yeovil people

Robert Rowland Wilson

Tailor and Outfitter


Robert Rowland Wilson was born in 1879 in Yeovil. He was the son of general draper Eli Wilson (1852-1928), originally from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and Amelia Mary née Saunders (b1851, Ashburton, Devon). Eli and Amelia's children, all born in Yeovil, were; Sydney John (b1877), Robert, Sophia A (b1885) and Gwendoline (b1905).

The family originally lived in Ilchester, and the 1881 census listed Eli and Amelia, together with Sydney and Robert, in Church Street, Ilchester. Eli gave his occupation as a general draper. By 1891, Eli had moved his family to 25 Middle Street (close to Vicarage Street), Yeovil, where they lived above his shop premises together with three draper's assistants, a draper's apprentice and a general servant. Eleven-year-old Robert was listed as a scholar.

The family were at the same address in the 1901 census; Robert and his older brother Sydney were both listed as draper's assistants and Eli's spinster sister Susan Wilson was employed as the housekeeper. There were also two resident draper's assistants and a housemaid.

On 11 June 1903, at St Michael's church, Kingsteignton, Devon, 24-year-old Robert married 22-year-old Florence Mabel Gillard (1880-1956). They were to have three children, born respectively in Chilthorne Domer, Kingsteignton and Yeovil; Sidney Rowland (1903-1989), Gwendoline Olive (b1905) and Cecil Robert (1908-1976).

By 1907, Robert and his brother Sydney were in partnership with their father as Wilson & Sons of Middle Street. Collins' Yeovil Directory of 1907 listed them three times; as outfitters, hosiers and finally as milliners and dressmakers. The 1911 census recorded Robert, Florence, their children and a domestic servant at 24 (sic) Middle Street. Robert gave his occupation as a tailor and outfitter.

It would appear from newspaper advertisements that Robert had set himself up as a tailor by 1913, although most of these advertisement placed by 'Robert Wilson, Tailor' were for horse-drawn vehicles and horse tack.

The exact location of Robert's initial shop premises are unknown, although its address was The Triangle, Middle Street - presumably his father's premises - his father by this time having moved to Ilchester. By 1932 Robert had large premises in Westminster Street (see Gallery) which, at this date, was only about ten years old.

Kelly's Directory of 1935 gave two listings to Robert's business, Wilsons (Yeovil) ltd, one as tailors and the second as outfitters, etc. of Westminster Street.

On 24 December 1938, at the age of 59, Robert died in the Ivelchester Hotel, Ilchester. His will was proved in Winchester in February 1939 and his effects were valued at £655 (in excess of £40,000 at today's value). Florence died in Plymouth, Devon, in 1956, aged 75.




From my collection

A photograph of Westminster Street taken in 1932. By this time Westminster Street as we know it today was less than ten years old, as was Robert Wilson's tailors and outfitter's premises, seen here at the centre. The building was also home to the Westminster Cafe.