Audley Hilditches









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During the 19th century members of the Hilditch family seem to have taken a variety of roles in the Audley community. Initially they were shopkeepers with Thomas Hilditch, a butcher, being the earliest to be identified. He married Elizabeth Walley in 1780 at the church of St James in Audley. They had at least seven children between 1790 and 1800 and several can be traced well into the nineteenth century. Thomas died on 4th May 1822, "in his 67th year" and Elizabeth survived him until 3rd December 1846, when she was 92 years old.

Thomas Hilditch monumental inscriptionThe monumental inscription for Thomas and Elizabeth in the churchyard of St James, Audley. The inscription below their names reads as follows:


Come hither mortal man and cast an Eye
Read here and know thy doom is to die
Go thou thy way, consider that thou must
One day like me be turned to dust.




The 1837 Tithe Award for Audley recorded Samuel Hilditch, one of their sons, at properties 1641 and 1642b. The former was listed as a house and garden; the latter as a cooper's shop. Three years later, in the 1841 census, the "house" was named as The Butchers' Arms and in 1851 Samuel was described as a publican at the same address. This was confirmed by The Butchers' Arms being situated next to the Vicarage on all three documents and on the Tithe Map. Directories for the area placed Samuel at The Butchers' Arms as well as being a cooper from 1834 (History, Gazetteer and Directory for Staffordshire) to 1850 (The Post Office Directory for Birmingham, Staffs. and Worcs.), when he was also listed as the Registrar of births and deaths for the Audley district. He held this post for some years because he signed off the local census schedules as Registrar in 1841, and his name was still appearing on birth certificates in 1857.

The Butchers Arms AudleyThe Butchers' Arms, property number 1641.


The front of the building was originally in line with the neighbouring properties. The site of the cooper's shop, to the right of The Butchers' Arms, is now beneath a small car park. The white buildings to the left include some that have been run as shops by Hilditches.



In 1852 Samuel was also the Assistant Overseer for the Audley District of the Newcastle under Lyme Union, in spite of dissatisfaction with his conduct in this role dating back to 1848, as revealed in the following letter written by the Guardians to the Poor Law Commissioners at Somerset House in London.


We are requested by the Vestry to take the liberty to lay before your honours the case Respecting Mr Samuel Hilditch the Assistant Overseer for Audley – Audley being one of the parishes comprised in the Newcastle under Lyme Union in Consequence of him having given up his Office as Assistant Overseer at his Own request – There was a public notice posted on the Church 16th April by the overseers to call a Vestry meeting which was held on the 24 Instant Charles P. Wilbraham Vicar in the Chair to take into consideration the propriety of electing a proper person in his place. It being resolved that the Overseers conduct the office themselves except having a person to assist them to make up the Book at their own election, The Vestry very properly considered that it was their duty to go into further enquiry and that it is fitting that some investigation should be instituted by the honourable Poor Law Commissioners in respect of the late Assistant Overseers former and present conduct his negligence has been so great as to suffer pauper families belonging to divers parishes altho’ he has been repeatedly requested to remove them for nearly twelve months and not so much as one family have been removed. I need not remind your honours of the inconvenience to the parish but being attended with serious cost to the ratepayers – After the vestry was closed and part of the Ratepayers were gone Samuel Hilditch the late Assistant Overseer enters the room and refuses to give up his Book and property belonging to the parish which he previously had promised to do – But says the parish had nothing (to) do with them should hold his office again without the permission of the Commission, And the proposal of the Vestry is that your honourable Board of Commissioners will forthwith grant his immediate dismissal.

Your Obt. Servants

The Board of Commissioners in London were less than sympathetic, pointing out that as Mr Hilditch had resigned he could hardly be dismissed. They also suggested that the Guardians could compel him to deliver his Books and that they should refer the matter to the Justices if he did not. He sounds like quite a feisty character. His "negligence"would have been costing the parish the expense of maintaining paupers who could have been removed to their home parishes. The pauper families were no doubt grateful for this. In 1861 Samuel gave his occupation as Grocer.

Samuel Hilditch monumetal inscriptionSamuel died in November 1864 at Barthomley and was buried in this tomb beside the church at Audley. The tomb to the right was added for seven members of his family, beginning with his daughter Elizabeth who died in 1847, aged 5. The last is his grandson Percy Johnson Hilditch who died at Rhyl in 1893, aged 29.



