Ancestors of William Gillett


picture William Gillett

      Sex: M

Individual Information
          Birth: 7 Apr 1764 - Hawkshurst, Kent.
    Christening: 27 Apr 1764 - Hawkhurst
          Death: 25 Aug 1823 - Otterford Near Fyfet
         Burial: in Otterford Near Fyfett.Stones Gone And No Mention Of The Family In The Church.
 Cause of Death: 
           AFN : 

Occupation, Administrater of a mental asylum.Lisa was the matron.For two years circa 1801.Precursor of larger Wonford Hospital.Thereafter started a private hospital near Taunton called Fyfet.Approx 15 patients., Exeter in Exeter
Elliot Clarke(Son of Laura Maria Gillett) reports having visited his grandfather's grave at Charmouth.He reports that Dr George and Eliza Gillett are buried at Staplegrove near Taunton.

         Father: William Gillet
         Mother: Elizabeth How(e)

Spouses and Children
1. *Elizabeth Hall
       Marriage: 22 May 1793 - Islington Church, Middlesex
                1. George Gillett LRCP Edinburgh,LSA London.
                2. William Gillett
                3. Elizabeth Gillett
                4. Elizabeth Gillett
                5. William Edward Gillett LSA London,LRCP Edinburgh
                6. Henry Gillett
                7. Charles Gillett

Ran away with Elizabeth against her parent's wishes.
He is recorded as a carpenter on the marriage licence (1793) of his wife,Elizabeth Hall.
Later,on his son's ( George) marriage certificate (1837) he is recorded as a surgeon.

Research done by Rosemary Mountjoy;
On the ancestry website, I found the marriage of William Gillett and Elizabeth Hall at St Mary, Islington, on 22nd May 1793, but the marriage entry does not give William's occupation.
The couple married by licence, and William signed the register. Perhaps you have already found the details of the licence on the British Origins website? Have you any family documents which show your William's signature for comparison?

The first two children were twins, William and Elizabeth Gillett, born 3 June 1794, born at No.2 Little Saint Thomas Apostles, Bow Lane, Cheapside, London. Elizabeth died 29 June 1794 and William 16 March 1795.
( I have been able to find no confirmation of these, but does the address tie in with anything else?)
The next child was another Elizabeth born 21 October 1795 at the City Road Lying-In Hospital.
(Again, I can find no confirmation and had hoped that there might be records from that institution (also in the hope that it was where WEG was born). Unfortunately, such records as there are for CRLH are at London Metropolitan Archives and the admissions books and baptisms are missing for the relevant years, so I think we are going to be unlikely to be able to confirm this information.)
I understand that the hospital was for the care of married mothers and that baptism in the hospital chapel was compulsory, so if they were born there we won't find baptisms anywhere else either!
Next came WEG and GG, followed by Henry Gillett born 23 Jan 1803, Lunatic Asylum, St Thomas, Exeter (I think this is Bowhill House, Exeter which we have already discussed was where William and Elizabeth Gillett came from London to run.).
Lastly there was Charles who was born 30 September 1804 but we don't know where, and he died (or was buried) at Otterford, 26 July 1807 confirmed in Genuki Otterford burials.
Working backwards from the children (or at least two of them if we aren't yet happy about the others), how confident are we about the marriage on 22 May 1793 at Islington Church?
Apparently that marriage was 'By Licence', is there a copy of that?

By way of an aside, Brook House, Clapton was run by a family called Monro (who were also physicians to Bethlem from 1728 to 1856) for many years <>), and there was also a lunatic asylum in Islington called Fisher House in which they may have had an interest.
Might William have been there at the time of their marriage as they were both listed as being 'of this parish'?

At this point I changed tack and moved on to the Hawkhurst family and tried to find as much as I could about them, to see whether I could find anything which would prevent William Gillett from being 'ours'. The family definitely exists and at the moment, with one exception - the year of the marriage of William Gillett and Elizabeth Howe - the information matches that provided by HEC! That marriage is listed with the same day and month but differs by one year: 27 October 1760 or 1761. I attach a comparison between HEC's information and that which I have found online about the family, and have marked the points of agreement.

