Lost secrets of a Lancashire craftsman

Detail from notes written by 18th century Lancashire joiner Thomas Noblet
Detail from notes written by 18th century Lancashire joiner Thomas Noblet
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A chance discovery has led to a fascinating new book revealing the life and times of a Lancashire craftsman from the 18th century

Bill McCartney was tracing two main branches of his family, the Noblets and Jollys, both established on the Fylde since at least 1550, when he met Michael Jolly still living in Wrea Green.

Pulpit at Church of St John the Baptiste, Pilling, made by Thomas Noblet

Pulpit at Church of St John the Baptiste, Pilling, made by Thomas Noblet

Michael produced a bag of family papers from his loft. Among the family letters and notes were three items of note. The Account Book for the joinery business of John Noblet and John Jolly covering the period from 1795 to 1855. There was also a school attendance roll from Wrea Green School (undated but revealed to be from 1884) and a small very grubby vellum notebook containing pen and ink drawings of furniture with dimensions by Thomas Noblet and dated 1726. After restoration, it was clear this notebook was a special discovery.

Thomas Noblet was born 1704 in Warton, the second son of a William and Jane (nee Mercer) Noblet who were a farming family. At the time of his father’s death in 1725, Thomas was an

apprentice joiner and a

provision was made in the will in order for him to complete his training.

Notes written by 18th century Lancashire joiner Thomas Noblet

Notes written by 18th century Lancashire joiner Thomas Noblet

Three years later, Thomas married Elizabeth Winstanley Disley in Cheshire. They were married for 14 years and lived in Wrea Green. They had two daughters who both died soon after birth in 1741 and 1742. Elizabeth also died in 1744 and all three are buried at Kirkham Church.

Perhaps, significantly, the notebook does not continue after this period. Thomas went on to marry Jane and had four children but only two – Grace and John – survived to have families.

John Noblet carried on his father’s joinery business. The first of his eight children was Agnes, who became the mistress of Wrea Green School for 45 years and then ran the Dumpling Inn, which survives today as The Grapes in Wrea Green.

Jane Noblet died in 1767 and Thomas married for a third time in 1770, tying the knot with Isobel Tomlinson.

Although little of his life after then is known, his notebook provides an interesting window into his working life. It contains some 64 pages detailing a range of furniture and items large and small including cases for grand-father clocks, dressing

tables, chairs, a snuff box and a spice chest.

There are details of charge rates, accounts submitted and how they were paid and loans Thomas had from his father-in-law. He was not wealthy and struggled, notably recording when he had meat on one day as if a special treat.

Tracing actual items has been impossible but there is evidence that the three-level pulpit described in the book corresponds closely to a surviving pulpit in Pilling Old Church, which was fitted out in 1719 and later cut down to a two level when the gallery was added.

The curate at the time, John Anyon, retired to Wrea Green in 1731 and would have known Thomas.

Thomas died aged 82 in 1787 and was buried in Kirkham. His family continued to be involved in joinery/building work in the Fylde until 1936.

* The Notebook of Thomas Noblet is available priced £12.99 (plus P&P) from willmccar@gmail.com