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Saturday, 6 May 2017

information sought about The Wills family

The Wills family bike repair shop in Well Street

Jack Wills; bike repairer

Pennyfarthing Cottage Bike repair shop in 1900s. Note the Pennyfarthing in the hedge

Well St Starcross in 1900s

I have visited Starcross today and enjoyed wandering around the village that was once the home of my paternal grandmother who was born around 1878.

Her name was Bessie Wills and, as far as I recall, she had two sisters and two brothers - Em(Emily I am guessing), Nance, Jack and Frank.  Her brother Jack was born with what we would now call polio and for a living he repaired bicycles - hence the penny farthing which always stood at right angles to the cottage which now bears that name. (At that time the gardens for the three cottages extended to the right (where the newer house now stands) with three adjacent lavatories with wooden bench time seats at the end of the garden.

I was interested to see the bicycle still on display outside the cottage.  An adopted daughter (although possibly not formally adopted) , Floss, looked after Jack in his later years and moved to New Road after he died - in the 1950s.

Her brother Frank worked at the asylum cutting hair, I believe - he married and had a daughter Betty who was born around 1923.  The two sisters moved to Cardiff and Chepstow where they had families and my grandmother moved to Paignton where she married Alfred Gibson and had three children, one of whom died in infancy.

I wonder whether you have any more information about the Wills family - I believe her father may have worked at Mamhead House.  She used to talk of Sunday evening walks after church to see the boys in Kenton and was very affected by once seeing a black man who had drowned and was washed up at Starcross.

I had hoped to find a Wills grave in the churchyard as I am guessing many of her family would have been buried there, although they would not have had a great deal of money and therefore there may be no headstone. 

If you have any information about any of the family I would be very interested and appreciative to hear from you

Many thanks

Janet Reed (formerly Gibson)

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