The Skilton Dynasty

The family of Thomas Skilton,
Epsom veterinary surgeon.

Thomas Skilton (Junior)
Thomas Skilton (Junior)

This narrative is principally about Epsom's famous veterinary surgeon, Thomas Skilton, and throughout he will be referred to simply as Thomas or Thomas Skilton. But because his father was also named Thomas, to avoid confusion, any reference to Thomas, the father, will be followed by (senior).

The Skilton family can be traced back to Robert Skilton and Mary Tyrell, who were married on 27 October 1747 in St Mary the Virgin, the parish church of Stoke d'Abernon, Surrey. This family eventually produced one of Epsom's most highly respected veterinary surgeons, Thomas Skilton.

Click here to see The Skilton Family Tree
Courtesy of Hazel Ballan

When the 1851 census was taken on the night of 30 March, 17 year old Thomas Skilton (senior) was enumerated as being a cow keeper who employed one boy while still living with his parents Robert and Elizabeth, 19 year old sister Mary Ann and 5 year old Eliza Sophia on Epsom Common. His father Robert worked as a carrier in the family business run by his father James in Epsom. The family moved to the neighbouring village of Ashtead, Surrey later that year.

For one so young, Thomas (senior) obviously had a keen business head on his shoulders as he took over the lease of the 16th century Leg of Mutton and Cauliflower Inn (fondly known locally as the Leg) and its surrounding farm land of 65 acres where he and his father, who lived next door with his mother and two sisters, established a dairy farm.

1860 T Skilton (senior) Adverts1860 T Skilton (senior) Adverts
1860 T Skilton (senior) Adverts

In 1855 he became the main supplier of milk, eggs and butter for the newly opened Royal Benevolent College in Epsom.

Thomas (senior) married Susannah Harriet Markin, daughter of Henry and Susannah Markin of Stepney, Middlesex, on 15 May 1856 in St Giles parish church, Ashtead, Surrey. All of their thirteen children were born in Ashtead and seemed to inherit their father's business sense. Their eldest child, Thomas Skilton, became one of Epsom's most highly respected qualified veterinary surgeons while their other sons became successful butchers, dairymen, poultry men or shoeing smiths.

Name Born Married Died
Thomas 1857 Elizabeth Wing
11 December 1884 St. Martins of Tours, Epsom.
5 July 1918
High Street, Epsom, Surrey.
Effects left, £12,589.
Henry 1858 Emily Hope
12 April 1885 St. Martins of Tours, Epsom.
9 June 1940
Edenhurst, 5, Church St, Epsom, Surrey.
Effects left, £15,654 12s. 10d.
Susan Elizabeth 1860 Walter E Guthrie
1923 Chelsea.
23 December 1943
Oak Lodge, Church Street, Epsom, Surrey.
Effects left, £148 0s. 3d.
Mary Ann 1862 Unmarried. 1881 Epsom, Surrey.
Ann Jane 1863 Unmarried. 1885 Epsom, Surrey.
Arthur George 1868 Elizabeth Langridge
1925 Hampstead.
2 January 1949
107, High Street, Epsom, Surrey.
Effects left, £1121 6s. 3d.
William Francis 1866 1st - Isabelle Laura Mary Gryspeerdt 1901 Croydon [died 1907].
2nd - Idalie Antoinette Leonie Jones 1931 Bromley.
21 February 1951
Bromley, Kent.
Effects left, £19,488 18s. 10d.
Walter 1868 ? ?
Eliza Hannah 1870 - 1871
Alfred Ernest 1872 Ellen Florence Lugg
20 October 1902 St. Philips, Kensington.
20 January 1927
Sutton, Surrey.
Effects left, £2790 17s. 11d.
Edgar Robert 1874 Maud Elizabeth Smith
1915 St Martins, London.
23 October 1951
Croydon, Surrey.
Effects left, £4053 14s. 11d.
Sidney Herbert 1876 Violet Clarke
1915 Epsom
April 1942
Ewell Park, Ewell, Surrey.
Joseph Frederick 1878 Ethel Swain
1913 Croydon Surrey
18 September 1940
Hillbrow, 18, Mill Road, Epsom, Surrey.
Effects left, £1632 18s. 6d.

