Answers to Questions


PHILLIPS, Watton-at-Stone, 1901

June, 2007




Judy Palmer (jkpalmer @t of Australia writes William, James and Samuel Phillips were all carpenters at Watton-at-Stone at the time of the 1901 census. I have been told the family I am looking for were in the funeral business so maybe they made the caskets.

I have just returned from holiday - and with a backlog of queries I am afraid I only have time for a few quick hints as to where you might look.

Watton-at-Stone had a population of about 700 in 1901 so would be far too small to support a dedicated funeral business - and most village carpenters would be prepared to turn their hand to anything - and I suspect it was rare for one not to make at least some coffins. Historically there is a strong link between builders and the funeral business - as a builder would employ carpenters and would employ a number of men capable of carrying a coffin at the occasional local funeral.

The 1901 census shows that the Phillips, father and sons, were workers - which means that they were employed by someone else. This may have been William Harmer, the village wheelwright listed in the 1902 Kelly's Directory for Hertfordshire. Information on employees can be very difficult to find, but if they later set up business in their own right they might be listed in one of the Kelly's Directories - some of which are available online in the Digital Library of Historical Directories.

Have you checked earlier censuses to see if the family were carpenters then? The 1891 census also makes the distinction between employers and employees clear. Sometimes you can get hints by looking at other households in the same village to see what occupations they carried out - and who were the employers - who can usually be found in the Kelly's directories.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.