Silversides family – from labourer to farmers and an alleged army fraud

While researching my family history I have come across a number of unusual surnames and this blog post is the second in a series I plan to write about them. I’ve chosen Silversides for this post, in part because it is an interesting surname, and also because it leads to one of my many brick walls.

Origin of surname – according to the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, Silversides has two possible derivations. Firstly, it’s the plural of Silverside, thought to be a nickname from Middle English: silver plus side (of the body or head). Other names to compare it with are Siluermouth (silver mouth) and Silvertop (silver hair). An alternative is that it is a locative name from Silver Side in Farlam in Cumbria which was recorded in 1485. The following OS Cumberland XVIII map dated 1868 shows its location:

In the case of my own ancestors, I think it’s more likely that their surname, Silversides, is the plural of Silverside, a nickname from Middle English. The majority of family members I’ve found come from the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire. 209 Silversides were recorded in Great Britain in 1881. 

My ancestral connections – William Silversides (1690-1756) is my seven times great grandfather on the Sarginson/Foster side of my family. According to an entry in FindaGrave he was baptised on 5 March 1690/91 in Nun Monkton, West Riding of Yorkshire and his father was named as William.  Nun Monkton is 8 miles Northwest of York and 12 miles from Escrick in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Escrick where William married his wife Mary Brown (1691-1780) on 25 November 1725.

William and Mary had at least six children, five sons and one daughter. Their two eldest sons were born in Stillingfleet and the family then moved to Riccall. The following OS Yorkshire 206 map dated 1851 shows the villages of Stillingfleet and Riccall:

Some of the children’s baptism records give their father’s occupation as a labourer, most likely an agricultural labourer, as Escrick, Stillingfleet and Riccall are all villages within a few miles of each other in the Vale of York known for its agriculture. The following descendant chart shows William and Mary and two generations of their descendants:

The family settled in Riccall. William was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard on 20 June 1756 and his wife Mary on 23 August 1780 when she was described as a widow aged 89 who had died of a fever.

William and Mary’s son William (1726-1802) was my six times great grandfather. He married Mary Fughill (1731-1810) and they had at least five sons. When William died his burial record gave his age as 77 and that he had been a farmer who had died of natural decay. So far, I haven’t found any land tax records for him to indicate from whom he leased land.

Mark Silversides (1755-1833) my five times great grandfather – Mark was William and Mary Fughill’s eldest son. He was baptised on 13 May 1755 in St Mary’s Church, Riccall and he married Elizabeth Cant (1761-1845) on 2 December 1783 in the same church. They had four sons and a daughter and the following dandelion chart shows Mark,  Elizabeth and two generations of their descendants:

Mark and Elizabeth’s eldest son Guy (1784-1861) is my four times great grandfather. He married Mary Tomlinson (1796-1866) in St Mary’s Church on 13 March 1817 and together they had 12 children, five boys and seven daughters.

By 1822 Mark was the licensed victualler at the Greyhound Inn in Riccall according to the 1822 edition of Baines’ History and Directory of the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire. The pub was one of four in Riccall at that time and survives to this day. Baines also helpfully gave the population of Riccall as 599 and that Mark and Robert Silversides, Guy’s father and uncle, were farmers and yeomen in the village.

By the 1841 census Guy had become a shoemaker, a trade he continued until the 1861 census, the last he was recorded in. Riccall, in Lewis’s 1848 topographical directory, had a population of 718 as described in the following extract from it:

Guy died on 11 July 1861 and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard on 14 July 1861.

Guy and Mary’s children – The dandelion chart in the previous section shows their 12 children. Their eldest son Guy became a tailor and moved to Appleton Roebuck, George a labourer was buried in Riccall, Mark became a shoemaker and was buried in Riccall, William is the subject of the next section and their youngest son Robert died in infancy.

Mary, Susannah and Ellen all married farmers. Bessy married a glass bottle packer and Jane a tanner. Ann married a brickyard labourer and moved to nearby Kelfield. Their fifth daughter Isabella (1830-1885), my three times great grandmother, married Thomas Foster (1825-1902), a brick and tile maker, on 4 March 1848. They settled in the nearby village of Kelfield.

Alleged army fraud – William Silversides (1829-1912) is my 1st cousin 4 times removed and the brother of my three times great grandmother Isabella. By the 1851 census William had moved to Ebenezer Place in the parish of York St George where he was living with his sister Jane and her husband Thomas Pickersgill. William’s occupation was butcher. He married his first wife Frances Walker (1814-1874) on 29 August 1853. They lived at no 33 Shambles, York in both the 1861 and 1871 censuses with William’s occupation a butcher.

William’s first wife, Frances, died in 1874 and he married his second wife Emma Jane Smith (1834-1900) two year later. They had one daughter, Ethel Beatrice Silversides (1879-1959), and in 1881 the family were living at The Priory, Grange Crescent, York. This property exists to this day and is now run as a small hotel. William’s occupation was recorded as an army contractor. Grange Crescent is near to the army barracks in the Fulford Road.

At some point William had gone into partnership with his first wife Frances’ brother Ambrose Walker (1821-1896) as farmers of Naburn Lodge Farm, Askham Bryan. Ambrose was also a butcher in the 1861 census but by 1881 he described himself as a forage contractor. The dissolution of William and Ambrose’s partnership for the farm, by mutual consent, was reported in the 23 February 1884 edition of the Yorkshire Gazette. In the same newspaper, notice was also given of the dissolution of a partnership between William, Ambrose and Ambrose’s nephew John Philips Walker (1855-1892) who were acting as army contractors in York. This seems to have taken place in advance of a case brought before York Crown Court in 1885 of alleged army fraud.