William Gillett,who was Keeper of Brook House,Clapham (as recorded by HEC in 1799) was recommended by Mr John Haslam,when between 1801 and 1803 he moved to assume the Directorship of Bowhill House Mental hospital in the St Thomas area of Exeter,Devon from where he went on to establish his own institution at Fivehead House,Taunton in 1807.

In Trewman's Exeter Flying Post 15.1.1807; Advertisements and Notices;Fivehead House was offering places for`those unfortunate persons who labour under mental derangement`.Mrs Gillett to be the Matron.

Trewman's 24.4.1817; Shooting accident at Fivehead House,one resident shot a visitor and then killed himself.
This was also reported in several other papers of the time,but only lists the proprietor as "Mr Gillett".

Trewman's 20.11.1817; Fivehead Estate and farm to be sold by auction,except for mansio-house in the occupation of "Mr Gillett" and used as a lunatic asylum with 9 years lease unexpired.

Trewman's 25.1.1821; In an advertisement for a rival establishment a note that Gillet's(sic) licence for `Fivehead,from his improper conduct' had been suppressed by the Magistrates.

Trewman's 2.8.1821; Notice-Fivehead House,nr Taunton now solely run by Mrs Gillett and her son WE Gillett jnr., Surgeon and Licentiate of Soc.of Apothecaries.

London Gazette 5.3.1822 Issue 1796;List of Insolvent Debtors "William Gillett the elder,heretofore of Fivehead House in the County of Somerset but late of Churchingford in the Parish of Churchstanton in the County of Devon,Gentleman",to be heard at the Castle of Exeter on 29.3.1822.

William and Elizabeth were thought to be buried at Charmouth,as reported by(Henry) Elliot Clarke (HEC)but this was subsequently found to be Michael Wakley who is buried in Charmouth.

Note: Fivehead House is located in the villiage of Fivehead located on the A378 between Taunton and Langport.
Note.Otterford,Fyfett, Churchinford and Churchstanton are all on the B3170,south of Taunton,en route to Honiton.

Results of research done by Rosemary Mountjoy;
There is a link on the Lunacy Commission website where you can contact Andrew Roberts, the site owner. <> Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find his contact details. I do not know where the name Joseph came from; in the minute books for Bowhill, William's Christian name is only used once, in the minute of 1st July 1801. The rest of the time he and his wife are referred to as Mr & Mrs Gillett. I will get my foreword altered on the DFHS website. If you want to mention any of the information which I have given you from the minute books when you contact Mr Roberts, please do.

Did you look at the Somerset Record Office on-line catalogue? There were other documents about Fairwater House there which I didn't mention in my last email as I didn't know about the connection between the two asylums.
We have subsequently established this link.William and Elizabeth moved from Bowhill House to establish their own Hospital at Fivehead House ,Fivehead,Devon (nr.Taunton).
In 1828,his son,WEG moved the Hospital to more suitable premises situated at Fairwater House,Taunton.
In 1858 WEG sold Fairwater House to Taunton School.It has since been used as dormitory accomodation for pupils and is still in 2014 being used for that purpose.

I have checked our personal names index for the name Gillett and I found that we have a mortgage dated about 1818, 1766M/T11, by which William Gillett of Otterford used his land in Churchstanton as security for a loan. I have not looked at the original document so I do not know if the land was freehold or leasehold, or how William came to acquire it.

