Mr Blake the Brickmaker

Another busy and varied time at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre near Yeovil, Somerset.

Just before the Easter Holidays, we enjoyed a research visit from a Wiltshire couple, Des and Sue  to discover more of relatives, the Blake Family that had lived in Yeovil in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

This was a very useful enquiry as we were able to provide certain details before the visit to CHAC to enable a full day of discovery, rather than make several return trips. One of the Blake Family lived at Smith Terrace just off Reckleford. Upon arrival from our visitors, we learned that the family home was still present in Smith Terrace and a helpful owner had provided a guided tour. We also provided contact details for Yeovil Cemetery to investigate family plot locations.

Our input centred on providing information and access to objects from the local gloving industry, as one of the Blake Family had worked for the Blake Gloving Company in Reckleford. We started with a search of our database, which revealed a selection of references to Blake, principally concerned with the Blake Gloving Co. This was a useful learning curve as we assumed the Blake Family relatives in the enquiry were the same as the company; when in actual fact this was possibly just coincidence that the two names were the same. However, the fact that they worked for the gloving company may highlight a link.

The use of the database also helped to manage staff and visitor time with a defined set of objects and items. These introduced the backdrop of a tour around our gloving items, with gloving tools like The Donkey, from 1807, an early form of clasp with equal spaced teeth to pass the glover’s needle through; gloving shears; electric glove irons and finger stretchers. We then looked at the leather dressing side of gloving with the “unhairing department” and the production of gloves; with an actual pair of gloves made by Blake & Company. All of which helped to give an insight into the conditions that a glove worker would have experienced at the time.

The database search also helped with the unexpected – as further back, one relative was listed as a brickmaker. A document dated 1870 revealed an agreement between a Mr Cole and a Mr Blake and Mr Blake’s occupation is listed as “a brickmaker.” This was great to see as the name ‘jumped’ off the page and also confirmed the excitement of using a wide variety of sources.

We were also able to confirm more details  of a  great uncle  Herbert Charles Blake  who was wounded on Christmas eve 1916 on the Somme and died on Christmas day, and is buried in Grove Cemetery  Meaulte, through a lifetime’s work of checking War Memorials stored on our system.

The other great part of the enquiry was that our visitors defined the time of their visit by having to be at Yeovil Cemetery before 4pm – meaning we could get lots done in a set period of time!

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Des and Sue Cook visited Yeovil to research Family Gloving History with a trip to a family home at Smith Terrace and then to CHAC to look at gloves made in the area and a document from 1870 which is an agreement between Mr Cole and Mr Blake, a brickmaker and possibly a relative!

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