Thomas Holland (1826-1907)

by Mike Everley[1], 2008

Stocking Maker of Tewkesbury

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Serendipity undoubtedly plays an important part in family history research. It was certainly a lucky accident that led me to visit Barton Street Museum[2] on a recent trip to Tewkesbury.

There on the top floor was a photograph of my wife’s great-great-grandfather Thomas Holland, along with a series of model buildings that he had constructed using attachments where he had lost both hands in a framework knitting machine accident.

According to the 1841 census, Thomas Holland lived with his sister Sarah (b 1837) and their parents Thomas (bp 1790) and Ann Holland (née Bassett) in Malverns Alley, Tewkesbury. Thomas Holland senior is recorded as being a stocking maker.

The Tewkesbury parish records[3] reveal that Thomas Holland senior and Ann had three other children baptised as well as Thomas and Sarah. These were Elizabeth (baptised 1829), William (bp. 1832) and James Henry (bp. 1835). However, as they are not recorded as living with the family at the time of the 1841 census they must either have died or have been boarded out. Further research is needed to clarify this. Thomas senior and Ann married in Tewkesbury on 20 January 1828.  

Thomas Holland senior lived at a time of great unrest in the framework knitting and stocking making industry. In 1811 the frame-knitters of the Midlands were forced to rent the frames they worked on. A year later mass production was introduced through wide knitting frames that made use of a one cut piece of material. This method of manufacturing both displaced skilled labour and led to a decline in the purchase of the poorer quality stockings. In the town of Arnold, outside Nottingham, knitters stole the jack wires out of the knitting frames during February and March 1811 the Jack wires were deposited in the churches as hostages for the good behaviour of their owners.

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In Tewkesbury in 1825, when Thomas Holland senior would have been aged about twenty-five, the framework knitters issued the following declaration[4] to the people of the town: (See adjacent image)

Thomas Holland was himself the son of yet another Thomas Holland[5] and his wife Elizabeth Holland (née Hanks). Thomas and Elizabeth married on 2 April 1786 in Tewkesbury. Along with Thomas senior, their family included William (bp. 1787), Mary (bp. 1789 d 1790), Mary Ann (bp. 1793) and John (bp. 1796). All the children were born in Tewkesbury.

By the time of the 1851 census, Thomas Holland[6] had moved from Tewkesbury to Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, and learned his trade as a journeyman framework knitter. He was living and working with John Berry, a framework knitter, at Little Duke Street. Thomas Holland is recorded as being 23 years of age and being a single man. He was one of the two journeymen employed by John Berry.

On 4 December 1853, Thomas Holland married his first wife Emma Haywood at St Mary’s Parish Church in Hinckley, Leicestershire. His marriage certificate records his occupation as being that of stocking maker. Interestingly, Thomas signed his name and Emma made her mark. Further research has discovered that Emma’s family were also engaged in the stocking making industry.

Thomas was undoubtedly drawn to Hinckley due to the work available in the area for stocking makers and framework knitters. According to White's History, Gazeteer and Directory of the Counties of Leicester and Rutland. (1877), 

“The increase of the population during the last decennial period is attributed to the improvement in the hosiery trade, and the increase of inhabited houses to the establishment of building societies… The stocking frame was introduced here as early as 1640 by Mr. W. Iliff, and, excepting Leicester, more stockings are made here than at any other place in the kingdom. In 1853 Mr. Thomas Payne introduced and applied steam-power in the manufacture of hosiery, &c. in this town, and there are now many factories here in which the frames are worked by steam, and fancy goods, as well as stockings, are manufactured.”

Thomas and Emma had one child, their daughter Sarah Ann Holland (b 1855 d 1901). Unfortunately, Emma died in Hinckley in 1858. Following Emma’s death, Thomas and his daughter returned to Tewkesbury and they are shown as lodging in Oldbury, Tewkesbury, in the 1861 census. Thomas is recorded as being a widower whose occupation is that of a stocking maker.

