The Family of William Chilvers (1789-1835)
and Ann Brown (1787-1844))

Ann Chilvers (1808-1808)

Ann Chilvers appears to have been William and Ann's first child. She was born on 31 March 1808 and baptised three days later on 3 April 1808 in St Pauls Church, Norwich. She died just three months later and was buried in St Pauls on 14 June 1808.

William Chilvers (1809-1878) and Ann Blyth (1809-1893)


Ann (Blyth) Chilvers
(1809-1893)

William and Ann's second child, Julian's great great grandfather William Chilvers, was born in 1809 and baptised in St Paul's Norwich on 2 July 1809. William and Ann always seemed to be very prompt with their baptisms so we can probably safely assume he was born between 25 June and 2 July 1809. We know nothing of his early life except that he became a weaver and that the family moved around several Norwich parishes during his childhood. He married Ann Blyth in St Martin at Oak on 16 October 1826 and we assume he lived with his parents up to that point. Ann was born in the parish on 5 December 1809 the daughter of Samuel Blyth and Martha Pomfret and was baptised in the parish five days later on 10 December 1809. Like William's parents, Ann's parents were also weavers working in north Norwich. Indeed both families were living Fuller's Hole one of many rows of humble dwellings in a very poor area of the city. Between 1826 and 1841 William and Ann worked as weavers and had at least six children three of whom (two Kesias and a Sabina) died as infants. By June 1841 William and Ann had managed to escape from Fuller's Hole and were living in Tooley Street with their surviving children Ann aged 13, William (Julian's great grandfather) aged 8 and Sabina aged two months. Whether this represented a significant improvement in their condition is doubtful as they and most of their neighbours are still weavers. However very soon after this William and Ann moved with their family to Chediston Street, Halesworth in Suffolk and this must certainly have been an improvement. Even so in February 1842 soon after settling in Halesworth they lost Sabina at the age of 10 months and it is this rather sad event so soon after the census that gives us a fairly accurate date for the move. However between 1843 and 1854 they had another five children Caroline, James, Emma, Samuel and Elizabeth.

Another significant development was that by 1844, according to White's Directory, William had become a musical instrument maker and music teacher. We might assume that William's change of career occurred with the move to Halesworth which was not noted for its association with the weaving industry. Indeed the mechanisation that took place in the industry in the early 19th century meant that by 1840 Bradford had eclipsed Norwich as the major manufacturer of Worsted so there would probably have been pressures to seek new employment. Moreover at about that time there was a huge growth in piano and harmonium ownership to the extent that there was a shortage of tuners. A very good history of the piano tuning profession can be found at the The Association of Blind Piano Tuners Website. With an obvious talent for music William may have seen this as an opportunity. Nevertheless it would have been normal for a tuner to undergo a lengthy period of training at an instrument factory and we have no evidence that William did this. Also the 1841 census does list a Samuel Baker as a weaver in Chediston Street, Halesworth and as we shall see there was later to be a connection between the Chilvers and Baker families so it is possible that William's change of trade was not immediate but took place between 1841 and 1844.

In the 1851 census William gave his occupation as a master tuner while his wife Ann gave no occupation and was presumably fully employed in raising seven children. William was also described as a musician on his son's marriage certificate in 1855 and a few years later in the 1861 census William and Ann were still living in Chediston street with William being described as a music master.


Dulcimer made by William Chilvers in 1859

In 2008 a remarkable discovery was made by Steve Pena. Steve noticed a dulcimer advertised for sale by a Norfolk antique dealer and managed to acquire the instrument with the aim of restoring it. When he removed the sound board he discovered the signature of William Chilvers of Halesworth Suffolk dated April 8th 1859. News of this discovery reached this site via Katie Howson of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust and we are grateful to to both Steve and Katie for their work. The instrument is shown in its original state in the photograph on the left while the inscription with the signature and date is shown in the photograph below. Both photographs were kindly provided by Steve Pena. This is the first musical instrument we have been able to ascribe to William Chilvers who was known as a pianoforte and harmonium maker. There is speculation that another old dulcimer which was still being played regularly by Reg Reader in Suffolk until his death in 2014 could also have been made by William. A short sample of music being played on this instrument can be heard by clicking here. We also know from within our family that Reg's grandfather Charlie Philpot used to play the same instrument at Christmas parties in Halesworth. Moreover Reg tells us that the key to the case of his dulcimer also fits the case of the William Chilvers dulcimer so there is strong support for the idea that Reg's dulcimer was also made by William Chilvers. We were fortunate enough to hear Reg play at the Blaxhall Ship in May 2009 and to hear an instrument made by your great great grandfather is a memorable experience.


