Trading Stories, Working Lives: William and Samuel Whittle of Charnwood

Two attempted murders – fifty years apart – add a dash of drama to the latest episode in our occupational history series: Trading Stories, Working Lives. This time we look at  the Whittle family – rabbit warreners of Beamanor and yeoman farmers at Holywell Hall.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the revelation that the Whittle family might have given their surname to the hill upon which they worked as warreners for over two hundred years.

Download the full story here: William and Samuel Whittle, yeoman farmers and rabbit warreners of Charnwood

You might also like to take a look at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

Nathaniel Orringe, miller and baker of Shepshed

Tom Crew, football referee and broadcaster

Samuel Taylor, beadle of Loughborough

Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

John W Barker & Son, painters and decorators

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier

If you have links with Leicestershire, then you might like to try Find My Past on a free 14-day trial: delve in to find parish registers, wills and probate records, and electoral rolls.

Trading Stories, Working Lives: Nathaniel Orringe, miller and baker of Shepshed

Take a look at our latest Trading Stories, Working Lives occupational history – Nathaniel Orringe, a miller and baker in 18th century Shepshed.

Over two centuries after it was written, I discover the will signed by my ancestor, Nathaniel Orringe, a miller and baker of Shepshed.

Nathaniel’s will is one of thousands of Leicestershire records recently scanned, indexed and uploaded to the Find My Past website. One phrase in it especially catches my interest: “All that Plot or Parcel of Ground with the Wind Mill and all other Buildings thereupon Erected… in the Lordship or Liberty of Sheepshead aforesaid and now in my own Possession.” Inspired by this glimpse – and the prospect of finding a windmill – I decide to investigate.

Download the full story here: Nathaniel Orringe, miller and baker of Shepshed.

If you have links with Leicestershire, then you might like to try Find My Past on a free 14-day trial: delve in to find parish registers, wills and probate records, and electoral rolls.

You might also like to take a look at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

Tom Crew, football referee and broadcaster

Samuel Taylor, beadle of Loughborough

Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

John W Barker & Son, painters and decorators

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier

Trading Stories, Working Lives: Tom Crew, football referee and broadcaster

Take a look at our latest Trading Stories, Working Lives occupational history – Tom Crew, a football referee and broadcaster

It’s the afternoon of Thursday 10th April 1930. A stage-hand leads the way around the back corridors at the Adelphi Theatre on London’s Strand. With a brisk rat-tat-tat on the principal dressing room door, he announces “Miss Courtneidge, I have Mr Tom Crew to see you.”

Tom is ushered in to meet singer and comic actress, Cicely Courtneidge – she and her husband, Jack Hulbert are West End stars, soon to hit it big as film actors. And so it is that Tom Crew settles down to a chat over tea, during which the actress presents him with a silver referee’s whistle in readiness for the FA Cup final taking place two weeks later.

I’d known for some time that Tom Crew – a distant relative of mine – had been a football referee of note; he was mentioned in our passed-down family stories and there’s a small photo of him in his referee’s kit amongst our family papers. But could I find out more about his career on the football field, I wondered? I turn to the British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) in the hope that he merits a mention in the press. It proves to be a fruitful search.

Continue reading Trading Stories, Working Lives: Tom Crew, football referee and broadcaster

Trading Stories, Working Lives: Samuel Taylor, beadle of Loughborough

Take a look at our latest Trading Stories, Working Lives occupational history – Samuel Taylor, the beadle of Loughborough.

Mention a ‘parish beadle’ and it conjures up images of Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist. Portly and bumptious, Bumble stands in the workhouse canteen overseeing the serving of slops of gruel to a seemingly endless queue of starving boys. “More?” he bellows, when little Oliver has the temerity to request a second helping.

Samuel Taylor would have cut a distinctive figure in the Loughborough streets – decked out in a dark blue coat trimmed with gold braid over a red waistcoat, sporting a bicorn hat worn ‘athwarts’ (side-to-side) and carrying his staff or mace. But what was involved in being the town beadle? Set aside images of serving gruel to Oliver Twist in the workhouse and instead click to download a more accurate depiction: Samuel Taylor, beadle of Loughborough

You might also like to take a look at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

John W Barker & Son, painters and decorators

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier

Promenade Postcards: seaside snaps from the 1920s

Oh I do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom

Dig into your collection of old family photos and you’ll probably unearth a few seaside promenade postcards – pictures taken ‘on spec’ by an entrepreneurial photographer who had installed himself in a prime position near the sea front. He’d snap all of the passers-by, hastily scratch a code number on the negative, and hopefully some of the punters would drop by the following day to buy their printed postcards.

