Sillar, Thomas (1825-1901)

The Sillar brothers, Robert George and Thomas Frederick, briefly lived next door to each other in Ravenscroft and The Roses, Grange road from 1864.  Ravenscroft was first occupied by Robert shortly after its construction in 1864, with Thomas living one house downhill at The Roses.   Robert was born in Scotland, to Zechariah and Mary Sillars, 28 April 1827 but the family had moved to Preston when Thomas was born 20 September 1825.  Their father Zecheriah was a physician.

By 1851 the brothers had become merchants for the East India Company. Robert married Louisa Robinson Carter in Liverpool 10 December 1851. Thomas married Elizabeth Mollineaux 20 September 1854. Robert and Louisa moved to Shanghai, China, where their son Cameron was born in 1857 and his daughter Helen was born.  Their third child Edith Alice was born  He was trading in ‘co-partnership’ with his brother Thomas under the firm of Sillar Brothers; however in 1853 the company was unable to pay import duties so it was forced to consider importing opium and bullion.  (Government Notifications, 1853).  Thomas joined his brother in Shanghai in the late 1850s.  Sillars Brother struggled on for several years but they were declared bankrupt in June 1859.  (Bankrupts, 1859).

Robert is recorded in the 1861 census as being employed by the East India Company trading with China, but then living in Lancashire.  The Sillar family lived for four or five years at Greville Lodge, Beulah Road, from 1864.  In 1865 he was declared bankrupt as a “bullion merchant”.  (Bankrupts, 1865).

Robert’s career as a merchant had ended by 1871 when he is recorded as Manager of Works for Bolton Corporation.   Bexley in Kent was their next place of abode and strangely in the 1881 and 1891 censuses Robert’s occupation is recorded as “retired Banker and bullion merchant”.

Like many Victorian entrepreneurs Robert had a finger in many pies.  In 1868, whilst resident at Ravenscroft, he was granted a patent, no. 1,954 for “Improvements to the Deodorising and Purifying of Sewage and Making Manure there from”.  Later that year it was noted that Mr Robert George Sillar of  WC Sillar & Co Bullion Brokers of Cornhill, London, was claiming to be able to remove the valuable “manure” element from human sewage using “A B C” compound to settle out the solid matter to make it easily transportable. Whether the process was of any validity was questioned in the Times newspaper where it was stated “whether this new invention really is a marvellous boon to the world, or whether the whole is an illusion or sham”.  (Sewage Experiments at Leicester, 1868).

Ravenscroft, now the Roses 356 Grange Road

These experiments were followed in 1882 by an application on behalf of the Native Guano Company Limited to extend the patent. (Notice is Hereby Given, 1882).

Robert and Louisa had moved to Kingston, Surrey by 1891 and following the death of Louisa in 1901 Robert died there the following year, leaving £1,178 17s 10d, about £100K at today’s value, to his two surviving children Cameron and Edith.

Works Cited

Bankrupts. (1859). Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette .

Bankrupts. (1865). Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette .

Government Notifications. (1853). Daily News .

Notice is Hereby Given. (1882). Bucks Herald .

Sewage Experiments at Leicester. (1868). Leicester Chronicle .