Solicitor and twice Mayor of Yeovil
Sidney Watts was born in 1834 in Yeovil, the son of solicitor, Town Commissioner and Burgess Henry Marsh Watts and his wife Elizabeth née Shorland.
The 1841 census showed Henry and Elizabeth living in Hendford with their three children; Henry aged eight, Sydney aged seven and four-month-old daughter Sarah.
The 1861 census shows the Watts family living at Glenthorne House in Princes Street, Henry now aged 60 was shown as a solicitor and Elizabeth was aged 57. Sidney, still unmarried and aged 27, had no occupation attributed to him. Also living at home was Sarah now aged 24, a cook and a housemaid. The situation was almost identical in 1871 with the sole exception that Sarah had now left home. Sidney however now listed his profession as a solicitor.
In the summer of 1872 Sidney married Sarah Ann Moore and in the 1881 census Sidney and Sarah were shown to be living at 42 Kingston. At this time they had five children at home; Ada aged seven, Sydney aged five, Ethel aged four, Edith aged two, and to-month-old Kathleen. They also had three general domestic servants.
In 1880 Sidney Watts appeared for the prosecution at the committal hearing and the trial, of the Colmer Murder Trial.
The 1891 census reveals that Sidney and Sarah were still at Mansion House with Ada, Ethel, Edith, Kathleen and two domestic servants. Their son Everton was a boarder at Crewkerne Grammar School. By the time of the 1901 census little had changed, Sydney by now a 67 was still working as a solicitor also living at home with him and Sarah were Ada, Sidney, Ethel and Edith all still single, there were also two servants a housemaid and a lady's maid.
Sidney entered local politics in the 1880's and served as mayor of Yeovil twice; from 1893 to 1897 and again in 1901 and 1902. The Mansion House was offered to him by the Town Council as a mayoral residence but was declined on the grounds of expense. In Whitby's 1898 and 1903 editions Sidney Watts was listed as a solicitor at Mansion House.
The extensive land holdings of Frederick Greenham were sold off following the death of Frederick's widow Mary in 1889 and at the sale Sidney bought the site that is now occupied by the large Job Centre building in Hendford, opposite the Manor Hotel. The sale description in the Western Gazette edition of 10 May 1889 read "Lot 2, a valuable building site in Hendford, opposite Lot 1 (now used as a garden), together with the vinery thereon, having a frontage to the main street of 183 feet, was sold to Mr Sidney Watts for £750 (about £72,000 at 2017's value).
During his 1896 mayoral year Sidney Watts presented some three acres of Ram Park, laid out as Sidney Gardens, to Yeovil to commemorate the 1897 diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria, although the gardens were not officially opened until 23 June the following year. The gardens were created at a cost of £760 and Mr Watts graciously named the gardens after himself. However as he was away representing Yeovil at the jubilee celebrations in London, the ceremony was carried out by his two daughters Ada and Mildred.
Around 1900 Sidney Watt's firm of solicitors ventured into town development, building Everton Road (at least), which was named after Watt's son, Everton.
Sarah died on 28 February 1910, aged 70, and in the 1911 census Sidney Watts was shown as a 77-year-old widower who described his occupation as solicitor. Still living at Kingston, three children Ada, Sydney and Ethel, all in their 30s and still unmarried, were living with him as were three domestic servants.
Sidney Watts died on 24 January 1918, aged 84, and was buried in Yeovil Cemetery (see below). His will was proved in London on seventh 7 August to Henry Moore Watts, solicitor, and the Rev Hugh Tennent Pinchin. His effects amounted to £7,294 equating to over £350,000 in 2017's value.
Courtesy of Bill & Audrey Robinson
A cabinet card of Sidney Watts in his mayoral regalia.
The above scarce commemorative medallion in my collection was given by the then Mayor of Yeovil, Sidney Watts, to commemorate the marriage of HRH Prince George (1865-1936), later King George V (reigned 1910-1936), to HSH Princess Mary of Teck 1867-1953. Mary (full name Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes) was informally known as 'May' after the month of her birth - hence the name on the medallion.
The medallion is just over 38mm in diameter and 2.6mm thick. The obverse carries profile portraits of the prince and princess with the date of their marriage, July 6 1893, around the edge. The reverse carries the edge inscription "TO COMMEMORATE THE MARRIAGE OF" and a central inscription reading "HRH PRINCE GEORGE DUKE OF YEORK AND HSH PRINCESS MAY OF TECK PRESENTED BY MR SIDNEY WATTS YEOVIL".
See also Yeovil Trade Tokens and Checks.
Just another busy day in the life of Yeovil's mayor - from the Western Times, 21 November 1893.
Courtesy of Olly Ewens
This photograph is from a 1952 newspaper article and was taken on the occasion of the opening of Sidney Gardens in June 1898. The group, photographed with the Mayor, Mr John Vincent, has as its background the thatched bandstand given by Mr James Bazeley Petter to mark the opening. Standing (left to right) are: - E Benson, W Summers, J Kerby Whitby, Mr Brown, William Maynard, GH Gould, ES Ewens, H Jesty (mace-bearer), WW Johnson, CJ Hook, JB Petter (donor), W Armitage (Borough Surveyor), J Farley, WJ Nosworthy, WB Collins, C Fox. Sitting - Levi Beer, CW Pittard, Sidney Watts, Mrs Vincent, John Vincent (Mayor), JC Moore, W Cox.
Sidney Watts, seated at far left, attending the presentation of the fountain on 24 May 1899 in Sidney Gardens, named after himself.
Mayor Sidney Watts and Litunga Lewanika (1842-1916), King of Barotseland (1878-1916), now the western part of Zambia, at the Mansion House on 5 June 1902. The king was in England to attend the coronation of Edward VII but while in Yeovil he laid the foundation stone of the new Western Gazette building.
Mansion House was Sidney Watts home and office for about forty years. The original house is at centre with a nineteenth century addition to the right (Magnolia House) and an early twentieth century addition at left. Photographed in 2013.
The grave marker of Sidney and Sarah Watts in Yeovil Cemetery. Photographed in 2014.
.... and a close-up of the inscription.