Australian Society of the
Lacemakers of Calais Inc.
Baboo, like Harpley and Andromache, was a 3-masted, ship-rigged vessel but 423 tons old measure. She was built at Howrah, near Calcutta in 1835. Baboo was owned by T. Kincaid of Greenock on the Clyde estuary in Scotland, strangely not far from another Scottish town called Fairlie. Baboo was a smaller vessel than the other ships being 115’7” long, 28’5” wide but only 5’8½” ‘tween decks. She arrived under the command of Captain Barker at Adelaide from London (24 August 1848) via Plymouth on 5 December 1848.
Mather family members aboard included J.B. (Joseph Birch) Mather, his wife Mary (née Smith) and six children, Byron Mather (born in Nottingham in 1826 and aged 22), Washington Mather (born in Calais in 1830, aged 18), Archibald Mather (born in Nottingham in 1833, aged15), Frances (born in Nottingham in 1837), Sarah (born in Nottingham in 1838) and Henry James (born in Nottingham in 1841). Another son, James, born in 1835, died in Nottingham in that same year. Ann Mather, who accompanied the family to Australia, was Joseph Birch Mather's half-sister, aged 30.
What the shipping lists don't even hint at, is that there was an older child, Elizabeth, also travelling with them and with her husband, George Turner Limb, and their young son, John, born in late 1847. Elizabeth was pregnant when the Baboo and gave birth to a baby daughter, Hannah Barker Limb, at sea, on 7 November 1848. Her middle name was in honour of the Captain of the Baboo on this voyage. Elizabeth and George Limb went on to have six more children in Australia. Hannah married Frederick James Pascoe in 1869 in Adelaide; they had eight children.
When the Lacemakers of Calais petitioned the English government to send them to Australia, one of the reasons they gave for not returning to Nottingham was the fear of the workhouse. Were they justified in this fear? The story of the Mather family started, like so many others, in Nottingham then moved to Calais. While member Rosie Wileman's own ancestor, Thomas Mather, the second son of Archibald Mather, a setter-up, was a policeman and setter-up in Nottingham and probably never left that city, four of his brothers were involved in the mass exodus across the channel; all lived for some time, with their families, in the Calais area. By the middle of the 19th century, some of the family were still in France, others had moved a little way to Belgium; while one branch of the family had emigrated in 1848 to Australia.
Three of the brothers eventually returned to Nottingham. The sixth, Matthias, moved to Lancashire, where he was successful. James, the eldest son, born in 1794, was the first to go to France, at the very beginning of the saga. Church records (the brothers were all baptised at Castle Gate Meeting Independent, in the centre of Nottingham) state that he “was dismissed to Calais” in 1817. He is listed, with his wife and three children, in the 1826 census for Saint-Pierre-Iès-Calais and figures on a list of “fabricants de tulle” for St Pierre in 1829, where he is noted as owning 2 Bobbin frames and 1 warp frame. By the 1831 census, his father-in-law, Thomas Lefts, was living with them, but died in 1833. This coincided with one of the many slumps in trade as well as the huge rise in deaths from cholera that swept the continent and Britain. We know from the CGMI church records that James and his family went home to Nottingham in 1834, along with many of the other twisthands for whom there was no longer any work in France. James remained an enthusiastic member of the Castle Gate Meeting Independent and when he moved out to Radford he worked as a “church missionary” and was buried in the church burial ground in 1868. Archibald, the third son, born in 1798, was certainly in Calais from 1822, where he witnessed many of the births and deaths of his English neighbours.* He is to be found in the censuses for St Pierre for 1826. 1831 and 1836; listed with his “wife” Anne Huntley and eventually seven children, born in Saint Pierre between April 1824 and August 1837. Rosie has not found a marriage for Archibald; but we know that many of the lacemakers lived together as if they were married. Archibald is variously described as “serrurier” (locksmith), then “mécanicien”, (probably what we know as a “setter-up”).
From 1825 to 1828 he was a “fabricant de tulle”, showing that he owned or part-owned a machine. In the 1 830s he was simply a twisthand, or “ouvrier en tulle”, so working for someone. But was he working in lace? A report in the Nottingham Journal on 26 April 1839 speaks of Calais Stocking Frames: “There are now two firms in that flourishing place, for the making and working of plain stocking frames, upon the English methods, principally upon the two patent principles of Foote’s & Wakefield’s, better known as Moore and Mather’s patents ... the second consists of Pearson, Archibald Mather, and Taylor.”
