The BYLETT families

The census return for 1881 records a total of 248 families with the name BYLETT, or with a variation such as Billett, Boylett, Bellot, etc. Of these, the highest percentage (54, or 22%) were living in London, as might be expected. Perhaps surprisingly, the next most favoured place was the Channel Islands where 26, or 10% of the families lived. In this analysis, and those that follow below, only the head of each family, as indicated in the census, is considered.

However, almost without exception all the Channel Islands families were BELLOT or a very similar form, which is likely to have been a French import.

Discarding this and similar variations the number of families reduces to 160. Again, the highest number (15%) were in London, closely followed by Dorset (14%), Somerset (13%) and Wiltshire (12%).

In 1881, then, almost 30% of all BYLETT (and close variations) families were living in either London or Dorset; over 50% were in London, Dorset, Somerset or Wiltshire; and with the exception of five families in Lancashire, almost 95% of families with that name were living in the southern part of England. By 1881 there had been a good deal of 'migration' into London from all parts of the country: it seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that the family name originated somewhere in Dorset or Somerset and gradually worked its way eastwards.

This site is concerned with those families living in Surrey, of which there were 14. Of these families, in only two cases was the head of the family not born in Surrey (one was born in Ramsgate, the other was from Wiltshire but married a woman from Guildford). The distribution of these 14 families was as follows.

One family, with a spelling of BYLATT, lived at Banstead: the father, James, was born at Wallingham but this may well be a transcription error for Warlingham. His wife, Mary, was born in Middlesex and the three children living with them were born in Hook, Croydon and Banstead.

Eight of the families spelt their name BILLETT. It is possible that this is a completely separate family, and nothing to do with the BYLETTs, but by and large census enumerators wrote down what they heard and so it is likely there is no significance in the different spellings. The eight families came mainly from the north of Surrey - three from Southwark, one each from Bermondsey, Battersea and Newington, one from Richmond and one from Shere. It is likely that the first six, at any rate, were related.

The remaining five families, with the spelling BYLETT, are the ones with which this history is primarily concerned. The most distant lived at Clapham; of the others, one lived at Reigate, one at Caterham and two at Merstham (both at the Noddyshall hamlet). These last four are almost certainly part of the same larger family.

The Merstham Byletts

The earliest record found so far is of Abraham Bylett, born about 1733. He married Mary SIMMONDS, born about 1740, on 14 APR 1762 in St Katharine's church. They wasted no time in producing a son, Abraham, who was baptised on 30 JAN 1763. He was the first of seven children, all of whom were baptised at St Katharine's and they are shown here: children of Abraham and Mary Bylett

(dates are, in general, dates of baptism):

No further records have been found of Elisabeth or Jacob.

Abraham (senior) died aged 91 and was buried on 01 FEB 1824; Mary died at the age of 86 and was buried on 21 JUN 1826. These were the two Byletts mentioned in the burial register as 'of Nodishall'.

Abraham and Jane's children were:

No further records of Maria or Jane have been found.

David, the fifth child, was baptised at St Katharine's on 08 APR 1805. He married Rosanna [Rosina], from Chipstead. She had been born on 14 MAR 1807 and baptised 05 APR at St Margaret's, Chipstead, the daughter of William and Rosina Pullen.

The marriage date has not yet been found; it did not take place at Merstham and David and Rosina were probably married at St Margaret's, Chipstead. Their eldest child, Ellen, was born in 1831 so it is likely that the marriage took place about 1830. Certainly from 1851 they were living in the most southerly of the Noddyshall cottages, the present-day Noddyshall; it is likely that this had been where David's grandparents had lived and died, and possibly Abraham and Jane had also lived here.

