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Oral history collection

Stories of living and working in Northampton

Listen to Barbara Potter talking about lace-making in the South Midlands.

‘Well, I had a history of lace-making in my family…Traced the family history back to Phoebe Wright who was mentioned in 1851 census as a lace-maker. While mother and grandmother did not make lace there are many other lace-makers in the family. ‘I’ve got quite a history of it!’

'Phoebe Wright was on the 1851 census, I don’t really know any more. I think she was born in Wootton in Bedfordshire. Great-grandmother made her mother a lace hand kerchief which she treasured and only used when she got married. This was lost and her great-grandmother wasn’t making lace any more but her aunt was making lace for a department store in Bedford called ‘Braggins’ in the 60s and made her a replacement.'

‘Because Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire are agricultural areas, an awful lot of the villages have a history of lacemaking purely because it was an agricultural area and they needed to augment their family’s income...children would be taught lacemaking to help their families. There was a lace school in Spratton.'