Person:William Moles (1)

m. 10 Sep 1803
  1. William Moles1804 - 1879
  2. Sarah Moles1807 - 1852
  3. Ann Moles1809 - 1883
  4. Susannah Moles1811 - 1891
  5. Charles Moles1813 - 1864
  6. Mary Ann Moles1816 - 1846
  7. Amy Moles1819 - 1895
  8. Elizabeth Moles1821 - 1884
  9. Eliza Moles1825 - 1895
  10. Thomas Moles1829 - 1889
m. 20 May 1827
  1. Maria Moles1828 - 1907
  2. George Moles1831 - 1904
  3. Eliza Moles1833 - 1897
  4. Hannah Moles1836 - 1837
  5. Thomas Moles1838 - 1895
  6. Betsy Moles1842 - 1920
  7. Hannah Ann Moles1848 - 1928
Facts and Events
Name William Moles
Gender Male
Christening[1] 20 May 1804 Stotfold, Bedfordshire, England
Marriage 20 May 1827 Willian, Hertfordshire, EnglandAll Saints
to Hannah Pratt
Census[2] 6 Jun 1841 Willian, Hertfordshire, England
Census[3] 30 Mar 1851 Willian, Hertfordshire, England
Census[4] 7 Apr 1861 Willian, Hertfordshire, England
Census[5] 2 Apr 1871 Willian, Hertfordshire, England32 Terrace Cottages
Death[6][7] 1879 Hitchin, Hertfordshire, EnglandHitchin Union Workhouse
Burial[7] 24 Jul 1879 Willian, Hertfordshire, England


William Moles was baptised on 20th May 1804 at Stotfold in Bedfordshire, son of Mary Ann Moles, formerly Best, and her husband Thomas Moles, an agricultural labourer. William was their eldest son; they had married just over eight months before his baptism. Thomas was from Stotfold, but Mary was from Exeter in Devon, about 200 miles away.

After William's birth the family left Stotfold, moving about five miles south to the village of Willian, where another nine children were baptised to Thomas and Mary between 1807 and 1829. By the time William's youngest brother was born, William was married and a father himself - his eldest daughter had an uncle younger than she was.


William's wife was Hannah Pratt. She was from Willian and was only a couple of months younger than William, so they had probably known each other since childhood. William and Hannah married on 20th May 1827, exactly 23 years after William's baptism. The Moles and Pratt families clearly knew each other well; William's sister Ann married Hannah's brother John in 1829, then William's sister Mary married Hannah's brother Joseph in 1833.

William and Hannah stayed in Willian, having seven children (five girls and two boys) baptised there between 1828 and 1848, although one of their daughters, Hannah, died aged one. William worked as an agricultural labourer, and Hannah was a straw plaiter. The 1841 census finds William and his family living next door to his parents. Many of William's siblings had also stayed in the Willian area, such as his sister Elizabeth, who was for a time the landlady of the Three Horseshoes public house in the village. Unfortunately, William's son George clearly had a violent streak and in 1852 was prosecuted for assaulting his aunt Elizabeth at the Three Horseshoes after having borrowed some money from her.

William's first known grandchild was born in 1851. William's father Thomas died in 1853. Four years later, William's wife Hannah died, aged 52. At the time of her death, the couple's surviving children ranged in age from 28 down to just eight years old. William's mother was still alive at this point; she died in 1861 in Offley, a few miles west of Willian.

Later life

After Hannah's death, William and his younger children lived with his daughter Eliza. She had been married to a labourer named William Ellis, with whom she had a son, George, but William Ellis had died the month after George's baptism, leaving Eliza a widow at the age of 22.

Several of William's daughters became straw plaiters, as their mother had been. This was typical of many families in this area; straw plait was used in the hat making industry centred on Luton in Bedfordshire. In 1866, William's youngest daughter, Hannah Ann, got into trouble with the Straw Hat Manufacturer's Association. She had made a bunch of plait which turned out to be only just over half the length she had claimed it was. A public spectacle was made of her in the Market Place in the nearby market town of Hitchin, where the bunch of plait had been sold, with the town crier denouncing "Hannah Moles, daughter of William Moles of Willian" for what she had done, then publicly burning the deficient bunch of plait.

In 1867 a new landlord, Charles Frederick Hancock, bought the village of Willian and rebuilt many of its cottages.[9] It is also from about this time that the names and numbers are recorded for the cottages. The 1871 census finds William living with his daughter Eliza and her son George Ellis at 32 Terrace Cottages, which stood on the south-east side of Church Road facing towards All Saints' Church. Terrace Cottages were rebuilt in the 1930s, suggesting perhaps they were not built in the 1867 remodelling of the village, but were older cottages.

In 1876, aged 72, William was convicted of indecently assaulting a ten year old girl in the meadow behind his cottage one Sunday afternoon in July. He pleaded not guilty, but some of the witnesses at his trial gave evidence that when being arrested he had admitted committing the act. He was found guilty and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

It is not clear whether William returned to Willian after being released from jail. At his trial his daughter Eliza, who lived with him, had been quoted as saying "Father, I shan't be here when you come back, bringing this disgrace upon the family." At some point between his release and his death he went to live in the Hitchin Union Workhouse. Unfortunately the admission registers are lost, so it is not clear how long he lived there.

