The Lacemakers of Calais in South Australia
The 1848 Revolution in France had an impact
on far away South Australia with the arrival of a group
of economic refugees collectively known as the Lacemakers
of Calais. In all over 700 lacemakers reached Australia
in 1848 in three main ships, the Agincourt and
Fairlie to Sydney and the Harpley to Adelaide.
Strangely they were neither French nor lacemakers!
The Calais Lacemakers were English men who designed, built
and maintained the extremely complex lace-making machines
that had been originally developed in Nottingham. Despite
the best efforts by the British to keep the manufacturing
process a secret, the techniques were leaked to France and
the industry developed in the Calais region using British
experience and skills. After the British got over the loss
of their monopoly everything was fine until the 1848 Revolution
that proved to be an economic disaster for the workers as
their factories were closed and English owners returned
to England. The workers were faced with destitution if they
remained in France or returned to England.
One group of Calais Lacemakers saw life in an English Workhouse
as untenable and in March 1848 they met in a church in Saint-Pierre
to sign a memorial requesting
the English Government to assist them to emigrate to the
Australian colonies, especially South Australia. One George
Louis Liptrott, who previously arrived in South Australia
on the Anna Robertson in 1839, was probably the
instigator in Australia being the destination and Adelaide
as the first choice. At first the request was ignored because
the men were too old and had a trade not wanted in Australia
and many of them had large families with numerous children
under the age of ten.
The British Government was swayed by support for the idea
from the English Consul in Calais, and the realisation that
if these people returned to England they would put a considerable
strain on the Workhouses. Appeals to raise half the assistance
money were launched in London and in Nottingham, and kits
were found to outfit the emigrants. The Queen and Prince
Albert gave £200.
The Harpley departed 12 May 1848 for Adelaide but
on arrival the lacemakers discovered
prospects were little better and with little chance
of work they were, with few exceptions, destined to be destitute.
However, with the same determination previously exhibited,
many were settled into work within the first few months.
Many of the single females quickly married to save themselves
a placement in the Destitute Asylum in Adelaide.
The following vessels had lacemakers in their complement
too: Andromache, Baboo*, Emperor,
General Hewett, Harbinger, Navarino*,
Nelson and Walmer Castle with those marked
* coming to Adelaide.
Many modern South Australians are blissfully unaware that
they may owe their origins to this determined troop of people.
Check the following list of surnames and if you find one
of interest type it into the search field to find out more
about that particular emigrant family.
BARNETT | BOWN | BURGESS | CLARKE | COPE
| CROWDER | DAVIS | DIXON | DONISTHORPE | DORMER | DUNK
Graham Jaunay thanks the Australian Society of
the Lacemakers of Calais for alerting him to
these people and their story and urges you to visit their
much more information.
FREESTONE | GOLDFINCH | HALL | HEMINGWAY | HEMSLEY | HIBBERT
| HISKEY | HOLMES | HOPKINS
IRONS | JAMES | LANDER | LEE | LONGMIRE | MATHER | MATTHEWS
| MOUNTENAY | MOUNTNEY | NEEDHAM
ORIEL | PARSONS | PAUL | PEAT | PEPPER | PIKE | REVEL |
RICHMOND | RUSHTON | SAMUELS | SANSOM
SELBY | SHAW | SMITH | STREET | STUBBS | SUMNER | SWEENEY
| TAYLOR | WATTS | WELLS | WIDDISON
This list is unlikely to be complete.