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Muckleston Family History Group

researching all references to the surnames Muckleston, Mucklestone, Muckelston and Mackleston please get in touch via the contact us page with any additional information or to correct any errors.

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Family Occupations
 

As in any family there have been a wide range of family occupations, although some have been more prominent than others, the Shrewsbury family members tended to deal more with cloth and leather and the Bedfordshire side with farming and the straw trade. Here we give more background to a small selection of some of the family occupations and the members who carried out the trades.

 

THE CORVISOR OR CURRIER

Corvisors or Curriers [the more modern term] were preparers of leather for shoemaking, saddle and harness making, carriage covers and the like, the term covered both the owner of the leather making establishment and the person who actually processed the hides into leather. A number of Mucklestons were engaged in the leather making trade including John Muckleston of Oswestry [1618-1682] Gent and Member of the Corporation, and John Muckleston also of Oswestry [son of the above] who died in 1702 and who was an Alderman. In view of their positions in the Oswestry hierarchy it is reasonable to assume that both were owners of, rather than workers in, a leather making establishment.

The hides used by the company were purchased from the Tanner and processed in various ways according to the type of skin and what the leather was to be used for. Leather used for boot and shoe making for instance was prepared differently from that to be made into saddles.

In preparing hides for boot and shoe leather, they were first soaked in water and the flesh side was shaved with a special double sided double handled knife. Following this it was again soaked in water and the hair side of the skin was scoured with pumice stone. Next it was dried and then oiled to make it more supple and then rubbed with a graining board. Following this it was waxed, in the case of black leather with oil and lamp black, then sized, dried and rubbed with tallow.

Depending on whether the leather was to be used for tough boots or delicate ladies shoes various other substances might be used in the preparation of the leather including oak-gall, copper sulphate and even urine!

THE STRAW HAT [and/or] BONNET MAKER

Straw Hats [especially the "Boater" type] and elaborately decorated Straw Bonnets were very fashionable in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The term "Straw Hat Maker" was used to describe both the owner of the establishment where the hats were made and the person who actually constructed them.

Examples of Muckleston family members engaged in the Straw Hat trade included Maria [also known as Mary] Muckleston [1795 - 1875] and her sister Sarah [1800 - 1856] who, at various times had establishments at Market Square, Bellevue and the Cornmarket in Shrewsbury.

In the early part of the 19th century Straw Hats and Bonnets were commonly made as follows:-

the straws were cut to size [8 to 10 inches long] and the outer covering removed. They were then dipped into water, shaken and then made into bundles of straws about one foot in circumference. After this they were placed in a box containing a dish of burning sulphur and left in the open air for several hours. Next, one person split, selected and wrapped the straws into bundles [called "splints"] and supplied then to the braiders or "platters" who held the bundles under one arm and drew them out as required. Elizabeth Muckleston [wife of William] of Harlington Bedfordshire and her 5 year old daughter Sarah Ann were both recorded as Straw Platters on the 1851 census. Water was used sparingly to keep the straws flexible. The straws were then woven into strips the desired width and about five yards long, then rolled around a piece of paste board to give them shape. These rolls were known as "parcels" and were left for several days before being delivered to the Straw Hat makers for sewing blocking and decorating.

DRAPERS AND MERCERS

 

Drapers (or Linen Drapers as they were usually called in the 18th and 19th centuries) were traders in cloths made of linen, cotton, towelling, cambric and muslin, etc. i.e. the less costly types of fabrics. Mercers on the other hand traded in finer materials such as silks, satins and ribbons.

Drapers and Mercers could be either in the retail or wholesale section of the trade but, as it was likely that the Mucklestons mentioned below operated at the retail end of the market, that is the area I shall deal with.

In the larger cities such as London, Drapers and Mercers were usually considered to be separate trades but, in the provincial towns, most Drapers were also Mercers.

Family members who were Drapers and Mercers include:

Benjamin Muckleston (1673-1704) of Shrewsbury and

William Muckleston (1806-1887) of Shrewsbury

To set up in business as a Draper or Mercer usually required a fair degree of capital due to the amount of stock that was required and were often family businesses. Large shops would require several assistants and, to cut down the wage bill, apprentices were employed who usually lived in and worked for basic board and lodgings in order to learn the trade. Once qualified the fully fledged assistant could hope to earn about £40 a year. Drapers were considered one of the wealthiest traders in a town.

In order to compete with rival establishments many of the owners of these shops went out of their way to provide an agreeable atmosphere for the ladies to shop with chandeliers, carpets, comfortable chairs and large mirrors.

Up to about the middle of the 19th century most Drapers/Mercers only sold material for making up elsewhere, either in the home or by a ladies dressmaker.

THE CARPENTER AND JOINER

Carpentry is the term applied to the rough wood-work used when beams, rafters, joists etc., are prepared and put into buildings, and to the making and repairing of wooden ships and boats.

Joinery is concerned with the lighter kind of woodwork such as the making of doors and window frames.

In practice most people brought up in the trade were both carpenters and joiners as was:

EdwardMuckleston (1758 - 1787) who appears to have come from the Shrewsbury area and according to one of the family pedigrees, died in Calcutta India - date unknown.

