Wells Family

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A William Wells lived in The Street in 1841, by 1851 he had a family and lived at Slipper Yard and in 1861 he and his family were still listed as living in Itteringham. It is believed he had a son who was listed in the census information as 'William jnr' who was born around 1860.

The gravestone of Thomas and Mary Wells is near the entrance gates to Itteringham church. Thomas was born in Oulton and Mary in Stiffkey. They had at least 5 children, including William, Charlotte, Gilpin, Edward and Mary. Gilpin later left for the bright city lights but William remained in the village and married Jane from Corpusty with whom he had several children including Joshua and George. Joshua died aged 20 and George, who married Louisa from Saxthorpe lived on until 1936 when he was buried beside Louisa in Itteringham churchyard.

William Wells
William Wells
A fourth William Wells was born in Itteringham in 1858. He was the son of Gilpin Wells whose occupation was given as Brewers Servant in 1877. The photo above shows William in his uniform as Superintendent of Horses for the Railway Company c.1910 and was possibly taken in Ipswich

Elizabeth Wells
Elizabeth Wells as a young woman in her Salvation Army uniform
Elizabeth Wells b.1877, was the daughter of William and Lucy Ann Wells. She commenced training to be a Salvation Army Officer at the William Booth College in London but gave up to look after her parents who had become ill.

Elizabeth with her husband Ebenezer Talbot and two of their three sons
Elizabeth with her husband Ebenezer Talbot and two of their three sons
Maurice, the older son in the above photo had become paralysed in both legs by infantile paralysis from the age of 18 months and is balancing for the photo. The other son on Elizabeth's lap is Frederick.

William Wells was born Itteringham in 1858. I visited the village in June 2004 and was impressed with the fact that it remained as William would probably have remembered it. I had very little time to investigate but just inside the churchyard, to the left of the gate are some large gravestones belonging to the Wells family. I was able to read most of the detail and am intrigued that the names on these memorials match those of members of my family.

I did wonder whether 'William' who is shown on the Itteringham web page as living in the village in the mid 1800s might have been my great grandfather. However, by obtaining this William and his wife Lucy Ann's marriage certificate it was discovered his father was named 'Gilpin' - surely there was not more than one person in Itteringham with that distinctive name at the time!

Interestingly, William jnr had a daughter Louisa and I have been endeavouring to find out whether this was the Louisa who married John Woods and became the mother of Alf (killed in June 1944, whilst serving in a minesweeper) and George Woods, also a sailor, who my grandmother Elizabeth Talbot (née Wells) brought up. Their father John Woods was killed in 1919 as a result of WW1 and his war grave is in Barrow churchyard near Bury St Edmunds. At the present time I do not know what became of Louisa but she certainly did not bring up her sons.

One of the gravestones in the churchyard belonged to a Louisa Wells, wife of George who died in 1919 aged 72 years (repeated names again!) Could this couple have been the grandparents of my Louisa? I wonder whether George Wells who died in 1936 aged 86, is this one.

My great grandfather left Itteringham and moved to Norwich, presumably to work on the railway, and this is where he met and married Lucy Ann and where their children were born. Elizabeth was born in 1877, Lucy Ann in 1880 and Walter 1884. We then find them living, in 1901, at 36 Vernon Street, Stoke, Ipswich. However, only Walter, who was 17 remained living with them.

Walter later emigrated to Canada, I assume he met his wife there, they had three children - Wilfred, Winifred and Gordon. Sadly Walter died very young from a heart attack whilst cycling and the children returned to England (I am not sure what happened to the mother) and, once again, Elizabeth stepped into the breach and became 'mother' to that sad family too! All this when she had three sons of her own. The oldest, my father, Maurice being crippled from infantile paralysis from the age of 18 months. These Wells must have had great stamina!! William and Lucy then moved into a house almost immediately opposite and, presumably, helped Elizabeth with the extended family, they stayed there for the rest of their lives. William died in 1931 and Lucy Ann in 1937. She lived long enough to see me (born 1936) her first great grandchild.

William worked his way up to the exulted position of Superintendent of Horses for the Railway and the photograph shows him in his uniform.
Maureen Studd - 11th June 2004

Sam Wells Nellie Wells
Sam Wells as a young man
Nellie Wells on her son's BSA outside the Council Houses in Church Road c.1937

Sam Wells died c.2003. So far apart from the name, no definite connection has been made between Sam's side of the family and those individuals shown above.

