- Susan Jane Dolton 1867;
- Mary Elizabeth Dolton 1869;
- Matilda Harriet Dolton 1871;
- Alice Maud Dolton 1873; and
- Ernest Albert Dolton 1876.
It’s interesting that the names are so grand as both John and Selina were illiterate and I wonder where they got inspiration for some of those names. Florence was born after the [sadly, first] Crimean War and obviously likely to be inspired by Florence Nightingale but the rest… Archealeous – wow! I wonder if names were so important to John as his was so significant to him – proof of his birth father always had to be given. Selina’s parents too chose some flamboyant names for their children; Selina has a brother called Hercules, which I think is brilliant.
They lived at various times around what is now Plymouth in East Stonehouse, Higher Hooe, Plympton St Mary, Lower Hooe and Ugborough, perhaps so John could be where the work was.
John died in 1895 in Plymouth. Selina outlived him and died in on Boxing Day in 1918 at the age of 81 from senile decay.
Thanks to Chris for sharing John and Elizabeth’s fascinating apprentice documents with me. Thanks also to Andrew for the lovely photo of Brixton Church.
© Text copyright Lynne Black 24 April 2014
Content first published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/john-dolton/