On 2 February 1974, a 72-year old woman called Gladys Elizabeth Moulting died in Canvey Island, Essex. I know very little about Gladys, except that she was the youngest of two children of George Henry and Harriet Amelia Moulting, that she had been born on 25 July 1901 in the Hertfordshire parish of Tring and that when she was a young girl, her parents had moved to Watford, before settling in Essex in 1924.
Oh, and I also know that Gladys was the last person to bear the surname Moulting…
My interest in the Moulting family began when I discovered the name of William George Moulting of Thorn Cottages, Cornwall Place, Holloway in an 1846 Legacy Duty register entry, relating to my 3x Great Grandmother, Mary Ann Port. Mary Ann had died intestate, and a man called Samuel Truman (who worked at the Stamp Office, the forerunner of the Inland Revenue and the department responsible for the administration of Legacy Duty) had been granted letters of administration at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.
I knew who Samuel was – he was Mary Ann’s first cousin, and one of the beneficiaries of her father’s will over 40 years earlier – but I wanted to know who William George Moulting was, and my searches led me to uncover the story of a remarkable family.
William George Moulting was born in Evesham, Worcestershire sometime around 1784. He was the son of William and Ann Moulting, who ran the Blue Bell in the High Street. His mother had died in 1813, aged 69 and three years later, his father, then aged 70, married a 17-year-old called Maria Headley – possibly a barmaid from the Blue Bell?
By 1821, William George Moulting was in London and it appears that he was a colleague of Samuel Truman’s: his name appears in the British Imperial Calender as an ‘Alphabet and Indexing Clerk’ in the ‘New establishment for better collecting legacy duty’. That same year, on 22 December 1821, William George Moulting married Mary Bellamy in the recently-opened, ‘new’ St Pancras church on Euston Square.
Surprisingly, William George and Mary had just the one child, a son called George, who was baptised at St Pancras on 14 May 1823.
Sometime around 1847, William George Moulting retired from the Legacy Duty Office and, at the time of the 1851 census, we find him at his home in Holloway, with his wife, Mary, and their son, George. William died later the same year and Mary continued to live at Thorn Cottages until her death in 1864. They were both buried at Highgate Cemetery.
Their son, George, meanwhile, having served an apprenticeship to an engraver, was now working as an artist, and he appears, initially at least, to have had a degree of success. He twice exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy (in 1849 and 1854) and he was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, where he exhibited no fewer than 15 watercolours between 1847 and 1857.
George had married Elizabeth Deacon at St Andrew’s church in Barnsbury in 1854 and they would go on to have four children, but their first child, Emily Mary, died aged just a few weeks in 1856. Then on 3 March 1860, just over a year after their oldest son, George Henry, was born, George was admitted to Bethlem Hospital, suffering from ‘acute mania with violent paroxysms of hysteria’ all of which was ascribed to his having suffered a blow to the head, the result of a fall about two years earlier. This, it seems, had forced to him to give up painting and move to the country.
His case file makes quite harrowing reading but George gradually recovered and on 14 September he was formally discharged.
George returned to the family home near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, where a daughter, Rosa Elizabeth, was born in September 1861. Four years later, their fourth and youngest child, William Joseph Moulting, was born. Sadly William Joseph died just 11 months later.
Unfortunately, our sightings of the family over the next few decades are few and far between. George continued to work locally as an artist but there’s no indication that he was actively involved in the London art scene. He lived out the rest of his life in Hemel Hempstead and died at his home in 1894, his daughter Rosa dying (unmarried) three years later. They were both buried in Hemel Hempstead’s Heath Lane Cemetery. George’s widow, Elizabeth, moved the short distance to Watford where their son, George Henry had settled, before she also died, in 1908.
Sometime in the late 1870s, George Henry had moved to Tring, where he found work as an auctioneer’s clerk but at the time of the 1891 census he was living in Watford, with the Lewin family. Later that year, George Henry Moulting married the second Lewin daughter, Harriet Amelia, at the parish church in Watford and, although they initially set up home in Tring, by about 1906 they had moved to Watford with their two daughters, Daisy Florence and Gladys Elizabeth. George Henry was now working as a secretary to a building society, but he seems to have retired in 1923 and the whole family were soon on the move again, this time to Essex.
Daisy and Gladys were still living with their parents on the outbreak of the Second World War, when the National Register was compiled. George’s occupation was given in the register as ‘Corporate Accountant Retired’ and Harriet was described as an invalid. Daisy was a ‘Preparatory School Teacher’ while Gladys was working as the family’s housekeeper.
Just a few months later, on 6 December 1939, George Henry Moulting died. Harriet Amelia survived him by just four years and then Daisy died in 1960. Which just left Gladys…
A search on the FreeBMD website for the surname Moulting – with no other restrictions – brings up just 20 results: 6 births, 2 marriages and 12 deaths. And all 20 of these vital events relate to the family of William George Moulting. The surname seems to be a variant of the more common ‘Moulton’ which can be found in earlier Evesham records but the Moulting spelling appears to have been settled upon uniquely by this particular branch and used quite consistently for nearly 200 years. There’s no evidence that the name ever crossed the Atlantic or wound its way to the Antipodes, so when Gladys Elizabeth Moulting died on 2 February 1974, the Moulting surname died with her.
© David Annal, Lifelines Research, 21 November 2021