This is the second part of a draft on the Oram family's involvement in the lace industry. If anyone has any comments or criticisms please let me know


Part 2

John Oram

Ó 2012 Rosemary Oram


John Oram was born 16th January 1788 at Shepshed in Leicestershire. His birth was recorded in the Shepshed Baptist Chapel Records. He was the 6th child of Abel Oram and Jane (nee Chamberlain) of Sheepshead, now Shepshed in Leicestershire. His grandfather, also Abel, was Deacon of the Shepshed Particular Baptist Church. On 3rd November 1813, he married Sophia White at Loughborough All Saint's Church .

The first evidence of his movements after his marriage is the record of the birth of his son, John White Oram on 26th February 1819 at Tiverton, where they were living at Loughborough Place.  This birth was recorded in the Dr Williams Library. 1 A second child, Thomas, was also born in Loughborough Place, Tiverton 6th September 1820 and this birth was also registered in Dr Williams Library. 2 John may have been working for John Heathcote at this time. Whether John White Oram was their first child we do not know, but the naming of the child suggest that he probably was. This raises the question of why there was a six-year gap between John and Sophia's marriage and this birth.


ORAM, John White
ORAM, Thomas
b. 6 SEP 1820 Tiverton, Devonshire, England
d. 1833 Chard,Somersetshire,England
Gender: Male
ORAM, Sarah
b. 1826
d. 10 Jan 1847
Gender: Female
ORAM, William
b. 1827
Gender: Male
ORAM, Sophia Jane
ORAM, Mary Eliza
b. 15 DEC 1835 Chard, Somersetshire, England
Gender: Female

John White Oram married Sophia Frances Podger and had a son John Percy and a daughter Sarah. Percy died as a child and Sarah never married.

Thomas is probably the Thomas Oram who died in Chard 30 July 1833.

 Sophia Jane married an accountant Robert George Underdown in Paddington 1 May 1849. In 1851, they are living in Bury, Lancashire and have one son Robert J Underdown. Sadly, she died in Manchester in 1852 (8d 244)

Mary Eliza married Thomas William Pickering at Shoreditch, London in 1864. I haven't found out whether or not she had children or when she died.


I can find no trace of  William .

1822 saw the beginning of machine lace in Chard

                                                                                               The Times, Dec 25, 1822 2a

The premises at Chard, in which the very large woollen cloth factory has for many years been carried on, but which have been lately abandoned in consequence of the general decay of that important branch of the trade-in the West of England, have been taken by some manufacturers of patent lace. Upwards of 1,300 hands are to be immediately employed in this concern, which has been undertaken by some of the persons now or lately connected  with a similar establishment at Tiverton. A steam-engine and gas apparatus are erecting on the premises, the latter being for the purpose of furnishing gas, through the pure flame of which the lace is rapidly passed, for  divesting it of its downy filaments. The net is subsequently sent to France, where it receives a rich and elegant improvement, by the addition of curiously wrought foliage and flowers, and is then returned to this country, in which, notwithstanding this elaborate course, it amply realizes the hopes contemplated by the ingenious patentees. The utmost expedition is using in fitting up the complicated machinery requisite to this undertaking, and the most scrupulous regard is observed in the regulations of the workpeople, to prevent any communication by which the processes of the manufacture are to be conducted. - Exeter paper


John was certainly in Chard in 1825, in a part of Wheatley and Riste's factory.

The Leicester Chronicle - Saturday 16 April 1825 reports:


The Nottingham Review of yesterday says, The factory which is a large one, is chiefly occupied by Messrs Wheatley and Riste, who underlet a part of it to Messrs Oram and Co; and the shole of the building was occupied with about seventy lace machines, all going by power, principally water, but assisted occasionally by a steam engine of about eight horse power. These machines were going night and day, but on Saturday night they generally ceased working for the Sabbath. The men had all left the premises; a gentleman went by the factory between twelve and one o'clock, when all appeared safe, but about one on Sunday morning, the top, or attic story of the building, occupied as a lumber room in which some deals and other things were stored, was discovered to be on fire. No engine in Chard had power to throw water to the top of the factory; and the fire of course pursued its unopposed and unresisted progress till the roof fell in, and then from one story to another, till the whole premises were gutted, & the machines destroyed. Surch are the particulars as they have reached us, but we will not pledge ourselves for their accuracy. Most of the lace produced by these machines came to Nottingham, but as it was chiefly of a coarse kind, it will only affect the market for coarse lace; and it is not supposed that there will be any rise in the article, but that it will now sustain its price, which otherwise as was generally expected, must have submitted to a reduction in the course of the next month. 2b



when a fire is reported at the lace factory of Messrs Rice and Oram:


Thursday 21 April 1825

Destructive fire.

