The final part of my 'Earning a Living' series, which looks at ancestors' occupations which crop up in the censuses,in Discover Your History magazine, this month discusses undertakers, valets, the woollen trade, xylography, X-ray technicians, yarn dealers, yeomen and zinc workers.
The woollen trade was an important employer in south- west England and Yorkshire for centuries. In 1818 one pack of wool, if made into stockings, gave work for a week to 184 people: 10 combers, 102 spinners, winders, etc. and 60 stocking-weavers, plus doublers, throwers, and a dyer.
Xylography is the art of cutting a picture onto a wooden block in order to produce a printed engraving or wood-cut and a skilled xylographer could copy a drawing in reverse directly onto the wooden block. Hans Holbein (c.1497–1543) and Albrecht Dürer were famous for their beautiful woodcuts and in the late eighteenth century, Thomas Bewick’s wonderful illustrations sparked a revival of this ages-old art.
Although zinc ores are found in several English counties including Cumbria, Cornwall, Devon, Derbyshire and Flintshire, in the early 1860s, less than 3,000 tons of zinc were mined in the UK annually.
Zinc was cheaper than tin for making metal alloys like brass, but it's a tricky metal to extract from its ores because it quickly boils off as vapour at the temperatures used for smelting metal ores like iron, and several different techniques were used. William Champion’s zinc processing plant at Bristol in 1738 used the ‘English’ method.
Images from author's collection:
Coloured Cloth Hall, Leeds, 1860s. Hundreds of clothiers sold dyed woollen cloth here. Pictorial Gallery of Arts Vol. I, (c. 1860).
Abbey Mills, Bradford –on-Avon. Cloth mill built c.1875; later a rubber factory. © Sue Wilkes.
‘Death the Avenger’, a reduced version of a woodcut by Albert Rethel (1816–1859). Good Words, Isbister & Co., 1893.