Ilston Page


My father was James Ilston Jones. I remember asking long ago how he came by such an unusual name. He explained that there was some old family tradition that the eldest son should be called Ilston. Why then, I asked, was I not called Ilston? His response was immediate. "I wasn't going to lumber a son of mine with a damn-fool name like that!"

Thornby, Naseby,
			West Haddon map.
Map of western Northamptonshire.
Painting of
			the Excise Office
Interior of the Excise Office, Old Broad Street, London, from a painting by Thomas Sutherland

For a long time we believed that the name Ilston had Welsh origins, possibly connected with the picturesque Gower village of Ilston (Llanilltud Gwyr), with its history of smuggling, the 17th century origins of the Welsh Baptist church, founding of the Welsh community in Patagonia, and so on.

In reality our Ilston history, as far as we can tell, could hardly be more English. Born at the end of the 17th or early in the 18th century, Bartholomew Ilston was a Northamptonshire miller. In March 1720 he married Mary Watson of Cold Ashby at St Sepulchre Church in Northampton. Both Bartholomew and Mary were baptised as adults in Thornby the following year. Bartholomew was buried on 24 April 1761 in Thornby.

Their son Bartholomew Ilston was born in November 1725 and was baptised on 24 December at Thornby. He married Elizabeth Brett at Thornby in 1751 and died there in 1801. Elizabeth died there a year later. Bartholomew and Elizabeth had 13 children.

Bartholomew's younger brother Caleb Ilston was baptised at Thornby on 7th December 1734. In 1758 he married Frances Gee at Arthingworth and he became the miller at West Haddon. Of the five children of Caleb and Frances of whom we are aware, all were baptised in Thornby, with the exception of their son Nun Ilston. He was baptised in West Haddon in 1763. It was the information contained in Nun's will that enabled us to start uncovering this part of our history.


Our knowledge of the life of Nun Ilston is limited to what we can glean from the available documentation. The only description we have of him is "of the Excise Office, Gentleman." He made his will a few days before his death, leaving an estate of £874.10.0. In 2011 prices, that would be around £1 million, the exact figure depending on the method of calculation.

The records show that he was married twice. His first marriage, to Sarah Thorp took place at St Margaret's, Westminster on 13th May 1786.

1st Marriage of Nun Ilston
Nun Ilston's first marriage - W'minster Archives

So far, we have found no further trace of Sarah. Did she have any children? Did she die in childbirth? As yet, there are no answers.

Thirteen years later Nun, described as a widower, married Rachel Vaughan at St Mary le Bow in London on 27th June 1799.

She was the daughter of Wyatt Vaughan, Hosier and haberdasher, of Mary-le-bone Street, Piccadilly.

Rachel and Nun had five children between 1799 and 1808, the final two being twin girls. Nun Ilston died on 1st December 1825 and was buried on 8th December at Bunhill Fields, Finsbury. Rachel died in 1834 and was buried on 27th July at City Road Wesleyan Chapel.

Nun Ilston and Rachel Vaughan's eldest child was Joshua Ilston, baptised on 4th December 1799 at St Botolph Without, Aldersgate, London.
Joshua was an Excise Officer and married Ann Jane Jones at St Anne Richmond, Liverpool on 28th September 1822.

Their daughter Alice Ilston was baptised at St Peter's Church, Liverpool on 6th April 1823.

Joshua, died at the age of 27 and was buried on 28th April 1827 at St John's Church, Bury, Lancashire.

Alice subsequently married William Jenkin Thomas, a tailor (and later a customs officer,) in Liverpool on 31st October 1843.

Register entry, Alice Ilston's marriage
Alice Ilston and William Jenkin Thomas - marriage details

Their daughter Elizabeth Thomas married William John Jones, thus linking the Ilston and Jones families. They named a son, who became our Grandfather, Ilston Jones and the name Ilston has continued in the family ever since.

Scan of the Will
			of Nun Ilston
Part of the Will of Nun Ilston.


Since virtually all the Ilstons related to our family have been from the area to the east of Leicester, and stretching into Northamptonshire, it seems very likely that the surname is derived from Ilston-on-the-Hill. A number of Ilstons have been recorded as Freeman in the Leicester Merchant Gild Rolls over the centuries. There is quite a wealth of other early Ilston records, but as yet we have been unable to push the tree further back. In the absence of connecting documentation, it is frustrating to know that an earlier Bartholomew Ilston died in Loddington in 1676.


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Last updated 24 April 2018
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