TitleWilsmore Family of Layer Breton - Centenary Chronicles 43
AbstractThe Wilsmore Family of Layer Breton

Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney Local History

Centenary Chronicles - No. 43.

Published in Parish News - August 2006

Back in 1910 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, introduced the tortuously named Finance (1909-1910) Act which provided the means whereby every property in the country could be valued and, more importantly, the details of the building materials used together with the number, and type, of rooms.

Quite recently we received a visit from someone who knew this area some years ago. He was seeking further information on his family but what was of interest to us were the photographs he had with him. Our visitor was trying to place the location of some of the photographs and, if you think you know where they were taken, we will pass the information on. One, however, can be easily recognised as it has changed very little over the years. In addition to the house we also have pictures of the occupants in the 1920/1930s.

The Wilsmore family occupied a cottage on Layer Breton Hill for many years and were well known to villagers as Mrs Wilsmore ran the Layer Breton Post Office. Back in 1910 the cottage was occupied by W Wilsmore and owned by Mrs E Bridges. The weatherboarded building had a slated roof and was described as being "old but in good order". There were two sitting rooms, one used as a Post Office, a kitchen, a lean to and two bedrooms. The gross value was given as £60 with a rental of £6 per year, rates 10 shillings (50p). Next door a similar property was occupied by John Wilsmore, who died in 1917.

'Layer Breton Post Office Card' addressed to Miss Wilsmore at the Post Office and dated 1905

Postcard showing Layer Breton Cottages, sent to Miss Wilsmore, St Botolphs, 15 Jan 1910.
This is not the same building as the Post Office shown in the photograph above.

Around the time the valuation was made the Wilsmore family appeared in the Parish magazine when William Wilsmore, of Layer de la Haye, won second prize in the Layer Breton ploughing match. Two years later there is, sadly, an entry recording the death of Frank, aged 7.

Harvesting with horse-drawn reaper and binder.

Other names are definitely linked to Layer Breton as an entry in January 1920 notes the death of Mary Rebecca Wilsmore, aged 80. The fact that she was well known in the area is supported by the account accompanying the entry. It states that she had died after a very short illness. "She was full of sympathy with the troubles of everyone around her, and all of Layer Breton will feel they have lost a friend. She has managed the Post Office for more than 60 years, and her work, especially in these days of pensions, etc., brought her into sympathetic touch with all her neighbours, and she has literally died at her post of duty."

Detail taken from a larger photograph shows the 'Layer Breton Post Office' sign over the door.
On the back of the photograph is written "Grandfather and Grandmother Wilsmore with Aunt Jane and May".
Left to right (probably) is John Wilsmore, May, John's wife - Mary the Postmistress, and Aunt Jane.

In July 1931 there is another sad entry concerning the family. "We deeply regret to announce the death of Mr Walter Wilsmore, as the result of an accident, on June 28th. This is the third fatal accident to Layer Breton men in the last two years. He was of a modest and retiring disposition, but he has always earned the sincere respect and regard of all who knew him, and he will be especially missed by his brethren of the Reliance Lodge of the Oddfellows Society, in which he held office for many years. Deep sympathy is felt in the Parish for Mrs Wilsmore and her daughter." He had fallen from a cart carrying a load of hay.

Three fatal accidents in one year in a village where there were only 95 employed men must have had a terrible effect on local people. To date we have been unable to find either inquest or newspaper details of any of the incidents.

From the census returns we know that Mary's husband, John, was born in Great Wigborough while she was from Dedham. Their son Walter married Ellen Hutton from Birch in 1888. The census are not always accurate as in 1871 John and Mary had living with them her father James Kempin who had been born in Birch. But ten years earlier they were living with him and his wife when the Wilsmores are shown as the nephew and niece, respectively, of James! As 1861 is the first mention of the family in Layer Breton it has not been possible to clarify the issue. It seems very likely that as John was born in Great Wigborough he was a member of a large Wilsmore family in that village.

Photo in the front garden of Layer Breton Post Office. Perhaps John Wilsmore with a younger relative ? A lady can be seen in the doorway.

We are indebted to Philip Radford for information about the Wilsmore family and he sends his Best Wishes to anyone who remembers his visits to the village.

The images on this page were created from postcards and photographs loaned by Mr Philip Radford to Eric Hall and Geoff Russell Grant. If you can add to the information in the above Chronicle please contact Eric or Geoff.

PublishedAugust 2006
SourceMersea Museum / Breton Heath
Related Images:
 Postcard showing Layer Breton Cottages, sent to Miss Wilsmore, St Botolphs, 15 Jan 1910.  PBH_031
ImageID:   PBH_031
Title: Postcard showing Layer Breton Cottages,
sent to Miss Wilsmore, St Botolphs, 15 Jan 1910.
Date:Before 15 Jan 1910
Source:Mersea Museum / Breton Heath