Friday, 16 January 2015

Albert Henry Wilkins (1877-1928), dining room keeper, and his wife Beatrice Louisa Wilkins nee Tothill (1885-1959)

This item includes information and photos kindly supplied by Russell Wilkins, Albert's grandson.

Albert Henry Wilkins was the eldest brother of Gertrude Amy Wilkins (1890-1919), who was the mother of Eric William Taylor (1913-2003), my father. Albert was born on 26th December 1877 at 13 Whitworth Place, Plumstead, the second child of Henry Wilkins and his wife Jane (nee Cornwell). When Albert was born, Henry’s occupation was fresh meat dealer.

The family was still living at 13 Whitworth Place, when Albert was baptized at St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich on 27 Jan 1878. The 1881 census shows Henry Wilkins aged 29, a greengrocer and dairyman, living at 21 Prospect Place, Woolwich with his wife Jane (29) and their children Elizabeth (5), Albert (3) and Alice (1).

In 1891 the Wilkins family were living at 31 Kidd St (a shop), Woolwich Dockyard and consisted of Henry (aged 41, a grocer), Jane (40), Elizabeth (15), Albert (13), Alice (11), Ethel (9), Cecilia (7), Annie (5), Herbert (3) and Gertrude (1). Kidd St is now called Wood Hill. The site of 31 Kidd St is now occupied by modern housing. 

Albert Henry Wilkins aged about 18

The 1901 census lists Henry Wilkins aged 50, a coffee house keeper, living at 11 Church Street, Woolwich with his wife Jane (49) and children Albert (23, machinist shell factory), Alice (21, shirt machinist), Ethel (19, cook domestic), Cecilia (called Bessie, 16, shirt machinist), Annie (15), Herbert (13), Gertrude (11) and Mabel (9). The site of 11 Church Street is now occupied by post war housing.

On 2nd January 1910, Albert (aged 32, a tram conductor) married Beatrice Louisa Tothill (aged 24, born on the Old Kent Road in London, her father was a coachman) at St Michael and All Angels Church, Woolwich. 

Marriage register entry

The 1911 census shows the couple living in 3 rooms at 9 Vincent Terrace, Abbey Road, Abbey Wood. Albert’s occupation is given as a tramway conductor, employed by London County Council. Albert's grandson, Russell Wilkins, has the ticket holder that he used.

Albert was a witness on the parish record of the marriage of his sister Gertrude (my grandmother) in 1912. 

Albert aged about 40

In 1911 Albert’s father Henry left his business premises in Church Street and opened Dining Rooms at 14 Beresford Street, Woolwich. Albert and Beatrice took over the business after Henry died in 1915. They lived at 499 Abbey Road, Abbey Wood (Albert’s sister Gertrude was living at 503 Abbey Road in 1916). Electoral registers from 1923 to 1929 show Jane (Henry’s widow), Albert and Beatrice Wilkins at 14 Beresford Street.

Albert and Beatrice had a son, Albert Edward Wilkins, in 1923, when Albert was aged 45 and Beatrice was 38.

The photo above (taken c 1927) shows the Wilkins Dining Rooms in Beresford Street. The people standing in the doorway are (from left to right), Florence Graham nee Wilkins (Albert's niece), Albert and his wife Beatrice. My father had memories of visiting the dining rooms when a child (after attending church at the Baptist Tabernacle opposite) and being given a meal by Beatrice (known to him as “Aunt Beat”).

Beatrice Louisa Wilkins nee Tothill

Albert Henry Wilkins died of heart failure on 31st December 1928 aged 51 years. The probate index record for him shows that he left no will and that administration of his estate (valued at £498 4s 3d), was granted to his widow, Beatrice, who continued to run the business at 14 Beresford Street after his death. Jane Wilkins lived there until she passed away in 1934. 

In 1939 Beatrice (aged 54) married Thomas Charles Nicolls (aged 62). They are shown in the photo above. The 1939 national register shows Beatrice (a caterer) and Thomas (a steel sawyer) living at 14 Beresford St. My mother remembered visiting the dining rooms in 1940 with my father and that Aunt Beat gave them gifts of food that was rationed during the war. Thomas died in 1945. My parents kept in touch with Beatrice - she was a godmother to my sister Evelyn.

The photo above shows the redesigned front of the dining rooms at 14 Beresford Street after the war. Beatrice continued to run the business until 1951. Beresford Street has been redeveloped and the building that housed Henry’s / Albert’s / Beatrice’s dining rooms no longer exists. Beatrice also owned the Four Aces Snack Bar, which was where the ambulance station on the new ferry approach is now. 

Four Aces Snack Bar

Beatrice died in 1959 aged 73. Albert and Beatrice are buried in grave O/115 in Woolwich Cemetery. The headstone (which is in good condition) is inscribed
Sacred to the memory of ALBERT WILKINS. A dear devoted husband and father who was called beyond suddenly 31st December 1928, aged 51 years. His life was all unselfishness, his end was peace, perfect peace. Also BEATRICE wife of the above, who died 16th March 1959, aged 73 years

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