Berwickshire Lillies

The Lillie's Of Langton

Gavinton smithy 1900 
The smithy about 1900 some time after the last Lillie blacksmith left the village
Peter Lillie and Margaret S Simpson were married on the 19th of July 1782 at Coldingham, he then went on to became the first Lillie blacksmith that I have been able to trace at the village of Gavinton during the halcyon days of the Langton estate. He must have literally been a Journeyman Blacksmith, which may be the reason why their children were born in various parts of Berwickshire.





Oh Why Couldn't They Be Famous?

by Peter Lillie

Why, oh why, couldn't my forefathers have been famous? I would even settle for being locally infamous, but no, all they seem to have been is, well, normal, anonymous, without having left a dent on the record books. It would have been so much easier if they had been at least a little infamous; someone may have then deemed them worthy of a foot-note, or even two, in history.

Don't misunderstand me, I am proud of my family name and set out to trace the family history (I like to think of it as an ancestral oak but, alas, it resembles more of a family bush badly in need of a liberal dose of manure at the moment) in order that my children, and theirs, would have a certain knowledge of where, and who, they come from. So where to begin? Well, logic dictates that you begin with your parents. So like many of you have already done, so I set about questioning my father about everything he could remember - and then set out to prove or verify his recollections as ddd best I could!
I felt certain that it would be a logical progression, one father backwards to another, and then another and then another. Soon I felt certain I would have traced them back to 1066 and beyond, with a bit of luck. Was I mistaken!!
I thought that the family name, being fairly uncommon, would be an advantage. After all, there are not many Lillies in any telephone book I have ever come across. I can only imagine the difficulties of someone called Jones or Smith or Brown. No Lillie, I felt, must make things a little easier. Wrong again!

My family has never been a great one for filling in forms. A recently acquired family trait I thought but, no, it appears to be a long-held family tradition. If a Lillie could avoid filling in a form then it appears they did so. We seem to be either secretive or an unassuming clan, to say the least.

I know that the Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages only go back to 1837 and, if I am to progress further back than that, I must find the family on the 1851 census as it was the first one to mandatorily demand a place of birth. It seems that my lot decided to avoid divulging this information to anyone and dropped from official sight in 1851. Well, then, they must have been `caught' on the 1861 then! Well, no, they avoided that one too. The 1871? No, not there either.

I throw myself upon the mercy of you dear readers in the hope that you may light a candle in the darkness of this family's past or at least point this fledgling genealogist in the right direction.

So what do I know?

Well, my father was John George Mark Lillie, born in Sunderland in 1926, and is happily still with us but as a source of information is exhausted! His father was William Mark Lillie born in 1903 in Sunderland in Woodbine Street in Hendon. His father was John George Lillie born 1880 in Lawrence Street, Hendon, Sunderland. His father was William Lillie and for the first time we have moved away from Sunderland as this particular Lillie was born in Back Lane Gallowgate in Newcastle in 1849.

OK, so far so good, we have progressed from 2003 all the way back to 1849 and only now have left the confines of Sunderland and journeyed all the way to the dark regions north of the Tyne. Sorry, but as a Mackem I was born with an inferiority complex and have been genetically  pre programmed to be sarcastic about all things Newcastle. Imagine my distress upon finding I am descended from a Geordie; just one of the perils of genealogy I guess, you never know what you may turn up!

Now, where was I? Oh yes, 1849 William Lillie is born to John Lillie and his wife Alice (nee Burns) Lillie in Back Lane Gallowgate and is christened in Saint Andrew's Parish Church. William is the second son, his brother having been born in 1844 and christened John Henry Lillie. So I have a family who must appear in Gallowgate on the 1851 census. Well, they don't!! The young couple and their two sons aged 2 and 7 dropped off the face of the earth and appear seemingly nowhere along the Tyne or the Wear. As John is an engine fitter and is working presumably in the shipyards, where has he and the family gone? I assume he has upheld the family trait of avoiding officialdom and managed to not fill in the census return. I am sure if he had known the trouble he would have given his great great great (never can keep up with how many greats one puts in) grandson he would have diligently filled out the form.