Later that year Thomas married his second wife, Hannah Buckle (bp. 1827 in Treddington d 1886). However, hardship was soon to arise as Thomas lost both hands in a stocking machine accident between 1861 and 1871.[8] Unfortunately, such accidents were far from being rare. At the time, Thomas and Hannah were living at 10 Spring Gardens. The household also included Hannah’s son, from her previous marriage,[9] Alfred. Other members of the Buckle family lived next door at number 11. Thomas’ daughter Sarah Ann had by this time moved away to work. Tragedy appears to have stalked the Holland family, as daughter Sarah Ann would later die of an opium overdose in 1901. She was deserted by her husband, Walter Robert Young,[10] in 1889 and struggled for many years to bring up her three children and run a failing grocery shop at 1 Station Street. She was found almost dead by her son, Richard Thomas Young, my wife’s[11] grandfather, when he returned home from work and she was rushed to the Tewkesbury Rural Hospital[12] where she died. He was only thirteen years of age. However, that is another story.  
Model buildings constructed by Thomas
Model buildings constructed by Thomas Click Image
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Thomas and Hannah Holland were still living at 10 Spring Gardens by the time of the 1881 census. Thomas is recorded as an unemployed porter and Hannah as a framework knitter.

By the 1891 census, Thomas is shown as a widower employed as a porter. He has now moved to 42 Spring Gardens.

Following the death of his daughter in February 1901, the census reveals Thomas, now a retired porter, as living in Glovers Alley, one of the alleys that disappeared in the reconstruction of the upper High Street in 1965.[13]

Perhaps inevitably given his handicap and the period of time he lived in, Thomas Holland died of ‘senile decay’ on 16 July 1907 in the Union Workhouse, Tewkesbury, having outlived two wives and his daughter despite his terrible injury. He was aged 81 and his occupation is recorded quite simply as ‘stocking maker of Tewkesbury.’[14]

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Model buildings constructed by Thomas Holland using attachments where he had lost both hands in a framework knitting machine accident (Tewkesbury Borough Museum)


  1. Mike is a new member of the Tewkesbury Historical Society: he is a safety consultant and freelance writer. He obtained his M.A. from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and his M.Phil. from the University of Leeds. He lives in Swansea and is married with two grown up children. He started researching his family history two years ago when his father and father-in-law died and he found himself suddenly becoming one of the elders in his own particular tribe. Secondly, he is related by marriage to Thomas Holland whose incapacity came to our attention in Cliff Burd’s article ‘Tewkesbury’s Stockingers’ in THS Bulletin 15 (2006), p.48.
  2. Source of the photograph of Thomas and Hannah Holland: Town Museum, Barton Street, Tewkesbury.
  3. s transcribed by William Good (dead link)
  4. Source: Tewkesbury Reference Library.
  5. The Electoral Roll for Gloucestershire in 1831-1832 records Thomas Holland as a freeholder in Tewkesbury Borough (E5582). Whether this is the same family or another one has yet to be determined.
  6. Who, I later discovered, had featured in Cliff Burd’s article ‘Tewkesbury’s Stockingers, Part II’ in THS Bulletin 15 and John Dixon’s THS Briefing Document 2 ‘Spring Gardens in its Historical Context’
  7. This was a mis-transcription of ‘Hinckley’ in the original census. 
  8. There is some evidence that Thomas Holland received an award in 1883 due to the loss of his hands. However, this is still to be confirmed.
  9. It is believed that Hannah had previously been married to Samuel Crowell and to a gentleman called Peachey who was the father of Albert William Peachey (b 1857). But this is still to be confirmed. Albert’s occupation in 1871 is shown as being ‘at Painters’, but he may later have become a published poet. 
  10. Walter Robert’s father, Robert Young, and brother, Joseph Young, are listed in the Railway Database contained in John Dixon’s article ‘Railway Workers on the Tewkesbury Branch Line in the Late 19th Century’ in THS Bulletin 2 (1992).
  11. Cherrill Sarah Caroline Everley (née Young).
  12. The first Tewkesbury Rural Hospital ran from 1865 to 1934. Source: D. Willavoys and Dr. A. Crowther, The History of Tewkesbury Rural Hospital (Tewkesbury, 2007). Dr. Norman Devereux washed out her stomach to no avail according to the inquest as reported in the Tewkesbury Register, 02/03/1901.
  13. The Lost Alleys of Tewkesbury, Cliff Burd. Images of England. Tempus Publishing Ltd. (2004).
  14. The Editor would like to encourage much more research into the migration to and from Tewkesbury as the textile industry waxed and waned.
  15. The Author and Editor are aware of the age discrepancy for Thomas Holland between the death certificate and censuses. After investigation, the inconsistency cannot be remedied at this stage.

