Category Archives: Trading Stories, Working Lives

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

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

Trading Stories, Working Lives: Mary Ann Norman, a Victorian laundress

It’s 11 o’clock on a Monday morning in April 1861. Just off Leicester’s Oxford Street – opposite the Swan & Rushes – a narrow alleyway leads into Paradise Place. Seven cottages nestle around a courtyard, alongside the Mission School. Listen to the click and rattle of framework knitters in several of the cottages. At No 5, Mary Ann Norman has already spent three hours beating bed-sheets with a dolly in the washtub. Now she’s ironing linen, helped by her mother, Fanny Wells. The air is damp, with petticoats drying on a line strung across the room.

e615fe7511fa7367d150449985b61fd5For about 30 years, Mary Ann worked as a laundress. It’s fortunate that her work merits a mention in each census return;  women’s employment was often under-recorded. Yet the particulars of Mary Ann’s work are scant.

In the latest of our Trading Stories, Working Lives articles, we take a closer look at life as a Victorian laundress. Click to download: Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

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

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: Joseph Taylor, lime worker

Sometimes in family history research you discover a document or an object that hints at an intriguing story; something that compels you to investigate further. Such was the case when I discovered a gravestone at Barrow Upon Soar, inscribed with:

“Two fellow workmen in this grave do lie

Both in a well at Barley Hill did die

The unwholesome damp the fatal stroke did give”

Here was a gravestone with a story: Joseph Taylor and his workmate Henry Barsby had been buried together after perishing in a well on 11th June 1824, both aged 25 years.

Many of us have labourers amongst our ancestors – men who grafted in the fields or on the roads. Despite long years of toil, labourers generally leave a sparse paper trail; theirs were not jobs that brought about apprenticeship records, trade directory listings or wills. It can be tricky to get more than a general sense of their working lives. So here – starting with the gravestone inscription – was an opportunity to find out rather more than usual.

Joseph Taylor’s life as a lime worker is the focus in our latest article in the Trading Stories, Working Lives series: click to download

As well as uncovering Taylor’s tragic story, the article suggests ways in which you might enrich your own ancestral research by drawing upon newspaper snippets, trade directories, industrial histories and local studies. Which of your ancestors might have a working history to investigate further?

1841 Advert for Barrow lime at Webb & Austin, Leicester Journal 21 May 1841

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

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 and George Firn, monumental masons

As you track John Firn through successive census returns on Ancestry you get some sense of his progress in life; he’s first described as ‘Mason’ (1851), then ‘Builder employing 46 men and 9 boys’ (1861) and finally ‘Master builder employing 50 men and 4 boys’ (1871). Over a period of some twenty years – living and working from premises in Midland Street, Leicester – John Firn became a builder and monumental mason of some substance.

Trade directory advert for John Firn 1862

In the latest article in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series we take a closer look at John Firn’s working life. It starts with the discovery of one of his notebooks at the bottom of a family tool chest, and ends with the business floundering in the hands of his wayward son, George. In between, there are churches, temperance hotels and cemetery monuments popping up, shaping the local landscape.

As for all of our Trading Stories, Working Lives articles, the Firn family story showcases how some resourceful searching of records can help build a picture of our ancestors’ occupations. Using records from Ancestry, London Gazette, the British Newspaper Archive, and local history materials, it pieces together the rollercoaster story of a Victorian family  firm.

Meet John and George Firn, church builders and monumental masons: click to download.

Click here to see other articles in the series of Trading Stories, Working Lives occupational histories. Using a similar approach, could you research and write about the working life of one of your own ancestors?

Trading Stories, Working Lives: the Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

As you stroll along the canal towpaths near Loughborough, inquisitive dogs poke their noses out from barge doorways. Wood smoke tangs the air. And pleasure boats sit, patiently waiting for a fair-weather jaunt.

Loughborough Wharf

It’s hard to imagine this peaceful backwater was once a busy thoroughfare, a channel for trade from the 1790s. Where modern apartment blocks now cluster around Loughborough Wharf, barge horses clip-clopped their way, transporting coal to Leicester and Nottingham. It was here that the Polkey family worked as boatmen. But how did it come about?

In the latest article in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series we look at life as a boatman on the Loughborough Navigation. The article brings together research from social and industrial history, coupled with family records, to provide a glimpse of the close-knit, waterside community living on Canal Bank, Bridge Street and Rushes.

Take a journey through sixty years and three generations of Loughborough boatmen: click to download.

Boatmen on a coal barge

“The banks of the Soar in the vicinity of this town already wear the appearance of increasing commerce. Speculations are increasing, Wharfs are preparing, and manufactories are erecting to welcome the approach of our expected Navigation.” (Leicester Herald, 1792)

Click here to see other articles in the series of Trading Stories, Working Lives occupational histories.

Trading Stories, Working Lives: Gardening with the Harrisons

Study an 1828 map of Leicester and you might just spot Harrison’s Nursery; it’s out on a limb, some distance along Belgrave Gate. The cartographer has freckled it with trees. A brook wiggles its way along the northern edge and a small building stands on the main road. I set out to discover whether there’s a link between this nursery and the Harrison gardeners in my family tree.
Harrisons Nursery off Belgrave Gate, 1828
It’s a research journey that requires some resourcefulness – hopping between freemen’s records, a biography or two, trade directories and a clutch of books on gardening in Georgian times. Along the way there was a moment of joy unearthing a skinny booklet in the archives – ‘Harrison & Sons Bicentenary, 1764-1964’ – which opens with a rather romanticised tale about the beginnings of the firm:
“Somewhere around the year 1760… John Harrison rode off to market on his father’s horse, lost everything he had, horse and all, in a disastrous gambling bout, and decamped to join George III’s Navy, at that time at war with the French. By 1764, peace had been signed, sailor John had saved enough himself to buy himself out so he returned to Leicester to set up shop in East Bond Street as a nurseryman, greengrocer etc.”

From these early shoots Harrison’s nursery flourished for over two hundred years – at the Belgrave Gate location and beyond – and I was chuffed to see that it did indeed link in with my own family tree. Take a look here at the story of three generations of gardeners, nurserymen and seed merchants: Harrisons the nurserymen.

It’s the latest in our series of ‘Trading Stories, Working Lives’ occupational histories. To see others in the series: http://auntiemabel.org/resour…/trading-stories-working-lives

Harrison's seed warehouse