THE MILLETT FAMILY

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos

Tayles Hill House, Ewell
Tayles Hill House, Ewell
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

During the 19th century there were many people living in Epsom and Ewell who had strong connections with India. A significant number were born there, worked for the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), married/died there and/or returned there. This has to be more than coincidence and it must also be the case that a proportion of them had known each other in India.

The Milletts, or some of them, lived at Tayles Hill House for many years, but the origins of this family down the male line were in Cornwall, at least back to the 17th century and probably before that. However, we shall stick mainly to the point, which is the Millett family in Ewell and their connections to India.

The Ewell patriarch was Frederic Millett, born 1798 in Wanstead, Essex. His father, George, was a nautical man and a director of the HEIC, who died in 1816 at Walthamstow. The matriarch was Maria (nee Wintle), whose father, James (died 1842), had served in the Bengal Civil Service as a judge. Maria was one of many Wintle children, several of whom died young in India, and she had been born in Bengal in 1808. Frederic and Maria were married at the Judge's House, Midnapore, on 28 November 1828, the ceremony being conducted by Maria's brother, the Reverend James Devaynes Wintle (died 1830 Barrackpore, Calcutta). The children were as follows.

NameBorn (all Bengal)
Harriett Louisa7 October 1829
Maria17 October 1831
Catherine3 October 1833 (died Jan. 1834)
Rosaline12 December 1835
Frederic George2 December 1837
Henry24 September 1839
Sophia AmeliaBorn and died 1841
Francis Forbes17 October 1845
Reginald12 December 1847

As you can see from the fact that all of the children were born in India over a fairly long period, Frederic was a 'Company man' for his whole career, as one normally was unless illness or death intervened, and also became a Director of the HEIC. It is worth mentioning here that he was educated at Haileybury in the days when it was the East India College, an establishment which prepared boys and young men for the purpose of becoming administrators (known as 'writers' in Company parlance) in the HEIC.

New civil servant being carried ashore
Busy riverside scene, Calcutta, with a new civil servant being carried ashore. His boxes are being piled up on the bank and a palanquin awaits him.
Watercolor with pen and ink by William Prinsep via Wikipedia

Frederic retired in 1848, aged 50, and the family set up home at Woodhill, Send and Ripley, along with his slightly older unmarried sister, Harriett. They had a dozen servants, including a butler, although I daresay they were used to having more than that.

Mrs Maria Millett
Mrs Maria Millett
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Soon afterwards the family moved to Tayles Hill House, Ewell, but Frederic died there on 23 July 1856 and was buried in a vault in St Mary's Churchyard. Maria was still at Tayles Hill in the 1861 census, with sister-in-law Harriett and Rosaline, Francis and Reginald.

By 1871 Maria was at Copthorne Lodge, Leatherhead with several servants, but only Reginald was now at home: he was articled to a solicitor. Maria eventually ended up at Bramley Lodge, Surbiton, surviving until 14 February 1899; she was buried in the family vault at Ewell.

A lot of water had gone under the bridge with the Millett children in Maria's long life and she outlived all but three of them. The eldest, Harriett Louisa, had married solicitor Edward Rickards and was one of those who survived Maria: the Rickards family lived in Epsom for some time, so will be the subject of a separate article, but let's look at the others.

Maria Junior

On 29 March 1856, at St Mary, Send, Maria married widowed Edward Latham Ormerod (born 1819 London), a physician of some note who was also an entomologist - his book on wasps, entitled 'British Social Wasps', led to the award of Fellowship of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1872. In 1819 his father, George Ormerod, had also been elected an FRS and his younger sister, Eleanor Anne Ormerod, was an eminent entomologist in her own right, who received international recognition during her lifetime.

However, even as a young man Edward suffered from indifferent health and in the late 1840s he gave up his post in London and moved to Brighton, establishing a practice at Old Steine, which was then a prestigious address. In April 1853 he married Mary Olivia Porter, but she died unexpectedly in June of that same year. Poignantly, Edward and Maria named their first child Mary Olivia, but she was not to survive for long and died in 1866, aged eight. The six who did survive were Edith Harriet (1859-1910), Alice Mya (1861-1933), Effie Margaret (1866-1953), Ernest William (1868-1944), Arthur Latham (1870-1953) and Rose Eveline (1873-1959). Edward died of a malignant bladder disease on 18 March 1873. I am not sure if Rose Eveline had been born by then but, if so, she would have been only days or weeks old. Maria moved to Brunswick Place, Hove and died on 29 June 1909.

None of the Ormerod girls married (I will return to Alice Mya later, when we reach Henry Millett) and the two boys became doctors. Ernest practised at Wimborne, Dorset and he was married with several children, one of whom, Edward Tyssen Ormerod, became a tea planter in Upper Assam, but was killed in 1942 whilst serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery (commemorated on the Alamein memorial).

Arthur Latham Ormerod became the Medical Officer of Health for Oxford and set up an open-air school there, with most of the pupils being sufferers from tuberculosis. The original establishment was in the grounds of the Manor House, Headington; later, the school catered for physically handicapped children and has since amalgamated with the Marlborough School at Woodstock.

