Dolt/Dolton: ‘Dolt’ may have been of Dutch origin originally; 
the unrelated ‘Dolton’ a place name from Devonshire possibly from the Old English ‘du’ (black) and ‘tona’ (river)


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Part 1: William Squires Dolt (c1781 - 1866)

The ‘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 surname ‘Squires’.  

Since 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.  

William 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!  

William 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.

Elizabeth 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 surname.  

George (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 former employer.  

George 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.  

By 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 means’!  

Anne (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.  

How 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.  

Hugh 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 discharged.  

Hugh 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.  

David (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.  

He 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.  

The 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. 

Levi (c1820 - ?) was baptised 13 July 1820. He probably died in infancy.  

William (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 Watford.  

William 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