William Fillans (c.1823-1902)

William Fillans (sometimes given as "Fillan") was a jeweller and watchmaker whose Fillians & Sons shop on Market Walk in Huddersfield was a familiar sight to generations.[1]


He was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, around 1823, the son of James Fillans.[2]

He married Helen Simpson, daughter of Thomas Simpson, in May 1853 in New Malton, Yorkshire. They had ? known children:

  • Archibald Kidd Fillans (1854-1854)[3]
  • Fanny Janet Fillans (1855-1919)[4]
  • Archibald Kidd Fillan (1857-1917)[5]
  • Elizabeth Fillans (1860-?)[6]
  • Andrew Kidd Fillan (1862-1936)[7]
  • William ("Willie") Fillan (1865-1933)[8]
Huddersfield Chronicle (13/Feb/1858)

By 1854 he was working as a jeweller on Victoria Street in Huddersfield.[9] In February 1858, he moved into a shop at 2 Market Walk, which still remains a jewellers shop today.

He was a member of the Invitation Lodge 1081 of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (M.U.).[10]

In 1880, he was appointed to the Central Wards Committee and remained in that post until stepping down in 1882.[11] He was also the president of the East and South Wards Working Men's Association for a period of time in the 1880s.

In December 1880, a notice appeared in the Huddersfield Chronicle stating that Fillans had been given notice to quit his shop on Market Walk by his landlord and that he was therefore offering his stock up for sale.[12] However, it would seem this was resolved as he continued to trade from the address.

By 1891, he had retired to 2 Broad Tenter with his wife. The Census records that their son Archibald was still living with them, along with their niece, Marion Simpson of Malton.

In 1896, he made the perhaps unusual gift of some seagulls to Greenhead Park.[13]

William Fillans died on 14 January 1902, leaving an estate worth £3,674 to his widow Helen. She died in 1909, aged 74.

His son William was the first chairman of the Rugby League Council and, for 30 years, a vice-president of the Huddersfield Cricket and Athletic Club. He was also a chairman of the Yorkshire County Rugby League Committee and a President of the Huddersfield Swimming Association. He remained the head of Fillian and Sons until his death on 13 November 1933, aged 68.[14]

Charges of Assault and Drunkenness

A number of newspaper articles state that William Fillans enjoyed drinking and this occasionally resulted in charges of assault.

A charge was brought again him in May 1856 by Alexander Steward, the latter claiming that Fillans had crushed his hat so much that "it was [now] not worth a penny." The pair had left the George and Dragon Inn on Manchester Street when one of them started a play fight which resulted in them both rolling around on the floor. Steward's witness, John Lorimer, ultimately failed to support to accusation and stated that "he saw no violence on either side" and that the pair "had drunk too much of the 'good ale' sold at the George and Dragon, and were both under the influence of the jolly god when the affray too place." The case was dimissed.[15]

In May 1857, he was brought before the local magistrates on a charge of assaulting William Hulke, a reporter for the Halifax Guardian. Apparently one evening Fillans had been drinking at the Bull and Mouth when his wife Helen entered carrying one of their children. Jokingly, Fillians announced the child was for sale and then that his wife was also for sale. His friends made an offer of 5 shillings for the child and another of "twa-and-saxpence" for Helen. The incident was reported by Hulke in the Halifax Guardian under the headline "A Child Sold by its Father" in which he referred to "Scotty ... a well known working Jeweller 'Frae the North'" in disarranging terms.[16]

Although the article didn't name Fillans, he felt it was libellous and an altercation later took place between the two men. As Fillans walked away, he heard Hulke shout out "Go home and sell thy wife and child." Hulke then claimed that Fillians assaulted him in "an attempt to curtail the liberty of the press", which resulted in his shirt being torn. However, witnesses stated that no assault took place and that what was torn was a piece of paper being carried by Hulke. After adjourning for a week to hear from further witnesses after which the bench dismissed the case as unproven.[17]

In October 1863, he assaulted Lewis Ludwig, a fellow jeweller of Cross Church Street. It was stated that Fillans was "the worse for liquor" and had grabbed Ludwig and struck his head against a bookcase, "rendering him partially insensible." Fillans failed to appear before the magistrates, was found guilty and fined 20 shillings plus costs in his absence.[18]

In 1866, he met his match when attempted to assault Mr. W. R. Croft of Rashcliffe. It was reported that Fillans threw the first punch, but that Croft had "thereupon thrashed him." Inspector White had been passing by and broke up the fight. The case was withdrawn.[19]