Thomas Skilton was born on 1 March 1857 and baptised by the Reverend William Legg on 26 April 1857 in St Giles church, Ashtead. His younger sibling Henry was born the following year. The birth of their sister, Susan Elizabeth, increased Ashtead's 1860 population to 729 people.

Thomas (senior) had expanded his dairy farm to cover 73 acres by then and was advertising himself as a Dairyman and Cow-Keeper, willing to not only supply families with new-laid eggs, milk and butter but also offering generously termed contracts to larger consumers, just as he did for the Royal Benevolent College. His farm extended from behind the inn to Dene Road, which covered 6 acres, with the rest lying south of Barnett Wood Lane. The largest of his leased fields was North Field, which was about 25 acres in size.

In 1861 when Thomas was aged 4, he and his younger siblings, two-year-old Henry and one-year-old Susan, were enumerated on the census as living with their parents in the Leg in Ashtead High Street where his father was the licensed victualler. The children had a 14-year-old nursemaid, Mary Sherlock, to look after them while their parents ran the public house and farm. Thomas' father also employed Thomas Bone as a cow man and George Wright as a labourer.

Lodging with them was widowed William T. Rogers who worked at the newly opened London and South Western Railway Company's Ashtead Station. Even though the station had opened in 1859, the Leg was still being used as Ashtead's post stage with the mail stagecoaches stopping at the inn to change their four horses for fresh ones, and for any passengers to alight for refreshments. This procedure happened every ten or twelve miles between post stages. This all ceased in 1881 when a new post office was opened in the village.

"Post Office, Thomas Skilton Receiver.
Letters arrive from Epsom 7.30 and 11.50 a.m.
Dispatched at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Delivered at 8.30 a.m. and 12 noon.
Nearest money order office Leatherhead and Epsom"

Entry in the Ashtead Post Office Directory 1862

The Skilton family continued living in the Leg and on the 1871 census Thomas (senior) was also enumerated as a Farmer. Thomas (senior)'s sister Eliza Sophia Skilton was now working as an assistant for the family, who also employed Jane Chitty as a domestic servant, George Simmonds as an ostler and John Tickner as a cow man.

Thomas, aged 14, and his 12 year old brother Henry were away at this time being privately educated in a school run by Clayton Palmer in London Road, Twickenham, Middlesex.

Thomas (senior) continued to work as a dairy farmer while running the pub but in 1878, he instigated proceedings for liquidation of his assets.

The London Gazette 8 October 1878
The London Gazette 8 October 1878

The following year the inn and farm were still being described as being on lease to Thomas Skilton (senior) at '£170 per annum until 25 March 1893'. The inn had seven bedrooms and three attics with six rooms for public and private club use. The farm buildings consisted of the usual barns as well as cow sheds, piggeries, stabling for the inn guests' horses and a building for wagons. However it was in 1879 that Thomas (senior)'s largest leased field, North Field, as part of the Ashtead Manor estate, was sold for development. It seems that the inn and farmland were put on the market in 1880.

Having been brought up surrounded by animals and having seen their health problems first hand, Thomas' education continued at the Royal Veterinary College. Built in 1791, the college was first known just as The Veterinary College, London* and was the first of its kind to be established in England. On 4 January 1792 four students began a three-year course intended to cover not only the care of horses but all aspects of animal health. One of those first students was Epsom resident Edmund Bond (1769-1802), who had become England's first practising veterinary surgeon in Lower Brook Street, London and was buried in Epsom's St Martin of Tours graveyard in 1802 (See EpsomMonuments1.pdf). *For further reading see www.rvc.ac.uk/About/Museums/Index.cfm

After obtaining his diploma in 1880, Thomas Skilton M.R.C.V.S. moved to Plymouth and in 1881 was boarding with the Kay family who ran a boarding house at 5, Princess Street.

