I’m sure you may recognise the name, “Harry Richard Thomas Willats,” by now, his name has popped up a good few times over my “52 week challenge” and this week I finally get to tell you a little about him.
I’m not going to go into the history of the name “Willats” as you can read it about it here.
But what I will tell you is this mans face just makes me smile. Over the years he has given me a numerous puzzles which I’m happy to say, I think I’ve finally cracked his story.
Harry Richard Thomas Willats, is my maternal 2nd Great Uncle.
He was born March 4, 1901 at, Number 40, Windsor Road, Upper Holloway, Islington, Middlesex, England, to Harry Herbert Willats (Money) and Eleanor Mary Willats Nee Kirby.
His Father Harry Herbert (senior), was working as a, Music Hall Artist, at the time of Harry’s birth.
His Mother Eleanor, registered his birth on the 16th April 1901.
Their residence was given as, Number 17, Gloucester Road, Islington, London, Middlesex, England.
Later that month on the 31st March 1901, the census was taken, which shows, Harry, his Father Harry Herbert, and Mother Eleanor, residing at, Number 40, Windsor Road, Islington.
Harry Herbert, was a Music Hall Artist, as was Eleanor.
They are living off their own account.
The Western Times – 11 Feb 1802, states that, “Master Harry Willats” performed at the, Children’s Fancy Dress Ball, which was held by the Mayoress of Exeter Mrs W H Dunn, at the Guildhall.
Master Harry Willats, performed “The little Nipper.
On the 28th Feb 1904, Harry’s Mother, Eleanor, gave birth to a baby girl, at their home, number 11, Moreland Street, Tollington, Islington, London, England.
Harry Herbert and Eleanor, named her, Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats.
Harry Herbert Willats, was working as a Music Hall Artist.
Eleanor registered Doris’s birth on the 14th April.
It is believed that young, Harry, gave his first proper stage performance in April 1904, at The Mildmay Radical Club, Stoke Newington.
On the 19th March 1906, Harry welcomed a baby Brother into his family, when Eleanor Mary, gave birth to my Great-Grandfather.
They named him, Reginald George Wilfred Willats.
He was born at their home, High Street, Brownhills, Stafford.
Eleanor Mary, registered his birth on the 4th April 1906. Harry’s Father Harry Herbert, was working in the Music Halls.
The family’s happiness was short-lived, when three-year old, Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats, contracted Meningitis.
The staff at the Great Northern Hospital in Islington, would have tried their up most to help her. Heartbreakingly little Doris, died on the 9th April 1907 from, Acute Septic Meningitis (Streptococcus) and Exhaustion.
Poor Eleanor, registered her death the same day, 9th April. I can only imagine how hard that must have been, the pain, the numbness, the helplessness they must have felt. My heart bleeds for them. If only medical science was what it is now, she more than likely would have been saved.
6 days later, Harry, Eleanor Mary, Harry Herbert and Reginald (aka Reg), laid Doris to rest, at Finchley burial Ground, Islington, Middlesex, England.
She was buried in an open grave with thirteen other people, who were all buried between the 21st March 1907 and the 15th April 1907, in grave reference number, Z/3/15000. You can read all about Doros’s short life here.
I wonder if Harry and Reg, knew what was going on? If they understood where their sister has gone? Why their parents shed tears?
It’s very possible that Harry, Harry Eleanor and Reginald were among the thousands that lined the streets to witness the funeral cortège of King Edward Vll, as it traveled through the London streets on May 20th 1910.
Known as the “Playboy Prince” in his younger days as the Prince of Wales, King Edward VII was remembered as a good-natured and charming monarch upon his death in 1910. More than 400,000 people passed by his coffin while it lay in state for three days at Westminster Hall. Edward’s funeral on May 20, 1910, was a solemn but grand affair, attended by monarchs and rulers from around the world; most of the crowned heads of Europe were related to him by blood or marriage. The funeral cortege brought hundreds of thousands of Londoners into the streets to watch a parade of royal pageantry and military pomp. “Mourning dress prevailed in the great crowds, buildings were draped, the flags were at half-mast, but the rich variety of color in the uniforms lent splendor to the moving scene,” reported The New York Times. After travelling through the streets of London, the funeral party departed by train to Windsor Castle, where the full funeral service was held.
