Canvas Weaving in Tring

A quick scan of the Militia List for Tring (published by the Herts Family History Society, and covering the period 1758 to 1786) shows there were quite a lot of weavers in Tring, throughout the period covered by the lists. Normally the word was not expanded to say what they were weaving but a couple are described as "Sack Weavers" and other references (with earliest date) are to "Flax Dresser" in 1759, "Hemp Dresser" in 1758 and "Hemp Man" 1778. There     were also a few references to Rope Makers, who would presumably also used hemp. Two members of the Cato family were weavers between 1772 and 1783, as was a member of the Cutler family. Members of the Olney family were also weavers between 1772 and 1786. This could well suggest that canvas weaving was well under way at Tring by about 1770.
The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies hold records of Messrs Grace of Tring, corn and seed merchants, maltsters, millers, etc. "... Upon his retirement the business was carried on by his daughter Anne and son-in-law Thomas Grace. Although the opening of the Grand Junction Canal in 1800 had put an end to the milling trade a number of other enterprises were pursued. Carter and Grace were maltsters, corn merchants, bakers, coal merchants, and canvas weavers. This last business was perhaps inherited from Thomas Grace's father, who was described as a weaver, and was sold in the mid nineteenth century to a Mr. Cato. ..." It would appear that the records held in the Centre contain information on the canvas weaving business. [from Access to Archives web site.]
In the 1828/9 Pigot's Directory four canvas weavers were listed in Tring. They were George Cutler, - Langdon, Daniel Olney and Harding Olney.
In 1831 canvas weaving (along with the silk mill and straw plait) was important enough to be mentioned in the Tring entry to S. Lewis's The Topographical Dictionary of England
In the 1839 Pigot's Directory four Canvas manufacturers are listed for Tring. They were William Cato (Akeman Street), George Cutler (Frogmore End), Daniel Olney (Dunsley) and William Olney (Akeman Street).

In the 1846 Post Office Directory for Herts there were 4 canvas manufacturers in Hertfordshire - all in Tring. They were Wm Cato (West End), Geo. Cutler (Frogmore End), Danl Olney (Dunsley End) and Wm Olney (& brewer, Akeman Street).
In the 1851 directory only William Cato and Daniel Olney are listed - and in the (incomplete) 1851 HFHS census CD eleven canvas weavers are listed - all in Tring, with only William Cato being listed as an employer.
In 1866 there are only two canvas manufacturers in the whole of Hertfordshire. These are J Burgess, Canvas Manufacturer, Lower Dunsley, Tring, and W. Cato, canvas manufacturer, open canvas manufacturer & open canvas for berlin wool & gunpowder canvas manufacturer, West End, Tring.

The Old Weaving Shop
in Park Road, Tring
Copyright C A Howlett, Tring

In the 1890 Kelly's Directory the only two canvas manufacturers listed in Hertfordshire were Charles Cato, Charles Street, Tring and George Cato, Park Road, Tring.
The book Around Tring has a picture of Cato's weaving shop in Park Road in the 1890s and says "There were several weaving shops in Tring, making rough canvas for items such as horse nosebags through to fine canvas used for embroidery. Cato's started originally in Tabernacle Yard in Akeman Street but George Cato later ran his business from 12 Charles Street, The premises in Park Road employed a lot of young boys who were 'half-timers' from school. The building was later demolished as part of the Rothschild's clearance of the south side of Park Road."
The 1902 directory reports for Tring that "The business of the town consists chiefly in canvas weaving, straw plaiting and brewing" and lists Charles Cato, 12 Charles Street, and George Cato, Park Road, as the only canvas manufactiurers in Hertfordshire.
In the 1912 Kelly's directory the only canvas manufacturer in Hertfordshire was Charles Cato, 12 Charles Street, Tring. None were listed in the 1922 directory.
To conclude, it would seem that canvas weaving was a notable local industry in Tring from the mid-18th century or earlier until the First World War. Obviously more information could be added on individual workers from the 1841-1901 census returns.

George CUTLER, Canvas Weaver, Tring

Ted Cutler (Cutlerted @t writes: I have come across details of a forefathers George Cutler's will dated 1845. According to the London - Birmingham train guide held in HALS he was the largest Canvas Manufacturer in Tring with 100 employees. Is shown in Pigot's from 1824 onwards. The will shows the family connection with the Fleet family (they are buried next to each other in Akerman Street Baptist church). Geo. owned properties in Akerman Street as well as Frogmore Street and I believe Lower Dunsley. Frogmore is shown in the will as the Canvas Manufactory and also a Common Brewery with a freehold house adjoining. I think his late wife Rebecca Tomkins was a daughter and niece of two of the largest publicans in the town.


Page updated December 2008