The Brushmakers Society is reputed to be England's first trade
This article outlines the research that led to my forming the S.B.D.
It was first published in Family Tree magazine in 1993 and the information it contained was so little known, many people wrote to me asking for a Historical Society of some kind to be set up for those interested in, or descended from brushmakers.
Brushmaker, or Tramp?
My great-grandfather was one of two George DOUGHTYs who were
in South East London in the 19th century.
I discovered that a fellow researcher in Bristol was descended from a William DOUGHTY, also a brushmaker in the same area so I decided to research this possible common link.
Censuses for the Southwark area show many persons following the brushmaking trade, and I found some entries puzzling. For example: why did William DOUGHTY live in Southwark in 1841, move to Witham shortly after and return to Southwark by 1851, but have a wife born in Somerset?
Why did other brushmakers have wives from places many, many miles distant from their husband's birthplace and have children with varying places of birth?
Unfortunately, very little had been written on brushmaking and those records that remain are not easily accessible.
I was extremely fortunate to contact by chance Mr Jack Moss, editor of the FTAT union Journal, who gave me information which led to my discovering some very little known facts, not only about the brushmaking craft itself but also about Britain's very first Trade Union!
I feel the information I have uncovered is of the utmost importance to any Family History researcher who finds a brushmaker in their ancestry!
Since the earliest days of civilisation men, and more especially women, have felt the need to keep themselves and their dwellings clean. The earliest brooms were "besoms", made of twigs, still used by gardeners and the occasional Hallowe'en witch today! However in the quest for more efficient and perhaps gentler means of clearing dust and dirt the idea of mounting animal hairs on wooden or bone backings was evolved at a far distant point in time.
The Greeks and Romans had brushes very similar to those still being hand-made up until the advent of plastic and synthetic fibres. The Trade is indeed Ancient!
By its very nature the brush makers workshop was a very insular place. Their methods were unchanged until the early 20th century The brushmaker's "shop," consisted of four panhands who worked around a panframe.
This was a strong table with a central hole in which stood a charcoal stove.
On this stood a Pan of hot, but never boiling, pitch.
The stocks of the brushes and brooms were drilled to receive their bristles on a handlathe worked by treadle.
Every hole had to be hand-drilled at a slightly different angle.
The stock was then held on the panframe and the bristles in use were held on a drawboard. The panhand then drew a bundle of bristles and parted them to prevent their natural curvature allowing them to bend too much in one direction. The root end was dipped in the pitch and tied with twine.
The knot, as the bundle was known, was then dipped again and inserted in the stock. The knot had to be correctly positioned in that split second whilst the pitch was still warm. A good broom would have ninety knots and each had to be inserted with the panhand keeping the natural bend of the bristles running the right way at each different part of the broom head. This was known as 'getting the bend'.
When a good brushmaker had finished a broom the pile of the bristles would have a feel like velvet.
For most of the l9th century the rate of pay was 20 knots a Penny-Fourpence Halfpenny per "good" broom!
There were twelve sizes of broom down to the poorest quality, or "sixpenny, broom which would only have thirty six knots. These were not a popular item with the craftsmen!
Education in the Shop
The brushmakers all appear to have been literate and intelligent men and shops would contribute towards buying a newspaper weekly.
As the men worked they would talk and sing and the apprentices would receive a thorough informal education from the older, wiser journeymen.
The Brushmakers were always very aware of how precarious their job could be, as they were basically journeymen, who moved from Panshop to Panshop, and could easily be out of work. A means was needed to ensure that the members of the trade did not suffer due to illness, unemployment and old age, so, in 1747 (or probably earlier), the Brushmakers Society was formed.
The Society was in effect a Trade Union but could not be called
such as to do so would then have been illegal.
Dues were paid weekly by all working members, and were held by the local Branch for distribution as agreed by the members.
As with all crafts at the time, the training of apprentices was given great importance and seven years was served in learning the trade. The Society took interest in the well-being of these apprentices and controlled the amount of apprentices a Master could take on.
The apprentices looked on membership of the Society as a goal to be striven for.
The lads finished their apprenticeship at twelve noon exactly with much noisy celebration. That afternoon, or the next Saturday a great deal of "health drinking" went on. They received their indenture which showed they had served their master.
Later they were taken to a more solemn evening ceremony at the "Clubhouse". This was the Tavern which served as meeting house for the Branch.
If the apprentice was of the required standard he would pay his entry fee and be given his Certificate.
This showed he was now a true tradesman! At this ceremony he would
also be TAUGHT THE TUNE!
