Monday, October 1, 2012

From woolcombs to whitesmithing


The 'Deceased Search' within the Independent Section of Rookwood Necropolis, indicates that there are three plots within this enclosure: OG/774, OG/776, and OG/780. Resting in OG/776 is James Perry, the patriarch (1826-1908). Resting in OG/778 is Ann Perry, the first matriarch (1824 - 1873), as well as James J. Perry (1851 - 1895), their second child. Resting in OG/780 is Charles Perry their third child (1852 - 1905), together with his four day old son, Charles James Perry (August 1878).


Ann Matts married James Perry in Leicester, England in October 1847, and they sailed for Australia in the 'Thetis', aged just 21 and 23, arriving on 27th May, 1848. Although James' father, William, had been a woolcomb maker, James was on his way to becoming a whitesmith. A whitesmith is a person who works with "white" or light-coloured metals such as tin and pewter. Unlike blacksmiths (who work mostly with hot metal), whitesmiths do the majority of their work on cold metal (although they might use a hearth to heat and help shape their raw materials). Whitesmiths fabricate items such as tin or pewter cups, water pitchers, forks, spoons, and candle holders and it was a common occupation in pre-industrial times.


Between 1849 and 1857, James and Ann produced five children, three sons and two daughters. Their first child, Clara, married James Freeman, yet is buried in the adjacent OG/774). They all must have been close, as after Ann's early death, James married Marie Louise and produced three more children. Yet here he is, buried with his first family. The other explanation could be that, during the last years of his working life, there were a number of depressions, and his business in Arncliffe kept on going broke, and his second family had to all muck in and take in whatever work they could find, including Marie Louise. Already owning a substantial plot, with rights to bury more within the self-same plots, would have proved irresistable.


Although Ann died in 1873 aged only 49, James lived until 1908, dying at his premises in Wickham Street, Arncliffe at the age of 82. I was unable to track down photographs of James with his first family which given it was 1847 to 1873, is probably understandable. However, from Ancestry.com I sourced much information uploaded into public trees by a grandson of James' youngest son, Adolf. The individual portrait here is James in 1877 at his wedding to Marie Louise.

10 comments:

Michelle said...

Really an interesting family history. LOVE the artistic plot.

Paul @ Leeds Daily Photo said...

I always admire the amount of work that you put in here. I note that James died in Arncliffe, though yours rather than ours, the original village that I have featured here on my blog.

Nicola Carpenter said...

What a gorgeous stone and those beautiful railings are simply to die for.

Such a interesting post. I alway love it when I am able to find photographs of the people I research. Makes them so much more than names and dates.

Beneath Thy Feet

NixBlog said...

Very interesting entry today, Julie!

Julie said...

Thank you, Paul. I enjoy the research.

Yes, Nicola, I agree about the value of old photograph's. And it was the wrought iron that drew me to the plot in the first place, Well the WI and the carving on the reverse of the headstone. The vast majority of headstones in Sydney have a blank reverse.

diane b said...

You do a good job at sleuthing family histories.

Julie said...

*grin* ... taa. I get a lot of practice.

marbletowns said...

As always, really interesting! :)

hamilton said...

It must be difficult when families are in two or three parts, through marriages.

thanks for explaining the whitesmithing, too.

Jennifer Darling said...

I love those tombstones. I've never seen any that particular color from that time period.