Inscription on Dulcimer

By 1871 William and Ann had moved backed to Norwich. The reason for this move is to be found in the will of William's brother James in which he requests that William is to look after both his business and his two sons in Norwich after his death. James's wife Sarah died in 1869 and James himself died in 1870 so it seems probable that at this point William and Ann moved to Norwich to fulfil James's last wishes. There is some evidence that William and James were already in the musical instrument business together but James's will suggests that it was his business until his death. Curiously William and his family are recorded twice in the 1871 census, once in Heigham (on the outskirts of Norwich) where we believe William lived, and once in Bedford Street in the city centre where the business was located. Possibly William gave the information at the business address while Ann was busy giving the same information at home. There are slight discrepancies suggesting that the information may have been given by two different people.


Reg Reader's Dulcimer

Both records agreee that the household comprised William, Ann, their nephews James and Horace, daughter Elizabeth and granddaughter Sabina. In both records William is described as a musical instrument maker while his nephew James (actually William James) was described as a musical instrument maker in one and a professional tunist in the other. Similarly Elizabeth is described as "invited" in one and a former pupil teacher in the other. The census more or less ties up with listings in a number of trade directories although the business is listed variously as W & J Chilvers, Chilvers Brothers, William & James Chilvers and Chilvers & Nephews (see advert below). Thus it would appear that William and James probably started the business and when James died William took his nephews under his wing to carry on the business.


Inscription on William & Ann's Gravestone


William died aged 69 on 18 September 1878 in Heigham and his death certificate records that he was a pianoforte maker. After William's death Ann remained in Heigham and was probably looked after by her granddaughter Sabina who was certainly living with her at the time of the 1891 census. Ann died in Heigham at the age of 84 on 18 August 1893. William and Ann are buried together in Norwich in the Earlham Road Cemetary close to the Dereham Road where they lived in later life. Their gravestone records the fact that William was a music master in Norwich and Halesworth for over 40 years.

To follow the stories of William and Ann's children follow this link to The Family of William Chilvers and Ann Blyth.

John Chilvers (1811-?)

A third child was born on 5 December 1811 and was baptised John in the parish church of St Augustine, Norwich. We are not sure how long he lived as we have not yet found a burial record but he must have died as an infant because just thirteen months after his birth his name is reused.

John Chilvers (1813-1818)

The fourth child and second to be named John was born on 6 January 1813. He was baptised on 10 January 1813 in St Edmund's church. However there is a question mark against hisname. In the register he is recorded as John the son of William Chilvers and Elizabeth Brown. There are three reasons why we suspect that it should be Ann Brown and not Elizabeth Brown. Firstly we can find no record of the marriage of another William Chilvers to Elizabeth Brown. Secondly John fits perfectly into William and Ann's sequence of births at roughly two year intervals. Thirdly the baptism took place at St Edmund's where William and Ann's next two children were also baptised. We believe this John survived for about five years as the parish register of St. Paul's Norwich recorded the burial on 11 March 1818 of John, the infant son of William Chilvers and Ann Brown.

Mary Ann Chilvers (1815-?)

Mary Ann Chilvers was William and Ann's fifth child and second daughter. She was born on 18th June 1815 and baptised the same day in St Edmund's. We have not discovered a burial record for Mary Ann so she may well have survived. Had she survived she would probably have married before the 1841 census in which case she would no longer be Ann Chilvers. There are at least two plausible options worthy of further investigation. On 11 February 1836 a Mary Chilvers married Francis Foster in St Bartholomew, Norwich and on 20 July 1836 a Mary Ann Chilvers married Samuel Smith in St John Lakenham a parish on the south side of Norwich. Neither have yet been investigated and so we have to leaves Mary Ann's story without an ending.

