William Lillie: a man of great integrity and piety

William Lillie’s grave in Sudbury Cemetery

The sudden death of William Lillie of Sudbury, on January 3rd, 1868, left the Rev. E. Sidney, (Rector of Little Cornard and President of the Sudbury Literary Institute), ‘under a greater depression of spirits that he had ever felt on any previous occasion when he had met them’.

A 1937 photograph from the
Sudbury Photo Archive showing the building which was originally the Sudbury Literary Institute

He went on to mention the many excellent qualities of the good man whom they had lost and noted that: ‘everyone who was acquainted with him would feel with him that a more honest man or a more worthy person never appeared amongst them’. His being taken away so suddenly greatly affected his, (Rev. Sidney’s), own mind, for he felt that their Society ‘had lost a good officer and the town an excellent and worthy inhabitant’.

Besides being Hon. Treasurer of the Sudbury Literary Institute for nearly fourteen years, William Lillie was Assistant Treasurer to the Corporation, and worked at a bank on the Market Hill, Sudbury. He was a much-respected Sudburian, and a man of great integrity and piety who cared very much for the welfare of the poorer families of the town who lived in the crowded and insanitary yards and alleys.

Henry Sparrow Pratt (Sudbury Town Archive)

He tried to give practical help such as support for the Christian Mothers’ and Fathers’ meetings organised in the early 1860’s by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sparrow Pratt in Friars Street.

He was the son of John Lillie, who was described as a ‘labourer’ when he was admitted to the Freedom of Sudbury in 1800. William was born in 1803 and baptised at St. Gregory’s Church. Just like his friend William Hodson, he was Master of the Boys’ National and Charity School in North Street for many years.

The gateway is all that remains of the North Street Schools in Sudbury.

It is likely that his connection with the School would have begun before his appointment as Master in 1823, at the age of twenty, and he would have passed through the several stages of scholar, monitor and teacher. His salary was partly met by subscriptions within the parish from the wealthier inhabitants and he also received £10 a year from Susan Girling’s Charity and the Crossman Charity. His home was the School Master’s house in North Street. After his marriage to Anna Davey, in 1827, conditions in the School House must have become cramped as they had a large family to provide for and money would have been scarce.

He was admitted to the Freedom of Sudbury on June 10th, 1826 in time for the election when 730 Freemen were able to vote. Since William Lillie was known to be honest and honourable, it is unlikely that he was tempted by the abundant supply of free liqour or availability of bribes at election times.

Fortunately, in 1838, he was offered a position as cashier at Messrs. Oakes & Co. and he was able to move first to Sepulchre Street and then to a larger house on the corner of Straw Lane, next to a beer- house known as ‘The Rising Sun’.

Ivy Lodge, Sudbury, the home of William Lillie

By the time of his first wife’s death in December,1850, aged just 48, he was the father of eleven children. Two years later, he married Anne Cooper from Halstead.

William’s talents as a treasurer continued to be appreciated and, in October 1860, he was presented with a gold watch purchased by the members of the Sudbury Literary Institute and presented by the Rev. E. Sidney as a token of the respect and esteem in which he was held.