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  • Writer's pictureJessica Feinstein

John Wheeldon, hatter

Six men are working with combs, irons and brushes as they make hats of various descriptions, some tools of their trade are hanging on the walls.

Coloured etching. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain

John Wheeldon was one of Ari’s 5x great-grandfathers. He was born on 12 July 1823 in Cromford, Derbyshire, the son of a hatter called Joseph Wheeldon and his wife, Alice Holmes.

England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567–1936

The millpond at Cromford

In the 1841 census, the family are in Cromford. John is seventeen, with no occupation given.

When John was twelve, his older sister Alice died at the age of twenty-one, and when he was sixteen, his married sister Hannah died at the age of nineteen.

The next record we have for him is his marriage to Ruth Brelsford. This took place at St Mary’s in Wirksworth on 27 February 1843, and it tells us that John was now a hatter.

Their first son, William, was born the following year, followed by Joseph and John. William (7) and Joseph (5) can be seen in the 1851 census. The address is Moor Side in Cromford. Next came son number 4, Samuel, and three daughters: Hannah, Mary and Alice. The 1861 census shows the family at Barn Lane, with John at thirty-seven now working as a labourer. Two more daughters were born after this census was taken: Kezia and Sarah Ann. The family moved to Holloway, and John began working as a merino dresser, preparing wool for knitwear.

John died at Holloway from typhoid fever (which he had had for six days) and pneumonia (three days) on 9 July 1881. He was fifty-seven and his occupation at the time was hosiery dresser. The informant was his son-in-law, Vincent Greatorex, who was a joiner, married to John’s daughter Hannah. I have just discovered that Hannah committed suicide in 1911, as reported in the Derbyshire Courier on 5 August 1911:

Ari, this is how you are related to John:

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