One of Samuel's sons, named Thomas, took over the grocer's shop and had a couple of brushes with the law that were reported in the Staffordshire Sentinel. The first, in 1874, concerned some pepper.

Thomas Hilditch, grocer, Audley, was charged with having sold pepper adulterated with sand and mustard husks. Defendant said that he wrote to Messrs. Wright and Crossley and Co., who, in reply, stated that the pepper was sold as pure as it was when imported. The letter continued thus: "The only plan is for you to send a sample of the pepper to an analytical chemist, to test against your inspector. The manner in which these persons (inspectors) are going up and down the country is very vexatious, and appears to be done more for the sake of annoying than any real good they do; and the magistrates instead of using common sense on the question appear to be led by them." (Laughter.) The names of two analytical chemists were enclosed in the letter, and one was that of Mr. Scott, the analyst of Staffordshire, whose certificate was used against defendant in this case. - Mr. Twemlow said that if the grocers would grind their own pepper they would ensure its being unadulterated. A fine of 5s was inflicted.

5s, or 5 shillings, was worth somewhat more than its modern equivalent of 25 pence.

On the second occasion, in 1880, the problem was about butter.

ADULTERATED BUTTER - Thomas Hilditch, grocer, Audley, was summoned for selling a half-pound of cloth butter that was adulterated. Major Knight appeared to support the information and Mr. Sherratt for the defence. The evidence was that William Giffard, Major Knight's assistant, visited the defendant's shop, and purchased half-a-pound of cloth butter for which he paid 6d. The butter was subsequently sent to Mr. Jones, the county amalyst, who said that the butter was not genuine and contained practically no "butter fat." Mr. Sherratt submitted that the article was not butter, but butterine, and that it was sold as butterine, and the public were aware that it was not butter. The defentant's assistant was called and said that the article purchased by Giffard was butterine. He admitted that the assistant asked for cloth butter and he (witness) did not say that it was butterine. The magistrates decided to fine the defendant 20s and costs.

So what was butterine? A butter substitute made from animal fat and other ingredients such as milk, butter and colouring. A type of margarine.

Another Thomas Hilditch, but from Samuel's generation, had a somewhat mixed portfolio during his working life. The 1837 Tithe Award stated that he was responsible for the National School, property number 1454, opposite the Butchers' Arms on Church Street. The census of 1841 confirmed that he was a schoolmaster, but the National School was built in 1836 for girls. Would he have been teaching there in 1841? By 1851 Thomas was working as a butcher, but in the 1850 Post Office Directory for Birmingham, Staffs. and Worcs. he was described as "butcher and shoemaker" which seems a strange combination. His son John's marriage certificate states that Thomas was a butcher in 1853. There was another Thomas Hilditch living in Audley at this time and both were born in 1788. The other Thomas appears to have been a shoemaker throughout his working life and described himself as such up to the 1871 census. Is it possible that the Post Office merged the two men in the directory?

William Hilditch was another of Samuel's sons. He was listed in the 1861 census for Audley as a gunpowder, wine and spirit dealer. When Samuel's will was proved in 1865, William, as one of the executors, was described as an innkeeper and agent. Perhaps he took over the running of The Butcher's Arms after Samuel died. There is a gravestone beside Samuel's which reveals the tragic story of William's family. Ernest Samuel died aged 5 months, Elizabeth died aged 7 months, Bernard Frederick died aged 6 months and then Alice, William's wife, died aged just 30. All this between 1866 and 1871. In the census of that year William, already widowed, described himself as a farmer of 20 acres and gunpowder agent. Perhaps he gave up innkeeping to raise his four young children: Charles Leonard, Clara Alice, William and George Henry; all between the ages of 2 and 9 years old. An older daughter, Fanny Eleanor, was away at Endon New Hall school about ten miles from Audley. Also there was her cousin Elizabeth Emberton whose mother, Eliza, had been widowed in 1858, the same year her daughter was born.

Sadly, there is still more. In 1872, William was appointed guardian to the two sons of his older brother Charles, a solicitor, who died in March that year and whose wife Annie had already died the previous year. They were both 38. Even by the standards of Victorian life at the time the family seems to have suffered an appalling decade after Samuel died.


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