John Gillett aka Russell [564]
Anne [1952]
Thomas Gillett aka Russell [787]
Anne Wesson [1730]

William Gillett [786]


Family Links

1. Ann(?) [1729]

William Gillett [786]

  • Christened: 1702, Ticehurst, Kent
  • Marriage (1): Ann(?) [1729]
  • Died: 4 Feb 1732 aged 30

bullet  General Notes:

The surname Gillett or Russell existed in Ticehurst, Ewhurst and Burwash parish registers throughout the 1600s. However, not all of the bearers of this alias style surname perpetuated it's use in this form. One of these was a Richard Gillett who married Alice Hesward in Ticehurst in 1706 but had clearly been baptized as Richard Gillett or Russell in 1682.

I believe another who dropped the Russell part of the surname was the Thomas Gillett or Russell who was baptized in 1688 and who I believe probably went on to marry Ann Wesson in 1701. I am well aware that this makes him just 13 years of age at the time and this needs to be further researched, but there is nobody else in the surrounding parishes and he is there, on the spot as it were.

It may be that John Gillett or Russell had a brother who had an older son called Thomas, but I have found only this representative line.

Going back through that lineage we find a link that leads to France and Normandy in particular.

An author and researcher called B.G.Awty has established in his bulletins of the Wealden Iron Research Group that a Giletus or Giketus Russell, also known as Gillett/Gelote/Gyllett appears among French Immigrants listed in Denization Rolls for 1541 and 1544. Denization was a halfway house of naturalization open to aliens who wished to remain in England and enjoy most of the rights of its citizens without going to the expense of full naturalization.

The Kent and Sussex Weald had for centuries produced Iron. Julius Ceaser no less had commented on this. It had all the raw materials - iron ore, charcoal, running water - that were needed. For centuries the industry used a fairly inefficient bloomery method which produced just a few kilos a day. Over the English Channel in northern France the blast furnace had been invented which could produce nearly a tonne.

By the 1540s there were 50 blast furnaces operating in the Weald producing "sows" or lengths of iron for further fashioning and some producing cannon illegally for anyone who would buy them.

Whilst the new process could be replicated in England the workforce lacked the expertise of the French and this meant that iron workers from Normandy and the Pas de Calais found their skills attracted a wages premium in England that they could not hope to achieve in France.

I found this rendition of his story in the Wealden Iron Research Group Database.

William Gillett or Russell was one of the first of this number of iron workers who came to Kent to bring their expertise to the iron furnace industry which was so far in advance of their English counterparts. He was called "Gelote" and was resident in Pashley, Ticehurst in 1541 and had been there since 1519. He was paying 8 pence tax in 1524 and was married to an Englishwoman. He took partial naturalization or denization in 1541 and had lived in England for 22 years. There was a furnace in Pashley.

Later in 1543 he was resident in Rotherfield Hundred in the Rape of Pevensey paying tax on goods of 4 shillings. He was a forge man and described as an "alyon" and a Frenchman. "Gellett" was resident in Wadhurst in Loxfield Hundred in the Rape of Pevensey, paying a tax of 2 shillings on his goods in 1550 when described as an "Alyen" and a frenchman. It is probable that he was working at Verredge Forge or Brookland Forge in Frant.

With regard to his name I can offer this from " A Dictionary of Surnames" by Patricia Hanks and Flavia Hodges published by the Oxford University Press (1988):

Gillett English: 1 from a diminutive of the given names Giles, Julian or William. See Gill

Gill1 English: from a short form of the given names Giles, Julian or William. In theory the name would have a soft initial when derived from the first two of these, and a hard one when from William. However, there has doubtless been much confusion over the centuries, and the modern pronunciation can hardly be taken as a reliable guide to the origin.

In France the name William was rendered as Guillaume and there were many diminutives. It seems likely that the man known as Gelote, Gyllet or Gellet was known in England by a shortened and adapted version of his forename which became Gillett.

But this was not his surname. Diligent work has been carried out by B.G. Awty:

ntblAwty, B. G.. (1979) Provisional Identification of Ironworkers among French Immigrants Listed in the Denization Rolls of 1541 and 1544. Wealden Iron, Bulletin of the Wealden Iron Research Group. First series, 16. pp. 2-11 Awty, B. G.. (1984) Aliens in the ironworking areas of the Weald: the Subsidy Rolls, 1524-1603. Wealden Iron, Bulletin of the Wealden Iron Research Group. Second series, 4. pp. 13-78 He identifies the man known as Giketus Russell as William Gelote or Gellet and suggests that he was born in France, possibly in Neuville Ferrieres (a place which literally means "new iron works") in Normandy where an Aubrey or Abre Russell was born or in Bouelles, Normandy where Clement Russell was born.

Abre Russell was known to be a moneyer who made coins and was part of a group of metal workers who came from the Bray region of Normandy. This information comes from a study of the Denization Rolls carried out at the Universities of York and Sheffield using original documents at the National Archives in conjunction with the work of B.G.Awtry. This is a fuller entry for Abre Russell from the Wealden Iron website

ntblBorn in Newell, Normandy, France in 1492, probably Neuville Ferrières, Normandy, which is 3km SSE of Neufchatel-en-Bray. Age 52 in 1544 Came to England in 1518; had been in England 26 years in 1544 Denization in 1544, see Denization Roll B, List 1, No 37. Married: Wife's nationality was English. From others in the same list, he was probably working for William Levett at Iron Plat (Queenstock) Furnace, Buxted Parish. He was resident in Henhurst Hundred in the Rape of Hastings, paying a poll tax in 1550 & 52, when described as an "Aliaunte servaunte to Joane Walshe and to Godard her sonne". It is probable that they were employed at Bugsell Forge, Salehurst, which was owned by Joan Walsh, who had recruited him from parson Levett (see Awty 1984 pg 33/4). ntbl
Note that Abre and William lived and worked in parishes we came to recognise as places associated with the Gillett alias Russell family in later centuries.

In addition to them another Russell who was born in Normandy was a Peter Russell who came over in 1519 and worked and lived in Buxted and Wadhurst. He worked alongside Abre Russell in Buxted and at the Verredge Forge with William Gillett alias Russell.

The grandfather of Thomas Gillett alias Russell born in 1688 was called Peter Gillett alias Russell. This brings us back to Thomas Gillett and the problem of his age at marriage.

The age of consent at the time was 14 years of age for a boy and 12 years for a girl and theoretically marriage could take place after this with the consent of parents. In practice marriage at such an early age was probably confined to upper classes who wed heirs and heiresses to maintain their fortune and marriages in remote areas amongst the rural poor. Usually a marriage licence would be required to indemnity the priest against making an illegal union. In this case it would be useful to see if such a licence exists and to find out if Thomas was baptised as an infant or when much older. It is important to remember that a baptismal date is not a date of birth.

Nevertheless, even if this Thomas is not in the direct line the probability remains that a Thomas Gillett is descended from Giletus or Gilketus Russell who was known simply by his shortened forename Gillett but who had been born Russell or Roselle in France. Probably known by either name he ended up using both.

More importantly the other Roselle/ Russell family members who came from France gave rise to their own Russell lines in the area but it seems likely that most if not all the Gilletts in this part of the Kent/Sussex Weald descend from Guillaumus Russell, known as Gillett and this of course includes your own line stretching back to the Bray region of Normandy.

bullet  Research Notes:

Research carried ouit by Steohen Thomas.


William married Ann(?) [1729] [MRIN: 539].

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