Named Antique Bobbins

Whilst winding bobbins I realised that three had surnames not just “Dear Jane” or “Betsey”. Curiosity won over housework, out came Mr Mouse, the hunt began.

EMMA CONQUEST was clearly visible in painted spots, though I suspect a previous owner re-painted it. Up popped an Alfred on Manchester 1911 census, born Great Linford, Bucks, wife Emma (Abrahams), born Colmworth, Beds. Promising – alas no sign of lace. However on the 1871 census Emma (21) is a lacemaker being visited by sister Louisa, also a lace maker. On the 1861 census mother Letticcea (53), sisters Frances (18), Louiesa (16) & Letticcia (13) are lacemakers, Emma (10) is a scholar but bet she knew how to use the bobbin even then. One down two to go – dust a bit deeper.Bobbin1

ELIZABETH SAVILLE  bobbin was almost worn away through many hours of toil. Being an avid “who-dunnit” fan a soft-leaded pencil & thin paper revealed all – August 16 1863. So many could only sign a X on their wedding papers that it is no surprise that the census filler-inners wrote different versions of a name – Saville – Savil – Savall – Savell. Eventually an Elizabeth Savell, 1841, fitted. Luckily appeared as Saville on another document. Mother Mary Ann and sister Ann (15) were lacemakers living in Houghton Conquest, Ampthill, Bedfordshire. There is a death recorded as 3rd quarter 1863, aged 13 = 16 August 1863 – so maybe? Two down one to go, eyes down and stride over rubbish.


MARTHA FEASEY WESTBURY spiralled teasingly round the shank.   No Westbury seemed to make lace, seemed folk made lace there. So hunt the Feasey in Buckinghamshire.   Plenty, but no Martha as a lacer. Eventually two likely children surfaced – one born 1842, one in 1861 – both not on further census forms. Maybe in remembrance of the first one who died aged 13 – could account for the black square-cuts and the “Kitty Fisher” header bead? Mother Sarah and aunts were lacemakers, father Thomas was a carpenter – maybe made their bobbins? Or maybe for the other one as her aunt Eliza, mother Ellen and sisters were all lacemakers?


Frustrating but interesting – I will never know! Now I really must stop reading Agatha, hide the mouse, find feather duster and…. mmmm…..better idea still – use the bobbins.





In September 2014 ANN COLLIER, a world renowned lace maker and author, delighted members of Sheffield Lace Makers and visitors with a fabulous display of her fans and parasols. Ann designs the lace to complement the fan sticks then uses a medley of lace techniques to achieve a breath-taking work of art. Various styles of bobbin lace or net are embellished with needle lace, tatting, Sol work, Carrickmacross, Limerick… ad infinitum.

Ann also told us about the different styles of sticks usually made of ivory or exotic woods, the different ways of folding and holding and lots more interesting tit-bits – one fan magically turns into a posy of flowers. Her designs range from the Olympic fan having all but one of the national flags (astonishingly worked as one piece of lace) to her favourite set of Gilbert & Sullivan Operas.   These are kept in a beautiful matching casket – another of Ann’s talents. She hilariously explained (interspersed with anecdotes) how she works, encouraging us to practise and try different laces.

Thank you Ann for sharing your love of lace with us. Thanks also to Nigel, a visitor, who has kindly allowed us to use some of his photos.

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