Rosaline

Rosaline Millett
Rosaline Millett
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Rosaline married widower George Cheetham Churchill at St Mary's, Ewell on 23 October 1868. George was born in Nottingham in 1822, son of Daft Smith Churchill, a merchant (hosiery) who was also a director of the Nottingham General Cemetery. Daft was not particularly noteworthy beyond his own patch, but became known for an unfortunate reason and, as a result, has an obelisk dedicated to his memory in the cemetery.

Most of us know the general story of Grace Darling, daughter of the lighthouse keeper at Longstone Island, which is one of the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast. In September 1838 the paddle steamer Forfarshire ran aground in heavy weather, her engines having failed, and a few survivors managed to get on to a rock. Grace spotted them from the lighthouse and eventually persuaded her father that they should attempt a rescue, which was no easy matter. Nine people survived the wreck, but Daft Smith Churchill was one of the many who perished.

Grace Darling at the Forfarshire
Grace Darling at the Forfarshire
Painting by Thomas Musgrave Joy via Wikipedia

George was a solicitor and an amateur botanist; he and Rosaline settled in Clifton, Bristol, but sadly she died at home on 5 December 1870, just over two years after her marriage. George remarried in due course and died in 1906.

Frederic George

Frederic Junior followed the same Haileybury route as his father and went out to Bengal in 1857,becoming a Magistrate and Collector. It seems that his health was ruined and he retired on an invalidity pension, returning to his mother's home at Copthorne Lodge, Leatherhead, where he died suddenly of apoplexy* on 6 August 1877. He is buried in Ewell with his parents.

* Nowadays apoplexy would be interpreted as a stroke.

Henry

Henry Millett*
Henry Millett*
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

* The labelling for this photo says only that it is 'Mr Millett', so there is a possibility that it could be one of the other sons, but we think that Frederic George was in India before this was taken and that Francis and Reginald would be too young.

By the time Henry came to contemplate his further education and future career, the writing was on the wall for both the HEIC and the East India College (Haileybury) and the recruitment of administrators for India was moving towards a system of open competition, with university graduates having an equal chance. So Henry went to Oxford, graduating with a BA in 1862 (MA 1875) and training as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn (called to the Bar 1864). He became First Judge of the Small Causes Court in Calcutta. I am not sure when he retired and returned to England permanently but in the 1891 census he was in Cranham, Gloucestershire as a lodger and in 1901 he was living in a house called Royston in the village of Haresfield, Gloucestershire. His niece, Alice Mya Ormerod, was living with him and there was also a resident sick nurse, so I would guess that Henry was ailing. By 1911 Henry and Alice were at Highfield House, Whitminster Stonehouse, Gloucestershire.

Henry died on 16 March 1916, still at Highfield House, naming his executors as Ernest William Ormerod and Alice Mya Ormerod. He left £ 10,000, his house and furniture to Alice and, after some smaller bequests to servants and relatives, she was also to get the residue, which would have been a tidy sum. Alice was still living in the house when she died in 1933.

Francis Forbes

I understand that Francis was in poor health when the family settled in England, so he was unlikely to return to India and become an administrator. Instead he trained as a civil engineer. In the 1871 and 1881 censuses he was staying at hotels, in Ventnor, Isle of Wight and Holdenhurst, Hampshire respectively, so I don't know where his home was during this period but he ended up at Trent Cottage in Ventnor and died there on 1 April 1883, leaving personal estate of just £ 223.

Reginald

As I mentioned earlier, Reginald was a solicitor and he too ended up at Trent Cottage, but whether he was actually living there with Francis I don't know. The first reference I can find for him is this article in the Hampshire Advertiser of 13 January 1886.

'Ventnor, Jan 13th
SUICIDE - On Saturday afternoon a gentleman named Reginald Millett, who has friends living at Bramley Lodge, Surbiton, committed suicide in a very determined manner. He has been residing here for several years and had been greatly addicted to drink, which practice had so evidently affected him that his medical attendant a short time since told his housekeeper to hide his guns from him. This she did, hiding them in her bedroom. On Sunday deceased appears to have obtained possession of one of them, and about 2 o'clock the housekeeper, hearing the report of a rifle, ran upstairs and found Mr Millett lying on the floor with the gun beside him and blood issuing from a wound in his forehead. Medical aid was at once procured but nothing could be done. The wound (the bullet having lodged in the brain) proved fatal in half an hour.'

This article is not accurate, as the writer cannot make up his mind whether Reginald died on Saturday or Sunday and the 'friends at Bramley Lodge' would actually have been his mother. However, the Hampshire Telegraph of 16 January 1886 carried a more detailed report of the inquest and it turned out that Reginald had been at the cottage 'upwards of a couple of years' and that the housekeeper was an old family servant from the Surbiton house who had known him for about 20 years. She did not hear the report of the rifle, but heard Reginald falling to the floor. The verdict was indeed suicide whilst suffering from temporary insanity, although the facts as reported could probably have supported alternative verdicts, such as accident. Nevertheless Reginald did die at Trent Cottage on 10 January 1886, obviously of a gunshot wound. His personal estate was £ 96.

References and further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - notable members of the Ormerod family, including Edward Latham Ormerod.
Tony Millett's website - comprehensive history of the Cornwall Milletts, including Frederic Millett Senior.

Linda Jackson 2018