Born on May 11th 1857, William was the youngest of six children born to Mihill Slaughter and his wife, Ann Erskine Capel. Her father, James Durnford Capel [1773 -1844] was a Bank of England cashier from 1793 until he died – a tremendously long working life of around 50 years. As well as a very long career, he must have held a post of considerable responsibility since he is listed in the London Gazette of 1818 as being one of only 26 cashiers authorised to sign Bank of England notes to the value of £5 upwards.Through him, Ann had many family links with London banking and legal circles, as well as the Stock Exchange.
William’s great-grandfather – another William – had been a cheesemonger in St. Martin’s Lane during the late 1780s and 90s. His wife was Mary Mihill. Their eldest son was given their mother’s maiden name , as was the tradition in many families, so he became Mihill Slaughter, the first of four generations to bear the name. I have been told that this is a common Northern Irish variant of the name Michael, so perhaps Mary came from Ireland or had Irish ancestors.
The first Mihill Slaughter [b.1781] went into the family cheese business, but died at the early age of 36 in 1817. He left his wife, Esther, and five young children, the eldest of whom had been named after his father. Sadly, Esther herself died in 1825 when the young family of three boys and two girls were effectively orphaned. It begins to sound positively Dickensian, but happily for the children, their uncle [ confusingly,yet another William Slaughter] and his wife Elizabeth, took the children in and brought them up. Having no family of their own, they devoted themselves to the care of their nephews and nieces and provided handsomely for them in their wills.
The eldest son, Mihill,[b.1813] went into business with Thomas Capel [son of James Capel of the Bank of England]. From 1835 -44 they were partners as coal-marchants in Blackfriars, but Mihill obviously set his sights higher in terms of his career and prospects socially. Through his connections with the Capel family he must have met Ann [Thomas’ half-sister] whom he married in 1846. By that time, Mihill was an employee of the Stock Exchange, in it’s recently established Railways department.
The 1840s was the height of the railway building boom, and there was a great deal of investment in the business. Mihill was the editor and main compiler of ‘The Railway Intelligence’ – a half-yearly publication which gave detailed information on British and foreign railway companies and statistics on the different businesses, mileages, accidents etc , which became an invaluable handbook for any potential investor. As Mihill’s wealth and status increased he moved his family to what were then the comfortable leafy suburbs of south London. It was still mainly open country at that time, with wide tree-lined streets and spacious houses . The newly built railways and omnibus services meant they were in easy reach of the city. Mihill and Ann’s first child [another Mihill] was born in 1847, then came four daughters, and finally their second son, William, who was born in the family home in Kennington.