Hertfordshire Genealogy

Guide to Old Hertfordshire



Lucy Luck
Straw Plait Worker




One of the autobiographical articles published in John Burnett's book Useful Toil is by Mrs Lucy LUCK. She was born "L.M." in Tring on May 25th, 1848, and when her father deserted her family she went to live in the workhouse, and later with a Mr and Mrs D--, of Tring, while Lucy worked in the silk mill. The husband was a tailor by trade and at the time they had a son of about 13 and a daughter of about 15. For some reason they threw Lucy out of the house and she went to live with a Widow H-- who had three sons and a daughter. At the age of 13 she was sent by the relieving officer Mr J-- (nicknamed "Black Garner") to St Albans where she worked for a Mr & Mrs H-- They were an elderly couple who had just moved to a shop and beerhouse near to the Abbey. However after a year they gave up the shop and she worked for two years in service in Kent, and later went to learn straw plait making in a public house in Luton ....

The History of Straw Plait in Hertfordshire

In 2001 this was used as an example of how problems could be solved using the 1851 census - which had just been published in book form for the Tring/Berkhamsted area. It was updated with information from the 1881 census CD when this became available in 2002. In addition several people contributed additional information. Now (2008) very  much more information is available online and the original text has been reorganised - and information added from other censuses.

Lucy's Family in Tring in 1851

While no-one is mentioned by name in her account it is possible to identify her family in the 1851 census. They lived in the Harrow Yard, off Akeman Street, Tring. Her drunken father, who later deserted the family was William MARSHALL, who was then 47 and a journeyman bricklayer born at Englefield, Berks. Her mother, Harriet, was 36, and born in Tring (as were her children), and Lucy says her mother died on August 5th, 1863. Her sister Charlotte was an eight year old straw plaiter, her older brother Joseph was 5 and her younger brother was not yet born.


In 1861 Lucy LUCK was a boarder with Fanny HAWES at Brook End, Tring, working in the silk factory. She had probably been placed there by the Union, as her mother was in the workhouse.   1871 Lucy is described as a straw plaiter and was living at ?Crutchmoor?. Offley, Herts, with her husband William LUCK  (22, farm labourer, born at Lilley, Herts). In 1881 Lucy LUCK was living at Stanley House, Herries St, Chelsea. William LUCK (36)'s occupation was given as a carman. Her oldest child was Eliza (12, born at Lea Green, Herts - which fits in with her account that her first daughter was born on January 7th 1869). In 1891 she is described as a "straw worker", while William (46) was a carter living at 43 Chatham Mews, Paddington. In 1901 the family were living at Amberly Road, Paddington. Lucy was described as a straw worker, while William was a vestry labourer.

The children are listed below:

  Born Birthplace 71 81 91 Occupation 1891 01 Occupation 1901
Emma or Eliza 1869 Lea Green, Herts

Alice 1870 Round Green, Herts          
William G 1863 Luton, Beds   Van Guard    
Edith A 1867 Paddington   Straw Worker    
George 1869 Paddington     Railway Carman
Arthur 1870 Paddington       Railway Carman
Fred 1882 Queens Park, London       Railway Carman
Frank 1884 Paddington       Assistant Potman
Alice 1885 Paddington       Straw Worker
Ellen or Nellie 1887 Paddington       Straw Worker

Lucy's Mother - Harriett Marshall nee Andrews

Lucy's mother, Harriet MARSHALL, is hard to identify in the 1861 census, as the inmates in the Union Workhouse in Berkhamsted High Street are only described by initials. However she is almost certainly the "H.M." - a 49 year old married pauper born in Tring, who is described as a straw plaiter.

In September & October 2004 Wendy Smith (wsmith999 @t aol.com) wrote: I have obtained a copy of Harriet Marshall's death certificate which tells us that she died on 5th August 1863, in Berkhamsted Workhouse (just as Lucy said).  I have also found a marriage of a William Marshall to a Harriet Andrews, at Tring, on 12th February1838. This was at Tring Parish Church, both of full age William was a bricklayer.  William's father was John Marshall also a bricklayer.  Harriet's father was Joseph Andrews, a labourer.

I have checked the 1851 census and Harriet's parents were probably Joseph Andrews (66, agricultural labourer on parish relief, born Waddesdon, Bucks) and his wife Elizabeth (68, on parish relief, born Chearsley, Bucks). They were living at Tring Wharf (which is now part of New Mill, Tring)

Lucy's sister Charlotte

A search of the 1881 census for her sister under her maiden name of Charlotte MARSHALL failed to produce anything, but on the assumption that she was married a search was made for anyone called Charlotte (no surname), born in Tring, of the correct age and living anywhere in S.E. England. This produced two hits, one of which is almost certainly the missing sister. The possibilities, which could be confirmed by buying marriage certificates, were:

(1) Charlotte GOWER (35) was living with her husband William GOWER (53, born Brighton, Sussex), a waiter, at 7 Harcourt Street, St Marylebone. The household also included a stepson Charles STODDARD (15, born Holloway, Middlesex) who was learning watchmaking, and this suggests that Charlotte was previously married to someone called STODDARD. There were also three lodgers. (It is interesting to note that the surname Gower was extremely common in the Tring area - so William GOWER might have local connections.)