My name is Harry Wells, aged 84, married to Joyce, aged 80, and we live in Foulridge just outside Colne in north-east Lancashire on the A56 gateway to the Yorkshire Dales. However, my roots lay in Norfolk, hence this contribution to the Itteringham website.

Thomas-Mary Wells gravestone
This photograph of a gravestone in Itteringham Churchyard, obtained from the Itteringham Churchyard Survey (Area A ref. AO18) bears this inscription:-
In remembrance of
Thomas Wells
who departed this life
Dec.22nd 1863
aged 66 years
Mary Wells
his wife
who died Feb 19th. 1880
aged 86 years
Thomas Wells was my great, great granddad and according to different records is variously described as having been an agricultural labourer, a gardener, a farmer &/or a shepherd. Certainly he was a ‘man of he soil’ as indeed it would seem were most of his off-spring. The 1841 census has him living in Church Houses, Itteringham, the 1851 census places him at Mannington House, Itteringham and the 1871 census at 72, Farnhearn, Eynsford, Aylsham. If, as his gravestone suggests, he was 66 when he died that would put his date of birth as 1797 and yet other records place his birth as 7th. August 1794 at Oulton.

Thomas married Mary ? ( 1794-1880) from Stiffkey, a parish on the north Norfolk coast but I have so far been unable trace either Thomas or Mary’s antecedents. They did, however, go on to produce four children, one of whom as the great-grandfather I never met:-
Charlotte………………..born 1827
Mary…………………... born 1852
Gilpen, born Erpingham …......……...1829
Edmund, born Itteringham……………1831-2

Edmund grew up in Itteringham as an agricultural labourer and married Georgina ?
My great granddad Edmund and his wife Georgina produced six offspring, three of whom I came to know personally.
Edmund & Georgina

May 1905 the Wells family assemble for a family funeral.
Edmund (centre) and my granddad Thomas Wells and grandma Alice Wells
(3rd & 4th from the left on the back line)
A family bible passed on to me bears the heading ’Patriarch’…..Edmund…..on one of the fly-leaves and gives the names and years of birth of all the above. I heard my Dad talk of Caleb, although I don’t know if he ever met him, but I believe that he did meet his Aunt Rhoda at some time. I never ever heard of Edwin but I met ‘Uncle’ Alf two or three times and Uncle Josh lots of times through the 30’s and 40’s.

The above photo was taken in North Walsham c1938; young Harry (me....I was about 5’8” at the time) is next to the huge frame of the granddad I adored and next to him his brother Alf and my Dad. This was the first time I met Uncle Alf. He and his brother Josh, like many others at that time, ‘ran away’ to sea at a very early age and spent quite a few of their early years in the merchant navy. I don’t know much about what happened to Uncle Alf in the years which followed but I do know that by the time of the Second World War he was a widower living with his wife’s nephew just outside Blackpool. Although he lived a very simple, indeed quite meagre, life he died the wealthiest of the brothers leaving a considerable sum to his Blackpool nephew. He was described to me as a beachcomber, scratching his living ( and a hidden ‘fortune’) from scavenging amidst the flotsam and jetsam of the Ribble estuary.

I’m surprised that I don’t have photo’s of Uncle Josh in my collection because we saw him either in Walsham or at his Walcott home every year when we came down to Norfolk; I do, however, still have very clear mental pictures of he and Aunt Annie in their Salvation Army Officers’ uniforms. What great characters they were; small in stature maybe but of immense stature in their belief and service of their God. Sometimes in life one is fortunate to meet someone from whom sheer goodness, warmth and belief in the best in their fellow men just shines out from them and so it was with the Wells’s of Walcott. Their neighbour, Aunt Annie's sister Helen Pike, was a Brigadier in the Salvation Army and Josh and Annie had long been Envoys, that is preachers with a roving remit preach when and wherever the call came to serve their God in East Anglia. Josh of the whiskery, wrinkled, weather-beaten countenance was the perfect match for the bonneted Aunt Annie and how clearly I can recall how I had to close my eyes and steel myself as I planted my goodbye kiss on her beaming but rather whiskery cheek. Uncle Josh must I think have been one of the early pioneers of caravan sites for adjacent to a couple of clapper-board bungalows he had a collection of redundant
railway coaches and other ‘odd’ buildings which he rented out, mainly to people from around London, as ‘holiday lets’. At the time we ‘townies’ couldn’t understand why anyone would travel all that way to live out a fortnight in ramshackle accommodation with oil lamps, water from a pump and basic outdoor privies. But then, eighty or more years ago what did we know!

