Saturday, 23 July 2016

Fitzroy Wilson

By Rosemary Jewers 2015

On 8th June 2015 members of the Colchester Civic Society were invited to view a newly refurbished Colchester building. I thought I would seize the opportunity and see the property, known as Grey Friars as it will soon be open as a Hotel.

When we arrived we were offered an array of drinks and tempted to taste delicious canap├ęs. We toured the rooms and I enjoyed looking at the lovely and original interior architecture. It is certainly going to be a sumptuous hotel and should be a credit to Colchester.

On a table I noticed a book, titled 'Grey Friars - Colchester's Forgotten Corner'. It was packed full of information about the history, development and architecture of the site. I was interested to see if the book mentioned the names of some of the former owners of the house. Flicking through the pages I was amazed to read that one owner was Capt. FitzRoy Wilson - sometimes written as Fitzroy. As it was such an unusual name, I was sure he had to be a relative of mine. What a surprise!

The reason I was so convinced that there was a relationship was because Henry Wilson of Stowlangtoft Hall, Suffolk had married twice. His first marriage was to Mary Fuller Maitland. He and Mary had a large family but in 1834 Mary died.

Henry married again, this time it was to Caroline FitzRoy. Caroline was the daughter of the Reverend Lord Henry FitzRoy, son of the 3rd Duke of Grafton.

Caroline had a cousin, Robert FitzRoy, later to become Vice-Admiral - he is best remembered for being the Captain of HMS Beagle. In 1831 Captain FitzRoy began his most famous second voyage, on this expedition Charles Darwin was on board.

It didn't take me long to establish that Fitzroy Wilson who had lived at Grey Friars, Colchester, was indeed the son of Henry and Caroline Wilson and the great grandson of the 3rd Duke of Grafton. He was born at Stowlangtoft Hall in 1840, he attended Harrow School and later joined the Rifle Brigade. He married Annie Elizabeth Laughton, the daughter of a Colonel.

The 1871 Census, lists Fitzroy Wilson and his family living in Crouch Street, Colchester. The book about Grey Friars mentions that between 1874 -1880 Fitzroy Wilson and his family lived at Grey Friars.

The Wilsons already had relatives living in Colchester. A little further along the road on East Hill, stands the large white house, Belgrave Place, built by the Rev. John Savill of Lion Walk Church. John Savill married Frances Maitland and Frances was the aunt of Fitzroy Wilson's father.

Later, Joseph one of the Savill sons, moved back to East Hill with his family. They were living at Belgrave Place when Fitzroy Wilson and his family occupied Grey Friars.

By 1881 Fitzroy and Annie Wilson had moved to Ackworth House, East Bergholt. I found on the Census that two children had been born when Fitzroy and Annie were living in Colchester. Their son Eustace was born in 1873 and the youngest girl, Lilian was born in 1877, it is possible that Lilian could have been born at Grey Friars.

Fitzroy Wilson retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he died in 1887 at the age of 47. He was buried in the churchyard of Stowlangtoft Church, Suffolk.

I cannot believe that just by picking up a book from a table at the new Grey Friars Hotel, I would discover that I was related to a former owner of Grey Friars, particularly as until recently I had thought I had no connection whatsoever to Colchester.

Relationships to Rosemary Jewers; Henry Wilson of Stowlangtoft Hall, Suffolk was 3x great uncle. Frances Savill nee Maitland, East Hill, Colchester was 4x great aunt. Referances: 'Grey Friars - Colchester's Forgotten Corner' and 'Unraveling the threads: A guide to the Wilsons of Stenson in the county of Derbyshire 1664 to 1880' by Malcolm Harrison © Rosemary Jewers 15th June 2015. Link to the article about the Savill house on East Hill, Colchester.