This blog post has been prepared by one of our volunteers, Ann Eales.
William Leighton was born to a Bradley family, although his parents moved to Smethwick when he was born. He began his working life in the Post Office, but moved to Moxley, where he carried on business as an iron and metal merchant. Leighton was first elected to the Urban District Council, as a Conservative representative of Bradley Wood in July 1926. During his service to the council, Leighton sat on numerous committees. He was a representative for the Council on the Air Raid Precautions Area Advisory Committee, and the South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire Joint Town Planning Committee. During World War I he served with the Royal Sussex regiment in 1916, serving in Africa and India until December 1919. Leighton was elected Mayor of Bilston in 1939. Additional information has now been traced.
A search for his military records via the Ancestry website located show Leighton’s details as “Regtl No G/22340, Rank Pte., 2/6 R Suss., Highest rank held A/Sergt.”. These appear on the ROYAL SUSSEX REGIMENT OR CORPS ROLL OF INDIVIDUALS entitled to the Victory Medal and/or British War Medal granted under Army Orders 266. Place: Hounslow Date: 22 Jan 1921. Similar Information is shown on his Medal Index Card record.
William Leighton appears on the 1881 Census, age 2, born at Smethwick, and living at 194 Middlemore Road, Smethwick with his parents Thomas age 43, Occupation Iron Stock taker, born at West Bromwich, and Elizabeth age 40. born at Willenhall, and his 8 siblings, Enoch age 21 occupation Lab. in Iron Works, Rose age 20 both born at Willenhall, Thomas age 17 born at West Bromwich, Sarah age 16, Mary age14, and Elizabeth age 13 Scholar all 3 born at Darlaston, Elijah age 9, and Eva age 6, both Scholars born at Bilston. By the time of the 1891 census the family lived at Handsworth, and consisted of Thomas now age 54, a Stock Taker, Elizabeth age 51 now shown as born at Portobello, Elijah age 18, Assistant Stocktaker, Eva age 16, both born Hale Field Bilston, William age 12 Scholar, and Margaret age 9 also Scholar, both born at Smethwick. In 1901 William at age 22 is living at 9 Field Street Sedgley, a “Stock Taker Ironworks”, like his father Thomas, who is now age 64. Elizabeth is now age 60, and the other members of the household are Margaret now 19 and Eva Andrews identified as “daughter” age 26. born at Bradley. On the 1911 census William age 32 is married and a Scrap Metal Merchant living at High Street Moxley Wednesbury with his wife Mary Ann age 38, occupation Pawnbroker’s Assistant, born at West Bromwich.
On Saturday October 14th 1939, the Bilston and Willenhall Times carried an article under the headline “Bilston’s next Mayor – Alderman W Leighton accepts nomination.” We learn that he had become Alderman earlier in 1939, was a member of the Royal British Legion, was keenly interested in music, was choirmaster at several churches, and was secretary and member of the old Bilston Choral Society.
On Saturday November 11th another article appeared in this newspaper, with a picture of Mr Leighton and his wife, see aside.
In the 1916 Kelly’s Directory of Staffordshire there is a William Leighton who is a haulier by trade, at High Street, Moxley, Wednesbury. The Kelly’s 1924 Staffordshire Directory shows William Leighton as a scrap metal dealer at High Street, Moxley.
It has been found not possible to trace the registration of William’s birth. William Leighton’s marriage, to Mary Anne Carpenter, was registered at Wolverhampton in the quarter ended March 1902. They do not appear to have had any children. His death, at the age of 71, was registered at Wednesbury in the quarter ended March 1950. On the National Probate Calendar this entry appears: “Leighton William of 52 High-street Moxley Wednesbury Staffordshire died 24 January 1950 Probate Birmingham 31 May to Barclays Bank Limited. Effects £1203 5s. 10d.”