William died in the Hitchin Union Workhouse in 1879, aged 75. He was buried on 24th July 1879 back at Willian, where he had lived the vast majority of his life.

  1. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service. Transcript of Stotfold Parish Registers.

    ch. 20 May 1804: Wm s Tho & Mary Moles

    This baptism has been linked to the William Moles who married Hannah Pratt on the basis of the censuses in which the adult William consistently claimed to have been born around 1804 in Stotfold, and the fact that in the 1841 census he was living next door to an elderly couple named Thomas and Mary Moles, who appear to be his parents. No alternative explanation for what happened to the William baptised at Stotfold in 1804 has been found, so we conclude they are the same person.

  2. England. General Register Office. The National Archives (abbreviated TNA): 1841 Census Schedules for England and Wales, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. (Kew, Richmond, Greater London TW9 4DU, United Kingdom)
    Class HO107; Piece 437; Book 11; Folio 4; Page 1, 6 Jun 1841.

    Address: Willian, Hertfordshire
    Thomas Moles, male, 60 [1776-81], Lab[ourer], not born in county
    Thomas Moles jun[io]r, male, 13 [1827/8], Lab[ourer], born in county
    Mary Ann Moles, female, 59 [1781/2], not born in county
    Eliza Moles, female, 15 [1821-6], born in county
    ~ next house ~
    W[illia]m Moles, male, 35 [1801-6], Lab[ourer], not born in county
    George Moles, male, 10 [1830/1], Lab[ourer], born in county
    Eliza Moles, female, 8 [1832/3], born in county
    Thomas Moles, male, 3 [1837/8], born in county
    Hanah Moles, female, 35 [1801-6], born in county
    Maria Moles, female, 13 [1827/8], born in county
    W[illia]m Pratt, male, 20 [1816-21], Lab[ourer], born in county

  3. General Register Office. The National Archives (abbreviated TNA). England and Wales. 1851 Census Schedules. (Kew, Richmond, Greater London TW9 4DU, United Kingdom)
    Class HO107; Piece 1709; Folio 137; Page 7, 30 Mar 1851.

    Address: Village, Willian, Hertfordshire
    William Moles, head, married, male, 47 [1803/4], Ag[ricultural] Lab[oure]r, b. Stotfold, Bedfordshire
    Hanah Moles, wife, married, female, 46 [1804/5], Platting, b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    Elizar Moles, daughter, unmarried, female, 18 [1832/3], Platting, b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    Betsy Moles, daughter, unmarried, female, 9 [1841/2], Platting, b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    Hannah Moles, daughter, female, 2 [1848/9], b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    Thomas Moles, son, unmarried, male, 12 [1838/9], b. Willian, Hertfordshire

  4. General Register Office. The National Archives (abbreviated TNA). 1861 Census Schedules for England and Wales, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. (Kew, Richmond, Greater London TW9 4DU, United Kingdom)
    Class RG9; Piece 816; Folio 83; Page 3, 7 Apr 1861.

    Address: Cott[age], Willian, Hertfordshire
    William Moles, head, widower, male, 56 [1804/5], Farmers Laborer, b. Stotfold, Bedfordshire
    Elizer Ellis, daughter, widower, female, 28 [1832/3], Straw Platter, b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    Betsey Moles, daughter, unmarried, female, 18 [1842/3], Straw Platter, b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    Hannah Moles, daughter, female, 12 [1848/9], Scholar, b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    George Ellis, grandson, male, 5 [1855/6], Scholar, b. Graveley, Hertfordshire

  5. General Register Office. The National Archives (abbreviated TNA). England and Wales. 1871 Census Schedules. (Kew, Richmond, Greater London TW9 4DU, United Kingdom)
    Class RG10; Piece 1365; Folio 20; Page 18, 2 Apr 1871.

    Address: No. 32 Terrace, Willian, Hertfordshire
    William Mole, head, widower, male, 67 [1803/4], Lab[ourer], b. Stotfold, Bedfordshire
    Eliza Ellis, daughter, widow, female, 38 [1832/3], Plaiter, b. Willian, Hertfordshire
    George Ellis, grandson, unmarried, male, 15 [1855/6], Lab[ourer], b. Graveley, Hertfordshire

  6. Deaths index, in General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration. (London: General Register Office).

    d. William MOLES, September Quarter 1879, Hitchin Registration District, Volume 3a, page 185

  7. 7.0 7.1 Burials register, in Church of England. Willian Parish Registers.