These two examples, discovered in among our bundles of family photos, take us back to the 1920s. The locations and dates haven’t been jotted down on the back, so I’m left to speculate about the exact details. In any case, they evoke a sense of Edwardian dapperness.

1925-august-len-alice-and-mona-collis-taken-at-skegness

Len and Alice Collis and their daughter Mona stride towards us around 1924-5. Alice in her dropped-waist dress, with dangling pendant and cloche hat, be-suited Len sporting a neat moustache, and young Mona neat in striped skirt and blazer. Only two passing young women detract from the family group. A couple of years later, possibly in Lowestoft, we see (below) Eric Barker, cane in hand, taking in the fresh sea air with his first sweetheart, Edith Ward. Everyday examples, nothing especially remarkable about them, yet they capture joyfully innocent holiday strolls.

Continue reading Promenade Postcards: seaside snaps from the 1920s

Trading Stories, Working Lives: Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

We continue our series of occupational histories with a look at the long career of Thomas Norman, an elastic web weaver at Luke Turner & Co.

As family historians, it can be frustrating not to know where our ancestors worked. We uncover census returns and certificates listing their occupation as a framework knitter or a boot clicker, but which factory were they at? Workplace records rarely survive. A few years ago I had the good fortune to solve one such mystery in my own family, when a distant relative – Mike Ratcliff – sent me a newspaper snippet recording the retirement of our shared ancestor, Thomas Norman.

thomas-norman-retirement-article

It’s 1938 and Thomas is retiring after 68 years’ service with elastic web weavers Luke Turner & Co. Dapper and surprisingly sprightly at 82, he “can still keep pace with the average weaver” according to his boss. It’s a remarkable achievement – from loom hand to pensioner with just one firm – and I’m keen to find out more.

This article looks at the development of elastic web – used to make braids, cords, garters, corsetry, bandages, drapery, and umbrellas – and takes a walk through Turner’s factory on Henshaw Street. Click to download: Thomas Norman, elastic web weaver

You might also like to take a look at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

John W Barker & Son, painters and decorators

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier

Trading Stories, Working Lives: John W Barker & Sons, painters and decorators

We continue our series of occupational histories with a look at John W Barker & Sons, painters and decorators

JWB shop Belvior Street

Three generations of Barkers “Opened the Way to Decorations of Distinction at Moderate Prices” and hopefully, in the process, added a dash of colour to Leicester life. Our latest Trading Stories, Working Lives article explores the growth of a family business from modest beginnings in 1862 until its sale in 1948, illustrated with adverts from trade directories and newspapers.

1926 JWB advert by Roland Barker

Nip into Barker’s shop to find a large assortment of borders, friezes, dadoes, French and English paper hangings! Click to download the full article: John W Barker & Sons, painters and decorators

Take a look too at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier

Reflections: 5 Top Tips for Blogging A Life Story

About a year ago, I resolved to write the life story of one of my relatives – George Jennings Collis – over a series of blog posts. As I said at the outset, “At this stage, I’m not sure how many blog posts his story will need; I can see the horizon, so to speak, but I’m not quite sure how I’ll get there. In any event, it isn’t a sprint and let’s hope we enjoy the journey along the way, week by week.”

Well, now the task has been completed it’s time to reflect back. I’ll start with a confession: I had hoped to keep to the rhythm of writing one instalment each week, but alas, I couldn’t match the chapter-a-week discipline of Charles Dickens’ part works. Life managed to get in the way, as they say, and also some of the research took rather long than I’d expected. However, I got there in the end – telling George’s story over ten blog posts between June 2015 and August 2016.

At the typewriter

So, what did I learn in the process? Here I share five top tips for blogging a life story.