In July 1870, he was found guilty of being drunk in King Street. Councillor H. Hirst stated that Fillans "had been in the habit of insulting him every time he had met him for the last four years." On this particular occasion, Fillans had followed Hirst down the street, calling him a "thief" and a "murderer". Hirst stated that this only happened when Fillans had been drinking — "He has never said anything to me when sober, but I assure you he is oftener drunk than sober."[20]

In September 1871, William's sister Annie, who had married Thomas Simpson but then left him to live "with a man named Styring", assaulted Helen Fillians in John William Street. It was claimed that Annie had punched Helen in face, "rendering her insensible for a short time", and then grabbed her around the neck. When challenged, Annie reportedly said, "I have often said I would give it to thee, and I will give it thee right now!" before Police Constable Salmon intervened. In court, Annie claimed that she had not struck the first blow and that Helen and three others had beaten her first. The magistrates fined Annie a total of £3 4s. 6d. and warned against assaulting Helen again.[21]

In November 1884, he was fined 20 shillings plus costs of £1 1s. for assaulting Alderman Joseph Woodhead, the proprietor of the Huddersfield Examiner. The assault took place during "an excited meeting held in connection with the recent municipal elections" and it was stated Fillans "stuck Mr. Woodhead, and knocked him off a wall which was [being] used as a platform", after allegedly shouting out "Take that, you bastard!" Fillans, who had also climbed up onto the wall, then fell (or was pushed) off. Perhaps aware of Fillan's prior history, the magistrates who heard the subsequent case asked if he'd been drunk, but a witness responded, "I did not notice that he was beerified."[22]

Notes and References

  1. His surname appears as "Fillans" in most records, but sometimes as "Fillan" in newspaper articles. His sons appear to have adopted the latter spelling.
  2. According to a source on ancestry.co.uk, his middle name was "Murdoch". However, this is not confirmed in any of the available record.
  3. Born around March 1854, died 16 September 1854 aged 6 months.
  4. Married 13 September 1883 to John Lodge Sykes at St. Paul's Church, Huddersfield. Died 7 March 1919 and buried 10 March at All Hallows, Almondbury.
  5. Born 6 August 1857 and named after his deceased older brother. Married 21 June 1893 to Elizabeth Wainwright at Bradford Cathedral. Worked as a jeweller and resided at Dudly House, 143 Wakefield Road. Had adopted the use of "Fillan" by 1901. Died 25 October 1917.
  6. Born in 1860, she was aged 9 months on the 1861 Census. It is assumed she died in childhood.
  7. Married 3 September 1883 to Annie Haigh at St. Paul's Church, Huddersfield, later divorced in January 1905 on the grounds of adultery. Married 30 August 1905 to Mary Connew at St.John the Baptist, Halifax. Worked as a greengrocer in Halifax. Aged 52, joined the Army Special Reserves in 1914 and discharged in August 1918 ("no longer physically fit for war service"). Died 9 August 1936 and buried 12 August at All Saints, Salterhebble. Probate notes he resided at the Golden Lion Hotel in Halifax.
  8. Married 1890 to Mary Waddington. Lived on Somerset Road (1891) and later 17 Percy Street, Fartown, (1901) running the family business on Market Walk. Died a widow on 13 November 1933, aged 68.
  9. Some newspaper sources state his shop was on Victoria Lane, but the official announcement of his move to Market Walk states he was formerly of Victoria Street.
  10. An article from the Huddersfield Chronicle (03/May/1854) noted that Owen Moran was awarded a medal by the Oddfellows "on the occasion of his leaving Huddersfield for Bradford", which was "the workmanship of Mr. William Fillan, jeweller, of this town".
  11. "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (10/Nov/1880).
  12. Huddersfield Chronicle (18/Dec/1880).
  13. "Huddersfield County Borough Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Aug/1896).
  14. "Obituary: Mr. W. Fillan, First Chairman of R.L. Council" in Yorkshire Post (14/Nov/1933).
  15. "Not Much Difference" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Mar/1856).
  16. Huddersfield Chronicle (23/May/1857).
  17. Huddersfield Chronicle (30/May/1857).
  18. Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Oct/1863).
  19. Leeds Mercury (29/Aug/1866).
  20. Huddersfield Chronicle (30/Jul/1870).
  21. Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Sep/1871).
  22. Birmingham Daily Post (06/Nov/1884), Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Nov/1884), and Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Nov/1884).

William Fillans (c.1823-1902)


This page was last modified on 13 May 2019 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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