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The Cowper and Newton Museum
The Extent of the Local Lace Trade

Families of agricultural workers and the more lowly artisans supplemented their income by working at the lace; men and boys as well as women and girls. The 1803 Militia Lists for three local villages include:

Hanslope George Hancock lace maker
North Crawley James Cobb lace maker
Emberton Chas. Cooper lace maker

Indeed in good times the trade paid I/- to 1/3 (one shilling to one shilling and threepence ) a day; much better than the wages of agricultural labourers.

Nor was this craft limited to Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, but was carried on in Northamptonshire as well. The Northampton Militia lists of 1777 states that there were between nine and ten thousand young women and boys employed in lace making in and around Wellingborough and about nine thousand involved in the trade around Kettering.

Nevertheless it was the counties of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire which were principally involved. For example the town of Newport Pagnell...

"...flourishes greatly, by means of the lace manufacture... There is scarcely a door to be seen, during Summer, in most towns, but what is occupied by some industrious pale-faced lass; their sedentary trade forbidding the rose to bloom in their sickly cheeks."

Thomas Pennant "The Journey From Chester to London 1779"