Continue reading Reflections: 5 Top Tips for Blogging A Life Story

George Jennings Collis: an Evenwood crusader (1908-1918)

This is the tenth (and final) instalment in my biography of George Jennings Collis, but – now that he has arrived at Evenwood, County Durham in 1908 – the story has come full circle. When I first began my research – in those early days before Google searches and online records – George had been something of a mystery. He’d simply disappeared from the records in his home town of Leicester. The one clue that finally nudged me forward was spotting mention in his father’s probate records to “George Jennings Collis of Evenwood Vicarage, Bishop Auckland in the County of Durham, Clerk in Holy Orders, the son of the said deceased…”. It was this reference to Evenwood which really put me on his trail.

Evenwood is a former coal mining village; the main pit, Randolph Colliery, was very much flourishing during George’s time there, employing over 1000 men at its peak in 1914. It was quite a move from his previous appointment in the market town of Morpeth, some 50 miles away.  Ancestry helps set the scene with the 1911 census, providing a snapshot of domestic life at Evenwood Vicarage.

1911 George Jennings and Florence Collis at Evenwood Vicarage rg14_29766_0341_03

The life of a village vicar wasn’t so bad, it seems, as there are two domestic servants as well as a nursery governess for the three children. I decide to get in touch with the present incumbent, to see if I could find out more about George’s life and work in Evenwood; Rev Canon Jane Grieve refers me on to local historians, Roy and Val Proud and Kevin Richardson, who certainly come up trumps, providing me with a series of notes and photos. I’ll let Kevin take up the story with these extracts from his fascinating book ‘Evenwood Remembers’:

Continue reading George Jennings Collis: an Evenwood crusader (1908-1918)

Edwin Crew – Journalist and Philanthropist

We’re delighted to share a guest blog post written by Andrew Alston.  Here he investigates the life of Edwin Crew – a relative connection he shares with Auntie Mabel founder, Graham Barker. It’s a fascinating account of a remarkable man. Thanks for sharing it with us, Andrew.

I first came across Edwin Crew while sorting out great great grandmother Alice Preston’s family. Chorley in Lancashire has relatively few families with the Preston surname, despite being only 10 miles from the place where the name mostly originated, but they all seem to have used the same set of common forenames. And so I found Jane Preston, one of my second cousins four times removed, marrying Edwin Crew. I was working at Crewe, so the name stuck out a bit. The newlyweds moved to St. George’s Street, a smart street occupied by people in “the professions”. Virtually all my Chorley relatives worked in mills and mines, so something different was worth following up.

Market Street, ChorleyVictoria Chorley: Market Street

Edwin Crew was born in Spitalfields, in London’s East End, on 8th November 1855. Not the genteel sort of East End shown in the soap opera, but an area crowded with textile workers, mostly weaving silk on hand looms in their own homes, with the “manufacturer” paying them a pittance. Edward Street, where he has born, seems to have disappeared early on. Bacon Street, where the family had been in 1851, consisted of 3 and 4 storey buildings, which by the end of the 19th century had gone even further downhill. Charles Booth’s poverty survey in the 1890s describes “thieves, prostitutes, mess, ragged children”.
Spitalfields had become the centre of silk production when Huguenot weavers fled persecution in France. Later, Jewish and then Asian immigrants would move into the area.

Poverty_map_old_nichol_1889

Booth’s poverty map (1889) shows Bacon Street coloured Black: “Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.”

Edwin’s father, silk dresser Thomas Crew, was born in Spitalfields too – the Crew surname is common there – but had married Ellen Wildgoose 200 miles away in Macclesfield. Macclesfield had become the northern centre of silk production by the beginning of the 19th century, but unlike Spitalfields, work there was organised in a factory system. The Crew name is common in Macclesfield too. A different Edwin Crew owned substantial mills there.

Thomas and Ellen moved back and forth between Macclesfield and Spitalfields. Children were born at each end of their journeys. The places of birth shown in censuses often don’t coincide with the birth registrations, so Thomas and Ellen were as confused as I became. The move sometimes came between a child’s birth and their baptism. It seems likely that the family travelled by train between the places. Thomas appeared to be a silk dyer when in the south, but in the north he was a silk dresser or finisher, applying the right finish to cloth woven by others.

Continue reading Edwin Crew – Journalist and Philanthropist