‘Dolt’ may have been of Dutch origin originally;
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Part 1: William Squires Dolt (c1781 - 1866)
‘Dolt’ surname for many centuries has been strongly associated with
Hertfordshire, England. The earliest record found so far dates back to
Rickmansworth in the 15th century. The first ‘known’ Dolt
in this branch was born in Rickmansworth c1781. William Squires Dolt was
a journeyman paper maker who spent his life in Rickmansworth (a
journeyman had completed his apprenticeship but was not a master,
needing to be evaluated by a guild for this honour). Nothing is known of
his parentage but it is possible his mother (or an ancestor) had the
the Industrial Revolution and the increased demand for paper,
Rickmansworth was the paper-making centre of Hertfordshire with its five
mills. Some paper continued to be made by hand but most was produced
with mechanisation which brought costs down sharply – though it did
not necessarily cause mass unemployment. Paper at that time was actually
made by pulping rags and it was not until the second half of the 19th
century, when rags were not so readily available and improvements had
been made in chemical techniques, that paper was made from wood pulp.
lived in Solesbridge Lane so it is most likely he worked at the
Solesbridge Mill. He was married to Elizabeth
(surname unknown) who originally came from Marsham, north of Norwich.
Elizabeth was born c1791 and it is known she was a laundress in her 60s.
This was not untypical of older women, especially widows. At the time
William was working but they had two lodgers so it is obvious they
needed money. A laundress differed from a ‘washerwoman’ as she
handled not just sheets but clothing. Elizabeth would have turned their
house into a mini factory for part of each week as the process took
several days. Anybody who could afford to have someone else do their
washing would gladly do so to avoid the weekly cycle of lifting,
carrying, soaking, wringing, hanging and ironing!
and Elizabeth had six children: George, Ann, David, Levi, William and
another Levi. All their surviving children seemed to have received some
education and entered service or a similar situation, as did many of
their own children. During the 19th century about 10% of the
female population was in service and about 1% of men. For working-class
girls, it was a major employer and they would start looking for a place
even before they entered their teens. They might find a position in a
local house but then be encouraged to move further away, where they
could not share gossip about the family with locals. The wages might not
seem as much as could be earned in other occupations but they usually
received food, board and a uniform and work was secure – unless a
servant was dismissed for bad conduct (perhaps
for having a relationship with a fellow servant) or some other reason.
died c1865, aged 74, and William died 10 May 1866. He apparently lived
to 88 which was a remarkable age for someone in the ‘labouring
classes’. (In 1842, average life expectancy ranged from 18 to the high
30s depending on the area, professional trades from the 30s to 50s.)
Interestingly, it was after William’s death that three of his four
surviving sons changed their names from ‘Dolt’ to ‘Dolton’. No
one knows why but perhaps it sounded better! Only George retained his
(c1815 - 1898) was baptised in Rickmansworth 02 July 1815 along with his
sister Anne. He worked as a gardener then later as an agricultural
labourer. He married Ann Wright 12 June 1843 in Kingston-upon-Thames,
Surrey, and they had two children: George and Matilda Ann. The family
lived in the Rickmansworth area and then sometime in the 1860s, George
became the innkeeper of the Eagle Inn in Kings Langley, near Hemel
Hempstead. Former servants often ran pubs in their ‘retirement’, and
one of George’s brothers did indeed do that with money left by his
would have had to apply for a licence and ensure he ran an orderly pub.
By the 19th century, breweries were buying many pubs ensuring
only ‘their’ beer was sold there and it is very likely George was a
tenant of a brewer. His son George helped run the pub and it is fairly
certain Ann and Matilda would have acted as barmaids.
1881, George was running the Rose and Crown in Bovingdon near Hemel
Hempstead. It is likely he retired before his death 13 August 1898. Ann
had died two years earlier and unlike some children of a ‘licensed
victualler’ (as George was also known as), George Junior did not take
over the running of the Rose and Crown. He did not need to as his father
had left him almost £2,000 (£100,000 today) to live on his ‘own
(c1815 - ?) was baptised along with her brother George in 1815. She
worked as a servant for a family in the Bloomsbury district of London
but by 1851, she was back at home with her parents ‘out of service’.
