Wotton Family

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More detail on the Wooton Family by Peter Moynihan

Thomas Wotton was born in Fordwich, Kent, in 1832, the son of John Wotton, a Farmer and Grazier, and his wife Elizabeth Ann (née Prior). In 1851, Thomas was an eighteen-year-old Brewer’s Pupil, living in Devonshire Place, Brighton, Sussex, in the home of a local Brewer whose name may have been Walter S. Charlton; the name is very difficult to make out in the Census Enumerator’s book. Your reference to a ‘brewing school on the south coast’ is, I would suggest, erroneous; it seems to me to be based upon a mis-interpretation of this 1851 census entry. Charlton’s household includes another ‘Brewer’s Pupil’ (Joseph Knight, aged 17, born in Clapham Surrey) and a number of ‘scholars’. The latter are Charlton’s seven children. I contend that a Brewer having two pupil brewers was fairly common practice and would not constitute a ‘Brewing School’ as such.

Whilst learning his trade in Brighton, Thomas also found love. He met local girl Lucy Elizabeth Lewis and they were married in the village of Keymer, some eight miles north of Brighton, on 23rd October 1853. Conventional wisdom has it that Thomas returned to Thanet and joined Tomson’s brewery in Queen Street, Ramsgate, in 1854 as a practical brewer. However, if this is correct then he did so later in that year as his first child, Elizabeth Ann, was born in Brighton on 23rd April. The family were certainly in Ramsgate by October 1856, when their son John was born there.

Curiously, in the 1861 Census Thomas was described as a ‘Landed Proprietor’ rather than as a brewer. He was living at 24 Effingham Street, in Ramsgate, with his wife, their three children, and his sister Elizabeth Wotton, together with two servants. My statement on page 261 of ‘Kent’ that Thomas came into an inheritance in 1867 would now appear to be incorrect as Thomas’ father died on 6th March 1868 leaving effects sworn at under £2,000. His Will was proved at Canterbury on 15th April, Thomas being an Executor together with Thomas Pilcher, a Farmer of Petham, Kent. Presumably this was the money which enabled Thomas to buy into the Tomson’s business and become a Partner. Certainly, by the time of the 1871 Census, he was describing himself as a ‘Brewer and Landowner’. Whether he actually ceased to brew practically at this time is not known. However, what is known is that the Head Brewer at Queens Street in the 1870s, until 1881, when he left to take up a position with the Highbury Brewery Ltd, in North London, was Thomas Sankey.

Sankey was a Kent man, having been born at Hastingleigh, near Ashford, in 1847. He had been educated in Battersea, and learned his brewing in London before moving to Ramsgate. Subsequent to his stint in Highbury, he moved to Emsworth, in Hampshire around 1890, presumably brewing at Messrs. Hipkin & Co’s (Kinnell & Hartley Ltd post 1899) Emsworth Brewery in South Street. He may also have brewed in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where he died in 1897.

Returning to the Wottons, Thomas’ son John (1856-1917) was also a brewer. In 1881 he was working at Messrs. Farnell & Watson’s brewery (later the Isleworth Brewery Ltd) in St Johns Road, Isleworth, where he was living at Brewery Cottage with his uncle, Nicholas Wotton (1846-1918), who was the brewery’s Cashier. John had returned to Ramsgate by the late 1880s, when the Partners in the brewery business were:-

‘THOMAS WOTTON, now residing at Claremont, The Vale, in the Parish of Ramsgate, MARTIN JOHN READ TOMSON, now residing at Brooklands, South-Eastern Road, in the Parish of Ramsgate aforesaid, and ELIZA LAURA TOMSON, now residing at Effingham, Effingham Street, in the Parish of Ramsgate aforesaid, Widow, being co-partners in the trades or businesses of Brewers and Maltsters, and carrying on the same at Ramsgate aforesaid under the style or firm of “Tomson and Wotton”. (East Kent Times and Mail, 6th September 1888)

When Tomson & Wotton Ltd was formed in 1892 John Wotton became a Partner together with Martin John Read Tomson, with Thomas Wotton as the Chairman and Managing Director. Eliza L. Tomson had retired from the company; she passed away in Newhaven in 1919. The purchase price from the previous company was £144,100, which included two breweries (Queen Street and the Cannon Brewery) and 50 freehold and 12 leasehold hotels and public houses; all of the 10,000 £10 Ordinary Shares in the new company were taken by the Directors while a subscription for Debenture Shares was issued, with the proceeds being used to finance the redevelopment of the Queen Street brewery.

John Wotton died in 1917, but there was a third generation waiting in the wings. John’s son Thomas Wotton, (Born 17th January 1891, died 11th December 1961), who was listed in the 1939 Register (a sort of ‘census-lite’, taken in the run-up to the impending war) as being the ‘Managing Director of Brewery & Group of Companies’. He had married Marjorie Dagmar Bailey in 1916, but there was no issue of the marriage to carry on the line. However, there was William Alexander Wotton.

Another of Thomas Wotton’s (1832-1923) sons was Edward Wotton (1859-1940); educated at King’s School, Canterbury, he was admitted a Solicitor in 1881 in Partnership with Mr T. H. Grove Snowden, and upon the death of the latter gentleman, Edward assumed his responsibility as Registrar of the County Court. Edward acted professionally for both his brother Thomas personally, and for the brewery company. Edward’s son, also Edward (1886-1960) was also a Solicitor and was the father of William Alexander, who was born in Lincolnshire on 8th September 1916. At the outbreak of the second world war, Bill Wotton was serving with the East Kent regiment – The Buffs – and, by July 1940 he was a prisoner of war. In November, the Thanet Advertiser contained a report that ‘2nd Lieut. William Wotton, The Buffs, formerly of 7 Nelson Crescent, son of Mr Edward Wotton’ was a prisoner of war and that his parents had received a postcard from him. He survived the war and returned to the brewery where he remained until the sale to Whitbread & Co. Ltd. Bill retained a family interest in the law, serving for many years as a J.P. and Magistrate, living at Upper Court, St Lawrence. However, he passed away at 103 The Metropole, The Leas, Folkestone, on 15th November 1988, leaving an estate valued at £398,924.

As an aside from the Wotton story, it has occurred to me in the past to wonder how the ‘Tomsons’ became ‘Martin Tomsons’. The change dates from before 1916, as these newspaper reports show:-

‘FLYING OFFICERS FATE. LT. MARTIN TOMSON MISSING. Mr. and Mrs. Martin J. R. Tomson, of Court Stairs, Pegwell, are in a state of anxiety concerning the fate of their only son, Flight-Lieut. William G. Martin Tomson, who has been missing since July 10th. Flight-Lieut. Martin Tomson was that day in reconnoitering duty, when his machine was seen to come down about two miles behind the German lines, probably hit by anti-aircraft guns, but it was impossible to know what really happened. The machine however, came down slowly. The young officer joined up some months ago and rapidly secured his “wings”. He was home for a few days in May before taking up active flying service across the water.’ (Thanet Advertiser, 22nd July 1916)

However, one week later the same newspaper reported:-

‘FLYING OFFICER SAFE. Flight-Lieutenant W. G. Martin Tomson, first reported missing since 10th July, is now reported wounded and a prisoner of war in a German hospital’. The gallant airman’s birth was registered in Thanet in the first quarter of 1889 as ‘Tomson, William John M’, so presumably it was his personally choice to use his father’s forename like a second surname. He is listed in the 1911 Census, which is in his father’s handwriting, as simply William Tomson, aged 22 and single (he married in 1928), a ’Student, B.A. Cambridge’.