The Wilkey Family and their social class

The earliest members of the family who lived in Taunton were almost certainly weavers, although some could have been millers as these were the two most popular professions in Taunton in the 1600's.

The Wilkey family have always been city dwellers and as such have been involved in the community as butchers, clockmakers, brewers, accountants, carters, drivers and so on. They also served in both Great Wars but there is no evidence to suggest that they served in the Napoleonic wars (although two Wilkey's from other families were at Waterloo in 1815), or in the Crimea etc.

Tavenor Wilkey (b.1724) is the earliest confirmed family member recorded in the family charts (his father 'William' is a tentative link, he is buried in the same village as Tavenor). Tavenor is described as a victualler and a musician and is believed have had an income in excess of £10 per annum based on the fact that he made a will that was proved in Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). This was the highest court in the land for depositing wills, and only wealthy citizens had wills proved here.

The will does not contain land or buildings but by 18th century standards Tavenor and his partner Ruth Everson would have been considered quite wealthy. The first part of the will indicates that he leaves all his household goods to one Linda Elisia Stork of Liquors (?) Musical Instruments, other monetary wealth he leaves to his life partner Ruth Everson for the burial of herself and their children.

Tavenor and Ruth lived at a time when the landmarks that make Bath one of the most beautiful cities in the world were being constructed. The city saw two major periods of urban growth during Tavenor's lifetime, the first period lasting from 1725 to 1758 - the period of John Wood and when John Wood the younger completed the Circus (1758). The second period from 1762 to 1774 when the Royal Crescent (John Wood the younger) and the Pultney Bridge (Sir Richard Pultney) were completed. The next ten years saw a decline in finances for building work that led to a market crash in Bath in 1793.

It is following this latter period that three of Tavenor and Ruth's daughters were married in Bath Abbey (1796 to 1805), a very prodigious setting reserved for the well off. Tavenor and Ruth witnessed only one of these weddings (that of Mary Wilkey to Samuel Hanney in 1796) before their deaths in 1798 and 1802 respectively.

One of Tavenor's sons William (christened 1782), who was married to Mary Anne Cooper (1815) was a butcher by trade but later became an accountant and bookkeeper whilst two of his three sons became butchers assistant (Richard Cooper Wilkey (b.1819)) and a butcher (Ambrose Wilkey (b.1823)). The third son William Tavenor Wilkey (b.1821) became a brewer. Both Ambrose and William moved to London between 1855 and 1860 after establishing themselves in the Bath area.

Richard Cooper Wilkey and his wife Martha Sims lived in the Bathwick area of Bath (Henrietta Buildings), which has always been quite a wealthy middle class area of Bath. It is probable that both William Tavenor Wilkey, who moved to Stepney, and Ambrose Wilkey, who moved to St. Pancras were quite well off by mid 19th century working class standards judging by their trades.

Of Ambrose's children, the eldest, George became a French Polisher and second son James a police constable. Two of the three sisters, Mary and Alice, became fancy shellbox makers.

Of William Tavenor's children, William became a clockmaker, and Frederick became a Carman, as did two of his children. Another son, Charles became a mill stone maker.

As the Wilkey's in East London dropped down the social classes in the late Victorian period, becoming labourers by trade so did the Bath families in the second half of the 19th century. Part of the social decline of the Bath and London families was no doubt due to the difficulty in finding work in the late 19th century and the rise of larger families in the early 20th century

One of Richard Cooper Wilkey's sons, Thomas, was a porter according to the 1881 census although like his father Richard he still lived in the middle class area of Bath (8, Villa Place, Bathwick). His other son William became a carman and then a cab driver and moved back to Weston Village, where Tavenor and Ruth had lived a hundred years before. They then moved to Snow Hill in the eastern part of the City of Bath, off the London Road by 1901. Richard John Wilkey (b.1876) also became a cab driver and then taxi proprietor prior to the end of his career.

At least three family members became painters and decorators, they were Frederick William Wilkey (b.1879), William John Wilkey (b.1891) and William's son Robert Frank Wilkey (b.1924).

Mainly tenants of property in the early 20th century, many of the Wilkey family did not become owner-occupiers until after the growth of the middle class in the second half of the 20th century.

Many members of the family now live in various parts of the country and professions include a managing director, solicitor, nurse, printer and office workers.