Banburyshire Family History

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Steve Milton

Robert Ashby (1709-1786)

"Robert Ashby, was of a contrary disposition and notoriously fond of pudding. He enquired one day of his hostess whether it mattered where he eat the pudding and on being told it did not matter, he said, 'Well then, I will eat it at home!' When his neighbours told him that his corn was needing to be cut he would not cut it!" (This quotation is provided by Martin Gillet; another version of the story is said to concern his great-grandson Robert Ashby - see later). Robert was a Grazier, Baker and Maltster

Here's a chronology of some events in Robert's life:

The Rose and Crown at Lower Brailes

The Rose and Crown
at Lower Brailes

In 1788 the Rose and Crown is conveyed to William Sheldon by Robert's son Joseph: "the release being a conveyance from Joseph Ashby Seasoncote co. Gloucester, farmer, and William Gibbs of Epwell co. Oxford, yeoman, trustees of the estate of Robert Ashby of Lower Brailes, baker and malster, deceased, with the consent and direction of George Upton of Lower Brailes, innholder, to William Sheldon of Grays Inn and Brailes, esq. of a messuage in Lower Brailes called the Rose and Crown together with adjoining land purchased by the said Robert Ashby from Nicholas Brain."

Details of some of Robert's children and their spouses follow:

John Ashby (1732-1798) and Mary Maulle (1728-c1777)

Being a direct ancestors of Joseph Ashby of Tysoe, John has a later section to himself.

Robert Ashby (c1737-1820) and Elizabeth Stowe (1746-1828)

"Shutford folk, hearing that Joseph belonged to the Quaker Ashbys, showed him the ring in a wall where a great-uncle of his used to fasten his pony when he rode up to a Meeting" (from Joseph Ashby of Tysoe).

Robert married Elizabeth in 1766. From the South Warwickshire meeting minutes: Whereas Robert Ashby Jnr of Chelmscote hath taken the liberty to be married by the priest contrary to our established rules we therefore have no longer unity with him or own him as a member of our society until by demonstration of unfeigned repentance for his outgoings he regain fellowship with us". Quakers, having rejected the "hireling priesthood", could not countenance the marriage before the priest. This was equally true whether they were to another Friend or to a non-Friend. Disownment did not involve exclusion from meetings; and those who continued to attend might, after a decent interval, be reinstated.

It appears that they were resident in Charlbury, before relocating to Shutford some time before 1775. Robert renounced Quakerism and was baptised at Shutford in 1816. He died 1820. He had descendents in nearby Broughton and North Newington.

In the Banbury Quaker records, Robert is described as a gardener.

Joseph Ashby (1734-1795) and Margaret Fardon (1732-1806)

Joseph was a grazier in Sezincote. Some events from his life:

William Gillett of Brailes

William Gillett
of Brailes

Joseph had another daughter Ann (date of birth unknown) who marries Thomas Morris in 1796. In 1811 Thomas Morris and his wife were recruited as the first Director and Matron of Nottingham County Lunatic Asylum in Sneinton (this was one of the earliest purpose-built asylums in the country) working there till 1832 (salaries £100 and £30 respectively plus board and washing.)

Family tradition has it that Joseph made his daughters promise to name a son after him.

Joseph Ashby Morris (1800-1866) became a clergyman. The Ashby name remained in the family up until Josephine Ashby Morris (1867-).

Joseph Ashby Fardon (1812-) became a farmer in Tredington. He was also salt and artificial manure manufacturer, coal merchant, corn and flour factor. His sister Ann married Samuel Beesley (1796-1843) baker of the famous Banbury cakes. His nephew Alfred Ashby Fardon (1867-) became the maker of "Fardon's Vinegar" in Leamington.

Joseph Ashby Cork (1794-) was a grocer in Banbury

Joseph Ashby Gillet (1795-1853) was an interesting character...

Joseph Ashby Gillet (1795-1853)

"Joseph Ashby Gillett, head of the old Banbury firm of Bankers, was their distant cousin" (From Joseph Ashby of Tysoe).

Joseph Ashby Gillett and his daughter Martha

Joseph Ashby Gillett
and his daughter Martha

The Gilletts were from at least the early 18th century sheep farmers in Upper Brailes. William Gillett (1767-1849) started up as a Woolcomber in what is now Gillet's lane in Brailes. From there he moved to Tusbrook House farm and started his well-known Plush Factory ("Plush" was the name for various types of velvet cloth made from cotton, wool and silk and used for rich clothing). William married Hannah Ashby of Sezincote in 1792, and son Joseph Ashby was born in 1795.