Meanwhile back in Ashtead, despite the bankruptcy case and the sale of land, his parents were still running the Leg. Living with them were their children Susan aged 21, Mary aged 20, Ann aged 19, Arthur aged 16, William aged 14, Walter aged 12, Alfred aged 8, Edgar aged 6, Sidney aged 5 and 3 year old Joseph. Thomas' paternal aunt Eliza Sophia was still living and working with the family. The only other servant recorded was Walter Horsley, a stationary engine driver. Shortly, after this census was taken, Thomas' sister Mary Ann died.

Thomas moved back to Epsom to set up his veterinary surgery in the High Street and appears as such in the Kelly's 1882 directory. It was here that he met his future wife Elizabeth Wing. Elizabeth's parents, James Wing and Elizabeth Humphrey, had married in the Epsom registration district in 1850. Although Elizabeth had been born in Camberwell, she had been brought up in Leatherhead but, by 1881, was living in New Road, Epsom as a companion for her aunt Sarah and her deaf uncle Thomas Humphrey, a retired butcher and land owner.

On 11 December 1884, 27-year-old bachelor Thomas Skilton married 27-year-old spinster Elizabeth Wing in St. Martins of Tours, the parish church of Epsom. Her deceased father James was noted on the marriage entry as a licensed victualler. Their witnesses were John Humphrey and the groom's mother Elizabeth Skilton. Shortly after their marriage, Thomas' sister Ann Jane died.

Thomas and Elizabeth had five daughters:

Name Born Married Died
Lilian Cora 1886 William Newington 1912 21 November 1942 - Croydon, Surrey.
Ethel 1887 Cecil Charles Samuel Cheesewright 1937 1962 - Worthing, West Sussex.
Mabel 1890 - 1890 - Epsom, Surrey.
Edith Gladys 17 September 1891 Unmarried 1982 - Worthing, West Sussex.
Winifred Maude 4 May 1895 Unmarried 1999 - Worthing, West Sussex.

Their first daughter, Lilian Cora, was baptised in St Martins of Tours church in Epsom on 10 March 1886 and their second daughter, Ethel, on 30 December 1887. During that same year, because the sale of the Leg and farmland had eventually gone through and now belonged to W.G. Bradley with William Battle being the new landlord of the Leg, Thomas' parents and family had moved to Green Man Farm in Horton Lane, Epsom.

Thomas and Elizabeth's third daughter, Mabel, was aged 4 months when she died; she was buried on 3 April 1890, in grave D138 (unmarked) in Epsom Cemetery.

By 1891 only Thomas' brothers William, Alfred, Edgar, Sidney and Joseph were still living and working at Green Man Farm in Horton Lane with their parents. William was now qualified as a butcher, a career that would bring good fortune and prospects to him and his siblings. Thomas' 45 year old aunt Eliza Sophia was still single and living with the family; she died three years later in 1894.

The family employed one house servant, Rose Beak, to help them, but outside they employed James Kitchenside as a shepherd and George Wilson as a general labourer.

Their sister Susan was away working as a bookkeeper for William Brockham, a butcher in Hampstead.

Thomas, his wife Elizabeth and daughters, five year old Lilian and three year old Ethel were recorded as living at 32, High Street, Epsom when the 1891 census was taken. They had one servant, Charlotte Ottaway, working for them. Thomas' 22-year-old brother Walter, a shoeing smith, was living with them; this is the last record that I have found for Walter although the Kelly's 1895 directory lists Thomas Skilton as a veterinary surgeon and shoeing smith.

Later that year, on 7 October 1891, Thomas and Elizabeth's fourth daughter, Edith Gladys, was baptised in St Martins of Tours church. There was a gap of four years before the birth of their fifth daughter, Winifred Maude, in 1895. Soon after, because of the impending sale of the Horton Estate to the London County Council for the building of the Epsom Asylums, Thomas Skilton (senior) and his family left Green Man Farm.

No 78 High Street, premises of Thomas Skilton, 1908
No 78 High Street, premises of Thomas Skilton, 1908

Thomas was listed in the Epsom 1900 Rates Book as occupying a shoeing forge in the High Street, which may indicate that his brother Walter was still living there with him. The following year Thomas, Elizabeth and daughters, Edith aged 8 and Winifred aged 5, were enumerated in the 1901 census as living next-door-but-one to the Epsom Post Office in the High Street. They had one servant, Elizabeth Nash, working for them. Their teenage daughters, Lilian and Ethel, were boarding at a private girls' school run by Lucy Palmer at 2, Hartfield Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex.

