In the last post I wrote about the family of Richard Eykin Windle, a London surgeon and apothecary at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who acted as executor of the will of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth née Gibson in 1809. I reported my discovery that his brother, oil and colour merchant John Hattam Windle, might have been a business partner of William Parker, who married Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah six years earlier.
One of the reasons for my interest in the Windles is that the reference to Richard in Elizabeth Holdsworth’s will is not the first record of that family’s connection with my ancestors. Twenty years earlier, in 1789, Elizabeth’s unmarried sister Sarah Gibson nominated ‘Thomas Windle Junior Esquire of Mile End in the parish of Stepney’ as co-executor of her own will, together with her brother Bowes John Gibson.
Who was Thomas Windle, and what was his relationship, if any, to Richard Eykin Windle? I’m fairly sure that Thomas Windle senior, the father of the man named in Sarah Gibson’s will, was the person of that name who was buried at St Matthew’s church, Bethnal Green on 23rd April 1793. He would still have been alive when Sarah Gibson made her will four years earlier, thus making it important to describe his son as Thomas Windle Junior. Thomas Windle Senior had actually made his own will some years earlier, in 1784. From that document we learn that by then he was a widower: he asks to be buried ‘in a strong oak coffin filled up with sawdust as my wife was that my corpse may be directly laid over hers’. Rather confusingly, and perhaps as the result of an error, Thomas leaves property to ‘my son William Windle’ and in the same sentence appoints ‘my said son Thomas Windle’ as his sole executor. He signs his will ‘Thomas Windle Sen.’ and it was proved by ‘Thomas Windle Esquire the son of the deceased’.
There are various land tax records from the 1780s for properties in Bethnal Green belonging to Thomas Windle – presumably ‘Senior’, since all of the records for his son Thomas Windle Junior place him in Mile End Old Town. For example, in 1793, Thomas Windle Esquire of Mile End can be found in a list of subscribing members of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. In 1797, his name was proposed, for the King’s approval, as one of the deputy lieutenants of the Tower Hamlets militia, and by 1818 he had been appointed to that position, as well as being a magistrate. There are countless land tax records for Thomas Windle Esquire of Mile End or Stepney, from the 1790s through to about 1825. He also seems to have owned property elsewhere in London, including two houses in Rosemary Lane, Whitechapel. In 1807, Thomas Windle both occupied and owned properties on Mile End Road South. This means he was a near neighbour of the Gibson family, including Bowes John Gibson, brother to Elizabeth and Sarah, and the other executor of the latter’s will.
Thomas Windle Esquire of Mile End seems to have been married twice and to have had three children, two of whom survived. On 3rd January 1791, Thomas Hattam Windle was christened at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. He was the son of Thomas Windle Esq of Mile End Old Town and his wife Elizabeth. The name ‘Hattam’ provides an immediate connection with the family of Richard Windle, three of whose siblings had the same middle name, and at least two of whom passed it on to their own children.
Sadly, this particular Thomas Hattam Windle died when he was only three months old. His mother Elizabeth must have died soon afterwards, perhaps in childbirth, since in 1794, Thomas Windle, a gentleman of Mile End Old Town, and his wife Frances, had a daughter named Mary baptised at St Dunstan’s. The same couple’s daughter Sarah was christened there two years later, in 1796.
I can’t find records of any other children born to Thomas Windle after this date, nor have I found either marriage or death records for Thomas, Elizabeth or Frances. The absence of a will for Thomas seems very odd, too, particularly since Thomas Windle Junior seems to have left his two surviving children well provided for.
Neither Mary nor Sarah Windle married, and in fact the two sisters seem to have lived together on their inherited income for the remainder of their lives. They appear to have moved around the south of England, using their shared inheritance to endow and support various High Anglican churches. At the time of the 1841 census they were both in their forties, living on independent means, and sharing a house in Oxford with Stephen Reay, his wife Eleanora, and a young female servant. The census record describes Stephen as a ‘clerk’, but that hardly does him justice: he was a clergyman, professor of Arabic at Oxford, and sub-Librarian at the Bodleian.
In 1851 the Windle sisters were living in High Road, Leyton, Essex, with two female servants: Mary and Sarah described themselves to the census clerk as a ‘gentleman’s daughters’. The sisters were said to be ‘fundholders’ ten years later, when the 1861 census found them living with a cook and housemaid in Brighton, where they appear to have funded the building of a new Anglo-Catholic church.
By 1871 Mary and Sarah had moved back to Oxford, to Stanley Villa at 2 St Giles Road, Headington. When the census was taken in that year they had a visitor: John William Burgon, the vicar of the university church of St Mary the Virgin, later the Dean of Chichester.
It was at Stanley Villa that Mary Windle died on 11th July 1880, at the age of 86, leaving a personal estate valued at ‘under £9,000’. I haven’t found a record for her sister Sarah’s death, but I assume it must also have been in 1880, since before the year was out, Rev Burgon would erect a stained glass window in the parish church of Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire, as a memorial to three benefactors, Eliza Hargrave and Mary and Sarah Windle.
What do we know about the origins of Thomas Windle Esquire and his connection with the Windles of Shropshire? If he was, as seems likely, the son of Thomas Windle (Senior) of Bethnal Green, then perhaps he was the son of Thomas and Sarah Windle of Bethnal Green who was christened at St Mary, Whitechapel, in 30th October 1748. On the other hand, that would mean he was already 43 when his first son Thomas Hattam Windle was born in 1791, which seems unlikely: so perhaps this was his father and there was a third Thomas Windle in the generation before? At any rate, the Thomas and Sarah Windle whose child were christened in 1748 were almost certainly the couple who declared their intention to marry in an allegation of 29th October 1747. Thomas Windle was said to be a 30-year-old ‘chymist and widower’ of St Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street in the City of London, while his bride to be was Sarah Sculthorpe, a 26-year-old widow of the parish of St Mary, Whitechapel (though interestingly the Sculthorpes seem to have been associated with the parish of St Sepulchre, Holborn, the favoured London church of the Windle family). According to a record found at origins.net, in 1762 Thomas son of Thomas Windle of Old Fish Street, London, chemist was apprenticed to to Rees Williams, 17 Dec 1762, of the Fishmongers’ Company.
The fact that Thomas Windle Esquire Junior of Mile End Old Town gave his short-lived son the middle name ‘Hattam’ identifies him as a member of the same family as Richard Eykin Windle. However, the precise nature of his connection to that family remains to be determined.