Saturday, 8 March 2014

Back from a most successful week

chasing my Belper ancestors.

My Dad's ancesors, through his grandfather, were shoe makers, living and working in Ancoats, Manchester.

I found it very interesting when I discovered that Mum's female ancestors, through her grandmother, were Stocking Cheveners working and Living in Belper.

Flat Stocking Frame (woolen stockings)
Some of her male Belper ancesors were Coal Miners, others were Stocking Frame Knitters.

The original frames could only produce a plain stockinette stitch; any patterning had to be done by laborious reversing the stitches. The stockings produced were knit flat and shaped by increasing or decreasing stitches just as we do when knitting by hand. They were then seamed to produce a tube that would enclose a leg, a job often done by the knitter’s wife.

The whole family would have worked at home, paying a fee to the Hosiery Company (Probably Ward/Brettles) for the hire of the knitting frame(s)

Circular knitting frame

Later, the circular stocking frame machine, capable of turning the heel and making a complete stocking, became available.

Raw cotton and bobbins of various stages of spinning

My ancestors would probably have worked in cotton, spun at Strutt's Mill

We had a wonderful guided tour of the Mill on Thursday. We were both rather sorry that the 'warm air central heating' no longer works as it was bitterly cold, especially in the basement.

Having done some research before we set off and, with some help from the Belper Geneology Group, I was able to trace some of the streets in which my ancestors lived and worked.

Dam Side
10 Dam Side

In 1871, my great, great grandfather John, a coal miner, lived in Dam Side with his wife, Agnes, and three of their children. There are just three cottages of the right vintage left in this little area close to the town centre.

8 Bargate

Ten years earlier, in 1861, John was a 10 year old,working in the coal mines and living with his mother and father and ten siblings in Bargate, Across the road lived his elder brother and his young family. The house in which his elder brother lived might be this one, but John's family home has been replaced by mid-20th century semi-detached houses.

John's father and elder brother, both stocking frame knitters, continued to live on Bargate. In the 1871 census, some of John's siblings were working as 'factory hands' - a sign that the home workers in the hosiery industry had had their day.

Fleet Board School

By 1881, John was dead. His young widow, together with my great grandmother, Agnes, and her three siblings were living on Fleet. The census doesn't give any house numbers so I have no idea which of the remaining 19th century cottages was theirs. The Board School was built in 1882 and is probably the school my great grandmother would have attended.

Across the road from the school is The Old Dye House. I'm not sure what that would have been used for as there was a Mill built at Millford that carried out the dyeing of the cotton after it was spun.

St Peter's Belper

Throughout the early  centuries,  families living in Belper were in the parish of Duffield. My ancestors lived in the Ecclesiastical Parish of Duffield. St Alkmund's  was a good three mile walk. St Peter's Belper was where my great Aunt Clara (a chevener) was married in 1893, three years after her mother, sister, and three younger siblings moved to Manchester.

John's Elder brother continued working as a stocking frame knitter. In the 1901 census, he is described as an 'employer'.   He is 65 years old, still living in the house on Bargate with his wife and grandaughter, a stocking embroideress.