James Chilvers (1817-?)

William and Ann's sixth child was James. He was born on 27 June 1817 and baptised on 29 June 1817 in St Edmund's, Norwich. Again we have not yet found a record of his burial but because the name is reused in 1821 we must assume that this first James died as an infant.

John Chilvers (1819-?)

The seventh child and third to be named John was born on 13 Jun 1819 and according to the parish register was baptised on the same day in St Edmunds church Norwich. He appears to be a replacement for an earlier son John who died in the previous year. We know very little about John except that he grew up and entered the weaving industry like the rest of his family. He was still living at home with his mother and younger brothers and sister in 1841 at the age of 21. However John does not appear in subsequent censuses. Moreover there are several John Chilvers deaths in Norwich in the period 1841-1851 so it is quite likely that he died as a young man during that period. There is always the possibility that like many other young East Anglians of the time he emigrated.

James Chilvers (1821-1870) and Sarah Kemp (1822-1869)

James Chilvers was born on 26 September 1821 and was baptised in St James Pockthorpe Norwich on 30 September 1821. He was William and Ann's eighth child. Like the rest of his family James also became a weaver and in 1841 was still living with his widowed mother Ann in Fuller's Hole, Norwich. In 1845 he married Sarah Kemp, the daughter of William Kemp and Margaret Springfield and in 1849 a daughter Sarah Ann was born. In 1851 James and Sarah were still living in Fuller's Hole although by then both of James' parents were dead. James and Sarah were both working as hand-loom weavers and Sarah Ann remained their only child although they were caring for a nephew Thomas Kemp who was 12 and listed as an errand boy. He was probably the son of Sarah’s older brother William Kemp. By 1861 James and Sarah had moved to Pitt Street in the St Augustine parish of Norwich. They had added to their family. William James was born in 1851, Harry in 1853 and Horace in 1857. The chances are that there were others who didn't survive but we have no evidence of this at present. In the 1861 census James and his wife were both described as tunists as was their next door neighbour William Smyth who hailed from Woodbridge in Suffolk. As far as we know a tunist was a person who tuned musical instruments.


Advert in Kelly's Directory for Norfolk 1879

We know that James's older brother William who was also described as a tuner was already making musical instruments in Halesworth in the 1850s and we know that James was eventually running a musical instrument business which according to later adverts was established in 1855 so it may be that he was more than an just an instrument tuner. Perhaps he sold instruments made by his brother – the Harrods Directory for 1868 lists Chilvers Brothers in Bedford Street Norwich as pianoforte, harmonium and organ makers, tuners and repairers. In 1863 James and Sarah’s middle son Harry died aged 10, in 1868 their daughter Sarah Ann married her cousin James Kemp and just six years later in 1869 Sarah herself died aged 57. Soon after this on 12 January 1870 James made a will to reflect his changed circumstances. It may also be that he knew his own days were numbered as he made arrangements for his older brother to care for both his business and his sons. His brother William was to be paid 25 shillings (£1.25) a week for the maintenance of himself, his wife and James's two sons. This was quite a reasonable sum at the time and in terms of average earnings would be equivalent to an annual income of about £37000 in 2008. William and James's eldest son William James were to carry on running the business until William’s death or until James's youngest son Horace attained the age of 21. In the meantime a sum of 10 shillings (£0.50) a week was to be invested for the benefit of Horace who was to be apprenticed to a professor or teacher of music. Horace attained the age of 21 early in 1878. At this point the business was to be offered at valuation jointly to the two sons, then to them individually and if both declined it was to be sold on the open market. Proceeds were to be divided equally between the two sons, James's brother William and James's daughter Sarah Ann Kemp. We do not know for certain what happened in 1878 but it appears likely that the business was carried on by the elder son William James. Horace had already become a solicitor’s clerk and James's brother William died later that same year. There is evidence for this in Kelly's 1888 Directory where William James is listed as W.J.Chilvers & co Pianoforte Manufacturers although the business had moved from 5 Bedford Street to 10 St Stephens Street.

To follow the story of James and Sarah's children go to The Family of James Chilvers and Sarah Kemp.

