The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

The Wille Brothers (Pierre James 1828 – 1890 and Jean Francois 1826 – 1870)


The following burials are recorded in the Berkhamsted St Peters registers: Henry Dowsett Wille, buried 4th July 1866 age 1; Edward William Joseph Wille buried 10th July 1866 age 2; Jean Francois Wille buried 26th May 1870 age 45; Pierre James Wille buried 14th June 1890 age 61 years, recorded as living in the High Street.  Pierre and Jean were brothers; Henry and Edward were their respective sons.

Pierre Wille (and almost certainly the other three members of the family) is buried in the lower cemetery, towards the east side, but there is no headstone. However, the plot is next to that of  John Hurst, (Plot 170), which was repaired in 2018. 

The two Wille brothers had been born in Bruges, Belgium, the sons of Rosalia Booninck anf Joannes Wille.  Pierre arrived in London in 1855 but by 1861 he is listed, aged 34, as living at the George pub with his wife Sarah Ann (nee Dowsett) aged 25, from Streatham in Surrey. They had married in Northchurch in April 1859. They had five children, James Pierre (b.1863); Henry Dowsett (b.1865) Frederick William (b.1867) Flora Mary (b.1869) and Rosalie Antoinette Dowsett (b.1872), all born in Berkhamsted. Henry died aged one and is buried in the Cemetery.

Pierre has the dual occupation of beer seller and gardener. In 1871, the family (Pierre, wife Sarah Ann and children) were still living at the George pub and Pierre is described as a florist gardener – it would appear he was working for the Lane family (who owned the huge nurseries in Berkhamsted as well as the George pub – they are listed two doors down in the census). So it would seem that Pierre had been employed by the Lanes because he combined specialist horticultural skills and a knowledge of beer – probably both acquired as a result of his connection with Belgium, where he had been born.

By 1881 the family had moved to Spencer Road, St Pancras, London where Pierre was still described as a gardener – on his death in 1890 he was buried with the other members of his family back in Berkhamsted.

Sarah Ann, aged 75, was living in Chelsea in 1901 with two of her children – James and Flora, both trained as dressmakers. By 1911 she is living with Flora, who was unmarried. She died in 1915 aged 79 in Chelsea.

Jean Francois, Pierre’s brother, had married Charlotte Algrain (born in Brussels) at Berkhamsted in 1860 and they had a son, also Jean Francois, a daughter Mary Frances Fanny, a son Edward WJ and another daughter Charlotte, all of whom were born in Berkhamsted in 1860, 1862 and 1864 and 1867 respectively.  Edward William is buried in the Cemetery. Jean Francois died in 1870 aged 45. In 1861, Jean Francois and his wife were living in the High Street – he is described as a painter – (it is not clear whether he was an artist or decorator).

Henry and Edward, who were cousins, both died within a week of one another and presumably are buried in the plot later occupied by their respective fathers.

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