Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Lace Lady Mystery Solved

Mrs. Percival

Those who have read my blog before may recall  my stumbling upon a photograph of a Mrs Percival, taken in the 1950s, making Coggeshall lace. The post told the story of Coggeshall lace and can be read here.

But who was she? And was she a relation of my husband's?

I enquired at the museum at Coggeshall and received an enthusiastic reply but after browsing all through their information there was little more they could add. As I was busy with other projects at the time, the query was shelved, until I mentioned it to "Percival Family Expert" John Priestly (with whom my husband shares a twice great grandfather), who recalled seeing the photograph himself when he visited another of the Percival clan, Evelyn Beard, nee Percival.

Evelyn (sadly no longer with us) told him more about lace-making in the district as her grandmother, Emma Percival (nee Mann) was also a lace maker, as was her aunt Rosa.

The custom was for the lace makers in nearby Great Tey to deliver their finished work to a Miss Surridge in Coggeshall. The job was given to a boy in the family and Evelyn knew that when her father, Albert, was a lad he had the job of taking the lace to Coggeshall on Saturday mornings. It was a walk of about three miles there, and three back and he earned a small fee which he used to buy himself a custard tart for the journey home.

Evelyn presumed that he wasn't alone in this task, that there would be a small army of boys also making the journey delivering lace on behalf of their respective families. John (perhaps thinking back to his own days as a small boy!) speculated, "A party of small boys in a remote country lane must have found a few adventures as they progressed, but we can imagine that dropping the precious cargo in the mud was something they dared not risk and any skylarking was confined to the return journey!"

Coggshall lace
Evelyn said that her "Aunt Rose" (Rosa Louisa Thorp, nee Percival) was particularly skilled in her craft and it's said in family circles that some articles she made ended up in royal households. She even won an award for her work as far away as Belgium, though was unable to go and receive it until after the end of WW1.

As far as our mystery lady goes, Evelyn identified her as Mrs "Percy" Percival, who lived in Chappel Road, in Great Tey and she assumed there must be a family connection. However, the records list several Percy Percivals, so there's some sifting to do yet before our mystery is completely solved.

But, as I mentioned in my previous post, there's another family connection here, not necessarily with Mrs Percy Percival, the lace lady, although that's quite feasible, but with Evelyn herself and my previous post.

As I said above, Evelyn's father was Albert Percival, born in Great Tey in 1880, the son of Walter and grandson of Alfred, who was born around 1830.

 Alfred was the elder son of Hannah Rayner and our old friend, the transported convict Moses Percival, making Evelyn Moses' great-great granddaughter!

John didn't reveal whether the old lady had any qualms about being related to a convicted felon...


If you have relatives in the Coggeshall area, there's a wealth of information and some useful links to other family history sources on the Coggeshall Museum website.

Happy hunting!