Bourne Archive: Bourne Trades: Woolley

http://boar.org.uk/Woolley.htm                            Latest edit 30 Oct 2010

Web page © R.J.PENHEY 2010


The Bourne Archive.


The Woolley Family’s Craftsmen.


John Musselwhite has kindly told me of his memory of his mother’s family tradition of the history of the Woolley family’s wheelwrights’ business.

According to this, it was on the west side of North Street, a little north of the road now known as Burghley Street. Its entrance would be represented today, by that of Marquess Close. The originator of the firm was Joseph Woolley, who began advertising his business as a wheelwright, in the Stamford Mercury, on 10th April 1812. His announcement was made in the following terms:—

‘To gentlemen farmers and others. J. Woolley, Wheelwright, begs leave to inform the inhabitants of Bourne and its vicinity, that he intends carrying on the above business in all its various branches; and flatters himself, from the experience he has had, he shall be able to give satisfaction to those who please to honor him with their commands; and the public may rest assured, that every attention shall be paid to their orders, which will be thankfully received.

North-street, Bourn, April 10, 1812.’

In time, his son, Walter Joseph Woolley, took over. He built a house at 39 North Road and moved his business there. Later, his son, Alfred Woolley took over. He died in about 1954.

That is the tradition as passed down. Its time-scale is possible but, given that the originator of the firm will not have started it until he had served an apprenticeship as a wheelwright and perhaps also as an improver for a while, sons would have had to be born consistently, fairly late in their fathers’ lives. The whole pattern of the tradition fits better with the time-scale and with information from other sources, if we assume that the J. Woolley of the 1812 advertisement was John Woolley and that he was the father of Joseph. Given that this view is true, it should be readily possible to verify it by family historians’ methods. Please feel free to help. My interest lies more in the town than in the family.

John Woolley is listed in the Exeter Estate Book of 1826 (EEB), as the tenant of plot 3, a ‘house and yard’, held copyhold: total area 22 perches (0.13275 acre or 556.5 m2).  Plot 3 appears on a plan which includes property between North Street and the road which we know as Meadowgate. The plot shown in the book tapers, with a shortish frontage on North Street and a wider one on Meadowgate. However, there is no indication of a wheelwright’s yard. This may be significant because, in the EEB, where a plot was adapted to a trade, this was frequently noted. For example, plot 54 was a ‘house, collar-making shop and yards’. On the other hand, there is no way of telling how often such trade information was omitted when it would have been relevant. An explanation of the absence of mention of a wheelwright’s shop on plot 3 might be that Woolley held it as his living quarters while owning, leasing or renting other premises, independently of the Exeter Estate, in which to conduct the business.

The North Street fronts of plots 3 and 4 — the white building is the Royal Oak, on plot 4. 

There is another possibility. The Exeter Estate plot 4 lies immediately to the south of plot 3. It is listed as a ‘Public House, (Royal Oak) Blacksmith’s Shop and Yard’. The Royal Oak is on the east side of North Street, opposite and a little to the north of the former plot 70 of the EEB, much of which is the site of Marquess Close. At the rear entrance of the Royal Oak, on Meadowgate, the 1891 O.S. map notes the smithy. The EEB lists William Bannister as the owner (copyhold) of the Royal Oak complex and the same name is given in White’s 1826 directory, separately, for a blacksmith and for the keeper of the Royal Oak. The same Woolley and Bannister names appear on the respective plots in the Bourne Abbots Estate Map (BAEM). In the 1826 directory, there is no wheelwright mentioned, though one at least, might be expected in a town of Bourne’s size. While there is an overlap between the two trades, in the form of iron tyres, they are nonetheless, not the same. There is however, the possibility of some cooperation between the publican with a sideline in smithing and the wheelwright.

The Woolley business is listed in Pigot’s Directory, 1835 as Woolley John, North st, wheelwright: Pigot’s 1841 as Woolley John, North st, wheelwright: White’s Directory, 1842 as Woolley John, wheelwright: 1882 as Woolley Joseph, blacksmith and wheelwright, North st. We thus have six names for the men running the business. J. Woolley, of the original advertisement; John Woolley of the earlier years of the business; Joseph Woolley of the 1882 White’s directory; plus Joseph Woolley, Walter Joseph Woolley and Alfred Woolley of JM’s family tradition.

A date stone in the North Street front of the building on plot 3 had a short inscription in three lines. The first is now indecipherable from the ground and the others say I.F 1777. Until fairly well into the nineteenth century, I was frequently used to represent J, so the name of the first owner is likely to have been John or the like. The Universal British Directory of 1791 mentions John Frisby, a cooper, who may be a candidate. The stone plinth of the building might indicate an earlier foundation. At the Meadowgate end of the plot, there is a cottage with a date stone bearing the inscription J. W. 1822. Clearly, the major part at least, of the North Street front was there when John Woolley acquired it but we may speculate that the cottage at the rear may conceivably, have been built as accommodation for Joseph, as he began adult life. Between the 1822 and 1777 buildings and adjacent to the latter, there remains a humble, brick building which may have been part of the wheelwrights’ yard. The upper parts of its wall look like a 19th century rebuild.