The 1901 census also records that Thomas' parents and his brother Sidney, with the help of two other farm labourers Albert Goddard and William Tobbit, were now farming Well Farm in Woodmansterne Lane, Banstead (See www.bansteadhistory.com). Thomas (senior)'s 70 year old sister, Mary Ann Mansbridge, nee Skilton, was also living there. The family only had the domestic help of Florence Stredwick in the old timber framed farm house, parts of which are over 500 years old and which became a grade II listed building in 1954.

Thomas' brother Henry was now trading as a successful Dairyman and Poulterer in Epsom High Street where he employed their brother Arthur as his assistant. Brother Alfred was trading as a butcher in Warlingham, Surrey while William was running a successful butcher shop at 91, George Street, Croydon. His brothers Edgar and Joseph were working for him while their sister Susan acted as their housekeeper.

Thomas (senior) was aged 70 when he died in Banstead on 18 May 1904, leaving effects worth £1089 15s. 9d. Probate was granted to his eldest sons Thomas [veterinary surgeon] and Henry [dairyman]. On 13 October 1904, Thomas (senior)'s widow Susannah sold two geldings, a chestnut and a bay, at an auction held in The Three Tuns public house yard in Dorking.

In 1911 Thomas and his family were still living in Epsom High Street where he continued with his extremely busy veterinary practice. As well as being the Inspector of cows for the Urban District and Rural Councils of Epsom, Thomas was involved with many of the local racing studs and farms. Thomas was aged in this census as being 54, his wife Elizabeth as 48 and daughters Lilian as 25, Ethel as 23, Edith as 17 and Winifred as 13. However Edith was in fact aged 20 and Winifred 16.

On census night, Thomas' widowed mother Susannah was visiting her unmarried son and daughter, Edgar and Susan, at 91, George Street, Croydon. She stated that she had had thirteen children but only nine were still living. Although the GRO death entries for Mary Ann, Ann Jane and Eliza Hannah have been found, Walter's has not.

The 1911-1918 Kelly's directories list the following Skilton brothers all trading in Epsom High Street:
Skilton - Henry dairyman, High Street, Epsom.
Skilton - Thomas M.R.C.V.S, High Street, Epsom.
Skilton - William F. butcher, High Street, Epsom.

By 1912 William had acquired 6 businesses in and around the Epsom, Croydon and Bromley areas.

Thomas' daughter Lilian Cora Skilton married Croydon based grocer William Newington in 1912 in Epsom. The couple had two sons, Thomas and Maurice, and lived at 92, Brighton Road, Croydon, Surrey.

The year 1914 saw the beginning of the Great War, or World War I as it is perhaps better known. Its impact on the world and its effect on the families of Epsom and Ewell are well documented within this website (see War Memorials).

The effect it had on Thomas as a vet is perhaps less well known. Horse power was desperately needed at the Front Line and every available healthy horse was commandeered by the army, leaving only the very young and old horses behind. Every one of these horses left behind were valuable and whereas bacterial diseases like tetanus (lockjaw) would have ordinarily have been a possible death sentence for a horse pre-war, during the war every effort was made to save the unfortunate horse. Thomas would have been extremely busy doing his best to save them, but it was not until after the discovery of penicillin in 1928 that horses were successfully given treatment.

Thomas lost both his mother Susannah Harriet and wife Elizabeth in 1915. Elizabeth, who had died on 20 May aged 57, was buried in grave D34A in Epsom Cemetery on 26 May 1915. [This grave space had been purchased by Elizabeth's late uncle Thomas Humphrey, who was buried on 11 March 1901 in grave D35A. His wife, Sarah Humphrey, was buried with him shortly after on 29 May 1901. Their grave is the next but one grave space to Thomas Skilton and Elizabeth Skilton's grave]. From the inscription on Elizabeth's headstone it appears she could have been better known as Lily. She left effects worth £1252 14s. 5d.