Rosie has not yet located his patent, but she has located some events in Belgium: - the birth of “Guillaume” Mather in Ostende, the death of Archibald’s wife, Ann, in Termonde in 1842 and the marriage of his daughter Emma Jane to Henri PHILLIPS in Brussels on the 19 March 1861. The Belgian gentleman who had posted this information on the internet, when thanked, produced evidence that Archibald and son Guillaume had both visited Australia in 1860. What happened next Rosie does not know: he does not figure on any century census for Britain, but Rosie does have the death certificate for Archibald, who died in Nottingham workhouse on 20 February 1878, at the age of 82, of “senile debility”. Sadly, the occupation section states “unknown”. Where were his children? Tulle for November 2005 gives part of the answer — they had remained in Belgium and the Calais area, where there are Mather descendants to this day. One, however, did return “home” to Nottingham. Roland Mather, born in Saint Pierre in 1837, also a lacemaker, died in Basford Workhouse infirmary in 1916.
Why did Archibald Mather visit Australia in 1860? Because the fourth brother, Joseph Mather had emigrated there in 1848, following many friends from Nottingham and Calais. Born in Nottingham in 1803, Joseph married Mary Smith in 1822. Elizabeth (1824) and Byron (1826), were born in Nottingham, but shortly after the Methodist records state that Mary Mather is no longer a member, having “followed her infidel husband to France”!
Washington was born in Calais in 1830, but the family was back in Nottingham for the birth of Archibald in 1833 and all four children were baptised in 1834 in Saint Nicholas parish “in connection with the Protestant Dissenting Meeting House, Castle Gate.” Joseph apparently found work easily in Nottingham, working in the stocking trade rather than as a lacemaker; Orange’ Directory 1840 gave Rosie a clue with the entry under “Framesmiths” for Mather Joseph Birch (patent rotary) Castle Terrace. In the British Library patents she discovered his patent for “certain improvements in machinery for knitting stockings” and the fact that he met the Queen as a result. Joseph remained in contact with his family and friends in France and when conditions in Nottingham became difficult in 1848, he and his whole family, and his half-sister Ann, set sail in 1848 on the Baboo, which took them to Adelaide. By this time the eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was married to George Limb and gave birth on board to a daughter, Anna Barker Limb, luckily named after the Captain, rather than the ship! Finding themselves amongst friends seems to have helped them to make a success of their lives. Perhaps if Archibald had stayed, rather than returning to Europe, he would not have died in such unhappy circumstances.
William, the fifth brother, born in 1805, followed the others to France and there met his wife, Charlotte Larandon. Although she was born in Ramsgate, her family were in Calais at least from 1820 and her father, Gabriel Larandon, who kept an inn, was perhaps French. Certainly Charlotte was known to her descendants as “the French grandmother”. This is a description familiar to many descendants of the Nottingham-Calais lacemakers, so it may not be true; but all the Mathers were good linguists.
William and Charlotte married, like countless of our lacemakers, in the church of St Mary the Virgin in Dover in 1828. Their first three children were born in Calais, from 1829 to 1833 and the next three, from 1838 to 1845, back in the Nottingham area. Most of the children seem to have remained in England and William died in Newark in 1882. But their son William married in Calais and became a draughtsman there, so the contact was maintained for more than one generation. All the Mather brothers seem to have been clever with machinery and hardworking. Many of their descendants in both continents seem to have inherited an artistic or engineering ability (and hopefully the longevity gene!). In spite of a willingness to adapt and travel as necessary, not all of them ended their days in pleasant circumstances.
Their stories mirror those of so many of the lacemakers, who also showed entrepreneurial qualities. It seems clear to me that the fear the emigrants expressed, of ending their days in the workhouse, was completely justified. For Joseph and his family, the decision to emigrate to Australia paid off. James and William were lucky when they returned home, while Archibald’s family made a wise choice in remaining abroad. Archibald himself, no less clever or determined than his brothers, was just one of thousands of Nottingham folk who died in the workhouse, in unhappy circumstances, as did his son.
From Tulle, Volume 24, No. 1, February 2006.