I’ve recently been searching for my Oldham family in Calais, France.
My 3xgreatgrandparents Thomas Oldham and Harriet (nee Winfield) and their sons William and Thomas are missing from the 1861 UK census, but reappear on the 1871 census with five more children, all born in Calais between 1861 and 1870.
The Archives of Pas-de-Calais had already sent me copies of the birth registrations, which reveal the dates and times of their births, both parent’s ages, the mother’s maiden name and the family’s current address – so very useful.
The Calais Archives have digitised many of their records and they are freely available online, unlike the UK’s records. The French took a census every five years from 1836; the 1866 one falls nicely in the middle of the period I’m looking for.
None of the records are indexed, so they aren’t searchable by name, which means finding the correct district and working through it page by page. It’s very time consuming, but well worth it – I found Thomas and his family living on the rue du Jardin des Plantes:
Thomas and his eldest son, William, were working as ‘tullistes’. This is a term specific to the Calais area and means a mechanical technician highly specialised in the manufacture of tulle and lace. Thomas and Henriette (Harriet) had six children, William (12) and Thomas (10) who were born in Nottingham and John (7), Eliza (5), Enoch (2) and Anne (2 months) who were born in Calais.
|From Google Maps|
On the same census, just around the corner, I found Gervase Oldham, Thomas’ brother, and his family. They were living on the rue du Temple.
Gervase, or Jervis, also worked as a tulliste and was living with his wife Mary (nee Taylor) and three children, James (3) and Jervas and Eliza (both aged 2 months). The family were back in Nottingham by the 1871 census, but without their daughter Eliza. By this time Gervase and Mary had had another daughter, Eliza Jane born in Calais in 1869, so it’s more than likely that the first Eliza died at a young age. More trawling through the French records should reveal if that was the case.
Also living with the family was Emma Taylor, an unmarried woman aged 21 who was working as a lace operator. She is likely to be Mary’s younger sister.
So now I’ve filled in the gap in the 1860s for the Oldham family, I need to go back to the French records to see if I can find the births and death in Gervase and Mary’s family.
I’ll also be looking through the French census records to see if Thomas’ and Gervase’s parents, William and Eliza, were living in France without their children around 1851. They are missing from the English census of that year, but their children are in Long Eaton with their grandparents.
Following on from my last post which mentioned my heirloom Nottingham lace bedspread, I have managed to find out a little more about William Bucknall, the man who designed it.
The son of William Bucknall and Henrietta Litchfield, William Jnr was born in Radford, Nottingham in 1861. Both his father William Snr and his paternal grandfather George were lacemakers from Beeston.
William Jnr’s early years were spent in Radford, first on Fairfield Street, then Highhurst Street and then on to Denman Street.
On the 18th September 1884 William Jnr married Ann Elizabeth Gell at the Tennyson Street Methodist Chapel in Nottingham and they began their married life at 24 Radford Boulevard later moving to no. 114. By this time William was employed as a lace draughtsman.
They had two children, Clarence William born 4th June 1885 and Annie Louisa Lillian born 19th July 1887. Both children were baptised at the Deligne (or De Ligne) Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, which was quite close to Canning Circus in Nottingham.
Over the following years the family lived at Berridge Road, Lenton Boulevard and Gregory Avenue; all in Nottingham.
According to my Great Aunt Joy, who is Clarence’s daughter, William worked at the Flersheim lace factory in the Lace Market from around 1891 until his retirement in 1928. Looking back through the various Nottingham directories, I found William listed as a lace draughtsman between 1891 and 1901.
Between 1910 and 1928 he worked a a lace designer. Joy can recall being told that one of his designs, which may or may not have been the bedspread, was displayed at either a London department store or at a large London exhibition. I haven’t yet been able to locate this.
Their last address was 74 Lenton Boulevard, where William’s wife, Annie, died on the 14th March 1935 and William himself died on the 14th September 1937.
Flersheim’s factory eventually closed on 25th July 1964 and was demolished to make way for a new ring road.
Joy inherited the lace bedspread and took it to Australia with her when she emigrated with her husband, Don Jowett, in the 1960s. A few years ago she very kindly offered it to me and it travelled back to England, where it is now being carefully looked after.
Picture Credit Denman St; Picture The Past
Picture Credit Radford Blvd; Google Street View
Picture Credit Deligne St; Nottstalgia
Picture Credit Lenton Blvd; Google Street View
I knew already from the Census returns that my Nottingham Oldhams were heavily involved in the machine lace making industry, both in Calais, France and at home in Nottingham.
This cutting from the London Gazette shows a partnership between Gervase Oldham (1842-1914) and his nephew John Oldknow Oldham (1858-1913) being dissolved:
Whilst flicking through the card indexes in the Nottingham Archives, I came across Gervase on one of the cards, so ordered up the original document that the card referred to. It was this agreement dated 1882, between Gervase and John’s lace company and that of Lambert & Wood.
Gervase and John are agreeing to use their lace machines to fulfill work solely from Lambert & Wood for a minimum of six months.
I was thrilled to see this original document, not least because of the signatures of Gervase, my 3x great-grand uncle, and John, my 2x great-grand uncle.
I have to add though, that behind every find like this are many hours of unrewarded ‘digging’!
I still haven’t been able to locate either William Henry Oldham or Thomas Oldknow Oldham in the local baptism records, although the Census records suggest they were both born in Nottingham.
The next step will be to find the non-conformist registers and see if they are in there. I know there are some at the Nottingham Archives, it’s a matter of finding the right one!
A couple of years ago I was in touch with Gillian Kelly via her website here. She has done extensive research on the Nottingham lacemakers who went to Calais and then later emigrated to Australia. Although my Oldhams weren’t in Calais at the time of her research (they were there later) she did manage to find a baptism in her records of a Gervase Oldham on the 25th May 1842 in the Methodist Chapel in Calais. His parents were William Oldham & Eliza Oldknow.
This does fit in with my Oldhams, and I do have a record of a Gervase born in 1842 to parents of the same name, but according to his birth certificate he was born in Beeston, Nottinghamshire on the 25th August!
Back to the records I think!