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William Lloyd (c1800-1882) and Elizabeth Northover (1799-1891)

Although William and Elizabeth married in London, both their families had probably moved to the city within the previous generation. Elizabeth's parents, Robert and Elizabeth, had married in Hackney, had their first child the following year in Bethnal Green, and then settled in Clerkenwell, but may have originally come from Wiltshire. (Note 1) Clerkenwell had been very fashionable in the 18th century, but the Industrial Revolution had changed that: brewers and craftsmen had now settled there but, as a wheelwright, Robert would have felt at home. If the origins of the Northover family are in doubt, we know that the Lloyd family had moved to London even more recently as William gave his birthplace as Great Dunmow in Essex in all four censuses.

Unfortunately the Dunmow records shed no light on William's early life, but there are clues: in those early censuses there are four Lloyds living fairly close to each other, each of whom give their birthplace as Great Dunmow; and three of those were hatters. Both hatters and Lloyds were very numerous in London at the time, but Great Dunmow is a small village at the Northern end of Essex, so there seems a strong likelihood that the men are connected, perhaps brothers. The eldest of them, James, '''does''' appear in the Essex records, as he married and had his first child in Dunmow. He also went on to marry three times, the last of which showed his father to be John Lloyd, a miller. (Note 2) If James, William, John and Cornelius were brothers, and we accept that their father was John, the miller, then the question remains as to why three sons became hatters, and the fourth a wine merchant, rather than follow in their father's footsteps. It's possible that, at the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815, when corn prices rocketed and made life harder for millers and bakers, that the sons were forced to leave home and look for alternative occupations; but all that is speculation. (Note 3)


William and Elizabeth's first definite sighting in the records is the baptism of their second child in 1827 when they were living in Middlesex Passage in the City of London, where William was described as a hatter (Note 4) ; and then a few years after that, their home was Kingsland Road in Shoreditch, where they remained for several years. In Georgian times Kingsland Road had been a watercress growing area and even in Victorian times two thirds of it was fields, but the area was the fastest growing part of London with the population doubling every thirty years. Watercress fields became brick fields and traders and craftsmen were attracted by the proximity to the city without having to pat city prices. Unfortunatly to make way for the warehouses, houses were fallened and not replaced so overcrowding became more and more of an issue. (Later, in the 1860s, the North London railway knocked down 650 houses to build their line).


Clerkenwell in 1805


St Leonards church in Kingsland Road in 1827

By 1841 their family seemed complete. In the census William and his eldest son, William jun, were actually living a few doors down from Elizabeth and the other four children; but that may be just because the Williams were staying at the shop that night. Elizabeth is listed as a chandler, so was presumably earning some extra money by making candles. Despite the building everywhere, Shoreditch also provided the best entertainment outside the city with at least three large theatres doing excellent business. The Lloyds may not have had the time or money for theatre going but, Whether the family was suffering in 1841 or not, four years later they certainly did. 1845 started with a theft: a hat worth 1s (5p) was stolen from the workshop, and the case came up in the Old Bailey, and William's own testimony can be seen in the records:

'' WILLIAM LLOYD . I live in Kingsland-road, and am a  hatter. This is a hat-body—the brim of it is felt, and the other part is willow—it is mine, and was hanging on a nail at my shop door on the 19th of Dec, about one o'clock—I then went out, and when I came home it was gone—I afterwards saw it in possession of the officer—I know it by the mark inside it.''


The prisoner was later sent down for six months, and was perhaps relieved not to have been transported. One shilling might not have been a problem in most years but, later in that year, William's debts became too much, and he was declared a bankrupt. William now found himself appearing in court again, but this time as the subject of the proceedings.


Whatever the problems at the time, the family seem to have come through them as, by 1851, William was again working as a hatter. His son, William, had also set up as a hatter nearby and his eldest daughter, Susannah, was working from home as a hat trimmer; but the other children appeared not to be working for the family business. Their younger son, George, was a painter, but ten years later he had seen the light and was helping his father at home as all three males were now hatters.