    No. 349
    When buried: 24 Jul 1879
    Name: William Moles
    Abode: Willian (died in the Workhouse, Hitchin)
    Age: 76 [1802/3]

  8.   Hertfordshire Mercury, in United Kingdom. The British Newspaper Archive
    Page 3, Saturday 22 Jul 1876.

    Indecent Assault at Willian.
    William Moules, a labourer, 73 years of age, of Willian, was charged with having on the 9th of July committed an indecent assault upon a child named Fanny Pratt, aged 10 years, at Willian.
    Mr. W.A. Clark, instructed by Messrs. Hawkins & Co., appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. Fulton, instructed by Mr. Baker for the defendant.
    The prisoner surrendered to his bail, and pleaded not guilty. On the jury being sworn, one of the jurors desired to make an affirmation instead of taking an oath, and this was allowed. All females and children were ordered out of the Court during the hearing of the case. Mr. Clark appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. Fulton for the defence.
    Fanny Pratt was called and said she lived at home with her father and mother. On Sunday, the 9th of July, after tea she went into the meadow, where she saw Mr. Moules, he was lying down, and he called to her. She went to him, and he committed the assault complained of. Her reason for going up to the meadow was that she wanted to see a schoolfellow named Emma Hull. Mrs. Ellis came and "spanked" her on the neck, and sent her home to tell her mother.
    Cross-examined: There were three of us in the field - myself and two sisters. One of my sisters is in her sixteenth year, and the other is eight. I went to the meadow to get Emma Hull to go to church. The prisoner was lying on the ground, but was not asleep. I did not run up to him, and give him a kick. He called me and I went to him.
    Alice Pratt, the mother of the girl, said that on the Sunday night in question, complainant had been out and come home crying. From what she said, witness went to the prisoner and asked him if he was not ashamed of himself for being with her child not eleven years old. He said, "No, I've done nothing." She said, "You have; you ought to be ashamed of yourself, an old man like you." She repeated what she said, and he said, "It's enough to make me ashamed."
    Cross-examined: It was the complainant who told me. Both her sister and herself appeared very much distressed. The prisoner seemed a little the worse for beer: he seemed "fresh."
    The JUDGE remarked that it was very difficult to get a definition of drunkenness. At Lewes it was said a man was not drunk if he could drive a mile on the road.
    Cross-examined: I wanted to settle the case, and would have been glad to settle it for as much as we could get. Both my husband and myself were in a passion, but we both wanted to settle it.
    Re-examined: I did not offer to anybody to settle it.
    William Tripp, police officer, said that on the Sunday evening I went to Willian, soon after seven o'clock, and called at William Moules's house; I went upstairs and found the prisoner in bed. I charged him with indecently assaulting Fanny Pratt that evening. I told him he was would have to get up and go with me to Hitchin. He said he should not, but I told him he would, and when he was dressing he said "The Lord have mercy upon us." When I charged him, he denied it. Defendant then began to make a statement, when I cautioned him. He then said "I'll tell you the truth. I was lying in the paddock this afternoon when the little girl came to me and said, 'I've been looking for you,' I took her up to the top of the paddock, and laid her down, and indecently assaulted her. I had been having a drop of drink and it made me feel stupified." Whilst I was there Mrs. Ellis, his daughter, came to the house and said, "Father, I shan't be here when you come back, bringing this disgrace upon the family." He replied, "I've got into this bother, and I shall get out of it." I took him in charge.
    Cross-examined: I should think the paddock is three or four acres. It is at the back of prisoner's cottage.
    Cross-examined: He was in bed but awake when I went to his house. He made the long statement while he was dressing, and without any prompting or "jogging up." When he did begin, he was very talkative.
    George Young, inspector of police, said he conveyed the prisoner to the station, and as he was going along he said he was ashamed he had had so much drink. He was lying in the meadow when the little girl came to him, patted him on the cheek, and then he committed the assault complained of. He added that his daughter came, scolded her, and took him home.
    Cross-examined: I did not caution the prisoner. I have been seventeen years in the force, but did not think it was my duty to caution him.
    The JUDGE said it was not the duty of the policeman to invite a prisoner to speak, but if he volunteered a statement it was his duty to listen to it, and report it correctly.
    This was the case for the prosecution, and
    Mr. FULTON then addressed the jury for the defence, remarking that it seemed to him to be involved and contradictory. He thought the sister, who was 16 years of age, should have been called, but for some reason best known to themselves, the prosecution had not called her. After commenting upon the evidence, and remaking that it was only after the parents of the child found they could not make "a good thing" out of it, that the charge was made, he called
    Eliza Ellis, daughter of the prisoner, who said that the field is at the back of her garden. She was in her garden and looked over the fence, and saw the children in the meadow. Fanny left them, and went up the meadow, and her father followed her. She the girl throw herself twice on her back. Witness then went up the fence, and took her father home. The girl was not crying. Witness spanked her neck, because she had no right there. She thought her being there was a great temptation for her father.
    Cross examined: My object in going to the garden was to get my father to come to his tea. Both my father and the girl were off the path in the meadow.
    Eliza King, sister of the prisoner, saw the girl go in the meadow, and kick her foot against him. He got up almost directly and followed her up the meadow, but he never touched her.
    Mr. Fulton replied, and Clark having recapitulated and commented upon the evidence the Judge summed up, and the Jury found the prisoner guilty of an indecent assault, but on account of his advanced age, some of the Jury wished to recommend him to the mercy of the Court.
    The prisoner was sentenced to six months imprisonment.

  9. Letchworth: The First Garden City, Mervyn Miller, Phillimore, Chichester, 1989 (2nd ed. 2002) p.32