On Sunday morning, about two o'clock, a most destructive fire broke out in the extensive lace manufactory of Messrs. Rice and Oram, at I Chard, Somerset, which was totally consumed. The lowest estimate of this loss is 70,000/. The watchman who was employed by the proprietors to walk over the rooms, was discovered fast asleep, while the fire was blazing round him. The premises were insured for 3500l. ; but whether any part of the valuable machinery was covered by insurance, we have not ascertained. By this calamity, above 700 persons are thrown out of employ.


Chard thrived and the population increased by 2035 people from 1821 to 1831 sending land values soaring


Saturday 23 June 1827


Such is the increased value of land at Chard, occasioned the introduction of lace manufactories,and the consequent necessity providing for a greatly enlarged population, that field in the immediate vicinity of this town, has within these few days been disposed of in portions at the rate of NINE HUNDRED POUNDS AN ACRE! (Taunton Courier). 4


At some time, he formed a partnership with John Miller and it seems that together they had three lace factories: at Loughborough, Nottingham and Chard. John operated the Chard concern, John Miller the Loughborough branch and it is possible that William Oram ran the Nottingham branch. In 1825, John Boden built The Derby Factory at Barnstaple. On 15th May 1828, Boden sold the business to Messrs. Miller & Co, Boden returning to Derby where he had a much larger factory at Castlefield. 5 On 28th May 1828, the dissolution of John's partnership with John Miller. This was later announced in the London Gazette.


Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership

lately exsisting between John Miller, late of Lough-

Borough, in the County of Leicester, but now of Barnstaple,

in the County of Devon, and John Oram, of Chard, in the

county of Somerset, Lace-Manufacturers, and carried on at

Chard aforesaid, at Loughborough aforesaid, and at the

Town of Nottingham, under the firm of John Oram and

Company, and at Barnstaple aforesaid and at Nottingham

aforesaid, under the firm of John Miller and Company, was

On the 28th day of May, 1828, dissolved by mutual consent.

Witness our hands the 11th day of November, 1828.



The dissolution of the partnership between John Oram and John Miller in 1828. Extracted from the London Gazette 1665-1850 published by the Devonshire Family History Society.

John Miller was Baptist and a reformist but we do not know to what extent John and William Oram shared Miller's views. 6 Miller's wife was Jane May, sister of the Reverend Richard May. John Oram and John Miller must have remained on good terms after the dissolution of their partnership as Richard May is found staying with John Oram in Chard on the night of the 1841 Census (see below). It appears that partnerships were frequently formed and dissolved at that time.

We do not know how John and William started in the machine-lace business. With their family involvement in the weaving and hosiery trades, they were well equipped to do so. Their father, Abel, inherited a large part of his father's considerable estate. With such a large family, however, it is unlikely that there would be sufficient to furnish the capital required. William was fifteen and John was eight when their grandfather, Abel, died in 1797. In 1812, their father Abel was selling some, perhaps all, of his stocking-making machinery to pay his creditors.

Leicester Journal, Friday August 14, 1812. 7

"Sheepshead-worsted machinery, Warehouse fixtures. Twenty nine stocking frames, and Freehold Property To Be sold by Auction by Mr Boots (under an Assignment for the benefit of creditors) On Monday 31st day of August 1812 at 10 o'clock. All the worsted machinery, Warehouse fixtures and implements, the property of


of Sheepshead in the county of Leicester. Consisting of breaker, drawing frames, roving frame, three spinning frames, a twisting mill, pair of wrings and bowl, copper, comb pot for four hands, four pair of woolcombs, four oil jars, sundry counters, shelves, wool binn etc. etc. And on the same day, at the house of Mr Noone, the Pied Bull, in Sheepshead aforesaid at three o'clock in the afternoon, the stocking frames:-

No Gge Width In whose possession. (There are 29 stocking frames listed like this) They are mainly at Price and Unwins but others at Elizabeth Draper's, Daniel Chester's, William Kidger's, John Lile's, Edward Atkin's and William Mountney's following this sale the following will be sold. Three closes of rich freehold land adjoining each other, situated near to Oakley Wood, in the liberty of Sheepshead, aforesaid, containing together about five acres in the said occupation of Mr Oram."