And what of his father? Well, another thing my family seem to lack is originality: John Lillie's father was also called John Lillie. It became apparent that a Lillie father if called John would call his first born John and his second son William. If a daughter came along she was inevitable called after her mother, a second daughter would be named after the father's mother. Anyway, I digress.

John Lillie was a blacksmith working in Aspatria in Cumberland in 1844 where he attends the wedding of his son John Lillie (at this time also a blacksmith) to Alice Burns. So we have now crossed the country to Cumbria by 1844 but it appears to be a dead end. For whatever reason the Lillie family only seemed to be passing through Cumbria in 1844 and left little or no trace apart from the marriage of John to Alice and the birth of their first son John Henry, in December 1844.

Aspatria Church 2004
Aspatria Parish Church as it is today

I can only assume that the father John and his apprenticed son John moved to Cumbria to work, either in the coal mines or on the new railway going through Aspatria about 1844. The work having dried up, they moved on and at least the young John and his wife appear in Gallowgate in 1849. Again a presumption on my part but, as he is now described as an engine fitter, perhaps he has put his metal working skills as a blacksmith to good effect on the newfangled steam ships being built along the Tyne. If so, did he bring his father there as well?

My father seems to recollect that the family came to Sunderland via Bedlington (in fact, he says a cousin of his was the North East tap dancing champion in the twenties and that she came from Bedlington) and before that, we were Scots, probably Lowland Scots, but he's not certain. Of course, there's also family stories of our family having fought alongside Bonny Prince Charlie but I think it more likely we were actually on the other side, if involved at all. Still, I doubt at my rate of progress that I will ever get that far back to prove or disprove the story.

Anyway, there you have it, a potted history of the Lillies so far. If any of you good readers should come across a stray Lillie on your travels please point them my way so I may look after them properly. We can't have too many Lillies roaming about.

Author Profile: Peter Lillie is 50 years old and works for an agency finding work for freelance personnel in the broadcasting industry. Peter was born in Sunderland and is married to Judith who was also born in Sunderland. They have three grown up children. Peter began researching his family history in 2002 and most of his information has been gathered from the internet and various certificates. His other interests include watercolour painting and Victorian literature.


By Pam Smith July 2003

If tracing the Lillies is complicated, tracing the ancestry of their wives seems to be just as bad!  Alice Burn ran off to Gretna with John Lillie in 1844.  They then married “officially” at Aspatria a few months later.  From her second marriage certificate and the family bible, its clear that Alice was the eldest daughter of John Burn, a Railway Clerk, and that the family actually hailed from the district of Alnwick.  The only appropriate baptism that I have been able to find is one at Long Horsley in 1819 and the parents here are a John & Mary Burn (visiting from Alnwick).  This looks promising, but no other children appear to have been baptised at that parish.  The Alnwick registers reveal that a John Burn married a Mary Faldon in Alnwick in 1810.  Again, this appears to be the only possible appropriate marriage.  The marriage entry itself yields very little information, but the subsequent baptism of their first child, William, at Alnwick in 1811, shows that John Burn came from nearby Netherwitton.  His wife, Mary Faldon, however, came from Whickham in Durham - quite a distance from Alnwick in the early 19th century!