A serious problem suffered by most 19th century hatters was mercury poisoning, which led to the phrase 'as mad as a hatter'.  Mercuric nitrate was needed in the production of the felt for hats as part of a process called carroting, when the animal furs were separated from the skin. Hatters worked in confined spaces and, in the shaping of the hats, which involved boiling and drying the felt, volatile mercury was released which were breathed in by hose in the room. The effects are debilitating:


''The man affected is easily upset and embarrassed, loses all joy in life and lives in constant fear of being dismissed from his job. He has a sense of timidity and may lose self control before visitors. Thus, if one stops to watch such a man in a factory, he will sometimes throw down his tools and turn in anger on the intruder, saying he cannot work if watched. Occasionally a man is obliged to give up work because he can no longer take orders without losing his temper or, if he is a foreman, because he has no patience with men under him. Drowsiness, depression, loss of memory and insomnia may occur, but hallucinations, delusions and mania are rare.''


''The most characteristic symptom, though it is seldom the first to appear, is mercurial tremor. It is neither as fine nor as regular as that of hyperthyroidism. It may be interrupted every few minutes by coarse jerky movements. It usually begins in the fingers, but the eyelids, lips and tongue are affected early. As it progresses it passes to the arms and legs, so that it becomes very difficult for a man to walk about the workshop, and he may have to be guided to his bench. At this stage the condition is so obvious that it is known to the layman as 'hatter's shakes'.'' (Note 4)


Was William affected? He lived (and worked) until he was over eighty, so it's difficult to believe he wasn't. By 1881 William and Elizabeth had been joined by their daughter, Ann Bannister,(Note 5) but very shortly after that she must have found it too difficult to look after her father, as he died the following year in the local workhouse. The cause of death was given as paraplegia, so William must have lost the use of his legs; but whether this was as a result of a spinal injury, or an extreme form of hatter's disease, is not known.


Elizabeth lived in the same road for nearly ten more years, before dying of old age. Her death certificate describes her as the widow of William Lloyd, a master hatter; but that may just be a daughter's view of her father. What is certain is that he worked as a hatter for at least forty years and that, when he died, both his son and grandson were also hatters.


19th century hatters



1. The non-conformist burial records show the death in 1806 of Hephsibah, the daughter of John Lloyd, miller; and in 1808 the death of a child of William Loyd, miller. This may be a mistake for John, or it may be that John and William were brothers. The 1841 census has a William Loyd, 60, living in the Dunmow workhouse. He died days afterwards, aged 60, but the death wasn't registered for some time (the certificate says Feb 1843 but it is in the Dec 1842 index). The cause of death says 'Died in a natural way and not from any violence'!

2. James was, in fact, a miller before he became a hatter. Before coming back to marry he had joined a Foot Regiment and fought in Canada. On his registration papers he is listed as a miller.

3. The baptism for their first child, William, has not been found. Although the child is called William in most later censuses (and on his marriage certificate), he is listed as William T Lloyd in 1861, and his death certificate has his name as William Thomas. His place of birth also changes in each census, and ranges from Kingsland Road (where they lived later) to Chelmsford (somewhat closer to Dunmow); but includes St Pancras in one entry. There is an 1825 entry in St Pancras for a William Thomas Lloyd, son of William and Elizabeth Lloyd, which would appear to fit exactly; but William is described as a grocer, which seems unlikely. Also, there is a William (grocer) and Elizabeth having children in St Pancras in 1842 and 1845; and a William Thomas Lloyd, grocer, son of William Lloyd, deceased, was married in 1858. Overall the 1825 baptism is unlikely to be the right one 

4. British Medical Journal 1946

5. Ann is something of a mystery. On the 1881 she is described as their daughter; as she was on Elizabeth's death certificate in 1891 - she had clearly lived with them for at least ten years. In 1901 she was living with her sister's widower, Richard Rolfe, when she is his 'sister-in-law'. There seems little doubt that she is William and Elizabeth's daughter; and yet there is no evidence of her before 1881. She is not Sarah Ann Lloyd, another daughter, although they are virtually the same age. Although Sarah Ann called herself Ann in 1851, she was Sarah after that, and she is with her husband in 1881 and 1891.

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