Leicester Journal 14th August, 18128

"Two freehold messuages or tenements situated in the town of Sheepshead, aforesaid with gardens and other conveniences, in the occupation of John & Joseph Cooper.

For a view apply to Mr Oram and particulars to William Middleton Esq of Loughborough, Mr Green of Long Whatton or to Mr Booth.

`About five hundred dozen of men and women's 24, 26, 30 & 32 gauge White worsted dump and narrow clocked stockings in the rough and a quantity of no 56 and 3 White worsted, manufactured by Mr Oram to be sold by private contract. To view apply to Mr Middleton. (one concern)"

Considerable capital was needed to manufacture machine lace. Machines cost £150-200 in 1817 and £600 in 1823-5 when the twist net fever was on.7 Other costs included premises, and production costs such as raw materials and wages. Perhaps John and William had saved a considerable amount in their earlier years, e.g. by working for Heathcoat. Unfortunately, Heathcoat's records were destroyed. John and William were operating as independent entrepreneurs and William was leasing a factory.

The combined capital of partnerships often provided enough capital to enable the establishment of small lacemaking enterprises. These partnerships often changed rapidly. During the early years of machine made lace production, those who managed to raise enough capital were helped by the high wages earned by operatives and the restrictions that Heathcoat's patent placed on the supply of lace. Framesmiths and machine builders also encouraged hire purchase. During the boom years of the early 1820's, capital was provided from outside the trade. In the early years of bobbin net production, the shortage of suitably skilled labour pushed wages up and bobbin net producers were earning between £5 and £10 weekly. This amount declined after the mid-twenties.

By 1819, machine lace making was established in Chard. In The Times 25th December 18229 it was reported that

The premises at Chard, in which the very large woollen cloth factory has for many years been carried on, but which have been lately abandoned in consequence of the general decay of that important branch of trade in the West of England, have been taken by some manufacturers of patent lace. and is then returned to this country, in which, not withstanding this elaborate course, it amply realizes the hopes contemplated by the ingenious patentees. The utmost expedition is using in fitting up the complicated machinery requisite to this undertaking, and the most scrupulous regard is observed in the regulations of the workpeople, to prevent any communication by which the processes of the manufacture are to be conducted. -Exeter paper.

Just before the introduction of the machine lace industry, an early nineteenth century dictionary described Chard as follows:

10CHARD, a town in Somersetshire, consisting chiefly of

4 streets, which terminate near the market. It has several

streams running through it, and one in particular, which,

by being turned to the N. or S. will, it is affirmed, run into

the Bristol, or the English, Channel. Here is a small woollen

manufacture. It is 6 miles W. of Crewkerne, and 141W

by S. of London. Market on Monday

There are no Orams there as lacemakers in a Directory dated 1822. There was, however, a notice in the Leicester Journal in 1822. 11

Oram, needlemakers Chard

This may have referred to William and/or John. There is further evidence that some of the Orams were in Chard as early as 1822.

According to the life story of Margaret Bondfield, native of Chard and the first woman to attain cabinet rank in a British Government, her father started work in a tiny lace mill which had previously been the weaving shed of Oram (around the year 1822). This first Chard lace mill, operated by John Wheatley, soon moved to a larger premises and when this was destroyed by fire on Easter Sunday 1825, built a new factory, equipped with the latest machinery and powered by steam. John Oram must have moved back into his little mill and installed a few hand operated lace machines there, but the venture failed and he was bankrupt by 1842.. 12

This mill was within a few feet of where the Chard library now stands. 13 It was apparently demolished over thirty years ago, after being used as a dwelling house. John's factory was a hand operated machine lace factory producing plain net or `bobbinet'. Presumably, it was a small concern mainly operated by members of the family.