The Faldons of Whickham have already appeared in our family tree.  John Lillie’s mother was Alice Faldon before her marriage and the census shows that she had been born in Whickham.  Her parents were Thomas Faldon and Mirrell Field.  The name Faldon was not common in Durham at that time and it has since became apparent that Alice and Mary must have been sisters.  This means that John Lillie and Alice Burn would have been first cousins and could explain why they had charged off to Gretna for their “first” marriage.  Perhaps their parents didn't approve, or perhaps it was just Blacksmith tradition or romanticism.  Certainly, their first child, John Henry, had been born a respectable eleven months after the first marriage!  The “cousinship” between John and Alice could also go some way to explaining how a Blacksmith from Berwickshire came to marry a Railway Clerk’s daughter from Alnwick.  Its evident, from the marriage register, that Mary Burn could at least sign her name, so its possible that she wrote to her sister about work for Blacksmiths on the new railways.  Its also possible that John Lillie originally stayed with his aunt’s family (possibly in Aspatria), met his cousin Alice there and fell in love.  I wonder if his aunt ever regretted sending that letter to her sister ?!

If this is all correct, it helps to solve the problem of how John Lillie met Alice Burn.  However, there are still many mysteries surrounding the lives and marriages of their parents.  For instance, how on earth did John Lillie’s father (also John Lillie and a Blacksmith from Berwickshire) meet Alice Faldon from Whickham?  How did Mary Faldon come to be in Alnwick by 1810 and how had she met John Burn, a Farmer’s son from Netherwitton?  How had John Burn come to be Railway Clerk and where were he and his family living when John Lillie eloped with his daughter?

Useful information regarding the first marriage has recently come from Geoff Nicholson.  Alice Faldon’s baptism record shows that the family were living at what looked like “Sw. Fact., Whickham” and Geoff has told me that this is most likely to be “Swalwell Factories”.  These factories were set up by a Quaker family at the end of the 17th century much on the lines of places like Bourneville.  A century later, nearly all of the ironwork for Nelson’s navy was being produced here.  One of the factories, at nearby Winlaton Mill, used outworker Blacksmiths from all over the country for the making of small iron objects.  This would give John Lillie of Berwickshire a good reason to be in the Whickham area.

As for Mary Faldon being in Alnwick, nothing more has come to light.  Swalwell Factories apparently closed at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  Its possible that Thomas Faldon took his family up to Alnwick before that time, though I have no idea why.  I had hoped that the Burn family would link in with the famous Robbie Burns.  A bit of culture in the family wouldn’t go amiss.  Alas, this is unlikely to be the case.  John Burn was apparently the son of William Burn and Isabel Ramsay and they hailed from a lovely little farm out in the wilds of Northumberland - just down the road from East Teviotdale - territory of “a most predatory and vicious family”* - the Burn Riding Clan!

? Taken from “The Steel Bonnets” by George MacDonald Fraser

Current research

I have spent a considerable amount of effort in looking for the living descendants
of John Lillie and Alice Burn who married on the 22 July 1844 at St Kentigans church Aspatria
following a civil marriage on the 3 February 1844 at Gretna Green.

I have had great success with the exception of the second child called Thomas (the first called Thomas Faldon only lasting two years),
So far without any clues if the second Thomas produced any little Lillies at all.

I have a hypothesis that all Borders and Northumberland Lillies are of the same family and am moving to gain the evidence that will prove it. I have noticed that the expansion of trade in the 1700s and the industrial revolution gave any man with a trade (Carpenter, Mason and of course Blacksmith) the income to take on a wife and feed children. When the male children grew up and also became blacksmiths and then wanted to set up their own family, they had to move to another village to do so, therefore causing the spread of the family throughout the border counties?

Last year 2007 the Scotish Records Office published the old parish records so that I was able to download the birth record of Peter Lillie born at Littlethank near Eccles in 1760 and confirm that the transcriber had wrongly read the entry as Patrick. This allowed me to confirm 2 more generations back into the 1600s.

I am amazed how little I know about the brothers and sisters of  the two generations above Peter Lillie, there must be many, who are distant cousins, who I have not traced to share my story with. William Lillie & Isabelle Underwood had 2 boys and 3 girls- William & Alison Muckle had 4 boys and 1 girls- Peter & Margaret S Simpson had 1 boy and 4 girls. I know nothing about the two Williams families except for Perter and John his only son, my own ancestors.

Michael. John. Lillie
e-mail LillieMike@AOL.COM