The Watkins family lived around the Montgomeryshire town of Welshpool for many generations. Cadwalader Watkyns lived in Llanoddian and Heniarth and by the mid 18th century the family was in Manafon where they stayed until Griffith Watkins, a tailor, moved his family to Shrewsbury around 1800.
Griffith Watkins was born in Manafon towards the end of 1771, his father, also called Griffith, was a tailor, his mother was Mary Pugh. Griffith married Jane Nicholas in
1798 in Llanfair Caereinion and their first child, John, was born in the following year. Sometime in the next three years the family made the move to Shrewsbury. Jane was the first of the family to be born in Shrewsbury in 1803 and a further five children were born over the next 13 years.
Three branches of the Watkins family have entries in the 1841 census, 68 year old Griffith is living on Barker Street and still working as a tailor. He is recorded as living with his wife Jane, his oldest daughter and his 3 year old Grand-daughter Louisa as well as a 15 year old apprentice.
Eldest son John is 40 and is also on Barker Street with his famly earning his living as a baker. John's wife Elizabeth's first husband was Charles Cole, the uncle of John's brother Mathew's wife, Emma.
Around the corner on Claremont Street, next door to the Baptist chapel, lived Matthew Watkins, 30 years old and married to Emma Cole, the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Cole.
By the 1851 census Jane, Griffith' wife, has been dead for four years and he is still living with his daughter, he dies the following year aged 79.
John's family has expanded and his children have branched out into printing, hair dressing and clerking.
Matthew's family has grown to eight children and another four died in infancy. William Francis makes his first appearance in the 1851 census.
The 1861 census shows the family continuing to grow, the children moving into professional positions and acquiring servants for the first time.
Matthew Watkins died in 1862 at the age of 53. In June 1870 William Francis married Amy Isabella Balls from Ipswich. Amy died five months after the wedding.
John Mitton was born in 1812, the eldest of three sons of Benjamin Mitton, a skinner of Frankwell, Shrewsbury.
William, John's older brother, appears in the 1871 census living in St. Alkmunds Square and working as a tailor. Ten years later he is an inmate in the Atcham Union Workhouse.
George, his younger brother was a prosperous shoemaker active in local politics. Later in life he took over the running of his father-in-law's tobacconists shop in Castle Gates.
At the age of 13, John was indentured to John Jones as an apprentice cooper. Jones appears in the 1841 census living on Wyle Cop. Also in his household is the 20 year old Catherine Ann Cowley, originally from Ruthin in Denbighshire.
By 1841 John Mitton was in business for himself, living on Princess Street and working in premises at Castle Gates, where his brother George was a shoe and bootmaker. John married Catherine Cowley in 1847 and had two children, Jane and John Cowley. John Mitton died on 5 August 1861.
The 1871 census shows Catherine living with her 19 year old daughter Jane at 29 Albert Street. John Cowley Mitton was 17 and had moved to Sheffield, where he remained for the rest of his life.
William Francis Watkins had left his parents’ home and was living at 32 Albert Street. William and Jane married on the 24 January 1878.
After her daughter's marriage Catherine moved across the road to number 11. The 1891 census shows her as a visitor at William Francis Watkins home and the 1901 census shows her as a resident there. The census for that year also shows a resident nurse, presumably for Catherine's care. By the time of her death two years later, she was a resident at the Grove Ladies Asylum in Church Stretton.
From "The Bombshell": a monthly journal devoted to the interests of the employees of Thomas Firth & Sons, Ltd.
"Those who know our friend best are often astonished at his wonderful precision and accuracy... There are few men on the staff who can so admirably bring the past to life again... One could scarecly say that the world of sport has claimed Mr Mitton as a wholehearted devotee, but the inevitable law of compensation did not fail, and in reverse ratio, lack of stature and bulk was compensated by an exceedingly alert mentailty, and more than one high-flown notion has received its quietus when exposed to the searching criticism and cool judgment to which all matters are invariably subjected when placed before our man of figures... Mr Mitton never hesitates to say what he means... Underneath what may sometimes appear a gruff exterior [he] has a great heart and is a true friend of the staff."
By the time of the 1881 census, William was living back at Claremont Street, presumably having taken up occupation on the death of his mother, Emma, in 1877. The census notes that the business employed 13 men, 2 girls and boy.
His shop was thriving at this time and local newspapers regularly covered the business's annual works outings. Other newspaper articles covered theft of cloth by an ex-employee, a dispute over who should be responsible for suits ordered by a customer who died before paying the bill and William's failure to submit election expenses within the time limit.
By the turn of the century, William had moved the family to an extensive property, Ashbourne House on Monkmoor Road.
William was a staunch conservative, a magistrate and was involved in local politics, serving for many years on the council, representing the Castle Ward, and on other local bodies. One local paper noted that he was not a particularly vocal politician and rarely made speeches. He was elected mayor of Shrewsbury in 1901.
William died very suddenly in 1906 while eating supper. On the day of his funeral, flags were flown at half-mast and his fellow shopkeepers put up their shutters as a mark of respect.
Neither Florence nor Kath married, they lived all their lives in Shrewsbury and worked as teachers. In 1911 they were living in 18 Crescent Place in the centre of Shrewsbury, but later moved to Meoltor, Bank Drive in Meol Brace.
During WWI Kath spent two years as a volunteer nurse. She worked at Quarry Place Military Hospital from January 1917 until it closed in March 1919.
William Francis Mytton also remained in Shrewsbury, taking over the family business after his father's death.
In 1909 Adeline married Charles Douglas-Osborn and moved to Pedmore in Worcestershire. The Douglas-Osborns were watch makers, jewellers and hardware shop owners.
Nelson and Bernard both studied and qualified as accountants before enlisting in the army early in WWI. Nelson was a Second Lieutenant in the Prince of Wales Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment).
In 1919 Nelson married Patricia Petrovna Latter, the daughter of a hotel owner. They had two children, Thomas and Richard. Pat died in 1923 at the age of 37.
Nelson was working in Colombo, Ceylon when war was declared and he returned to enlist, following Pat's death, he returned to Colombo leaving his children in the care of the Latter family. In Colombo he practised as a chartered accountant based in the Lloyds Building in the Fort area of the city.
From this point on he does not seem to have had a settled address in Britain, giving his address on official documents as either c/o the Latters, or various clubs of which he was a member, The Thatched House Club, The Junior Carlton Club, or the Cavendish Hotel.
Aged 55 in 1940, Nelson remarried to Fairey Elsie Nelson, the daughter of a missionary. He died in the King Edward VII's Hospital For Officers in 1956.
Bernard followed his older brother Nelson into accountancy, passing the initial exams of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1907 and being admitted as an associate in 1908.
He enlisted in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry on 7 Sept. 1914 and embarked for France on 24 July 1915. He had a series of promotions during his service:
- 18 Mar 1915 - Lance Corporal;
- 21 Jul 1915 - Corporal;
- 7 Sept 1915 - Quarter Master Sergeant;
- 14 Feb 1916 - Second Lieutenant;
- 14 Aug 1917 - Lieutenant;
- 3 May 1918 - Staff Lieutenant 1st Class.
He was mentioned in despatches on 4 January 1917 and finally demobilised in June 1919.
Bernard married Mary Teresa Thomson in Kingston in Surrey. Mary had served in the WAAC during the war. They lived in Shrewsbury at 12 Underdale Road until Bernard's death on 16 March 1929.