John had two of his brothers living in Chard; his youngest brother Abel, who was married to Mary Palmer at St Mary’s Church in 1827, and Benjamin who was living with Abel and family in 1841. By 1841 both brothers were probably working in John’s mill as both their occupations were mechanic in the Census of that year. They lived in Old Town Street as did John and his family.

"In the museum at Chard there are two posters on the wall, one is The Portreve of the Borough of Chard Jan 14th 1829,14 the other is a Declaration 22nd May 1832."15John Oram's name is on both of these.


We, the undersigned residents of the Town and Neighbourhood of Chard Somerset, request you to call a Meeting of the Inhabitants of the said Town and Neighbourhood,

for the purpose of petitioning Parliament, not to grant any further Political power to the Roman Catholics, without adequate Securities for the maintenance of the Protestant Constitution of the United Kingdom.




































































In compliance with the above requisition, I hereby appoint a MEETING, to be held at the Town-Hall, in Chard, on THURSDAY, the 22nd. of this Instant January, precisely at 12 o'Clock. JAMES GROVE, PORTREVE

Dated Chard, January 14, 1829.



                                                                               Repeated outrages and much disturbance of the public peace having recently occurred in the Town of Chard, --- We, the undersigned Magistrates, and other Inhabitants of the Town and Neighbourhood, feel it our duty to declare our entire disapprobation of such Proceedings, and our determination by every Constitutional means to repress all acts of Violence, and other breaches of the Peace, and to bring the Offenders to punishment. And we hereby, also, call on all well disposed Persons to aid and assist us in so doing.

In making this Declaration, we distinctly disclaim any wish whatsoever to interfere with the Political Opinions of any Man, our only object being to uphold that peace and good order of Society, on which the well being and character of this place so mainly depend. Dated May 22nd. 1832

Cornelius Pering                 B. Clarke                         John Glyde                     W.B.Whitehead,Magistrate & Vicar
Robert Cuff             Mary Rice                     James Grove Jun.                         J.B. Coles, Magistrate
John Gunn                 Isaac Drayton                 William Salter                                  W.Palmer, Magistrate
Samuel Edwards         James Hill             Charles Locock                             `    John Riste, Portreve
William Midelton             Samuel Hill             Charles Haydon                         James Stratton Coles
Robert Rio                         Thomas Forsey             Samuel Walter Jun.                         CharlesBenjamin Tucker
W, Forward                     William Wright             Samuel Ware Jun.                                 N. W. Spicer
Samuel Gare         Samuel England         Ebenezer Edwards                             Thomas Edward Clarke
Isaac Treasure             Henry Edwards             Catherine James                     William Loveridge
J. B. Edwards             Richard William Spicer         Simeon Symes                             Thomas Barnes
Thomas Pearce             Samuel Webb                     George Dunn                                 John Stuckey Lean
W. Shaddick Jun          Benjamin Treasure                 Thomas Bunston                     John Langdon
William Langdon                James Turner         William Edwards                 Ann Leman
George Palmer         HughTrenchard Chaffey             J. Edwards                         J. E. Norman
Thomas Grovham         William Brown         Christopher Pippen                     John Oram
G. I. Mason             C. W. Loveridge             John Stoodley                         John Toms
Samuel Chorley                 John Gare                 Charles Frost                 William Fowler
S. Webb for theHoly-Rood- Mill Company                 Nathaniel Jeffrey             Samuel Silvester     John Lovell
Thomas Massey             Richard Mayo         R. B. Brown                         George Wheadon
Thomas Deane             Robert Silvester             John Cook                                 F. W. Fryer
WilliamMounsten             John Silvester             John Fry                                     Joseph Fayrer


 John is listed on the Somerset Electoral Register of 183216

Hundred of Kingsbury, East: (pg 55 - Western Division)

Chard Parish

Number: 2338

Christian Name: John Oram

Place of abode: Chard

Nature of Qualification: freehold, Mill-lane factory

Name of tenant/Street Address of property: himself occupier


- Monday 16 May 1836

Election of Guardians at Chard.—

The election for the parish of Chard has terminated without a contest, in the return of the following gentlemen to fill the office of guardians :—Mr. John Oram, lace manufacturer, Mr. Thomas Deane, and Mr. John Bevis, jun., yeoman. 17




This map kindly sent to me by Roger Carter, curator of the Chard Museum (pers.comm May 3rd 2002) shows John’s land and factory and his dwelling “Old Town House”. The map was taken from the John Wood Map of 1841.













