William Ellicott (1826-1918)

portraitHaving started his working life as a farm labourer, William died in 1918 as the retired proprietor of a large carriage business in fashionable Torquay.

William was born on 26 May 1826 and was barely a year old when his mother died. By the time he was 15 he was working alongside his father as a labourer on James Snell’s farm.

For whatever reason, by the time of the 1851 census William is to be found working as a servant in the house of George Wall, dairy farmer, in Compton Gillard just north of Plymouth. At least the William Ellicott listed there is the right age and was born in Sampford Courtney and there is little chance that it’s someone else.

We do know that he married Grace Goss on 18 October 1854 and that this coincides with a sharp upswing in William’s fortunes. Not long after his marriage he is managing Ashridge Farm in North Tawton, a farm of 160 acres employing one labourer and “two boys”. There are also four house servants. By this time the couple have had four children, but only two of them remain with them; one year old Susanna and newborn Kate. We already know that Adela is with her grandfather and it transpires that Mary Ann, the eldest (yet still under 10), is a nursery maid for the 5th Earl of Portsmouth’s five children at nearby Eggesford House. She remains ‘in service’ for much of her life.

After moving to St. Marychurch, by now rapidly becoming a suburb of Torquay, to farm 13 acres at Coombe Pafford, William’s career takes a surprising turn as by 1881 he is a carriage proprietor operating out of 33 Fore Street in the busy heart of the Babbacombe side of the resort. His house is on Park Road in the rapidly expanding and sought-after St. Marychurch area where he lives with three daughters and two sons, one of whom, William, drives his cabs. Adela is busy establishing her drapery business and by the end of the century is employing five staff including two of her sisters; Annie in the drapery and Julia as a milliner, each of whom has an assistant.

By 1911 William and Grace are living in comfortable retirement under Adela’s roof at 4 Hampton Place, Babbacombe. Her drapery business is still going strong and the census lists William and Grace as “boarders with private means”. Grace died in 1913 while William lives for another five years, dying while back in North Devon on his 92nd birthday.


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