On the west side of North Street, the site indicated by JM as being that of Joseph Woolley’s yard, is shown in the EEB, of 1826, as being part of the Marquis of Exeter’s plot 70. There it is listed as ‘barn, stables, yard and garden’. Plot 70 extended to 3 roods and 37 perches (0.98 acre or 3971m2). It was managed directly as part of the estate, rather than being leased copyhold. The BAEM, of 1825 agrees that the Marquis of Exeter owned it and shows two buildings on it; presumably, the barn and the block of stables. It was clearly at some stage after the mid-1820s that this site became developed. However, by 1891, it had much building on it (OS). By 1882, the land to the north of it was occupied by The Terrace (White’s 1882) and the EEB plot 1, had Albion Terrace built on its North Street front (White’s 1882). These developments further out of the town than plot 70 imply that by this date, it too had been developed. This would be consistent with the change of first name in the Woolley firm from John to Joseph and the family’s tradition of the establishment by Joseph, of the yard on the plot 70 site.

Assuming that John was born 25 years before he set up the firm in 1812 and that Joseph was born when John was thirty years old, Joseph would have been 65 in 1882, so we may expect to find his name in somewhat earlier directories. Assuming that John handed the firm over when he was 65, the change would have been made in 1852, when Joseph was 35 years old. Again, on the assumption that Walter Joseph was born when Joseph was thirty, and that Alfred came along at a similar stage in Walter’s life, then Alfred would have been born in 1907. JM says that he died in about 1954, when he would have been only 47 by this accounting, but postulating somewhat younger fathers along the line could easily take him past seventy. This time scale does make the speculation that the 1822 cottage may have been built as a home for the adult Joseph, seem unlikely.

It seems from White’s 1882 that the family was fairly well established in the immediate area by that date. It lists Joseph Woolley, blacksmith and wheelwright in North Street, which we can take to be on EEB plot 70; Mrs Catherine Woolley at 5 Albion Terrace, on EEB plot 1 and Miss Letitia Woolley at The Terrace on the land immediately adjacent, to the north of plot 70 (where the bus station now is).

The move to 39 North Road, said to have been made by Walter Joseph, seems from the style of the building, to have been made in the 1890s. In any case, the house is not shown in the 1891 OS map but it is in that of 1906. The site is interesting since once the relatively modern bungalow beside it is discounted, it can be seen to have been one of the few with space on the plot alongside the house. The 1906 map shows that, this is the only plot with buildings extending to the bottom of the site, in the manner of the older habitations of places like North Street. These circumstances are consistent with the tradition of the move to North Road by Walter Joseph and his use of the more suburban site for his business. This seems to have remained primarily that of wheelwright until Walter Joseph took over in the 1890s. By 1900 he was announcing himself as a carpenter.

Another curiosity about the site of no. 39 is that on the roadside part of the space alongside the house there was the valve gear of a bore-hole which fed the town with its water. This was removed only in recent years but is shown and noted in the 1906 map. It appears also to be marked as present in the map of 1891, before the house was built, but there is no textual note.

The following table summarises the references to the Woolley name in Bourne.

year

name

site

trade

source

1812

J. Woolley

North St

wheelwright

Mercury

1822

J. W.

EEB Plot 3

-

Date stone

1825

John Woolley

EEB Plot 3

-

BAEM

1826

John Woolley

EEB Plot3

copyhold owner

EEB

1835

John Woolley

North St.

wheelwright

Pigot’s

1841

John Woolley

North St.

wheelwright

Pigot’s

1856

John Woolley

North St.

wheelwright

White’s

1876

Joseph Woolley

North St.

wheelwright

Post Office

1882

Joseph Woolley

North St.

blacksmith & wheelwright

White’s

1882

Mrs. Catherine Woolley

5 Albion Terrace

private resident

White’s

1882

Miss Letitia Woolley

The Terrace

private resident

White’s

1885

John Tom Woolley

North St.

watch & clock maker

Kelly’s

1885

Mrs. Joseph Woolley

North Road

wheelwright

Kelly’s

1889

John Tom Woolley

North St.

watch & clock maker

Kelly’s

1889

Mrs. Joseph Woolley

North St.

wheelwright

Kelly’s

1889

Miss. Woolley

The Terrace

private resident

Kelly’s

1892

Mrs. Clara Woolley

North Street

Dressmaker and milliner

White’s

1892

Mrs. Elizabeth Woolley

North Street

-

White’s

1892

John Thomas Woolley

North Street

Watchmaker and jeweller

White’s

1900

Walter Joseph Woolley

North Road

carpenter

Kelly’s

1905

Walter Joseph Woolley

North Road

carpenter

Kelly’s

1922

Walter Joseph Woolley

North Road

carpenter

Kelly’s

1926

Walter Joseph Woolley

39 North Road

carpenter

Kelly’s

1930

Walter Joseph Woolley

39 North Road

carpenter

Kelly’s

1930

Miss  Woolley

The Hall, Billingborough

private resident

Kelly’s

1930

Miss  Woolley

19 Rutland Terrace, Stamford

private resident

Kelly’s

1933

W. J. Woolley & Son

39 North Road

carpenters, decorators & undertakers

Kelly’s

1937

W. J. Woolley & Son

39 North Road

carpenters, decorators & undertakers

Kelly’s

 

The sources are:

The Stamford Mercury; the date stone in the cottage at the rear of Plot 3; BAEM – map of the estate of Bourne Abbots; EEB – the record book of the estate of the Marquis of Exeter, for Bourne and Morton; Pigot & Co’s Directory; William White’s Directory; the Post Office Directory; Kelly’s Directory.

 


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