William Rothwell (1851-1916) was a butcher in the High Street, Godalming for over 35 years, and after his death his son, Willie, and grandson, William, continued trading as butchers until 1970.

William was born in Witley, the son of William Rothwell (1820-1895) and his wife, Maria. In the 1861 census his father was a farmer of 100 acres, employing three men and two boys in Frensham.

In the 1871 census William was a servant, a butcher’s assistant with John Rothwell (1834-1893) at his butcher’s shop in Milford. John was his father’s brother, and his uncle, and they were both sons of Daniel Rothwell (c.1799-1876), his grandfather, who had 12 children, and who in the 1841 census had a butcher’s shop in Milford. The trade was to be carried on through the next generations in Milford and Godalming. His great-grandfather Thomas Rothwell (1766-1844,) had farmed at Roke Farm in Witley.

William married Agnes Towse, registered in December 1878 in Thakenham, Sussex. In the 1881 census William was listed in the High Street, Godalming, as a butcher, with Agnes, and a one year old son named William, born in Witley, registered in September 1879. On the 25th April 1881 a son Alfred was born. Just after the birth of Alfred, his wife Agnes, aged 30, died on the 11th May, and was buried in Nightingale Road Cemetery on the 16th May. Alfred was baptised at Godalming on the 6 June 1881.

In the 1888 Godalming Trade Directory an advert showed that William was at 67, High Street (now 111-116) and sold “Prime Southdown Mutton and Scotch Beef, pickled tongues. Families waited upon for orders Daily, and supplied in Reasonable Terms.” A photograph shows his display at Christmas with lamb, game and poultry hanging outside the shop.

William was left with two young sons after the death of his wife, and in the 1891 census his sister-in-law, Annette Towse, aged 26, born in Storrington, Sussex, was helping as housekeeper. At the end of 1891 William married Jane White. In the 1901 census William was still in the High Street with both his two sons, William and Alfred, as butcher’s assistants in the shop. In the 1911 census William still had his shop in the High Street, and his son, William, was butcher’s assistant but his son, Alfred, was now an auctioneer’s clerk.

The Godalming Museum Local Studies Library has undated photographs showing the Rothwell family; on the back of a cart with trophies, Mr William Rothwell and Mr Frederick Rothwell on carts, Alderman W Rothwell in the finish of the Godalming to Portsmouth walking race, and Alderman William Rothwell in his delivery cart.

William died on the 1 July 1916 and was buried in Nightingale Cemetery, aged 65, butcher. His son and grandson, butchers, and his second wife, Jane who died in 1933, are also buried there.


This is the Christmas display by Rothwell's, butcher and poulterer


Godalming Museum © 2009