Alice Laura Whiting 1870-1909

Parents: Susannah Maria Whiting, Father Unknown. (1)
Born: 16th March 1870 at Chauntry Croft, Haverhill.(1,2)
Baptised: 25th December 1870 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.(1)
Married: None.
Children: Grace Edith Irene Whiting b.1888(3)
Died: September 1909 in Haverhill. Buried on 10th September 1909 at Haverhill Cemetery.(4,5)

Bio: Alice appears on the 1871 census living with her mother at the home of her parents John and Susannah Whiting in Chauntry Croft. At the time of the next census in 1881 she is a scholar living in Eden Road, Haverhill with her mother and grandfather John, who was now a widower. Also living with them is Daniel Purkis, who would become her step-father.

Alice had an illegitimate daughter, Grace, born on 27th July 1888.(3)

An article in the Haverhill Echo dated 19th October 1890 that was discovered by Judy Stratford not only identifies the father of her daughter, as being Ernest Gillings of Great Abington, Cambs., but also gives us an account of how she successfully managed to obtain maintenance for the child from him by proving through letters written by Ernest that they were actually engaged, and that Ernest had given his assurance that he would support her despite the money not being forthcoming, and the couple seemingly not being on good terms at that time:

"AFFILIATION. After having been adjourned twice previously, the case of Whiting v. Gillings came on for hearing.

The plaintiff, was a single young woman named Alice Whiting, a factory-hand, residing at Eden Road, Haverhill, who summoned Ernest Gillings, formerly a farmer of Sturmer Hall, near Haverhill, and now residing with his father at Great Abington, Cambs., to show cause why he should not contribute to the support of her child, of which he was the putative father. Considerable local interest was evinced in the case, both parties being well known and the defendant being well-connected. Mr H. W. Jones, of Colchester, appeared on behalf of the plaintiff, and Mr C.V. Thorneycroft, of Bishop's Stortford, on behalf of the defendant, who this time did not put in an appearance. - In stating his case, Mr Jones produced a large number of letters, many of them being of a most objectionable character, which the defendant had written to the plaintiff, who, he said, was 20 years old. The child was born on 27th July 1888. Mr Jones read several of the letters to prove that defendant had admitted the paternity, and had forwarded money to the plaintiff within twelve months after the birth of the child. In one of the letters Gillings expressed a willingness to send money every month, and stated that he had no fear for the future, as when his grandmother died he should receive some money. - Mr Thorneycroft then stated that he was instructed to object to Mr Gurteen adjudicating in the case on the ground that he was the plaintiff's employer. - Mr Gurteen expressed a willingness to retire, but remarked that that was the first time either his father or himself had been objected to, despite the fact that about 3,000 of the residents of the neighbourhood were employed by his firm. - The plaintiff, in reply to Mr Jones, stated that she had been engaged to the defendant since she was 16 years of age, and was still engaged to him. She had received money on several occasions from him towards the maintenance of the child. He had also given her an engagement ring; he always appeared to have plenty of money, and he told her he had expectations from his grandmother and father. Mr Robert Walton having identified the letters as being written in defendant's handwriting, Mr Thorneycroft addressed the Bench on the question of the amount, saying it would be futile for him to attempt to controvert the evidence Mr Jones had brought forward. Defendant, however, had no business, and was living with his father, who he believed made him a small allowance. - The Magistrates then retired, and on their return gave an order for 5s. a week until the child was 16 years of age, with costs, the latter amounting to £3 1s. 10d."

So, who was Ernest Gillings?

It seems likely that he was Ernest Silverstone Jillings, baptised on 10th January 1856 in Stetchworth, Cambridgeshire (7), the son of Charles Jillings, farmer, and Mary Ann, who later lived at New House Farm in Great Abington. While he can be traced up to 1890, after this he proves elusive. No obvious sighting of Ernest in England or abroad. There is just a cryptic reference to him on the 1911 census as being one of 3 children of his parents alive at that time (8).

The 1891 census shows Alice working as a drabbett weaver and living with her daughter, mother and step-father at 17 Eden Road, Haverhill.

Alice featured in the The Bury and Norwich Post when she was witness to a fatal trap accident on 5th July 1894.

Mr C F Freeman, 41, solicitor, had been driving into Birdbrook from Haverhill when his dog-cart was involved in a collision with a trap belonging to Mr John Price. The horses of both vehicles collided and Mr Freeman was thrown out and subsequently died.

'Alice Whiting, a factory hand, living in Eden Road, who was coming from Vale Place at the time of the accident, said she saw Mr Freeman and his wife driving on the croft side, and witness and her friends were walking by their side; it was dark. She saw the trap coming down in the centre of the road. One of the gentlemen in her company, Mr Easeman, of Manchester, called out, 'Hi! Hi!' to Mr Price. The traps were then close. She was dressed in white. When the collision occured she was about three yards off. Her friend ran and got hold of Mr Freeman's horse. She could not say if the deceased jumped or fell out. Mr Freeman was on the croft side, and Mr Price in the middle of the road. - John William Iron, butcher, stated that he was coming from his home in Guilford Yard, about 11.15, when he saw Mr Price's cart passing. He heard someone halloa 'Look Out!' and heard the collision. He ran down at once, the distance being about 25 yards, but Mr Price's cart had gone. The trap driven by Mr Price was in the middle of the road when going past him. It was very dark. He did not see Alice Whiting. - By Mr. Salmon (for Mr Price): He should have seen a white dress if there had been one.' (6)

Alice remained at Eden Road for the next ten years, and when her step-father Daniel died early in 1901, Susannah Maria became head of the household. The 1901 census shows Alice working as a cotton weaver, and her daughter Grace is now 12 years old.

Alice was to died in 1909 at the age of only 39. The occupation given on her burial entry is factory worker, but there are no clues as to how she died.


(1) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p14 of 37
(2) Birth Register. 2nd Quarter 1870, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 427
(3) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1812-1900
(4) Death Register. 3rd Quarter 1909, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 382
(5) Haverhill Cemetery, Ref.3383.
(6) The Bury and Norwich Post, and Suffolk Standard, Tuesday, July 17, 1894; pg. 7; Issue 6014. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
(7) Cambridge Baptisms. Transcriptions © Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Family History Society.
(8) 1911 Census. Charles Jillings, 80, & Mary Anne Jillings, 79, Great Abington, Cambridgeshire.