The alleged fraud case was reported in the 1 August 1885 edition of the Yorkshire Gazette. The case was before Mr Justice Mathew. William Silversides and Ambrose Walker, army contractors, and Thomas Christopher Lewis, butcher were indicted:

that they did unlawfully conspire, combine, confederate and agree together, in the years 1883 and 1884, at the township of Gate Fulford, having contracted to supply 3100 tons of forage and straw, and also a certain quantity and quality of meat, did from time to time deliver less weight and inferior quality, and that they by falsely pretending they had delivered the said forage, straw and meat of the quantity and quality contracted for, did receive the contract price for the same, with intent to defraud Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for War; and in pursuance of the said conspiracy did pay certain sums of money to one John Anderson Banks, to bribe and induce him to permit the said breaches of contract to be made, with intent to defraud the said Secretary of State.” (Yorkshire Gazette 1 August 1885, page 1)  

All three defendants entered a plea of not guilty and the case took place over three days. It seems that not all the defendants were indicted on every charge. John Anderson Banks mentioned in the charges was the Quartermaster of the 5th Dragoon Guards and was key to the provision of forage to the troops. This particular aspect related to tenders which had been won by William Silversides to provide forage during the period August 1882 to 1884. The prosecution asserted that short measures of oats had been supplied and that, although this had been noticed by the troops, it wasn’t until July 1884 that Troop Serjeant Major Saul found that the oats were short by 44lb that the matter was raised with Lieutenant Gore. 

The charges against Ambrose and Thomas Christopher Lewis (who was married to his niece) were regarding the quantity and quality of meat supplied to the troops. It was also alleged that they paid bribes to Banks. Banks had been arrested when the regiment arrived in Manchester but had absconded and not been seen since.

A large number of witnesses for the prosecution appeared at the trial, including five Corporals and John Chipchase who was a journeyman butcher who had worked for Lewis. His view was that the meat supplied was often from diseased animals and “he would not have liked to eat the meat himself”.  It seems that he had been let go by Lewis and that when he had previously worked for William Silversides as a butcher, the meat he served hsd been passed was by the health inspectors.

A similarly large number of witnesses appeared for the defendants attesting to their good character; these included a number of officers from the barracks. Both barristers for William and Ambrose closed their remarks to the jury with the assertion that the prosecution had not proved its case. Lewis’ counsel said that the money paid to Banks was the result of “betting transactions”.

There was then some to-ing and fro-ing between the jury foreman, the court and the judge. Eventually the defendants were found not guilty in both cases and were discharged.

After the case William spent some time as a hotel proprietor of the Sea Horse Hotel, Fawcett Street, York where he was recorded as living in 1891. The building is now grade II listed. He also seems to have continued his association with Ambrose as probate was granted to him when Ambrose died in 1896.

By 1901 William was a widower for the second time and living on his own means at The Priory, Fulford Road, York. He had moved to 1 Wilton Terrace, Fulford Road, York by 1911 and was described as a retired farmer and butcher. Probate was granted to his daughter Ethel.

Finally, the brick wall – I would like to know more about all the people mentioned in this blog post, and in particular, if there is any information about the parents of my seven times great grandfather William Silversides. I have found some possible family members who lived in Stillingfleet; however, the parish records are rather damaged making it problematic to determine family relationships. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share.

Note: the maps used in this blog have been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


Births, marriages and deaths. : accessed May 2021.

Census records. : accessed May 2021.

England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. : accessed May 2021.

FindaGrave. : accessed June 2021.

Hanks, Patrick et al. (2016.) The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed June 2021.

Newspapers. : accessed June 2021.

Nun Monkton. : accessed June 2021.

OS Maps. : accessed May 2021.

Pugh, R. B. ed. (1976) The Victoria County History of the County of Yorkshire East Riding Volume III. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Redmonds, George. ((2015) A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames. Donington: Shaum Tyas.  

Riccall. : accessed June 2021.

Sea Horse Hotel, York. : accessed June 2021.

Silver Side. : accessed May 2021.

UK, City and County Directories, 1766-1946. : accessed June 2021.

UK, Poll Books and Electoral Registers, 1538-1893. : accessed May 2021.

Vision of Britain. : accessed May 2021.

West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812. : accessed May 2021.

Yorkshire baptisms, marriages and burials. : accessed May 2021.

5 thoughts on “Silversides family – from labourer to farmers and an alleged army fraud

  1. Pingback: Herbert and Sabra Silversides – the road to Thame | Joan Reid Genealogy

  2. Barbara mcclarron

    Hi my father Keith mcclarron grew up in riccal and is buried in the churchyard as with the knight family.i have a silver cup left by my dad from JG butcher the cup was awarded to my great grandfather Thomas knight for his services in training fingall a f.point to point sure he worked for a lord dainsford of riccal hall but I can’t find anything about it.


    1. joanannreid Post author

      It does look like our families were near neighbours in The Crescent, Riccall in 1939. Good luck with your research.


      1. Barbara

        Yes my granma knight lived at the dad was born there.also my uncle Herbert knight and aunt Joyce also lived the cresant.all sadly passed now.


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