Uncle Josh also ran a small family saloon car which served many purposes. Obviously it took them to all the venues where they were called upon to preach the gospel. It also served as a taxi and he would pick up his ‘caravanning’ clients from North Walsham station and ferry them to Walcott; it also carried him to and from auctions throughout the area. He was an inveterate bidder at auctions and his collection of oddments and oddities grew and grew until his various ‘properties’ at Walcott
were eventually interconnected through labrynths, nea canyons , of these collected items. I doubt if he knew what he owned and what became of it all I know not, though I’ve no doubt that by now many items amongst it all could have become collectors’ items had they survived.

Uncle Josh’s old cars and his driving style became a thing almost of legend as he sat there, upright, with his Sally Army hat perched squarely on his head as he made stately progress down the middle of those quiet pre-war roads at a steady 20 miles per hour. Eventually, in his advancing years, a local police chief (I did hear it said the Chief Constable himself ... though I can hardly believe that) called on Mr. Wells and suggested that it would perhaps be a good thing if he surrendered to the passage of the years by bringing his motoring days to an end. He took this with all the good grace that one would expect of him and instead took to his pony and trap …….and continued to trot, serenely, down the middle of the road to the end of his days.

His ‘lettings’ had all sorts of quaint little names and one … ‘Cozy Cot’... remains in my memory. Re-visiting the area just a few years ago it seemed to me that the road was not in the right place….and of course it wasn’t, as a little investigation showed that the old road and shallow cliffs had disappeared below the waves and much of Uncle Josh’s ‘estate’ with them. One cottage, still bearing the name ‘Pasadena’, helped me to ‘get my bearings’ because I knew at once that, that was the former home where I’d enjoyed many a summer salad and fresh raspberries and cream with Uncle Josh and Aunt Annie.
My granddad, Thomas George Wells was born in Itteringham in 1871 and to the best of my knowledge lived and worked on the land there until he was eighteen or nineteen whereupon he left Norfolk and went north to work in the shipyards on Tyneside. In 1893, at the age of 22, he married Alice Barritt, a Preston widow who was eight years his senior and mother of a young daughter. I regret that I don’t know how he came to meet and marry a lady from Lancashire but that Lancashire connection would become significant at a later date. My Dad, Alfred Titterington Wells was born to them in South Shields in 1897 and after completing his secondary school education became an apprenticed joiner and cabinet-maker at the then well-known C.W.S. works at Pelaw on Tyne. Thomas’s wife Alice died shortly after my Dad came home from the war in 1919 whereupon my granddad decided to return to his roots in |Norfolk. Back in his native county he met and married Sarah Ann Kerrigan, from Worsted, married in August 1920 and together they set up as smallholders/market gardeners in North Walsham.
Granddad Wells
Every school summer holiday from the time I remember until shortly before I joined the Forces during the Second World War I would join the hundreds of Lancashire folk escaping for a well-earned holiday on the Broads or a week at Cromer or Great Yarmouth, on one of the holiday excursion trains which travelled down through the night on Friday nights in late June and July. As dawn broke I would peer out of the window at the sleep-drawn faces of tenants yawning and stretching at their cottage doors as the morning mist lifted and the rising sun revealed the poppies in all their scarlet glory amidst the fields of corn.

For a few weeks I would revel in the so different life of being a country boy, haymaking, collecting eggs, picking fruit and accompanying my granddad on his Friday door to door Round with his produce. I came to know many of those lovely people who would usually greet me with “ Hallo Hairee, yow dewn haire agoyn to see yore grended….” (Pardon my attempts to convey that Norfolk dialect which always sounded so beautiful to me....and still does) When I brought my fiancé down to Walsham after the war she immediately fell in love with Norfolk as much as I have
always been and still remembers fondly that first, wonderful, experience of collecting and feeding off fresh home-grown produce every day.

