Zillah Rastall

Stephen Rastall, a baker in Ilmington near Stratford-on-Avon, married Hannah Alice Manning in July 1843 when he was 20 and she was 17. The following month, on 5 August 1843, Hannah gave birth to their daughter Zillah. There don’t appear to have been any more children—certainly the 1851, 1861 and 1871 censuses show none.

There’s a picture of Zillah in 1858 and she was a beauty—but already, at the age of fifteen, you can see in her face a strong will and a determination to have her own way. An only child, we have to assume that she’d been spoiled by her parents.

In 1865, aged 22, Zillah gave birth to Edith Rastall. Zillah wasn’t married and we don’t know who the father was but Edith seems to have been taken into Stephen and Hannah’s family without any fuss because in the 1871 census she is there as their granddaughter. But her mother— Zillah—is not, because on 10th June 1867, aged 24, Zillah had married William Wyatt (1840 to 1911) in Ilmington Parish Church.

Edith never lived in her mother’s home, though she did follow in her footsteps by having an illegitimate daughter, Lilian Irene Rastall (born 1889 in Ilmington) before, in 1895, marrying Richard Gibbs and having two children with him.

Given everything else, I was quite surprised that Zillah does not seem to have been pregnant when she married William Wyatt. Their first child, John, was not born until 1869, and they went on to have seven more.

When he was an old man, Zillah’s grandson told me that his grandmother had always frightened him. That determination to have her own way had never weakened—it’s visible in this photograph, which would have been taken in the early 1900s:

Zillah Rastall in her fifties

Read more Invisible Lives here.


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