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The Filkins Family
The Filkins family lived in number 1, Whittaker’s Cottages from at least 1891 until at least 1914. It is probable that Henry and Harriet Filkins moved there after their marriage since their first son, Henry, was born in Ashtead in 1887.

Henry and Harriet Filkins

Henry Filkins was born in Egham (Surrey) in 1864 and his wife, Harriet, was born in Mortlake (Surrey) in 1863.

The 1891 census describes Filkins as a railway porter. By 1901 he had become a railway signalman.

In 1914 Henry Filkins paid an annual rent for the cottage of £13. This is 5s a week. As a railway signalman, Filkins would have earned approximately £1 a week which meant that he had 15s a week left after paying the rent. His 15s would not have gone far. In 1893 a weekly budget for a labourer’s family (excluding rent), comprising two adults and three children, was as follows:

  £ s d
7 gallons bread & flour   6 5
1½ lb butcher’s meat   1 0
4 lbs bacon or pork   3 0
4 lbs cheese   2 6
½ lb butter   0 6
1 lb tea   1 10
4 lbs sugar   1 0
Firing, average of winter & summer   2 0
Lights   0 5
Soap & soda   1 0
Clothing & boots   1 0
Benefit club   0 7
Total 1 1 3


The Filkins children

Henry George 1887
Frank 1888
David 1889
Sidney Alfred 1893
Mabel Rosa Mary 1894
Edith 1895
Gertrude 1898
Herbert 1899


There are a number of references to the Filkins’ children and to the family in the school log books for Ashtead boys’ school and Ashtead infants’ school. On 5 June 1895 the school mistress of the infants’ school, Miss Thrush, recorded that ‘David Filkins returned to school this morning after being absent for several months through illness’. At that date David would have been six. On June 12 1896 the schoolmaster of the boys’ school, Alfred Boyd, recorded that he had sent the names of several truanting boys to the school attendance officer, one of whom was Harry (Henry) Filkins, who had missed nine out of twenty sessions (a session is either the morning or afternoon session of the school day). On 19 November 1897 Boyd recorded that ‘Mrs Filkins came in yesterday and took David away as she said the others had scarlet fever’. On 3 May 1898 Boyd recorded,

‘The teachers are earnestly endeavouring to maintain discipline &c without resorting to corporal punishment. There are frequent cases of disobedience, dishonesty and idleness which have been severely reprimanded verbally and moral persuasion emphasised. The lads C Haynes (idleness), Filkins’ family (disorderly), Edwards’ family (generally unruly) are the chief offenders’.

On 24 June 1898 Boyd recorded that ‘H Filkins was examined for a certificate of proficiency’. Also known as a ‘labour certificate’, this granted children exemption on grounds of educational attainment from the requirement imposed by the 1880 Education Act that children attend school until the age of 14 (see below). In 1898 Henry would have been 11 or 12. The outcome of his examination was not recorded although we know from the 1901 census that at aged 14 he was working as a gardener. On 3 March 1899 Boyd recorded that he had ‘received a letter from Mrs Filkins stating that the younger children of her large family were attacked with whooping cough and asking if it was necessary to keep the older boys, who have had the complaint, away from school’. Despite the threat posed to the family by scarlet fever, whooping cough and other childhood illnesses all the Filkins’ children survived to adulthood. Although the family would not have known it, the children were part of the first generation to benefit from the reduced mortality rates of the late nineteenth century.

Extract from the Ashtead Census of 1901

Images courtesy of the National Archives, ref RG 13/582 pp15/16

These extracts were taken from two census pages, to see the complete pages click on the top or bottom part of the above image.