I’m sure that I don’t need to tell Norfolk folk that life on the land was a hard unremitting grind for people like my grandparents but it was one which never seemed to quell granddad’s smiling good nature and I can see him now, as we went about in the pony and trap, raising his hat and wishing a very cheery, “ Good morning, top o’ the morning….” to everyone who passed by. A special day out for him would be one organised by the sugar beet factories or a visit to Colonel Bartlett’s canning establishment and his one and only day’s holiday per year was to the Crystal Palace in London for the Brass Band Contest which he so enjoyed having been a bandsman himself in his youth.

I saw a different Norfolk in February 1941 when I travelled across the bleak snowbound Fens to attend my grandfather’s funeral; such a contrast to the county which had always seemed to me to be a place eternal sunshine. My step-grandmother Sarah survived the war and to her great joy lived long enough to see all three of her stepgreat grandchildren.

My Dad grew up a Tynesider and after the war, having risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant, he chose to holiday in Lancashire with relatives of his late mother, where he met Alice Edith Neal, born in Dudley in 1897. They married in March 1921 and lived in South Shields for a short time where I, their only child, was born in 1924. Because my mother was homesick they returned to live in Lancashire in 1926 and I was brought up in Nelson, one of Lancashire’s many cotton towns. My Dad, who was a pillar of local Methodist church and a member of the Building Trades’ Federation
eventually becoming a town councillor, then an alderman of the borough and ultimately Mayor of Nelson in 1959.

Alfred & Alice Wells

They celebrated their Diamond Wedding in April 1981 and Dad died in September of that year whilst my Mum carried on to the grand old age of 93.

I entered Nelson Town Hall after leaving school before serving four years in the R.A.F. during the Second World War. You will perhaps not be surprised that the local chapel and Sunday School were the centre of my pre-war social life…..the Scouts, the Choir, the concerts……...and it was there that I met the gorgeous Joyce Dugdale when we were both in our teens. We will celebrate our Diamond Wedding in June this year (2008). I changed professions after the war and became a teacher after studying at St. Pauls College, Cheltenham. I spent more than twenty years rising through the ranks and ended my career as and Area Adviser.

To close this edition of the Wells’ saga briefly…... Joyce and I have three children Christine (1950) Shirley(1951) and Ian Ross(1957) who have between them given us nine grandchildren and so far, one great granddaughter.

It is an interesting illustration of the growth in opportunity & the access to education over our two centuries to compare the achieved status of the different generations:-

Granddad Wells learnt to read only in his 20’s & was very proud of his achievement

Dad won a Secondary education; my Mum left school at thirteen to ‘enter the mill’ and told of having to take her ‘school ha’penny’ every week to pay to the School Board.

By contrast their only son (me), his children, grandchildren and their spouses all have the privilege of owning their own homes, being members of professions and sharing between us twelve (Honours) degrees, two ‘masters’ and two Ph.D’s all of which would have been inconceivable, totally unimaginable, to those who went before us.
This is a photograph of my wife and I, who as I mentioned earlier will be celebrating our Diamond Wedding in June this year (2008).
I have, so far, been unable to:-
Trace the family beyond 1794
Learn the maiden name or anything about the origins of Mary? of Stiffkey (1794-1880).
Similarly I know neither the maiden name or anything else about Edmund’s wife Georgina? (1832) or her origins.
Can anyone help?
Harry Wells - 16th February 2008

Wells family tree
Wells family tree as provided by Harry Wells - 16th February 2008

My link is Edmund Wells, my great, great, great grandfather. He married a Georgina Wright 1831-1905. They had Calab Wells who married Louisa Risborough on 20th April 1881. He was 24 and Louisa was 22. They had 3 sons, Herbert, Fredrick and Sydney. Fredrick is my great grandfather born 1883 in Barningham Parva (Little Barningham). He moved up north for work and became under manager at North Skelton Ironstone Mine but was well know all across the north east from working in several mines. They lived in Skinningrove, Cleveland He married Sarah Ann Tyson on the 23rd July 1904 and had 5 children, George wells 1905-1906, Louisa Wells 1907-1989, Harold Wells 1914-1914, William Wells 1910-1986 and my grandmother Jenny Wells 1919-1997. Fredrick died in 1965 aged 82. He liess in Skelton cemetery with his wife Sarah. My grandmother had one son, Peter Garbutt.

Other branches of the Wells family can be found at

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 07836 675369 or

Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2004