"The Tune" was a five note, whistled signal known only to Brushmakers and was used as a signal of recognition by the Society. The apprentices were now Society Members!
Taking The Voices (the Tin Box)
The Society was very democratic, but voting had to be carried out without the employers knowledge as the Society was an illegal organisation. Any item requiring a vote was written out and placed in the tin Box and sent by hand to all local shops to be read and voted upon.
It was commonly just a choice of one of three options. This could be on whether a neighbouring Branch should be lent £5.0.0, £10.0.0 or nothing at all.
Should a sick member be given £1.0.0, 10/- or 5/- as relief?
Had a master wronged an employee or vice versa, and what action did the members consider necessary to remedy the wrong?
In fact, any issue which was of concern to the members would be voted on by the practice known as Taking The Voices. This ballot could extend to neighbouring. branches which would entail sending the messages out via the Mail Coach.
Fines were imposed for delays in circulating the box or interference with its contents. The five note whistled signal ensured the bearer only entrusted the box to a Bona Fide Society Member.
This secret voting was very illegal and some brushmakers were imprisoned when a "tin-box" sent by mail coach was intercepted by the authorities! As a result of this no subsequent Brushmakers' Society document gives addresses of members.
The Society needed a fair means of ensuring employment for its members. The Society was very well organised. All branches were in contact and an agreement was made:
If work became scarce and the person out of work was able bodied he was sent on The Tramp.
This meant that he would be sent on a designated route to look for employment. The records do not say if his family accompanied him but it would be hard for them not to, as he was their source of income, and could be away for an indeterminate period.
The brushmaker journeyman was given a certificate by the Society to say that he possessed the skills of Pan, Hairsorting And Drawing. He was then given his Blank.
This was a blank official book which he had to produce for signature by each Branch on his Tramp. He was given a sum of money for provisions and his journey. This, in total, was at the rate of about One Shilling and Sixpence for every ten miles!
The chap then set out on foot, possibly with family in tow, for the next Branch`s Clubhouse. This was invariably a Pub or Inn.
A London Brushmaker's first aim was Witham in Essex (40 miles) where he would go to the Landlord of the "White Hart" who would feed and board him at a low rate and introduce him to the local Brushmakers Society secretary.
If there was employment locally he could be taken on. lf not his Blank book would be annotated by the local Secretary and he would be sent on to the next Branch with a further sum for the journey!
The next destination was Ipswich (32 miles) where he would go to the "Waggon and Horses" and again make himself known to the Landlord
If no work was available (as was common in the 1840s) it was possible for a journeyman to travel a circular route taking in over
forty towns going up into Lancashire and down the west side of England returning to London via Exeter, Poole, Salisbury, Southampton and Reading! A distance of one thousand two hundred and ten miles!!
Obviously, this Tramp could start at any town on the circuit for any brushmaker local to that town. i.e an EXETER man would
travel to the "Robin Hood" in SOUTHAMPTON on the first stage of his Tramp. lt seems the Tramp only went "anti- clockwise", but a man could return to a town where he was assured of work.
This would not allow him to claim Tramping Money, but could be worthwhile if profitable work was to be had.
If the journeyman had less than four months absence on his Tramp and a full Blank on his return he could then draw 10 shillings a week relief from the Society at his home town.
I wonder if a similar procedure nowadays would affect the number of people drawing the dole?
A very few men were taken to task for travelling by coach or cutting out towns on the tramp and records show they forfeited their relief for a period or were fined for this.
As you can see, from a family historians point of view the order of the Tramp-Route is essential.
The journeyman could meet a wife at any town, or even a village, on the Tramp. His wife could give birth anywhere on the route, and he could also settle for a time at any point!
With this article there is a list of the Tramp route towns and the Inns which acted as Clubhouses.
The name associated with each Inn is not the Landlord but the local Branch Secretary who would be introduced by him to the Brushmaker.
TRAMPING seems to have worked and you can be sure that the Journeyman Brushmakers who had been "On The Tramp" would have a wealth of tales to tell of their adventures!
Many years ago a person down on their luck was said to be "As Poor as a Brushmaker"
Well, their financial status may have been uncertain, but the old Brushmakers possessed riches beyond compare in the skills in their hands and fingers and the knowledge they acquired ON THE TRAMP.