By the time the 1911 census was taken on the 2nd April 1911, Harry, Eleanor and Reg were residing at, Number 16, Springdale Road, Stoke Newington, London, which was a four room dwelling.
Eleanor is listed as married for 12 years.
She has had three children, 2 living and 1 which had died.
Harry’s Father, Harry Herbert, isn’t with them! Was he on the road performing? I can’t seem to find he anywhere in 1911. I have my own ideas as to where he was.
Harry Richard, Eleanor and Reginald, have a one year old, nurse child, Bertram Gorier living with them. I wonder what the story behind that was?
Harry’s, Half Brother, was born on the 8th November 1912, at Number 45, Chapel Street, Chesterfield, Derby, England.
They named him, William John Herbert Willats.
Harry’s Father Harry Herbert, is named as the Father, a Music Hall Artist and his Mother is named as, Helen May Willats formally Hobbs. Ellen/Helen registered Williams birth on, November 28, 1912.
William John Willats, was baptised on the 28th November 1912, at St. Paul’s, Hasland, Southwell, Derbyshire.
They were residing at Number 10, Greville Street, Clerkenwell, London, England.
Harry Herbert, occupation was listed as a, Light Comedian.
Family rumours state, that Harry gave his first professional London appearance in November 1913, at the Olympia Theatre, Shoreditch, Middlesex, England.
On the 17th March 1914, Harry’s Half Sister was born, whom they named, Mabel Helen Ruby Willats.
Mabel was born at Number 17, Bankhouse Street, Burnley Lancashire, England. Harry Herbert, was working as Music hall Artist and Helen registered her birth on march 25, 1914.
Mabel would later marry, William G H Wicks, at Poole, Dorset, in the June quarter of 1937.
Harry’s second Half Sister was born on the 19th March, 1915, at Number 57, Park Lane, Stoke Newington, Middlesex, England.
They named her Evelyn Violet Kathleen Willats.
Ellen was named as Helen Willats, formerly Hobbs.
Harry Herbert, was working as a Music-hall Artist.
He registered her birth on the 15th April 1915.
Harry’s, Twin Half Sisters, Nellie May Poppy Willats and Lilian Maud Alice Willats, were born on June 10, 1918, at number 66, Regent Road, Morecambe, Lancashire, England, to Ellen May Hobbs, age 25, and Harry Herbert Willats, age 41. Harry Herbert, was working as a Music Hall Artist. He registered Nellie’s and Lilian’s, births on the 10th June 1918. Lilian was born at 7.30 am and Nellie was born at 8.15am.
The following year in the September quarter of 1919, Harry’s Half Sister, Daisy H P Willats, was born.
She was born in the Islington district.
Harry Richard Thomas, British Army WWI service records, show that Harry was residing at Number 99, Drayton Park, Holloway, London, in 1920. Harry signed up for short service, in the, East Lancashire Regiment.
His occupation, was given as a, Music Hall Artist.
He served from March 17, 1920 to May 19, 1920.
These two documents helped greatly in cracking the mystery of his Mother Eleanor Mary Willats Nee Kirby, death.
On the 23 February 1923, Harry was featured in the Stage Newspaper.
He performed in his fathers production, RUMBLED, under his stage name
I believe this is where Harry’s career really took off, but you’ll hear more about that next week.
In the September quarter of 1924, in the Thanet district, Harry’s Half Brother, Kenneth A J Willats, was born.
Shortly after, on October 13, 1924, Harry married, Music Hall Artist, Dorothea Davies, Known as
Daughter of, Herbert Edwin Davies and Gertrude Grey Davies Nee Peters.
The married at, The Register Office, South Shields, Durham, England.
Harry was a 23-year-old bachelor, his occupation was a Music Hall Artist.
Dorothea, was a 22-year-old spinster.
Their Fathers were working as a Music Hall Artist (Harry Herbert Willats) and an Insurance Agent (Herbert Davies).
Their witnesses were, L Stokol and John Jones.
Harry’s Mum, Eleanor Mary Willats Steele Nee Kirby, aka Nellie Montague, died on the 2nd June, 1925, at Number 59, Spencer Road, Stoke Newington, London, England.