At the age of 11 Joseph went to the Quaker School at Ackworth in Yorkshire. In December 1807 the schoolmaster, reported that "the 12-year old Joseph is very well, and conducts himself in a very agreeable manner; I do not yet recollect that he has ever done anything that he has merited being set in disgrace. I find him a good learner; he is in the first Class in Writing."

At the age 13 of he was apprenticed to John Burgess, a respected Quaker Woolstapler of Granby Street, Leicester. Here, we are told, by his diligence and orderly conduct he gained the esteem of his master and friends.

It looked as if William was planning a future in the plush industry for Joseph at this period; in 1820 William went into partnership with Joshua Thorne of Banbury together with Joseph Ashby and William Jnr, and began to operate from a London address as manufacturers of Shag and Shaloon (Joseph looked after the Banbury end and William the London end).

Gillett's Banbury factory provided enough work to the Cottage Weavers in the villages surrounding Banbury to keep them fully occupied in looms installed in their homes. (It's possible that Joseph's great-uncle John Ashby was one such "Journeyman weaver" in Tysoe.) Under Joseph's care the plush industry in Brailes flourished and, in 1838, he had about 150 looms there with 20 girls working whole-time with perhaps 100 outworkers. He also built a plush factory at Banbury (and there was also a factory in Shutford).

Meanwhile Joseph had begun to take a hand in local banking. This was no new thing in the family - William had also undertaken business of a banking nature, no doubt begun as mere extension of credit by a prosperous trader to his customers. By 1820, besides the partnership with J. Thorne, Joseph had become the local Agent for Cobb's Old Bank at Shipston on Stour (this would not have been by any means a full time occupation; he would have continued attention to the family business).

In June of 1821 Joseph married Miss Martha Gibbins, daughter of Joseph Gibbins, a prominent Banker of Birmingham and Swansea. The same month, Joseph used his marriage settlement to secure a partnership for himself in Whitehead's Bank at Shipston on Stour. He then went to live in the Bank House in Shipston, the Bank then being known as Messrs Whitehead, Greenway, Lowe and Gillett.

In December 1822, Joseph Gillett's brother in Law, Joseph Gibbins, purchased the Banbury New Bank from R. & C. Tawney. He then made Joseph Ashby Gillett a co-partner, Joseph to conduct the Bank's business. Gillett's bank was eventually absorbed by Barclays in 1919.

In December 1823 Joseph began a lease on a home in the Horse Fair, Banbury. Their eldest child Martha was born a few weeks later at Neithrop. Joseph bought a house in West Bar just about the time that his lease of the Horse Fair house was up. He then proceeded to add on to the old building the front of the present house and also a second storey.

The Gillett family were active Quakers in Banbury and other local meetings. They were involved in various philanthropic activities and help set up clothing clubs (through which people could save up to buy clothes) and soup kitchens in hard times. They were concerned with Quaker and other schools; Joseph Ashby Gillett was almost certainly on a committee set up in 1839 for the purpose of founding a school. Various sites were inspected and in 1841 the Manor House at Sibford Ferris was bought from Joseph Harris for £1200, the money being provided by Joseph Ashby Gillett.

Martha Braithwaite neé Gillet

Martha Braithwaite née Gillet

Joseph was recognised as an independent man and was asked to serve in various capacities. For example when, in 1844, there were many schemes in the air for the bringing of a railway to Banbury, Joseph was asked to chair a meeting to resolve the issue. In Jackson's Oxford Journal : 29 June 1844: The committee for the Worcester Weedon & Oxford Railway included Joseph Ashby Gillett of Banbury. 13 Jul 1844: Notice of an important Railway Meeting at Banbury, at which George Stephenson, Robert Stephenson, and I K Brunel were present; and four proposed Railway Companies were represented by Managers, Directors and Solicitors; Joseph Ashby Gillett was Chairman of this historic meeting. 26 Oct 1844: the Managers of Worcester & London, Rugby & Oxford Railway included J A Gillett.

Joseph died in 1853. He had established himself as a successful banker, a man of property, and a practical man of charity. The three aspects of his career were of course not independent of each other: success in business gave him the chance to acquire property and to do good works, and his property purchases and his philanthropic reputation made for increasing trust in him as a banker.

His daughter Martha married Joseph Bevan Braithwaite (1818-1905), barrister, Quaker minister and bearer of the mantle of evangelical leadership among the British Quakers". Their son William Braithwaite was author of the Quaker histories "The beginnings of Quakerism" and "The Second Period of Quakerism".

Joseph's grandson Henry Tregelles Gillett (1872-1955) was Mayor of Oxford (1938-1939).

Contributed by Steve Milton
Email: stevemilton23(@)
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