BRUSHMAKERS CLUBHOUSES IN 1829
Town and Public House/Brushmaker Soc. Secretary
BEWDLEY, Blue Bell, High St, John SMlTH
BIRMlNGHAM, Old Cross, Phillip St, Wm. MEABY
BLACKBURN, Holy Lamb, North Gate, John COOK
BOLTON, Prince William, Bradshaw Gate, John ROGERSON
BRADFORD, Shoulder of Mutton, Kirk Gate, George JONES
BRISTOL, Elephant & Castle, Broadmead, Wm. WENSLEY
BURY St EDMUNDS, Castle Inn, Market Place, Thos GARDINER
CHESTER, Mitre, Pepper St,Thos POWELL
COVENTRY, Pilgrim, Ironmongers Row, William MAYO
DERBY, Lord Nelson, Robert KAY
DISS, The Beehive, John JAGGS
EXETER, Devonshire Arms, St Stephen's Bow, Chas JENNtNGS
GLOUCESTER, New Inn, Peter PARKES
HULL, Lord Collingwood, Low Gate, Robert TURNER
lPSWICH, Wagon & Horses, Charles TAYLOR
KETTERING, Duke of Wellington, James HILTON
LANCASTER, Corporation Arms, Penny St, W POSTLETHWAlTE
LElCESTER, White Bear, Thornton Lane, George GEE
LEEDS, Old Red Lion, Meadow Lane, Andrew WOOD
LtNCOLN, Crown Inn, Butchery lane, W MOORlSH
LICHFIELD,The Mitre, Tamworth St, Thomas SKELTON
LIVERPOOL, Stags Head, Duncan St, Aaron MARSH
LONDON, The Hope, Blackmore St, Drury Lane, William HUNT
LYNN REGIS, Black Lion, High St, KINGS LYNN, Rob STRlNGER
MACCLESFIELD, Horse & Jockey, Mile St, Robert WROOT
MANCHESTER, Duke of York, Shude Hill, H RlDGWAY
NORWICH, York Tavern, Castle Ditches, Daniel LILLY
PLYMOUTH, Kings Head, Kentilbury St, J FOULER
POOLE, DORSET, Blue Anchor, Market St, Francis WESTERN
PRESTON, Joiners Arms, North St, William DAVIS
SALISBURY, The Pheasant, Rolliston St, Samuel WARREN
SHEFPIELD, White Hart, William EVANS
SHREWSBURY, Bell Inn, Mardel, John WOOD
SOUTHAMPTON, Robin Hood, French St, Charles BEALE
STAVELEY nr CHESTERFIELD, Green Man, John HOLLAND
TEWKESBURY, Hop Pole Tap, Church St, Wm. ATKINS
WITHAM, ESSEX, White Hart, Abraham LEE
WORCESTER, Crown & Anchor, Silver St, John SMITH
WOLVERHAMPTON, Druids Head, North St, William TALBOT
YORK, Shoulder of Mutton, Middle Water Lane, Edw. LEUTY
The Tramping Route 1829
Giving an exact Account of the Relief &c at each place.- No Tramp can
become a Receiver unless he has been all round within four months.
Town / Distance / Money received for expenses, beer and bed.
Starting at London
to Witham 40mls 5/5d
to Ipswich 32mls 5/4d
to Bury St Edmunds 26mls 4/2d
to Diss 22mls 3/10d
to Norwich 22mls 3/10d
to Kings Lynn 43mls 6/1 d
to Kettering 67mls 8/7d
to Leicester 26mls 4/2d
to Derby 29mls 4/6d
to Staveley 28mls 4/4d
to Sheffield 11 mls 3/Od
to Newark 42mls 6/Od
to Lincoln l6mls 3/4d
to Gainsboro l8mls 3/Od
to Hull 31 mls 5/7d
to York 39mts 5/l9d
to Leeds 24mls 4/Od
to Bradford l0mls 2/10d
to Rochdale 21 mls 3/9d
to Manchester 11 mls 3/Od
to Bolton l2mls 3/Od
to Blackbum l2mls 3/Od
to Preston l0mls 2/10d
to Lancaster 22mls 3/10d
to Preston(again)22mls 3/10d
to Liverpool 32mls 5/4d
to Chester l8mls 3/6d
to Shrewsbury 40mls 5/10d
to Wolverhampton 30mls 5/Od
to Lichfield l5mls 3/3d
to Coventry l8mls 3/6d
to Birmingham l8mls 3/6d
to Bewdley 21 mls 3/9d
to Worcester l4mls 3/2d
to Tewkesbury l5mls 3/3d
to Gloucester 11 mls 3/Od
to Bristol 34mls 5/4d
to Exeter 82mls 9/10d
to Poole 79mls 9/7d
to Salisbury 30mls 5/Od
to Southampton 22mls 3/10d
to Reading 46 mls 6/4d
to London 40mls 5/10d
Copyright Kenneth A Doughty 1999