Sarah Chilvers (1825-1865) and George Michael Murrell (1825-1884)

Sarah Chilvers the ninth child was born in Norwich on 18 March 1825 and was baptised two days later in St. James Pockthorpe in the north east of the city. In 1841 she was living with her mother and three of her brothers in Fuller's Hole and was employed as a gauze weaver. On the 16th June 1844 at the age of 19 she married George Michael Murrell in St Saviour's church. Sarah marked the register indicating that she was probably unable to write. Oddly enough George seems not to have marked or signed as his name appears to be written in the registrar's handwriting. At the time of their marriage George like his father was a shoemaker. By 1851 the couple had three children George Henry (b.1846), Jane Ann (b.1849) and Sarah Ann (b.1850) and they were living in Horton's Yard in the St Martin at Oak parish. George was described as a cordwainer. The terms cordwainer and shoemaker are more or less interchangeable although historically a cordwainer made good quality leather shoes and sometimes other goods. By 1861 George and Sarah had five children. Sarah Ann must have died but there were three new children Walter (b.1853), another Sarah Ann (b.1859) and Alice (b.1861). Alice died as an infant but another son James was born in 1862. There were no more children. Sarah herself contracted tuberculosis and died in 1865 just a few days short of her fortieth birthday. George Murrell remarried and his new wife Mary Ann gave him two more children Benjamin and Elizabeth. George continued working as a shoemaker until his death in 1884.

To follow the story of Sarah and George's children go to The Family of Sarah Chilvers and George Murrell.

Samuel Chilvers (1827-1855) and Mary Ann Hastings (1827-1898)

Samuel Chilvers was born on 17 October 1827 and baptised in St.Paul's Norwich on 21 October 1827. We believe he was William and Ann's tenth and final child. The next record we have of him is in the 1841 census where he was recorded as a boy of 13 living with the widowed Ann. He was occupied as a labourer. It appears he married a Norwich girl Mary Ann Hastings in 1845. At the time both of them would have been about 18. Mary Ann had not long given birth to a daughter, also Mary Ann, and it seems likely that Samuel was the father. Although the daughter was registered at birth as Mary Ann Hastings her mother's marriage to Samuel took place very soon afterwards and she was subsequently recorded as Mary Ann Chilvers. Later in 1849 a son Samuel was born. At this point their lives seem to reflect the economic situation affecting Norwich at the time. The weaving industry there was in sharp decline with the mechanisation of the industry in the north and notably in Bradford. And sure enough we find that by 1851 Samuel and his young family had moved north to Bradford where he and his wife were working at Cannon Mill. This mill was at one stage run by John Foster who set up the better known Black Dyke Mills to produce worsted cloth. Samuel and Mary were not alone and were one of three ex-Norwich families living in two dwellings in Cannon Mill Yard in what were probably very poor conditions. Mary Ann was a worsted weaver while Samuel was described as a packer. We do not believe they stayed long in Yorkshire and that they soon returned home to Norwich. Perhaps the streets of Bradford were not paved with gold. The precise sequence of events is not entirely clear but it seems that Samuel fell ill and died and that Mary Ann eventually remarried. In the 1861 census there is no sign of Samuel but there was a death of a Samuel Chilvers in Norwich in 1855 which we assume to be him. In 1860 Mary Ann married another Norwich man John Martin and in the 1861 census we find Mary Ann living with her new husband (who by the way was seven years her junior) in Norwich. John was a cotton weaver while Mary Ann was a silk weaver. Mary Ann's son Samuel Chilvers, aged 12 and listed as John's stepson, was living with them and they had a son of their own Cornelius aged just 7 months. We do not know what happened to the daughter Mary Ann although she may have married. However by 1871 John and Mary had moved back to Bradford Where they were living in 10 Park Street. Samuel Chilvers was still living with them and both John and Samuel were employed as warp dressers. Cornelius was aged 10 and a daughter Alice aged 8 had been born in 1862 while they were still in Norwich. John and Mary Ann Martin remained in Bradford for the remainder of their lives, John dying aged 54 in 1891 and Mary Ann aged 71 in 1898.

To follow the story of Samuel and Mary Ann's children go to The Family of Samuel Chilvers and Mary Ann Hastings.