Willett Family

Precis of an email received from Mrs Joyce Smith (nee Willett) in March 2002
My grandfather was born in Henham and I spent a lot of my childhood in Henham. I stayed with my great uncle and family friends, a Mr and Mrs Snow for part of the war years. After the was I stayed with my father’s cousins, Mr & Mrs Salmon but they gradually all died and I have only visited Henham on a few occasions since. Since I have retired I have been thinking about researching my family tree so my husband and I visited the village a few weeks ago and I saw the 1881 census at The Cock’. We were also told Henham has its own website.

I saw in the village shop that you have published a book on the history of Henham but as the shop was closed at the time I was unable to buy a copy. I will be returning in April and I hope to buy a copy.  I also hope to find out which branch of the Willett family my father is descended from. I enclose some pictures which belong to my mother.

Frankie Snow was related to a Mr and Mrs Snow who lived in the first cottage near the church. (that is where I stayed during the war). My grandfather’s name was Ziba Willett and I was told that he had to leave the village because he had been poaching. Apparently, he walked to London to make his fortune, in spite of being illiterate!

Looking quickly through the 1881 Census, there was no one in the village at that time by that name, only a “Faba” (aged 5 years) – could he be one and the same person? If so, I believe my great grandfather was Richard Willett, an agricultural worker – born in 1852, but I intend to investigate further. Standing behind my grandfather in this picture is his grandson, my uncle, Bill Willett, aged about 16. (he is the father of Joan Willett).

The first two pictures below are of Richard and Martha were taken during World War I. Richard Cleevely was visiting his grandparents. The picture is taken at Wood End Green, the other boy is not known. The younger man in the photograph is Uncle Alfred. Richard also remembers Uncle Ziba probably born in February 1876.

Richard’s mother Mahalia Cleevely died during a traffic accident that occurred during a Zeppelin air raid at Camden, London on 7th March 1918. Richard was brought up by his older sisters Gladys and Florence.

The family photograph above is Frederick William Cleevely; Mahalia [ = Halliar Willett] Cleevely [nee Sage] Ron’s father (with the lace collar), his two sisters Gladys Martha & Florence and his older brother Frederick Edgar in army uniform.

Ron’s grandmother’s name was shortened within the family to ‘Halli’ as a shortened version of Mahalah’s ‘halah’; this was misunderstood by the Census enumerator & put down as ‘Halliar’. Her name has always been very difficult to record e.g. in the 1891 Census she was listed as Mehenlah Saye and was very difficult to trace.

The only link with the Willett’s is that my grandmother was the daughter of Martha and that it is very possible that my own father Richard James Cleevely, might have been named after Richard Willett by Halliar’ as a result of a happy time living in his household at Henham as a young girl.

These photographs have been provided by the Willet Family. However, there are some who they have not been able to identify.