Trading Stories, Working Lives

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.


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