Henry Willett

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Henry Catt

Birthdate: (80)
Birthplace: Bishopstone, Sussex, England
Death: February 24, 1903 (80)
Brighton, Sussex, England
Immediate Family:

Son of William Catt and Hannah Catt
Husband of Frances Jane Catt
Father of Edith Elizabeth Johnson; Florence Marion Willett; Percy Arnold Willett; Margaret Laura Willett and Ernest Henry Willett
Brother of Elizabeth Willett Catt; Hannah i Catt; Edmund Willett; Hannah ii Smith; William Willett and 5 others

Occupation: Brewer 1851
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Henry Willett

Henry Willett born Catt (1823-1903) was a founding father of Brighton Museum. He was a wealthy collector of paintings, porcelain, rocks and fossils, especially those of the Brighton area. He wanted his collections to be available to the people to encourage their taste and artistic education. When he presented his collections to the town of Brighton, this provided the impetus to the setting up of a Museum and Art Gallery, and his large porcelain collection, together with paintings from the 14th-19th Centuries, are housed there. It is the porcelain that stands out, and this is one of the better provincial collections, with examples of many early types, together with representative work from Victorian times. His fossils went to the Booth Museum of Natural History, in the same part of the country.

Willett was also active in other areas, most notably setting up an Emigration Society to aid poor people living in the Brighton area to emigrate to Canada. He was a friend of John Ruskin, and apparently persuaded the great critic that his books must be published cheap enough for the general populace to afford them.

Henry changed his name from Catt to Willett by royal Licence 3 Nov 1863 His mother Hannah died shortly after Henry was born. According to Mollie Gonin's booklet 'A Family History', Elizabeth Catt was saddened by the teasing her younger brothers got at school with the name Catt. In her will she left her estate to those of her brothers and sisters who would change their names from Catt to Willett within 12 months of her passing.

Henry and his brothers and sisters were raised at Newhaven Tidemills, the largest watermill in Sussex, built on reclaimed land. He moved to Brighton in 1841 where he ran the West Street Brewery and bought property throughout Sussex, particularly after his marriage to Frances Coombe, who came from a landed West-Sussex family. He was an astute businessman, investing in the Blackpool Electric Tramway, the Midland Railway and public utilities including electricity companies in Western Australia. In his will of 1905 he left an estate worth over £230,000.

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Henry Willett's Timeline

Sussex, England
April 29, 1853
Age 30
Sussex, England
August 10, 1854
Age 31
Sussex, England
December 19, 1859
Age 36
February 5, 1860
Age 37
Sussex, England
February 24, 1903
Age 80
Sussex, England