During the 1830s and 1840s there are newspaper reports indicating problems in the lace industry and the decline of the lace-trade at Chard. Perhaps these fluctuations influenced

John and William's decision to end their lace making activities.


The Times 12th May 1835 reports that18

Bobbin-net tatting quillings, of good qualities, are scarce, and in request . . . An advance upon cotton is talked of; should this be realized, which we expect will be the case, several descriptions of bobbin-net must inevitably rise. We understand the demand for blond is decreasing and that the prices are lowering. Another report..- Fine nets of all descriptions in breadths, and plain of a good quality, have a ready sale, and fetch the usual price.

The Times 6th July 1837: 19

The lace trade at Chard is getting into an alarming state of declension: hands are being discharged every week; and in the mill of Messrs. Weatly and Riste, the largest in this town, some of the first-rate workmen, who have been employed at high wages for years past, are now, after successive reductions of wages, no longer wanted, and consequently dismissed. - British Journal.

In 1837, there were problems with trade with America. America took a large proportion of England's lace exports. Felkin estimated that during the commercial crisis of 1837, over half of the lace machinery stopped working.

Saturday 08 August 1840

On Tuesday last, four boys were apprehended under a warrant of the Rev. W. B. Whitehead, for leaving the service of their masters, Messrs. Oram and Co., lace manufacturers, and were locked up until the following morning, when they were taken before Mr. Whitehead. It was proved by Mr. James Nowlen, clerk in the manufactory, that the prisoners had severally agreed for terms which were unexpired, and that they repeatedly left their employ without leave. Three of them were liberated on promising better behaviour and paying the expenses incurred; but the other, named Philip House, whose demeanor before the magistrates indicated anything but signs of amendment, was committed for two months to hard labour, which he will find no very pleasing occupation this warm weather. 20




Saturday 10 July 1841

Population of Chard. —The result of the census lately taken for this borough and parish is—Males, 2823 ; females, 2948: total 5771, being an increase of 630 only in the last ten years, including the inmates of the Union Workhouse. In the previous ten years, viz., from 1821 to 1831, the increase was 2035 ; but then, we are told, " the lace trade was at the height of its prosperity." This increase included the " surplus population" to which we adverted about two years since. The increase of 630 only during the last ten years is accounted for by the " depression of the lace trade a few years ago, when many families left the town." It was then that we also alluded to the number of void houses consequent upon the "depression" and fluctuation in the lace trade: it was then, too, that Mr. Alderman Cuff had the effrontery to say that "houses were never better occupied and rents never better paid" than at that period. We believe houses are now better occupied than they were then, and yet " the enumerators report many houses as void." Will the veracious Alderman dare contradict the enumerators ? Oh, no, there is note no malignant party spleen to gratify. 21


In the appendix to the Second Report of the Commissioners Trades and Manufactures Part 1 provides a wonderful insight into conditions in many trades and there is a section on the lace mills in Tiverton and  Bobbin-Net in Chard. One Benjamin Peydan aged 62, a native of Chard remembered when it was “all woolen factories”. He reports how the population has grown with the advent of the lace mills, which initially paid “very high wages”. “The town was once very riotous, but is now very quiet and steady.” (No 30) The working hours for many children are from 6 am to 7 pm with an hour and a half “out for meals” One man says that he was once paid 10s 5d for 100 “racks” of lace but is now in 1841 only paid 3s 6d. Apparently the work is much quicker so there is not too much difference in  real pay. It is interesting that the mills continued to work on Good Friday, with allowances for church or chapel. Christmas is the only fixed holiday in the year.