As the war progressed, with fewer horses around to pull public service vehicles such as ambulances, fire engines, omnibuses and dust-carts, the Epsom Urban and Rural District Councils had to seriously consider the purchase of motor vehicles to replace them. With this came a need for petrol stations on public roads and a reduction for the need of animal drinking troughs and Thomas' skills.

Thomas was aged 61 when he died on 5 July 1918. His mortal remains were buried with his late wife four days later on 9 July.

Inscription on Thomas and Elizabeth Skilton's grave in Epsom Cemetery
Inscription on Thomas and Elizabeth Skilton's grave in Epsom Cemetery
Images courtesy of Hazel Ballan 2012

Thomas and Elizabeth Skilton's grave in Epsom Cemetery
Thomas and Elizabeth Skilton's grave in Epsom Cemetery
Images courtesy of Hazel Ballan 2012

Epsom's newspaper the Advertiser reported the news of his death and funeral the following Friday, 12 July 1918:
DEATH OF MR. THOMAS SKILTON
The death occurred on Friday at the age of 61 of Mr. Thomas Skilton, M.R.C.V.S., High-street. Mr Skilton, who was a native of Ashtead, had lived in this district all his life, and had been a veterinary surgeon many years. He had a large business and in addition to his private work he performed the duties of inspector of cows for the local Councils. He took no part in public affairs. - The funeral took place at the cemetery on Tuesday, the Vicar officiating. Amongst those present at the graveside were the Chairman of the Urban Council (Mr. H. B. Longley J.P.) and officials of the Urban and Rural District Councils.
The Epsom Urban District Council reported Thomas' death in their meeting at 8pm on 16 July 1918. Following their meeting, another article appeared in the Advertiser newspaper on Friday 19 July 1918:
EPSOM URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL
----------

VOTE OF CONDOLENCE

The Chairman remarked that since they last met they had lost one of their officials, Mr. Skelton [sic], the Council's Veterinary Surgeon. He was a very old resident of Epsom and a gentleman very highly respected in the town. He moved that the Clerk be instructed to convey the Council's sympathy and regrets to the relatives.
The motion was seconded by the Vice Chairman and carried.
Probate of his effects of just over £12,589 was granted to his son-in-law William Newington [grocer] and brother Joseph Frederick Skilton [butcher].

Epilogue


Thomas and Elizabeth's son-in-law William Newington, of 92, Brighton Road, Croydon, Surrey died on 13 November 1934, leaving effects worth £4643 12s. 6d. Probate was given to his widow Lilian.

Daughter Ethel was aged 49 when she married Cecil Charles Samuel Cheesewright, a stockbroker's clerk, in Wandsworth in 1937.

The 1938/39 electoral lists show sisters Edith and Winifred Skilton living with their married sister Ethel and her husband Cecil Cheesewright at 143, Upper Richmond Road, SW15. The sisters and Cecil later moved to Worthing, West Sussex.

Widow Lilian Cora Newington, nee Skilton, died on 21 November 1942 at 39, Woodcroft Road, Croydon, Surrey; she left effects worth £6825 4s. 5d. Probate was given to her son Maurice Newington, Lieutenant R.N.

Ethel died on 30 August 1964 in Worthing, West Sussex, leaving probate of £9138 to her husband and spinster sisters Edith and Winifred. The cremated remains of Ethel were scattered on her parent's grave on 16 September 1964.

Edith and Winifred remained living in Worthing where they both died unmarried; Edith in March 1982 and Winifred in October 1999.

Sources:
Ancestry.co.uk
EELFHC records
Ashtead, a village transformed - Leatherhead & District Local History Society, 1977.
Bygone Ashtead - Geoffrey Gollin M.A., C.Eng, 1987.
A History of Ashtead - Leatherhead & District Local History Society, 1995.
Then and Now - Banstead History Research Group, 1987.

With thanks as ever to Sue Bonner, Superintendent of Epsom Cemetery.

Hazel Ballan
December 2012




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