Last time out, we started on the life of great great grandfather George William Lillies, who followed his father, George, into the medical profession and the Royal Navy. We don’t know when GW left the navy (he joined in 1845 – see previous post), but probably some time in the early 1850s, when he married and started having children.
George William was both a surgeon and a physician, usually two different professions before this time. Physicians were trained at university, surgeons – sawbones really – apprenticed as tradesmen. I wasn’t sure when writing last time whether GW had received his physician training (at the University of Edinburgh) before or after his stint in the navy. It turns out it was before.
We know this from his listings in The Medical Register. The Medical Act of 1858 established The General Council of Medical Education and Registration of the United Kingdom, today the General Medical Council. Part of its mandate was to “distinguish qualified from unqualified Practitioners” – weed out the quacks in other words. One instrument for doing that was The Medical Register, a master list of qualified, licensed practitioners. To be “struck off the register” later came to mean losing your right to legally practice.
|The Medical Register, 1859|
The first Register appeared in 1859. George William is in it, the location of his practice given as Chudleigh, Devon. His list of qualifications: “M.D. Univ[ersity of] Edin[burgh] 1844; Mem[ber] R[oyal] Col[lege of] Surg[eons] Eng[land] 1844; Lic[ense of the] Soc[iety of] Apoth[ecaries] Lond[on] 1844.” George William continued to appear in the Register until 1899, the year of his death at age 76.
Given that a medical education at this time took about four years, George must have been a precocious lad. To finish by 1844, he would have had to start when he was only 17, or possibly even 16. As the son of a surgeon, he would likely have had a head start on his medical education. Still, by today’s standards, it’s remarkable.
The fact that he already had an MD when he joined the navy would also explain why, despite his youth – not even 21 yet – he was commissioned as a surgeon, an officer, rather than serving first as an assistant surgeon. Note also that by 1844, he was a physician, a surgeon and a pharmacist. Three income streams: GW would likely be well off in later civilian life.
Chudleigh, where George William apparently stayed and practiced for the next 30 years is less than 10 miles from Kenton, his ancestral home. It’s further from the water, north and west from Exmouth, almost on the edge of Dartmoor. It’s surprising perhaps that a nautical man would move in this direction, but it may have been the nearest place he could find a practice to purchase when he came out of the navy.
|Kenton Church, mid 1800s|
His marriage was registered in 1851 in the St. Thomas district (which took in Kenton), and probably celebrated at All Saints Church, Kenton. George and his bride, Charlotte, appear next in the census of 1851, living at 47 Fore St., Chudleigh, both aged 27, with one “house servant.”
|47 Fore St., Chudleigh, Devon as it looks on Google Street View (the yellow house)|
It took awhile for George and Charlotte – one of a few Charlottes in the family after whom our Aunt Char might have been named – to start pushing out live babies. First to come along was Herbert, great grandfather to the baby-boom Blackwells (and Breens, etc.) He was born in 1857. George and Charlotte ended with five children who survived to adulthood: Herbert, Arthur (1859), Leonard (1861), Mabel (1863), Ethel (1868?)
George William clearly did do well in Chudleigh, as predicted. By 1861, he had moved down Fore St. to number 36. The first three children were counted in the census that year. Two of George’s sisters, Fanny, 40, and Charlotte, 26, both spinsters, were living with the family – which we begin to realize is rife with Charlottes. An aged great aunt, also Charlotte (surname illegible), 88, was living at number 36 Fore St. as well. If GW could afford to keep all these poor relatives, he must have been doing well.
I can’t find an 1871 census record for George and Charlotte. In 1881, they were still living in Chudleigh, still on Fore St., though in a different house again. Only Herbert, 24, appears to have been living at home at this time. As the Lillies appear at the very bottom of the census taker’s ledger page, it’s remotely possible the people who digitized and indexed it failed to include household members who were recorded on the following page.
On the other hand, Leonard, 20, and Arthur, 22, might well have already gone off to London to pursue their theatrical careers (more about them in a future post). The girls, aged 18 and 13, could have been away at school. We have an 1871 census record showing both Herbert (then 14) and Arthur (12) as pupils at a residential school in Honiton, Devon, some 30 miles away. So it was something of a family pattern to send the children away to school – but would girls also have gone away for their schooling?
In any case, Herbert evidently followed in his father’s and grandfather’s steps. He is listed as a “general practitioner,” with the initials MRCJ (Member Royal College of Surgeons) after his name. He first appears in The Medical Register two years later, listed as “Lic[ensed] Roy[al] Coll[ege of] Phys[icians] Edin[burgh], 1882.” He does not appear to have earned an MD, or it’s not listed after his name, as it is after his father’s in the same Register. Yet Herbert was apparently licensed to practice as a physician.
By 1891, the next census year, everything had changed for the Lillies. The family was living in London by then. George William, 67, had retired. Besides George and Charlotte, the household at 14 Brook Green, Hammersmith included the two younger sons, listed as “theatrical proprietor” (Arthur, 32) and “acting manager” (Leonard, 30). Mabel, 28, was a “governess – school,” and Ethel, at 23, had no occupation. Two visitors were staying, Charles D Burleigh, a 24-year-old actor, and Harry Chilcott, 20, a “merchant’s clerk.” Rounding out the household were three servants, a cook, a housemaid and an under housemaid.
|Arthur Chudleigh Lillies in later life by Harry Furniss (1854-1925) (c) National Portrait Gallery|
Whither Herbert? Gone to Australia! Stay tuned.