Yeovil People

William Phillips & Son

Drapers of High Street


William Phillips was born in Carmarthen, Wales, in 1825. On 10 December 1851, at Anvil Street Chapel, Bristol, he married Ann Tayler (b1821), originally of Dursley, Gloucestershire. Ann was the fourth daughter of Independent Minister James Tayler (1786-1871) and Charlotte Elizabeth née Smith (1785-1829). The marriage was reported in the 20 December 1851 edition of the Bristol Mercury. William and Ann were to have two children; Annie Sophia (1854-1908) and William Tayler (1859-1928).

In the 1861 census, William and Ann, together with 7-year old Annie and 2-year old William, three draper's assistants and a nursemaid, were recorded living at 10 North Street, Bristol. William gave his occupation as a linen draper.

By 1871 William had moved his family to Yeovil. The family were listed in the census living above William's shop premises (see Gallery) in High Street, together with four draper's assistants and a domestic servant. 47-year old William gave his occupation as a draper. The 1881 census was almost identical but with just two assistants and an apprentice.

In the autumn of 1886, at Weymouth, William Jnr married Martha Weston Fowler (b1857, Weymouth). They were to have three children (although an unknown child died in infancy); the two surviving daughters, both born in Yeovil, were Fanny Gertrude (1888-1974) and Ada Patty (b1890).

It was probably around this time that William Snr retired and William Jnr carried on with the High Street business. William Snr and Ann moved to Weston-super-Mare, where he was described as a gentleman. He died in Weston on 20 June 1890 and his will was proved at Wells in the July. His estate was valued at £2,776 16s 3d (around £300,000 at today's value).

In the 1891 census, William and Martha with their two daughters, two draper's assistants, a draper's clerk, a milliner, a domestic servant and a nurse, were all listed living above the High Street shop premises. 31-year old William gave his occupation as a draper and outfitter.

In April 1891, at the 95th annual spring meeting of the Somerset Congregational Union, held in Yeovil, 'W Tayler Phillips' was the delegate representing Yeovil.

The family, were again listed at 6 High Street in the 1901 census, with the four shop workers plus a cook and a housemaid.

William clearly expanded his business, and in the 1907 edition of Collins' Yeovil Directory, he had two listings; as 'Milliners & Dressmakers of High Street' and as 'Undertaker and Draper of High Street'.

The family were still at 6 High Street in the 1911 census. 57-year old William gave his occupation as 'Shopkeeper (Draper, Milliner, Furnisher)'. 23-year old Fanny was a music teacher and 21-year old Ada was a student nurse.

Around 1915, William retired and moved his family to The Retreat, Grove Avenue. The shop premises at 6 High Street were taken over by fancy goods dealer Ince Gamis.

It is not known when Martha died, but she is thought to have predeceased William. William died on 15 September 1928 in Yeovil, aged 69. His will was proved in London the following November and his effects were valued at £10,532 10s 9d (around £625,000 at today's value).




William Phillips Senior, photographed around 1880.


Ann Phillips, née Tayler, also photographed around 1880.


The Golden Key Drapery in High Street, complete with its own massive street lights, in a colourised photograph of around 1910. Initially owned by William Snr, and then by William Jnr. By about 1915, the premises were those of Ince Gamis. The store was completely re-fronted and partially rebuilt inside during a six-week period during 1932 and its most recent occupier was Beale's.