She died from, Cancer of the Liver and Asthenia.
George Herbert Steele her common-law husband registered her death on the 2nd June, 1925. He is named as her husband on Eleanor’s death certificate.
Harry and his family laid, Eleanor Mary Willats Nee Kirby, at Finchley Burial Ground, in Islington Cemetery, Islington, Middlesex, England, on the 6th June 1925. She was buried under the name Eleanor Mary Willats Steele, in Grave reference Z/16851. She was buried in an open grave with 15 others.
You can read all about her life, here, here and here.
Followed by his Fathers death a few years later.
Harry Herbert Willats, died on October 17th, 1929, at the, Royal Northern Hospital, Islington, London, England, when he was 52 years old.
Harry Herbert, died from, Heart Failure, Disease of the Aortic Valve and Myocardial Degeneration.
N Hobbs of 20, Penshurst Road, Ramsgate, Kent, registered Harry’s death on the 21st October.
Harry’s occupation was given as, a Music Hall Artist of Number 20, Penshurst Road, Ramsgate, Kent.
Harry and his family laid his Father, Harry Herbert Willats, to rest at, Islington Cemetery, Finchley, Middlesex, England, on the 23rd October 1929, in grave J/22123. He was buried with 15 others in an open grave.
I wonder why he wasn’t buried in the family volt?
You can read more about Harry’s father Harry, here, here and here.
Harry and his wife Dorothea aka Cora Craven, careers bloomed over the next few years, while they tried desperately for a baby.
That baby never came, which put extreme pressure on their relationship and finally broke them.
It wasn’t long before a lady called, Theodosia Brimelow, Daughter of John Arnold Brimelow and Gertrude Brimelow Nee Baxendald, caught his eyes.
Harry and Theodosia, married on the 2nd November, 1940, at The Registry office, Leicester, Leicestershire, England.
Harry was a 39-year-old divorcee, working as a Music Hall Artist.
Theodosia was a Music Hall Artist, aged 30 years old and a spinster.
Their Fathers Harry Herbert Willats and John Arnold Brimelow, were both Music Hall Artists and both deceased.
Their witnesses were Wm E Sharpham and G Brimelow.
Around 1945, Harry managed the Peacock Hotel, in Market Harborough. He resigned from management in November 1947 and returned to the stage.
Harry continued to raise the roof off the Music Halls with laughter, and even continued to work alongside his ex-wife Dorothea.
He traveled far and wide, entertaining.
His laughter turned to tears when his beloved Brother, my Great-Grandad Reginald George Wilfred Willats, died on the 14th May 1948 at The Royal South Hants Hospital, Southampton.
Leaving behind a heartbroken Wife, Eileen May Willats Nee O’Connor and young daughter, Doreen June Willats.
I’m not going to tell you and more than this as you will hear all about his short life which was full of love, in a fortnight’s time.
Over the next few years, Harry continued to entertain the Music Halls.
Harry and his Wife Theodosia, tried to conceive, but still it didn’t happen, which destroyed another marriage when Theodosia left Harry because she was desperate for a child.
It’s beyond heartbreaking, that their love for each other wasn’t enough.
Poor Harry had lost the two leading ladies in his life, both because they couldn’t conceive. 😢
On the 28th July 1949, the Stage Newspaper printed an article about Harry R T Willats, intended to apply to the county council of London for registration under the Theatrical Employers Registration Acts, 1925-1928.
Harry Richard Thomas Willats, residing at 4 Rochester House, RushCroft Road, SW2 and carrying on business under the name Dee-el-pee Productions, intends to apply to the county council of London for registration under the above act. Dated July 18th 1949.
Later that year, on October 12, 1949, Harry wed for the third time.
He married Pauline Ada Renton, who was known as Penny, Daughter of Robert Howard Renton and ? Dowsing, at the Register Officer, Windsor, Berkshire, England.
Harry was a 48-year-old divorcee, working as a Music Hall Artist.
Pauline was a 18-year-old spinster, working as a professional Dancer.
Harry was residing at, Number 4, Rochester House, RushCroft Road, London, SW2, England.
Pauline was residing at, Number 39, Zurins Road, New Windsor.
Her Fathers occupation was given as a, Coach Builder.
