William GITTINS – Estate Foreman at Erddig

by Jill Burton.

William was born in 1855 in Ponciau (Philip Yorke II’s poem says he lived in Rhosllanerchrugog, but census tell us it was Ponciau.)

His father William (1823-1885) came from Ellesmere, Shropshire, his mother Mary (1807-1877) from Wrexham.

On the 1861 census the family was living in Knolton, near Overton and William was a joiner.

The children were

Charles Thomas Edisbury (b 1848) (grandfather of Erddig Parlourmaid Bessie Gittins

          John (b 1852),

          Alice (b 1853),

          William (b 1855)

          Edward (b 1863)

On the 1871 census the family had moved to Rose Cottage, Aberderfyn, Ponciau. His father was listed as a ‘Joiner at the colliery’  as was William and his elder brother John. Younger brother Edward was still at school.

At some time in the 1870s William came to work at Erddig as joiner, working for Simon Yorke III as estate carpenter with his bench in the Joiners Shop on the right hand window wall. This was at the time that Thomas Rogers was retiring (portrait in Erddig Servants Hall) and William would have worked for his son James Rogers who replaced his father as Head Carpenter.

On the 1881 census William was still living with his father (now widowed) in Aberderfyn, Ponciau and listed as a joiner. His father William Gittins was still also working as a joiner, as also were both William’s brothers, John and Edward.

On the 1891 census the 3 brothers were still living at the same address but their father had died.

William married Annie Griffiths in 1895 and on the 1901 census they lived at ‘South View’, Fennant Road, Ponciau, next door to his younger brother Edward and his wife and children.

Annie died December 31st 1901, age 49 and was buried in Wrexham Cemetery grave no. 01824.

William Gittins – Estate Foreman, Joiner/ carpenter/Agent

William married again (Jan to March) 1904. His 2nd wife, (Martha Louisa Harvey born 1871), had been in service as Housemaid at Erddig since 1902.

In 1901 Martha Louisa was Housemaid at Henley Hall, nr Ludlow. After coming to work at Erddig she was joined by her Henley Hall colleagues, Lucy Hitchman as Nanny to the Yorke children in 1903, and Sarah Rudge as Erddig laundrymaid in 1904.

According to Philip Yorke II’s poem 1911 William owned cottages in Rhosllanerchrugog and was a landlord. “and at that place a goodly throng of cottages to him belong: In truth a worthy landlord he, as all his tenantry agree”  But if that was the case why was his wife and children destitute on his death only 4 years later? Philip Yorke’s poems are notoriously inaccurate, it could be William was collecting rents for someone.

In 1906 he was working 6 days a week at Erddig, earning 5 shillings 4d a day = £1/12/- a week

On the 1911 census William and Martha Louisa were still living at Fennant Road with their two children

          William (Willy) b 1905

          Dorothy            b 1906

There was also Mary, who died age 3 on Feb 16th 1911 and was buried in the grave of Annie, Williams first wife.

William built and repaired many houses and cottages on the Erddig estate, maintaining walls and drives.

He made many things for Erddig such as the Boathouse that once stood at the end of the canal (where the gates are now), the play house (now demolished but was on lawn outside the kitchen window behind bell tower) he repaired boats, and made the toy engine for Simon’s 5th birthday which can be seen in the Erddig Nursery today.

He also organised maintenance jobs for the house such as painting.

His son Willy was apprenticed at Erddig, probably from about 1916. It was this lad that the story is told about, that he got stuck in the Erddig boiler for the steam engine, having been sent inside to clean it out.

In 1912 William was on the photo of the Yorkes with their servants on the West Front steps.

In 1912 his younger brother Edward was appointed secretary at Erddig, collecting rents, keeping accounts etc.

At about the same time William was appointed Agent for the Erddig estate replacing William Capper.

G-01824

In 1915 William fell from a wagon, causing a paralysis of one arm. (this could have been a stroke?)

He then caught a chill and died shortly afterwards on 19th April 1915. He was aged 60.

William was buried with his first wife at Wrexham Cemetery, grave no. G-01824

His wife Martha Louisa received a pension from the Yorkes of £4 per annum, raised to £6 in 1917.

His son Willy Gittins was employed as an Erddig estate carpenter from 1918.

ERDDIG SERVANTS RECORD SHEET

Servants Details

Christian Name(s) William

Surname: Gittins

Date of Birth: 1855

Date of Death: 1915

Job(s) at Erddig:  Estate Foreman, Joiner/ carpenter/Agent

Start Date: late1870s

Finish Date: 1915

Reason for leaving?: Death

Researched by Jill Burton. January 2019.