LAND OF OUR FATHERS
By Neil WW Gilliat
We have said many times that there is no known record of where William Gilliat was born or of what country he hailed from, although I am sure there has been much time spent speculating over old family legends. We do know, that for the last half of the 1700's William Gilliat born in 1714, and his wife Elizabeth Taylor, grew up in Minting and Horncastle, appeared to have led a very prosperous and peaceful life in this rural Lincolnshire district.
Recently, my dear wife and I were fortunate enough to visit the home country of William and Elizabeth (July 2001). The land is gently rolling pasture and farmland with, what to me, seems to have more than its share of splendid shade trees and lush foliage throughout the area. Most fields are divided with leafy impenetrable hawthorn hedgerows adorned with the occasional shade tree. Scattered throughout the fields at random are the famous 'English Oaks'. From some points on the higher ground surrounding Horncastle, one can catch a glimpse on the horizon of the 'Boston Stump' the name given to the tall square tower without a steeple, that adorns the Boston Parish Church.
From the quaint market town of Horncastle off on a country lane, a few minutes down the road toward Boston, in the county of Lincolnshire, we found the old, but well preserved stone gate and the gatehouse to the Dymoke Estate. Adorning the roof of the gate is a stone heraldic English Lion, for it was here for centuries that the 'Knight Champion'of the Kings of England took up his residence, ever ready to defend the honour of the ruling monarch. The gently rolling parkland was as emerald green as one is led to expect in Ireland and parts of the rural British Isles. Randomly scattered throughout the lush pasture land were numerous large oak trees that provided shade and shelter to the flocks of Lincolnshire sheep and the few deer that grazed contentedly among them in this most idyllic pastoral setting. Across from the historic stone gate, half hidden in a grove of tall trees, was Scrivelsby Church and the church yard that is the last resting place of many of the early Gilliat family. If one could pause to contemplate, three hundred years has seemed to change so little in this quiet corner of rural Lincolnshire. Many of these very same old shade trees could have provided shade and shelter for those early family members and their livestock. The lanes we travelled were the same pathways that William and Elizabeth had strolled along some three hundred years earlier. It was probably as peaceful and serene in their day as it still is today.
We drove down a typical tree lined country lane, in places green leaves hung in an arch over the narrow roadway. Behind neatly groomed privet hedges, bright white washed cottages with thatched roofs sat in English flower gardens. The lane led to Scrafield House Farm, near the village of Hammringham, a beautiful country house that was once home to Adkin Jollands Gilliat. Although there has been the addition of modern farm buildings there was much to remind one of the history of the place.
Then back to Horncastle, and Banovallum House, (Banovallum was the Roman name for Horncastle) a stately Georgian house on Wharf Street, which in 1805 was the home of Benjamin Gilliat one of the younger sons of William and Elizabeth, and later his son George. The House stands behind the Horncastle church, a fine Parish church that through the years had found much support from the Gilliat family. There was a wedding in progress when we arrived so we did not see as much of the church as we would have liked, but hearing we were from Canada, true Lincolnshire hospitality took hold and we were quickly escorted around the back to get a good view of the proceedings. To the south of the church and house flowed the 'Horncastle Navigation Canal'where Benjamin operated the wharf and sloops that plied the waters stretching up into Yorkshire taking wool to the woollen mills and bringing coal back to Lincolnshire. It was a flourishing business that died when the railroads came through the town in 1855. Banovallum house, now owned and occupied by the Lincolnshire Trust, was located on a short street off the market place, which for many years was the site of one of Englandss most famous horse fairs. In the market square where farmers still tend their stalls, loaded with vegetables for sale, one can also find the Banovallum Suite, which at one time was called The Black Horse Inn and brewery, owned by brewer and maltster George Gilliat the son of Benjamin.
One of Horncastles more infamous sons lived near the house, at the end of the Church Walk. William Marwood, in his early life was a cobbler by trade, and what was his little shop is still on Church Lane, a squat little two window building with eaves no higher than seven feet. He became public executioner for England, and his claim to fame was perfecting the hangmas long drop.
Because of a current Foot and Mouth epidemic that had ravaged much of the livestock in England many of the places were off limits and quarantined, restricting visitors to the farmlands. Never the less it is a beautiful and quiet little corner of the world and one wonders why our ancestors ever wanted to leave it.
Ancestors of the Dymokes still hold an old plan of the grounds as they were in the 1700's and William Gilliat is shown as occupier of the 'Old Vicarage Homestead'. William was laid to rest in the Scrivelsby Church yard and his eldest son William, helped Elizabeth to continue the farming operation at Scrivelsby, Tatershall and Coningsby with the help of fifteen labourers, two female servants, a cook and one man servant. In later years he was to move to Martin, a few miles to the east, where he built the Manor House Farm.
Richard, the second son of William and Elizabeth also found rich grazing lands a few miles the east around the Vale of Partney said to be one of the most beautiful tranquil spots in Lincolnshire.
On our return we visited Woodhall Spa which is about twelve or fifteen miles from Horncastle. Although the Spa is no longer in operation it is a very nice little town with a few grand country hotels. It was once a popular watering spot for country gentry. During the Second World War it was the headquarters of the famous 'Dam Busters'Royal Air Force Squadron and one of the original practice bombs is on display. If anyone ever can take the time or has the opportunity to visit this area I would definitely recommend taking the time and the trip.
MARY GILLIAT 1743
Mary was born in 1743 and was the only child of the marriage of William and his first wife Mary Elving. There is little recorded about her however, she was married to a PETER PACKHARNISS of White Chapel. White Chapel is in Lancashire although I believe there is a district in London that goes by that name.
Mary was married before the death of William but she received equal and generous treatment in her father's will, as did the rest of her family of half brothers and sisters.
COUNTY OF LINCOLNSHIRE
I confess that I have had difficulty trying to write these documents in a format that can be followed with even a reasonable amount of difficulty. Trying to combine a 'family tree'and a family history is quite a challenge particularly when some of the families had so many children. Further complications were the practice of naming children after their fathers and mothers etc. The same names create even more confusion.
One way was to create sections for each of the offspring of William and Elizabeth. On following this further, I decided to use only five sections representative of the sons that had long lines of descendents. The others daughters and unmarried sons were attached to the files of their nearest siblings.