William Giles and Ann Phillips
  Lickey, Bromsgrove and Redditch, Worcestershire, England

Great changes would come to the city of Birmingham and its satellite towns over the next 100 years, and the Industrial Revolution would create factories and opportunities for work for the growing population across the English Midlands. The greatest changes would come with the dawn of the Victorian era, and it is near the start of this period that the 1841 census gives the first clear glimpse into William and his family.

William was the son of Richard Giles and Mary Court, who were married in Bromsgrove in 1798, but nothing more is presently known about them. William was the first of at least seven children. He married Ann Phillips, around 1820. She was from Hunt End, a small village with a collection of mills making needles and fish hooks, less than ten miles away to the east. However, they raised their family in the parish of Bromsgrove, which was already beginning to take the shape of a typical manufacturing town of the period.  All five of their known children were born there - starting with George in 1821, followed by Ann two years later, and then Henry. There is a nine-year gap before Joseph’s birth in 1836, and then another girl, Harriet, in 1838. It’s likely that additional children were born during the extended gap from 1827 to 1836. Infant mortality was high in the 1800s and it’s highly possible that two or three children died before reaching maturity. If so, their names have not yet been found.

By 1841, the family’s work patterns were familiar ones for this area. William was working as a laborer, but his 15-year-old daughter Ann is a “nailer.” The term is ambiguous, meaning either someone who made nails, or a person who operated or maintained machines in a cloth mill. Both were common occupations for thousands of people in the region. At its height, nail making employed 9,000 people in Bromsgrove alone. More than half of the neighbors in Holy Lane where the Giles family lived had at least one family member working as a “nailer.”

William and Ann’s first son, George, age 20, was not at the home in Holy Lane when the 1841 census was taken and may have already joined the British Army. Ten years on, by the 1851 census, the family has moved to the neighboring town of Redditch, close to where Ann was born. Older children Ann and Henry have moved out of the family home (Henry, at least is married), but 15-year-old Joseph is working as a scourer (the term was used both in the local pottery industry and for someone who scoured or cleaned wool) and 12-year-old Harriet is a pin maker.

It is the eventful life of son George, however, that we will follow most closely on this web site. George would marry three times - twice to widows. Moving in his army career from Ireland to rural Somerset to industrial Liverpool, he would be the progenitor of a large posterity in different parts of the world, and leave an intriguing series of clues about his life. For more about George and his descendants, follow the link in the “Children” box.

As for William and Ann, William lived to a great age and worked all his life as a laborer. As is common with older people, he tended to add a year or two to his age as he grew older and spoke of it, but he was almost 90 when he died. Ann, sadly, died of a premature death in late 1859, still in her early 50s. William soon remarried, to Mary Hampton, a widow from his village birthplace of Lickey, who remained his companion throughout his long life and survived him by another five years. They lived in Silver Street, Redditch, and she was still adding to the family income as a laundress well into her 70s. When Mary also died in the late spring of 1893, she was not living alone. She had already moved into the home of her widowed daughter by her first marriage, at 45 Walford Street, Redditch, where she shared the company of two grandchildren in her last few years.

Parents of
William Giles
Father: Richard Giles 
Mother: Mary Court
Ann Phillips
Father: Unknown
Mother: Unknown
William Giles: 
Born 1799 Lickey, Worcestershire, England
Ann Phillips: 
Born 1806 Hunt End, Worcestershire, England
Children of
William Giles and Ann Phillips

George Giles - Born 1821 Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Ann Giles - Born 1823 Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Henry Giles - Born 1826 Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Joseph Giles - Born 1836 Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Harriet Giles - Born 1838 Bromsgrove, Worcestershiregiles_george_and_maria_1821.htmlshapeimage_9_link_0

A few miles to the southwest of Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city, the traveler leaves the main road to Bromsgrove to enter the local beauty spot known as the Lickey Hills. It is an area of natural beauty said to have been the inspiration for the Shire in Tolkien’s Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Today, the ridge and the line of three prominent hills lie within the Lickey Hills Country Park, one of the oldest parks managed by the City of Birmingham. But at the start of the 1800s the land had been in the hands of the family of the Earl of Plymouth for over 200 years.  And it was in the tiny hamlet of Lickey, at the foot of the hills, that  William Giles was born in 1800.

View from Bilberry Hill, one of the Lickey Hills, birth place of William Giles in 1800, and inspiration for Tolkien’s “the Shire.”  (Photo in the public domain).

Left:  Perry Mill was built between 1790 and 1810 and stood on Feckenham Road at the Hunt End, It was certainly known to Ann Phillips. In the 1900s it was relocated to the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, Worcestershire, and this picture is from the museum website.


Givry Needle Works at Hunt End, near Redditch, circa 1851.

The Otterson Families of Northeast England and related lines                                  To share information or comment on this site, contact the webmaster: Michael Otterson

For details of the family tree of William Giles and Ann Phillips, click on the WorldConnect icon below. This will open a window for these individuals in the Otterson-Berry family tree at RootsWeb.com, a free site.