Monday, November 21, 2011

Apprentice Registers of the Wiltshire Society

The Apprentice Registers of the Wiltshire Society 1817-1922 will be of particular interest to local researchers, especially if your Swindon ancestors moved to London.

Established in 1654, the Wiltshire Feast was a county organisation of merchants, traders and gentry who annually convened to London for some 17th century networking. The visit included the placing of children of the deserving poor with Wiltshire links in apprenticeships to city traders and concluded with a feast, hence the name.

The society can be traced to around 1776 when it appears to have experienced a hiatus. However work began again in 1817 when it was remarketed at 'a public meeting of Noblemen and Gentlemen of Wiltshire' held at the Albion Tavern, Aldersgate Street in the City of London.

The registers, published by the Wiltshire Record Society in 1995 include entries such as that of Frederick Newcombe and his sister Phillipa, two orphans living in London whose mother was from Swindon.

Frederick was placed with William Lakeman, a hatter of 44 High Street, Shadwell to begin a seven year apprenticeship in 1844. Two years later Phillipa was placed with Elizabeth Hunt, a straw hat manufacturer of 102 Great Russell Street.

Closer to home, widow Mary Nash from Chiseldon applied to the Society on behalf of her 13 year old son Thomas. The records show that the £20 apprenticeship fee was paid on April 5, 1873 when Thomas entered into a seven year apprenticeship with 'George Wiltshire, mason etc. of Bath Road.'

George had first appeared in Swindon on the 1861 census when he employed seven masons, four labourers and two boys.

An entry in Astill's Swindon Almanac of 1867 describes him as a marble and stonemason, lime burner, carpenter, joiner and builder of The Sands, Bath Road and at the Quarries. By 1887 George Wiltshire is described as a Master Builder employing 140 hands with his son Simeon acting as his manager.

During the 1870s and 80s George Wiltshire as building contractor on a number of Swindon projects designed by local architect W H Read, including a cheese factory for Aylesbury Dairy, the Vale of White Horse Repository and the County of Gloucester Bank in Fleet Street.

During the busy 1870s George took on another apprentice through the Wiltshire Society, Arthur Smith, one of Jeremiah and Sarah Ann Smith's five children.

While Thomas Nash finished hsi apprenticeship as a bricklayer, Arthur became a carpenter and the 1881 census records him living with his widowed mother and sister Kate at a house in North Street.

The original Wiltshire Society apprenticeship registers are held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History centre, Cocklebury Road, Chippenham. The Wiltshire Record Society's publication Volume 51 is available for consultation in the Local Studies section at Swindon Central Library. The Broad Town apprenticing charity records 1714-1909 are also held at the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, ref 700/61 and 765/2,3.

images include a stonemason with traditional tools; Work by Ford Maddox Brown

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