To become a qualified Carpenter/Joiner in the latter half of the 18th century you would usually have had to serve an apprenticeship of several years under a master joiner who would employ a variable number of qualified carpenters known as journeymen. Carpenters would be expected to provide their own basic set of tools which would cost them the equivalent of some 2 to 4 months wages i.e. about £10-£20. Should they be required to do specialist joinery such as mouldings, beading and fancy work, special tools would usually be supplied by the master carpenter.

During the years when Edward was a carpenter the types of wood he would most likely work with would be deal (for the cheaper type of work), elm, mahogany and oak, which at this time was most commonly used for ship building.

In Edwards time, also, glue formed a very important article in the carpenter's and joiner's trade. It was made from animal skins - often horses - the older the animal the better the glue - it was said!

Ships carpenters and house carpenters were two different breeds in Edwards time.

A ships carpenter was an officer at sea who was responsible for keeping the ship's woodwork in good condition and free from rot. His was the job of stopping leaks (remember these were the days of wooden sailing vessels), caulking the seams and keeping the hull free of barnacles and seaweed. In times of battle, he was expected to have everything prepared for repairing and stopping breaches in the ships side made by enemy cannon.

Due to the very scanty amount of information that we have about Edward we do not know whether he was a house carpenter or a ship's carpenter. If anyone has any information about him we would be very interested to hear it.

THE GLOVER

Gloves were in existence over three thousand years ago, a pair being found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. In Britain, however, the manufacture and use of gloves seems to have largely been the result of the Norman Invasion in 1066. Initially, the making of leather gloves was probably a sideline of the tanning process with small pieces of leather left over from the making of clothing being used to make belts purses and gloves. The hides most frequently used were sheep, lamb, goat and kid and the major tanning areas of England (and thus the major leather glove making areas) were in rural areas where there was a good supply of skins and plenty of water for the tanning process.

In the 11th and 12th centuries it is likely that it was only the aristocracy who wore gloves, possibly as a fashion accessory and, as mentioned previously was only a sideline. However, as the use of gloves for such purposes as hawking, riding and heavy manual work gained popularity a number of people began to make gloves as a full time occupation and use the term "Glover" after their name. Later, a name such as John the Glover would be shortened to John Glover and thus a new surname was born.

By the early 14th century gloves were being worn by the middle and working class as well as the gentry and there were so many glovers practising their craft that the London Guild of Glovers were granted a charter in 1349.

In the 16th and 17th centuries several Muckleston's were glovers particularly in the Oswestry area of Shropshire. Among them were:-

            John Muckleston born 1587 (date of death unknown) and

            Thomas Muckleston born 1617 and died 1672.

By this time a group of merchants had arisen who bought and sold (but did not manufacture) gloves who also called themselves "Glovers" and, as yet, we have no knowledge as to whether the above members of the family were makers or sellers.

Non leather gloves were mainly imported and made of silk. These were very expensive and could only be afforded by the wealthy. Queen Elizabeth 1st wore jewelled silk gloves and only removed them when receiving a very important person or on going to bed.

Some woollen (and later cotton) gloves were made in Britain and the glove trade thrived due to a heavy tax (until 1826) on imported gloves. After that date there was a flood of cheap gloves from mainly France and Italy, and the British Glove making industry rapidly declined.

WATCH AND CLOCK MAKERS

Edward Muckleston – Clock and Watchmaker of London – 1669 to 1737

William Muckleston – Watchmaker of London – 1751 to ?

Although watchmaking had been flourishing in other parts of Europe for many years it only really began to develop in England in the early 17th century, principally in the London area. At this time the whole process of making a watch was usually carried out by one person who made the operating mechanism, the case being made by a goldsmith or silversmith. In those days watches were often regarded as personal jewellery, and worn as such, being richly ornamented and encrusted with jewels, enamel etc. Watches at this time were not usually very accurate timekeepers as part of the mechanism often consisted of catgut which tended to be affected by changes in the atmosphere making the movement unreliable. Later, the catgut was replaced by a chain making them more accurate.

 

Owing to the work and the materials involved, these early watches were very expensive and could only be afforded by the better off. Until later in the 19th century the ordinary working man and his family relied for their time on the sun, sundials, the church or town hall clock or the factory buzzer of their employer.

 

The earliest mechanical clocks (as distinct from sundials, water clocks and hour glasses) were made about 1,000 years ago. St Paul’s cathedral had a “clock keeper” (so presumably had a clock) in 1286. The oldest existing clock in England to still be working is probably that in Salisbury which dates from about 1386. Up till the last century people carrying a reasonably accurate timekeeper for long journeys often carried a small portable clock which was known as a “carriage clock”.

About 200 years ago quite a lot of clocks were made almost entirely of wood, including the gear mechanism. The only metal used in them was wire and the striking bell if they were of the alarm type. These were cheaper than conventional clocks (they retailed about 5 shillings each in 1800) and were very popular with the wealthier classes who bought them for their servants to ensure they had no excuses for lying in.

 

 

The Guilds of Shrewsbury

 

CoBrethren of Saddlers, Painters, Glaziers, Plumbers, Booksellers, Curriers and others of Shrewsbury.

 

Wardens

1740 Price Muckleston Saddler                      John Sexton Currier

1746 Price Muckleston Saddler                      John Rawlins Currier

1759 Pryce Muckleston Saddler                     James Pyatt Lorrainer

Stewards

1746 Rowland Muckleston                 Thomas Davies

 

 

Both Price and Rowland Muckleston were Freemen of Shrewsbury.