(2) Charlotte ROWLAND (35) living with her husband Robert ROWLAND (46, born Marsworth), a lock keeper living at Lock House, Marsworth (near Tring), Bucks, with children Alice (11), Frank (8) and Minnie (2).

Iain Rowland (iainannerowland @t aol.com) has written (December 2002): Having found your website I was fascinated by the tale of Lucy Luck. With the mention of Robert Rowland (a member of my family) it certainly made me check some details. You stated that Lucy's sister could either be a Charlotte Gower or Charlotte Rowland. I have carried out a check re the marriage and subject to confirmation via a certificate my enquiries show that Charlotte ROWLAND was formerly Charlotte Smith Ashby so will not be Lucy's sister. I have at least found more family history.

There are other possibilities and further research is needed.

Lucy's brother Joseph

In 1861 her older brother Joseph  MARSHALL(who was working in the silk Factory) and his brother George were boarders with Sarah Norris of Brook End, Tring. In 1881 Joseph (35) was a mill sawyer living at 34 St Marks Road, Lambeth with his wife Charlotte (39, born London), seamstress.

Lucy's Younger Brother - George

The name of her younger brother was not know, but a search for anyone called Marshall, born in Tring shortly after the 1851 census produced George MARSHALL (29) a labourer living in the High Street, Northchurch with his wife Sarah A. (30, born Aldbury) and children William (5), Kate (4) and John (1), all born at Northchurch.

In May 2004 Wendy Smith (wsmith999 @t aol.com) writes: George Marshall is my great grandfather. He and Sarah had another 3 children after the 1881 census, Elizabeth (Bet), Lucy and Ellen (Nellie), my grandmother.  She married a William Kelly in 1918 and had one daughter, EilleenGeorge's son John, married a Nancy Reading.  They had 2 sons before emigrating in 1906 to Canada, Vancover Island.

In January 2007 Wendy added: I told you about John Marshall who emigrates to Canada, the son of George Marshall and Sarah Ann Simmonds. I was told John's wife's name was Nancy, but I have since found their marriage at Crowthorne in 1904, and she is named as Annie Readings [Nancy is a not uncommon nickname for Annie] I knew they had two boys before emigrating, and both died soon after arriving in Canada.  Have found both deaths on the same day in 1910, their names were Dennis Edmund, aged 3 and Reginald John aged 5.  Since the 1911 census for Canada went online I have found John and Annie on Vancouver Island. They arrived in Canada on 2nd September 1909 on board the Empress of Britain.  I believe it sailed from Liverpool and arrived at Halifax.  Also on the same crossing were Annie's mother Harriet and siblings Florence and Reginald.  Her father, James Reading had arrived on 22nd October 1908 aboard the Empress of Britain. Three of Annie's brother had gone out in 1907, (the passenger lists for this year is not yet on-line).

"Mr D-"  James Dancer

Lucy says Mr D-- was a tailor, and he may well be James DANCER, who is listed as a tailor at Brook End, Tring in the 1855 trade directory - but who is not mentioned in either the 1851 or 1861 census for the Brook End area. He was probably the James DANCER, tailor, born Wendover, Bucks, circa 1807,  who in the 1861 and 1871 censuses was a widower boarding with Elizabeth Marriott, widow, at Boxmoor. In 1881 he was a former tailor on parish relief living in Church Street, Great Missenden, Bucks, with his wife Elizabeth (63, born Boxmoor, Herts) - having apparently married his landlady.

"Widow H-"  Fanny Hawes

Widow H-- is easy to identify from the 1861 census. Lucy MARSHALL was a boarder in a house at Brook End occupied by Fanny HAWES, a 39 year old widowed straw plaiter, who was born just north of Tring at Startops End. She had three sons William (16, grocer's porter), Frederick (14, 'nil' occupation) and George (12, silk factory worker) and a daughter Sophia (18, straw plaiter), all born in Tring. Lucy was working in the nearby silk mill.

"Mr J-"  Mr Garnett Jones

The 1851 Post Office Directory and discovered the relieving officer for Berkhamsted lived in West End, Tring, and was a Mr Garnett Jones. This was obviously Mr J--, who Lucy records was nick-named "Black Garner". The 1851 census lists him as being 48 years old and born in Tring. His family included Sarah A. Jones (18) who is described as a British Subject born in the USA.

"Mr & Mrs H-" 

It is possible that Mr & Mrs H-- were James and Mary Hitcham, who are listed in the 1851 census as beer and coal sellers of The Hope Beer Shop, Dagnall Lane, St Albans, but who are not listed in  the 1851 Post Office Directory (where the information may have been collected in 1850). James was 50 years old, and Mary was 44, which would have seemed elderly to 13 year old Lucy ten years later. They are not listed in the 1861 census.

Page updated December 2008