I received an email today from Anne-Marie Knowles, the curator at the Chesterfield Museum and Art Gallery in Northern Derbyshire, England. Ms. Knowles and I have exchanged a series of emails about Thomas and Sarah Davenport and their early lives among the potteries of Brampton. This morning, Ms. Knowles sent me a summary of what she and her colleagues at the museum have been able to learn about the Davenports.
Readers might remember that in a previous post, I mentioned that the 1841 census listed Thomas Davenport's occupation as "pottery m." I asked Anne-Marie if she and her co-workers could find out what the "m" signified: maker, manager, molder, or something else. After reading more of the original census records, they decided that "maker" was the most likely, since this census enumerator used the abbreviation for others in the neighborhood: "hat m," "smock m," and malt m." As Anne-Marie said, "There is no way you can have a smock or hat moulder!" The most important bit of information from this is that Thomas was not in charge of some division in the factory, but he was rather more likely a "regular" worker or ordinary laborer.
Ms. Knowles's team has so far been frustrated in their attempt to figure out exactly where the Davenports lived in Brampton Moor. They are getting closer to an address and expect that Thomas and Sarah's home may still be standing as an extant residence in one of Brampton's neighborhoods. They know, for example, that Thomas's father Robert and his extended family lived in Brewery Yard in 1841, probably quite close to Thomas and Sarah's home. In the 1861 census, Robert and family were living in Barrel Yard, behind the Barrel public house, in the midst of the towns pottery factories. By digging into Thomas and Sarah's neighbors' records in the census, Anne-Marie thinks they will probably be able to identify the actual house where Thomas, Sarah, and their children lived before moving to the American west.
Ms. Knowles and her colleagues also noted that in the census records of 1841, 1851, and 1861, Robert was a "laborer" in a pottery at 60, 70, and 80 years old respectively. Robert's eldest daughter was working in a pottery factory in the 1851 census, while the 1861 census records two of Robert's 15-year-old granddaughters worked in pot shops. This is not unusual for working class families in pottery towns, and it forces me to reflect on the question of Sarah's working life in Brampton, England, and then in Parowan, Utah. I am very interested to learn more about her role in the family's pot shop.
Ms. Knowles summarized her impressions about Thomas and Sarah's lives drawn from these details in the enumerator's notes:
"The picture I'm getting from the censuses is that the Davenports are a very ordinary working class family, as are all their neighbours, and typical of the area. Working on the number of people in the neighbouring households I'd make an educated guess that the house is a terraced property probably with two bedrooms, what is referred to hereabouts as a 'two up, two down and one out the back' (ie a kitchen/family room, and parlour downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs, with a 'closet' (lavatory) outside in the yard. The other adjacent homes are inhabited by labourers, cotton spinners, other pottery workers, there's a smith and someone had a shop, a grocer. The adjacent households are not all 'traditional' families (ie married parents, their children and perhaps an elderly relative), in some cases there are a number of adult lodgers, some of them women with children but no husband, sometimes the householder is an older person who presumably is letting out rooms as a source of income. Others have an older householder with a daughter and grandchildren. So I suppose it is possible that Thomas was a thrower, but he could quite easily be just a labourer - preparing the clay for use. I think, and I can't be sure about this, that if he was a kiln man he would have described himself as such to the enumerator, but I haven't been through the whole of 1841 to see if anyone so describes himself."
Anne-Marie also sent me some pictures from the Chesterfield Museum's archive. The first image below is the only photo known to show the interior of a Brampton pottery shop, that of Welshpool and Payne. From the image, you can see a fairly traditional shop layout with throwers generally stationed by the windows and their young helpers- runners and off-bearers- moving around each work station. It is reasonable expectation that Thomas built his shop in Parowan with a similar layout.
This second photo shows the Pearson Pottery in nearby Whittington Moor.
This final image is of the Alma Pottery in Brampton. Check out the footprint 0f the hovel! The hovel is the bottle shaped chimney that surrounds the kiln oven. We don't know if Thomas built a hovel or not, but I want to try and figure that out this summer.