It was a small cottage of two floors, with each floor divided internally into two rooms. The floors were connected by a stone staircase in one corner, next to the fireplace. Despite the meagre living accommodation David and Rosanna brought up 12 children - at one time eleven children were living in the cottage with their parents. The children are shown in this diagram and were:

The Sussex Advertiser carried a report, on 20 NOV 1855, titled "Death by burning". " On Wednesday an inquest was held at the Cottage of Content upon the body of Alfred Bilet, aged 9. Rosannah Bilet, a respectably dressed woman, stated that her husband had a family of 11 children, the eldest, 18 years of age, being a cripple; they earned 13s a week. On 1st November she went for some water, leaving deceased and four of her daughters in the room; she was absent a short time when she was told her boy was on fire; he was very much burnt about the bowels. She sent for Dr Holman, who told her to apply flour, which she had done. Mr Martin came on Friday, and they came alternately every other day till Saturday morning, when the child died. Deceased never told her how it happened; her daughters told her deceased was sitting before the fire when his shirt caught fire. In reply to the Foreman of the jury, witness stated that she complained that she had been promised a gallon of flour by Mr Holman, and wondered it had not been sent; but denied that she had grudged using flour on that account. Had only made the remark, as nobody knew what hardship she had to find food for all her hungry family; would have used the last bit of flour she had for her child. Constantine Holman, surgeon, Reigate, deposed that he attended the deceased within an hour after being informed of the accident, and directed flour to be applied freely, which had been done before he arrived. Deceased was burnt very much on the chest, abdomen, the fore part of the thigh, and round to the abdomen. Mr Martin, his partner, saw the child the next day, and he (witness) called again the fourth day; he gave an order to the Union for beef, tea and wine for the child, which was supplied, and he had great pleasure in bearing testimony to the Board of Guardians of the Reigate Union; he never found the least backwardness or deficiency in attending to any order for wine, &c, which he gave as a medical officer. He attributed death of exhaustion consequent upon the burns, and considered it to be quite an accident. The Jury proceeded to Noddys Hall, about a mile distant, where the body lay, and from the evidence of the eldest daughter, the fire appeared to be purely accidental, and the Jury returned a verdict accordingly."

At the time of the 1851 census Emma was no longer living with the family but all 11 others were there. The newspaper report above indicates that the eldest child was 18 years old: in fact, the eldest child was Ellen, who would have been 24 at the time. It was Matilda who was the cripple, and in 1855 she would indeed have been 18.

David, the father, lost his sight and in 1871 was shown as 'blind'. The family can be traced throughout the census returns, from 1851 to 1891.

By 1881 Matilda and Abraham were the only two children still living with their parents, but also sharing the cottage was another David Bylett. This was the same relative who had been living in the neighbouring cottage with James and Mary in 1871 (see below). Thomas GASSON, shown as a 12-year-old grandson, was also living there; he was the son of Matilda and Abraham's sister Amy and her husband Henry.

David (Rosanna's husband) died and was buried at St Katharine's church [plot K68] on 12 NOV 1885 and Rosanna survived him for a little over five years, dying in early 1891. The census later that year shows their children Matilda and Abraham, by that time aged 54 and 48 respectively, in the cottage with Elizabeth GASSON, their 18-year-old niece, who was a housekeeper (but where isn't given).

His brother James, married to Mary, lived in the adjacent cottage (the present Noddyshall Cottage). They produced eight children:

In 1841 another branch of the Bylett family were living in this cottage - David and Richard, together with Richard's wife Mary. Their relationship to 'our' David and his brother James isn't known, but related they presumably were as ten years later David was still there, sharing the cottage with James, Mary and six children. By 1871 James and Mary, with son John, are sharing the cottage with two lodgers, George and Mark WARREN, as well as yet another David Bylett and his three children Alfred Edwin, Elizabeth and William George. This David was a widower, his wife Elizabeth having died. Again it is not clear how he fits into the Merstham families.

On 14th July 1877 Mary died, aged 65, and was buried at St Katharine's [plot G13], and the next year John married Elizabeth PORT, from Shere. The 1881 census shows this cottage occupied by James, together with son John and daughter-in-law Elizabeth. James died on 9th February 1890 aged 82 and was buried at St Katharine's with his late wife; the next year's census shows just John and Elizabeth in the cottage.

John died on 26th January 1913 at the comparitively early age of 64; Elizabeth survived him by a little over a year, dying aged 63 on 9th June 1914. Both are buried [plot G12] at St Katharine's, together with Sarah Wilkinson KINGSLEY who died on 19th December 1916 aged 73. No relationship is evident from the tombstone.