Bowhill House Minute Books.
You ask how I found the reference to Mr & Mrs Gillett from your source, and the answer is that in my family papers I had mention of the birth of one of their sons, Henry Gillett, being born on 23 Jan 1803 at St Thomas Lunatic Asylum, Exeter. I googled that with the name Gillett, and Joseph Gillett appeared in the studymore site and in your introduction to the register of admissions, together with the name of Bowhill House. Rather confused by 'Joseph', I then contacted you.
William and his wife Elizabeth are my 3x great grandparents and we are struggling to get further back for them. We have him listed as "Keeper" at Brook House, Clapton in 1799 when his son William Edward (later of Fivehead House) was born, but the only marriage we have come across listed William Gillett as a carpenter, son of a cordwainer, in Islington, 22 May 1793, which doesn't sound likely. Our family papers list his marriage to Elizabeth Hall, of Longworth, Lincoln (and record that they were married against the wishes of her father!), but we have no official confirmation of this and so are finding it difficult to go further back.
1821 In advertisement for rival establishment note that Gillet's (sic) licence for ...'Fivehead, from his improper conduct'... had been suppressed by the Magistrates [Trewman's Exeter Flying Post 25.01.1821]
1822 London Gazette Issue 17796 of 5 Mar 1822 - List of Insolvent Debtors - " William Gillett the elder, heretofore of Fivehead-House in the County of Somerset but late of Churchingford in the Pariish of Churchstanton in the County of Devon, Gentleman.", to be heard at the Castle of Exeter on 29 March 1822.
Our records show that he died 25 August 1823 and was buried in Otterford [Genuki - Otterford Burials transcribed by Roy Parkhouse - WG buried 31 Aug 1823, age 59, Church - Taunton].

His son, William Edward Gillett and Elizabeth moved their business sometime about 1828 to a "more commodious residence", Fairwater House, one mile from Taunton, he abandoned general practice and for 30 years carried on care and treatment of the insane, with great success" (BMJ obit. 1866)
Genuki - 1830 Pigot's Directory of Taunton, William Edward Gillett, Surgeon: Proprietor of Fairwater House Lunatic Asylum with 6 paupers and 46 private
Elizabeth died "13 Jan 1834, aged 68, Mrs Gillett, mother of W E Gillett Esq of Fairwater near Taunton" [Trewman's Exeter Flying Post 23 Jan 1834], and buried at Otterford 18 Jan 1834 [Genuki - Otterford Burials transcribed by Roy Parkhouse]
I also understand that William Edward Gillett was apprenticed to Samuel Luscombe of Exeter for five years [Apothecaries' Hall, May 10th 1821], who I believe was senior surgeon at Devon and Exeter Hospital at the time. His brother, George Gillett, was also a doctor and practised in Colyton, and their brother, Henry who was born at Bowhill House may also have been in the medical profession.
I am not sure who to contact about the studymore website to find where they found the information about "Joseph Gillett", but it is interesting to see how information spreads from one site to another. I wonder whether I may use the information about Bowhill House which you have provided to encourage them to remove the "presumption" about Joseph Gillett.

Thank you for your email and the enquiry about the Bowhill Hospital foreword on the DFHS website. I would be interested to know how you found the reference to Mr and Mrs Gillett from this rather obscure source!
The piece you found on the Devon Family History Society's website is the foreword I wrote for the index to the admissions register for the first patients at Bowhill House, published by the Small Projects Group of the DFHS. The register of admissions does not contain any information about the keeper and his wife; I found the details about Joseph Gillett on a website on the history of mental health <> However, at the time, I only checked the entry about his appointment in the committee minute book, 3992F/H1/1, where he is called Mr Gillett, and I did not read on to find out that his first name was in fact William. Thank you for pointing this out. The relevant infomation in the minute book is as follows:

Friday 20th March 1801. "The Rev. Mr Manning having read Letters from the Apothecary of Bethlem, & the Governor of St Luke's hospitals, each recommending a Man & Woman, as proper persons to be the Director & Housekeeper of this Institution Resolved That the Persons recommended by Mr Haslam, the Apothecary of Bethlem be chosen as Director & Housekeeper of this Institution, and their Salaries to commence at the half Quarter, between Ladyday and Midsummer next."

Wednesday 1st July 1801 "To William Gillett, the Keeper's expence from London, with his Wife Elizabeth as Matron per Note 6 6/-. "

"The Rev Mr Manning introduced Mr William Gillett & Mrs Elizabeth Gillett his Wife as Keeper & Matron of the Institution recommended by Mr Haslam apothecary at Bethlem Hospital London & they were appointed accordingly."