It is possible she had been dismissed. She married Hugh Swan, 31 October
1853 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Richmond. Anne was 38 at the time and
no doubt had given up all thought of marriage.
she met Hugh is not known but he came to the marriage with quite a lot
of personal problems. Not only was he a widower with at least two young
children but he had been on trial in late 1849 for ‘being a bankrupt,
unlawfully destroying his papers’. He had been a linen draper living
in Camden Town, London, and had apparently destroyed some of his
accounts to defraud his creditors. He was found not guilty at the trial
but that seemed to have been on a technicality regarding the
interpretation of the law.
suffered greatly despite the verdict. He spent time in the Queen’s
Bench Debtor’s Prison from 1850-51 and it was while he was there that
his first wife Rebecca died from tuberculosis, and two of their children
also died. He applied to be discharged at the Insolvent Debtor’s Court
in late 1851 and the lengthy transcript was reported in the papers –
even as far away as ‘The Argus’ in Melbourne! The commissioner
overseeing the hearing was damning in his appraisal of Hugh during his
earlier trial: “… he had never met with a case of this flagrant
character”. He spoke of the gross perjury Hugh had committed and how
many people Hugh had managed to convince to commit perjury on his
behalf. Nevertheless, that earlier trial could not have a bearing. Hugh
had shown repentance and his career in trade had been destroyed. He was
began a new career as a butcher (seemingly managing to be trained
appropriately in only a couple of years). Anne and Hugh had one child,
Rebecca, and they lived mainly in Islington, London, but at one point
they lived in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire. Hugh had apparently retired
from being a pork butcher and become a poultry keeper. The family
returned to Islington where Hugh took up being a butcher again. He died
c1886 and it is likely Anne died within a few years of his death.
(c1817 – c1874) was baptised 10 August 1817 in Rickmansworth. He
worked as a servant for the Day family at Sarratt Hall, near
Rickmansworth. At the time of his marriage he was living in nearby
Bovingdon, working as a gardener, so he may have changed employers.
married Elizabeth Hidden 30 December 1849 at St Marylebone, Westminster,
London. Elizabeth’s father was a gardener, too. Their first daughter,
Jane, was born very soon after and baptised 10 March 1850 in Wimbledon
but sadly she died aged 18 months. They had eight other children:
Elizabeth, Anne (also died young), David, Thomas, Eliza, Walter,
Frederick and Charles.
family lived in Rose Cottage, Kewfoot Lane, Richmond and then moved to
nearby Marsh Gate. Both addresses were very near to the world famous Kew
Gardens and it is tempting to think David may have been a gardener
there. Certainly at the time, Kew Gardens was undergoing a major
expansion having been in existence for at least a century.
By 1871, the family had moved to 2 Model Cottages, Avenue Road, Tottenham, next door to David’s brother Levi’s family. The cottages, built in 1858, and other buildings nearby had been paid for mostly by Fowler Newsam. David was almost certainly one of his gardeners and daughter Elizabeth worked as a handmaid in the Newsams’ home. None of their other children entered service and most of the boys became clerks or civil servants later in life. David died c1874, aged 57, and Elizabeth died in 1906, aged about 79.
(c1820 - ?) was baptised 13 July 1820. He probably died in infancy.
(c1832 – 1902) was baptised 20 July 1823 in Rickmansworth. He worked
for a farmer then became a gardener working for the incumbent of Christ
Church, Chorleywood. Except for a brief time when he was listed as a
grocer (possibly a clerical error), William worked as a gardener for the
rest of his life in Hertfordshire, mainly around Rickmansworth and
married Eliza Lee 18 September 1843 in Rickmansworth and they had eight
children: Ann Eliza, William Squires, Edward, Mary, Sarah, Emma, James
and Ellen. Only a few of his children entered service. William worked as
a gardener up until his death c1902, aged 78. Eliza died in 1905.
More information about Levi (c1825 – 1885) appears in Part 2.
Next: Levi Dolton