Their witnesses were, Florence Hilda Renton and Robert J Renton.
I’m sure the flag went out, when Pauline fall pregnant and their Son. Brett H M Willats was born in the July-September quarter of 1953, in Windsor, Berkshire, England.
I have ordered his birth certificate, but unfortunately it hasn’t arrived in time. I will write an update as soon as I receive it.
Harry finally became a Father, after two failed marriages and numerous attempts at conceiving. I’m sure all his dreams came true and that he was an exceptional father to Brett. I’m so pleased he found happiness.
Once again, Harry continued to rock the Music Halls and was still entertaining right up until his death.
Harry sadly died on December 3, 1965, at Caravan 51, Caravan Site, Clayhanger, Staffordshire, England, where he was working as a Club Steward.
Harry died from, Coronary Thrombosis. Coronary thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel of the heart. This blood clot restricts blood flow within the heart. It is associated with narrowing of blood vesselssubsequent to clotting. The condition is considered as a type of ischaemic heart disease, also known as a heart attack or myocardial infarction.
His Wife Pauline, was present at his death and registered it on the 6th December.
Unfortunately I do not know where he was laid to rest.
His wife Pauline, remarried in the, December quarter of 1976 to a man called Clifford A Archbold, in South Staffordshire.
And I believe Brett, stayed living in Staffordshire. The last record I have for him is a UK, Electoral Register 2003-2010.
Brett went on to marry, Jayne Lloyd, in the September quarter of 1971, at Cannock, Staffordshire.
I asked my wonderful Nan about her memories of her Uncle Dick, she wrote back to me with the below information.
My earliest memory of Uncle Dick, was he was appearing in a pantomime in Southampton, “Puss in Boots”, he was playing Puss. He had got Dad a box to watch the show, I was three or four at the time. During the interval, he climbed from the stage and into the box, he then picked me up and I was scared to death by this huge cat holding me and apparently I screamed the place down. He had to quickly take his head off so that I could see it was my Uncle, he never did that again.
We didn’t see a lot of him as he was touring with the theatre.
I know my Dad used to write some of his comic material for him. Uncle Dick, was a very nice man, quite good-looking, very outgoing, not a bit shy or he wouldn’t have been on the stage. When my Dad died, he came to see us. I introduced him to my fiancé George. He didn’t come to Dads funeral, couldn’t get away I presume but my Mum was very hurt and angry with him. Uncle Dick asked us to go and stay with him and his wife Cora, for a few days, he was in a show at Croydon so we got the train to there, then he drove us to his home which I think was in Market Harborough. Cora made us reasonably welcome but she wasn’t thrilled to have us there. The following morning she only rang a gong to say breakfast was served, Mum and I fell on the bed rolling with laughter. She treated us like the poor relations. We only stayed one night then caught the train back home but Mum told Dick what she thought of him allowing his wife to treat us like dirt.
I didn’t see him for quite a while after that, I was married and had all my children before he came into my life again, we were walking past a theatre in Southsea, when I saw my Uncles photo on a poster, he was in some show there, so I went back stage to see him. He was very pleased to see me, he told me he was married to a girl called Pauline and that he had a little boy named Brett, Pauline was much younger than him, anyway I gave him our address and a few days later he brought Pauline and the Baby to see us. I never saw my Uncle again and we lost touch.
Harry Aka Dick Montague, has to be in my top 5 of people I wish I could travel back and meet, his life on paper looks so very exciting , though in reality it was full of hurt and heartbreak.
I can feel his pain, as if it was my own, after many years of trying to conceive and fertility treatment. If only medical science, was how it is now, maybe he would have lived a different life and stayed with his first wife Dorothea aka Cora Craven.
I wonder how much his life would have changed.
We can’t change the past, which is a good things as all our lives would in some way or another have changed with it, however I wish I could have taken his pain away and he could have had an army of bairns following in his footsteps, entertaining the millions.
His struggles were what made him and I take my hat off to the men, who laughed through his hardships and left in his wake, thousands of belly laughs.
Pop back next Friday, to see Harry’s life as our one and only,
Until then, laugh until your cheeks hurt, your belly’s sore and your running for the loo in laughter. 🚽
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Please do not download or use them without my permission.