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2 Apr 2020

B is for Billett

Dreamy days in Dorset 30: Broadmayne cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Basher Eyre
My Father's maternal grandmother's maiden name was Billett. Amelia Billett was born in Weymouth, Dorset in 1828, the daughter of William Billett, a mariner. She married Aaron Hardy, another mariner from Castle Coombe, Dorset in 1850 in Weymouth. The Hardy family moved to Southampton sometime in the 1860s.
It is unclear when William Billett moved to Weymouth, but he had married his wife Elizabeth Cox in Poxwell, Dorset in 1815. Poxwell is between Weymouth and the Billett's village of Piddletrenthide, much further inland. William was the oldest in his family, possibly born in 1791 but not baptised until 1797 with a younger brother. He had at least three brothers, and I have been fortunate enough to connect with other Billett descendants through Ancestry DNA matches.

William's father Joseph (1759-1841) was likewise born in Piddletrenthide but married his first wife Elizabeth Spinney in Broadmayne, Dorset where both families lived prior to Piddletrenthide. Billet/t families were well established in Broadmayne from the early 18th century and probably much longer. Broadmayne - only two miles from Dorchester - is tucked away in a valley and its layout is a ribbon development. Apart from agriculture, brickmaking employed many villagers.

In 1817, after my 3x great-grandfather William had left home and married, his father Joseph - mentioned above - stepmother Elizabeth (nee Hippert) and two of his younger brothers, James and Thomas were served with removal orders by the parish of Fordington (pin-pointed on map) to their village of settlement, Piddletrenthide.

Walking to Weymouth from Piddletrenthide
Piddletrendthide, where my subsequent Billett ancestors lived, is still a very quiet village.  In 2014, whilst staying at a bed and breakfast cottage in Weymouth - wheelchair accessible - hallelujah - I drove there to take a look. It took me about 30 minutes to drive there - following the route many Billett ancestors probably walked.

Piddletrenthide is at the very top of the map. The vast majority of the population were agricultural labourers.  Although William chose a sea-faring life, his brothers James and Thomas remained agricultural labourers there in the 1840s and beyond.

Red Lion, Hope Square
We don't know when William went to sea, but in 1841 he was living at 92 High Street, Weymouth and was an able seaman on the Royal Naval vessel Illustrious.  In 1851 he was a bondsman on the Royal Naval ship Cumberland and his wife Elizabeth (Cox)'s address was 11 Maiden Street, Weymouth.  By 1861 he was aged 70, a mariner and living with his wife Elizabeth and a grand-daughter Frances at Hope Square, Weymouth.  He died the following year.  By this time, his daughter Amelia - my 2x great-grandmother had married another mariner, Aaron Hardy and had moved to Southampton.

Linda & Margaret
In 2014, my second cousin Linda and I visited Weymouth - me for the first time - and spent a day wandering around the streets near the Billett 19th century residences.  Many of the buildings have been maintained and or restored, some repurposed such as the old brewery which is now Brewer's Quay, a pub and many small shops. 
Linda & Margaret

There is a fascinating museum to visit and the whole area where the Billett's lived is a considerable tourist attraction.
Peter, Linda & Margaret exploring Weymourth Old Harbour
Much of Hope Street was reclaimed land in the late 18th century.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I too have a Master Mariner from Hatherleigh, Devon. He is listed in the 1841 Census as a 12 year old student at the Royal Naval Hospital School, Greenwich. He went to sea on the Caroline at age 14 and then I lost him. He turned up in Australia in the early 1860's. I haven't been able to find a shipping record for him so perhaps he was the captain of the ship he arrived on. He is on my list of people to research. He left quite a paper trail in Australia and New Zealand. We visited Hatherleigh in 2007. Watch this space.

    1. I will indeed Tricia. Naval records appear scant for some of my seafaring ancestors. Thank you.