Monday, 9 March 2009

Working Ancestors

Most of my ancestors, like at lot of people's I expect, were either coal miners or they worked on the land. There are some exceptions down the years; my great great grandfather Alexander Young was a tailor. My great great grandfather Edward Matthews was a saddle maker. Another great great grandfather, Robert Hodgetts, worked in a brass foundry and another one, William Stubbs was a farmer of 63 acres. I always find the Census entries about people's employment fascinating as it helps to build up a background, not only of the person themselves, but of the area they lived in.

In the case of my Gough family from Newhall in Derbyshire the area they lived in was noted for both its coal and pottery industries. As you know from previous posts I have a huge 'brick wall' in my 4x great grandfather Thomas Gough. I found from a newspaper article that he came to Newhall in the 18th century, according to one of his great grandsons Jabez Gough, from the Forest of Dean ' a prospecter with a gang of men who went around with him sinking small shafts and working as far as they could go.' He also left to his family a collection of Gresley Hall pottery - see the picture below taken from an article by Joe Woodford in the Burton Mail of April 2nd 1960.

In the article Mr Gough says that his great grandfather was also 'a collector of antiquities and doubtless came across the Gresley Ware in that way.' Now I wonder about this? Thomas Gough came to the area as an 'adventurer' - his job would be to find rich coal seams and interest entrepreneurs in opening them up. The first record of him being in Newhall is his marriage at St Peter's Church, Stapenhill in 1789. About eight years later, when Thomas is settled in Newhall with a young family, Sir Nigel Gresley of Gresley Hall was opening up a small coal mine linked to a pottery kiln where he attempted, unsuccesfully, to make porcelain. Is there a connection here? Did Thomas Gough work for Sir Nigel Gresley opening up the mine and did he receive a gift of china in lieu of or as well as payment? I wonder? I doubt he would have been rich enough to buy it.

Thomas's grandson William Gough was involved in the pottery industry. Most of his brothers, including my great great grandfather were coal miners, one was a blacksmith, another a grocer and rate collector and one became a tea dealer and moved into Lancashire. The only information about William I have is from Parish Records, Census Returns and Trade Directories but these can tell us quite a lot.

William was born about 1828 the son of Benjamin and Hannah Gough of Newhall, Derbyshire. On the 1851 Census he is a coal miner but by the 1861 census he is a potter. What caused this change of direction? He is now married; has this been the cause of his career change? Perhaps his wife, Louisa came from a family of pottery workers? By 1871, still living in Newhall, he has a second wife, the first having died and he is now a Manager of a Potworks. In the household are his three young children and a lodger one John Beacall who is also listed as Manager of a Potworks. I learned from a source at The Magic Attic in Swadlincote that in the 1870s William Gough went into partnership with brothers Josiah and Herbert Till and in the Post Office Directory of Derbyshire 1876 they are listed as:-

'Till and Gough, manufacturers of ironstone cane ware, buff and Rockingham ware, Common Side Pottery.'

I'm guessing that Common Side is the address of the pottery works as there is still a Common Road in Church Gresley near Gresley Common and the factory was apparently opposite what is now the Maurice Lea Memorial Park.

Josiah and Herbert Till were the sons of Herbert and Mary Till who moved from Stoke-on-Trent to Newhall. In 1861 Mary gives her birthplace as Etruria, Staffs. Etruria was the village built by Josiah Wedgwood I for his factory workers, hence her calling one of her sons Josiah, perhaps?

By 1881 William and his wife Elizabeth, sister of Josiah Till's wife Mary, are living at Coppice Side, Church Gresley and William is now a Pot Manufacturer employing 11 men and 10 women. There are entries for Till and Gough in Kelly's directories for the years 1881, 1887 and 1891 and on the Census of 1891 William Gough is still listed as an Earthenware Manufacturer. By the time of the 1895 directory the pottery is no longer listed, this may be because William died in 1894. He was buried on Friday 9th February 1894 at Emmanuel Church, Swadlincote. In 1901 Elizabeth Gough, now a widow, is living in Swadlincote and the Till and Gough factory is no more.


  1. Who has the Gresley ware now? I would love to, one day, trace my family history. I am lucky enough to have lots of photos, although a lot more from my father's side of the family. You must work very hard to discover so much detail about your family, and must get very excited when you make a new discovery. x

  2. I'd love to know what happened to the Gresley ware, too. Still with his direct family I would guess - he had two daughters. I've been doing Family History since about 1988 so I keep finding little bits of the jigsaw - it is so much easier now with all the records that are on-line:)