William Ely

William Ely was a name well known to Victorian inhabitants of Southminster.

Father and son maintained the wheelwrights store in High Street for nearly 100 years.

From this base they provided the normal wheelwright service as well as coach building, carpentry and agricultural implements.

William Ely Senior

William Ely Senior was born at Southminster in 1785

He married Mary Ann (also recorded as Marianne) and they had two children Harriet and William both born in 1825.

William lived in Munsons which was one of the best houses in High Street with gardens that extended as far as Pump Mead Close.

He ran the wheelwrights store just along the road on a site opposite Queenborough Road which is now a row of modern shops.

William worked closely with the village blacksmith to provide a service to the farming community as well as the growing number of people able to afford pony traps or grander carriages.

Construction of wheels was very technical as there was a need to ensure that wheels were perfectly balanced providing smooth running of the carriage.

carriage wheelA wooden carriage wheel in construction - photo courtesy of wikimedia commons

William extended the business by making agricultural machines such as harrows  as well as  carriages.

Mass produced agricultural machinery was not available in this era.

Items such as ploughs complied with basic specifications but most would contain modifications to meet the needs of individual framers.

The Ely's quickly moved into design and build of various horse drawn agricultural implements such as harrows, ploughs etc.

At a time when workmen had to rely on hand tools the skill required was enormous.

plough planeThanks to Chris Manning for the photograph

The plough plane pictured above, dates to the first half of the 1800's, is embossed William Ely and is believed to have been the property of William Ely Senior.

Planes were one of the most important tools available to the Ely's .

Plough Planes were used to cut rebates or grooves in wood while spoke shaves were used to fashion the curves on wheel spokes.

William died in 1850 aged 66 and was buried at Southminster while his wife Mary Ann moved with her son at Copford and died in 1874.

William Ely Junior

William Junior Married Naomi Winterbon (born 1832 at Rochford)in 1852.

Naomi was the daughter of Rochford Draper George Winterbon and his wife Susannah.

Although Naomi was born and lived at Rochford there were many Winterbon's living in the Southminster area so Naomi was likely to have been welcomed to her new home by local relatives.

William and Naomi do not appear to have had any children although there house usually enjoyed the presence of children as each census shows the presence of nieces or nephews visiting.

William Senior died in the 1850's and William junior took over the family house and the family business.

Mary Ann survived into her 70's and lived with William and Naomi until her death.

William Junior was a committed Baptist who played an important role in the life of Southminster Baptist Church in Burnham Road.

Old Baptist Church SouthminsterThe old Baptist Chapel now a private house

His commitment was demonstrated by the 1871 Census which showed that he was providing lodgings for Rev Thomas Jones who was the Baptist Minister.

William also played a full role in community life in his role as Parish Overseer for the poor.

He regularly lent the use of his meadow for parish fetes and other events.

William Ely decided to diversify the business by moving into farming buying land at St Lawrence, firstly Tinnocks and then in 1895 adding nearby Toynes.

Towards the end of the century William Junior further diversified the business by setting up early production lines where many copies of items were produced that would be sent to other places and fitted onto carriages etc.

On Saturday 21 October 1899 the Ely works were badly destroyed by fire and had to be rebuilt.

At about 1am Mr Blowers and Mr Downing who lived nearby were woken by loud noises and saw that the works were ablaze. They raised the alarm and a number of people quickly used water from standpipes to begin to fight the fire which was centred in the engine house.

A wooden section joining the premises to a Drapers shop operated by Messrs Pipe and Son was knocked down to prevent the fire from spereading.

The property was insured by Essex and Suffolk Equitable Fire Assurance who despatched their fire engine from Maldon arriving at about 4am by which time the local people had the fire under control.

The engine shed and timber shed were completely destroyed along with a car that was being built , a tumbrel cart and several vehicles that were in for repair.

The total damage exceeded the insured value of £2,000 for the premises.

The only casualty was William Saines who suffered a dislocated ankle when a burning beam fell on him. He was treated at the scene by Dr Coombe.

When William Junior died in 4 April 1904 aged 79 the business was sold but quickly declined following a reduction in horse drawn carriages, the rise of the motor vehicle and the sudden increase in availability of mass produced agricultural machinery.

William was buried in the family vault at Southminster Baptist Church.

A large number of people attended his funeral including

Traders and local people- Mr J S Prior, E Pipe, B Totham, Rev H B Oddy, L H Brame, T J Stammers, T Stammers snr, J Morgan, W Cant, W E Read, G Chinnery, G Collis, H W Harvey,  T Robinson, W Mays, C English,  A Downing, J Bishop, S Bruce, W H Bailey, A S Kemp, Horace Freeman ( Maldon). W Oakes, C Moss, G Sains

Mourners- D Smith, W Smith, A Winterton, J Elsden, H Elseden. Nephews - J Cook, J Jackson, H Summers, G Dilliway, G Harvey, S Pipe and S C Spurgeon.

ely close

The name of the Ely family remains alive in Southminster following the naming of a road as Ely Close in their memory.