There was a Joseph Gillett admitted to the hospital from Exeter on 22nd December 1801. He was recommended by Mary Gillett his sister and Joseph Sanders his uncle, who was an Exeter banker. He was discharged, cured, the following year, but I noticed that his name reappears in the minute book at a later date. I do not know if Joseph is connected to your family at all.

I have looked at the 19th century British Library newspapers website and searched for any Gillett references in the Exeter Flying Post newspaper. I attach some of the references I found. There was also an account of an inquest in Taunton on the deaths of a recovered patient and a friend who was visiting him at Fivehead House while Mr Gillett was in Exeter. I have not copied this as it is quite long and you may have access to this website yourself, if your local library has a subscription.

The newspaper advertisements suggest that William and Elizabeth Gillett leased Fivehead House from January 1807. William died in 1821 and Elizabeth carried on running the asylum with their son. I found a report on the house in the Somerset Record Office catalogues:
Fivehead House, Otterford: licences to keep lunatics with two copies of visitor's report concerning unsatisfactory conditions, 1817; one copy orig. in volume begun to record an inquiry into the House Q 1809-1817

The asylum closed in 1828 when WEG moved to more commodious premises at Fairwater House,Taunton..

Finally, I checked the second minute book for Bowhill Hospital, 3992F/H1/2, to find when William and Elizabeth left.

Tuesday 6th May 1806 "Mr Gillett, the Keeper, gave in a verbal Resignation of his, and his wife's offices of Keeper and Matron, alleging that their appointments were not sufficient to support their Family, and offering to remain in the House untill it was otherwise provided. Resolved, That their Resignation be admitted, as in consideration of the expence of maintaining their increasing family, now of four Children, the Institution could not afford advancing their appointments, and that steps be taken to supply their Places in the most convenient manner."

Tuesday 3rd June 1806 "Agreed with Mr & Mrs Gillett, that they continue their Services as Keeper & Matron, until the 30th inst."

Tuesday 8th July 1806 " It was this day settled with Mr & Mrs Gillett, that they should deliver up the Furniture, as per Inventory, to Mr Davis the Apothecary, and on Wednesday the 16 inst they would leave the house."

Tuesday 22nd July 1806 "Reported also that Mr & Mrs Gillett left the house the 17th inst."

Information supplied by Andrew Gilett:
Bowhill House was the first institutional mental asylum in Exeter,set up by the worthies-clergy and some aristocrats.It existed from 1801 to 1869.It was superceded by the far more ambitious Wonford House,Digby and Exminster Mental Hospitals.Where Bowhill Hospital used to stand is a school(in 2014).The only remaining sign of the House is a wall at the school.
Wonford House Hospital,situated in the Wonford area of Exeter,is still in existence.It is adjacent to the main hospital in Exeter.

As I have found these references in minute books, we are unable to provide you with photocopies. If you are able to visit this office yourself, you are welcome to photograph the relevant pages.
BOWHILL HOUSE REGISTER OF ADMISSIONS, 1801-1805, DRO Reference - 3992F/H21 : "Joseph Gillett was appointed the first Director and Mrs Gillett the first housekeeper, on the recommendation of Mr Haslam, the apothecary of Bethlem Hospital." from <>

I understand you hold the above item and wonder whether I can access any information to supplement family papers which show William Gillett (born c1764), his wife Elizabeth and children, working or living at St Thomas Lunatic Asylum (Note.This is believed to be Bowhill House Hospial situated in the St Thomas area of Exeter) between 1801 and 1806, with their son, Henry Gillett being born there on 23 Jan 1803. William Gillett was previously Keeper at Brook House, Clapton, Middlesex Lunatic Asylum and had moved to Fivehead House, Otterford by 1807 after leaving Bowhill House. In particular, any family connection to Joseph Gillett would be very valuable.

Mrs Susan M. Laithwaite
Senior Archivist
Devon Record Office
Great Moor House
Bittern Road
Exeter EX2 7NL
Tel: +44 (0)1392 384253
Fax: +44 (0)1392 384256
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