CFHS code : PL480

Parish : St Paul

Inscription : MARGARET BILLIAT 1843-1892

Monument : Stone cross

Above information from Cambridge Family History Society Survey

Billiat monument December 2019


West of the “Thrush”  bird stone and roughly twelve rows east of the western path. The plinth has sunk so that only part of the inscription is visible. The cross has fallen and broken in two pieces which are still there.



Margaret Billiat (née Clark)  (c.1843- April-June 1892)

Margaret was born in Newark on Trent and was the daughter of John and Mary Ann Clark.  John Clark was Justice of the Peace of Balderton, and she grew up at 40 Millgate in Newark. Her father died when she was 14 years old, and in 1861 she was living with her widowed mother and six siblings in Newark. Mary Ann Clark is recorded as being a ‘landed proprietress’.

Margaret married Joseph Billiat (1832-1863) at St George’s Church in Hanover Square, London on 9th October 1862. Joseph was the only son of Joseph and Hannah Billiat, his father was a wealthy farmer, who farmed 500 acres from Barkston House, Barkston, Lincolnshire.  Joseph died 6 months into the marriage on 8th April 1863, aged 31 years old and leaving Margaret a pregnant widow.  When Joseph died he left an estate valued at £8,000 (c. £700,000 in 2019 values).  Margaret gave birth to their son Joseph Billiat on 23rd September 1863.  In 1871 she was living with Joseph and servant Mary Taylor in Westgate, Peterborough.

Joseph (jnr) went to Uppingham School, and was resident there in 1881, he then went to Charsley Hall, University of Oxford in October 1884.  His mother Margaret meanwhile moved to Cambridge and was living at 12 Eastbourne Terrace with servant Clementina Ayrton in 1881.  What brought her to Cambridge is not known.  She would have seen her only son marry Eveline Agnes Schreiber Tweedale in March 1885, but would not have seen the birth of her two grandchildren John Joseph (1893-1968) and Eveline Schreiber (1897-1990)

In 1891 Margaret was living at 77 Hills Road on her own.  Her occupation on the census of that year is recorded as ‘living on own means’.  The nature of her death was very sad and her probate records show that she died between 1st April and 7th June 1892.  The nature of death was reported in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal on 10th June under the headline of ‘A Shocking Discovery at Cambridge’.  Margaret lived alone in a house owned by a Mr Gifford and it was said had ‘contracted rather eccentric habits’.  She was last seen alive on 5th March when a grocer’s boy delivered butter to the house.  When the same boy returned a week later he found the house closed and left the butter on the outside step – it was still there a week later.  Meanwhile Margaret’s sister Anne had written her several letters which had not been replied to.  Anne had also heard from the family solicitors Messrs Tallent and Co of Newark on Trent that a cheque sent to Margaret had not been cashed.  Eventually Anne became so worried she came to Cambridge and the police made a forced entry to the house at 77 Hills Road.  Margaret’s body was found in the front room lying on a bed on the floor.  The surgeon at the inquest suggested that she might have been dead for about three months and had probably died in her sleep.  The inquest returned a verdict of death from natural causes’. Margaret left an estate valued at £7,823 (c. £700,000 at 2019 values).

Her son Joseph was a Lieutenant in the 3rd Batallion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, and later served as Justice of the Peace for Lindsay, Lincolnshire. He died in 1955 aged 91 years old.



Newspaper archives

by Claire Martinsen and Mary Naylor

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Margaret Billiat