1841 census

HO 107/380 ed.3 f.3 p.1
Malvern’s Alley, High Street, Tewkesbury, Glos.
Thomas Holland, age 40, Stocking m., born Glos.
Ann Holland, age 30, born Glos.
Thomas Holland, age 13, born Glos.
Sarah Holland, age 4, born Glos.

1851 census

HO 107/2123 f.371 p.37 s.130
679 Little Duke Street, Sutton in Ashfield, Notts.
John Berry, head, mar, 51, Framework Knitter employing 2 men, Notts. Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Rebecca Berry, wife, mar, 50, Framework Knitter, Notts. Bull Well.
Martha Berry, dau, single, 12, Framework Knitter, Derbyshire, Tibshelf.
Mary Didsbury, dau-in-law, 20, Framework Knitter, Notts, Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Levenia Wright, niece, 12, Framework Knitter, Notts, Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Rebecca Didsbury, dau-in-law, 1, Notts, Sutton-in-Ashfield.
James Cowley, journeyman, widower, Framework Knitter, Derbyshire, Brampton.
Thomas Holland, journeyman, unmar, Framework Knitter, Glos. Tewkesbury.

Marriage 4 Dec 1853

Hinckley, Leics. Thomas Holland, bachelor, Stocking Maker, son of Thomas Holland, Stocking Maker married by banns Emma Haywood (x), spinster, daughter of George Haywood, Labourer, both of full age and of Hinckley. Witts: George Haywood (x); Phebe Toxan?
White's History, Gazeteer and Directory of the Counties of Leicester and Rutland. (1877),

1861 census

RG 9/1806 f.49 p.41 s.235
Oldbury, Tewkesbury, Glos.
Amos Webb, head, mar, 40, Provision Dealer, Glos. Tewkesbury.
Thos. Holland, lodger, widower, 34, Stocking Maker, Glos. Tewkesbury.
S.A. Holland, dau, 4, Leics. Tuckley.[7]

1871 census

RG 10/2679 f.63 p.21 s.121
10 Spring Gardens, Tewkesbury, Glos.
Thomas Holland, head, mar, 43, formerly Stocking Weaver (lost his hands in machinery), Glos. Tewkesbury.
Hannah Holland, wife, mar, 44, Stocking Weaver, Glos. Treddington.
Alfred Holland, son, 14, employed at a painters, Glos. Tewkesbury.
John Buckle, boarder, unmar, 43, Glos, Tewkesbury, nearly blind.

1881 census

RG 11/2578 f.115 p.18
10 Spring Gardens, Oldbury Road, Tewkesbury, Glos.
Thomas Holland, head, mar, 53, Porter unemployed, Glos. Tewkesbury.
Hannah Holland, wife, mar, 53, Framework Knitter, Glos. Treddington.

1891 census

 RG 12/2049 f.101 p.21 s.144
42 Spring Gardens, Tewkesbury, Glos.
Thomas Holland, head, widower, 62, Porter, Glos. Tewkesbury. 

1901 census

RG 13/2467 f.23 p.12 s.80
Glover’s Alley, High Street, Tewkesbury, Glos.
Thomas Holland, head, widower, 73, both hands off, ret Porter, Glos. Tewkesbury.

Death certificate

16 July 1907 Tewkesbury
Thomas Holland aged 81[15] died of Senile Decay at Tewkesbury Workhouse.

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