In the following evidence John Oram’s mill was the smallest in Chard and in thirteen years there had been no accidents. Interestingly the children’s diet seems mainly to consist of potatoes. As the pay is on quantity, wages depend on the quality of the machines and I wonder whether someone was stuck with a bad machine or whether they were rotated. One little 8 year old girl said she could do the work well and liked it but she would not stay as they called her nicknames. There seemed to have been a certain stigma attached to being a factory girl and one mother, Sarah Baulch said that “she would not like her “little maids”  to go to the factory if she could get them to “service”, as it is always said against a young person, “Oh! She is one of the factory girls.” January 21st 1841 22



John was once again subject to fire when his factory roof was ablaze. Luckily the damage was not too great but he didn’t have much luck with his watchmen!

Monday 15 November 1841


Fire.—About three o'clock on Saturday morning, the cry of " Fire" was raised in Chard; and it was soon ascertained that as some person was passing through Chard he discerned an unusual light issuing from the roof of the boiler-house of Mr. Oram's lace manufactory, in Mill Lane, and on watching it found it rapidly to increase, on which lie became alarmed and hastened to the spot ; where be discovered the roof of the premises to be on fire. A watchman was kept, but was, we understand found comfortably asleep on the premises. In a short litre the town was alarmed, and a numerous body collected. The town engines were procured and, by good management, the fire was soon got under without reaching the factory. The damage is confined to the combing-house and boiler house, the steam engine which adjoins we believe is not at all injured. Had the engines not been promptly brought to bear on tie fire and the connecting woodwork cut off, nothing could have saved the factory with its valuable stores from being rapidly destroyed. The properly consumed was insured is the Norwich Fire Office. 23


Things started to come to a head in 1842:

In 1842 there was a recession in the lace trade. Chard and had four lace mills at that time.

The environment in the factories was unbearable due to the hot dry weather. In response to the urging of a noted agitator 'Ruffy' Ridley and because their wages had been cut, the employees of Oram's factory downed tools and work ceased on 20th August.

On Monday 22nd August workers at the Wheatley & Riste mill, the largest in Chard, left their work peaceably, declaring that they too had their rights. A meeting of workers resulted in the Holyrood mill workers should also strike. The gates of Holyrood mill were besieged and the owner, a Mr Hill, was requested that he close his mill. He refused and the mayor issued a notice that all workers returned to work.

At 9 AM on Tuesday 23rd 200 strikers assembled to cheer the arrival of a troop of Scots Greys. Strikers met at the Field Bars and marched to Perry Street to turn out the workers at Messrs Cuff's factory. The Scots Grey were recalled and the mayor called in the Ilminster Yeomanry. The mob broke windows in Oram's and Hill's mills and also the mayor's house.

On Wednesday morning the mob met again. The mayor talked to them and they retired to form a deputation. The yeomanry remained mounted in the yards of the George and Chard Arms inns. At eleven the lace hands walked to Choughs Inn where they met a deputation of local tradesmen. When the marchers, together with the deputation, reached the George Inn the yeomanry emerged and drew across the road. Following request from the tradesmen the marchers were allowed to continue to the Town Hall. The worker's deputation (Holloway, Woodward and Galpin) stated that if the yeomanry withdrew they would maintain the peace. At 1 pm the yeomanry returned to Iliminster. The town returned to peace and quiet,

By September 8th the factories were in full production. 24


The calling in of the Scots Greys was  bitterly resented by the Town Council:


Saturday 08 October 1842

CHARD. " On Monday, August 22nd, the workmen of Messrs. Wheatly and Riste suddenly left their work, and, as it is called, " turned out." These, uniting with others belonging to Mr. Oram's factory, previously out of employment, proceeded at 2 o'clock, when the workpeople of Mr. Hill's factory returned from dinner, and forcibly prevented them, by threats, and by blockading the gates of the premises, from going into work. A few of the workmen, however, were admitted into the factory through a private garden. About an hour after this, Mr. Hill came to the Mayor in great alarm, and, after some conversation, swore that he apprehended tumult, riot, and felony, would take place in the borough, and that serious damage would be done to his property, praying, at the same time, that the justices would adopt such measures for his protection and the preservation of the peace as they might deem necessary." Under all the circumstances the Magistrates came to the conclusion, that they should not be justified in placing reliance on any assistance to be obtained in the Borough from civil force. Accordingly an application, setting forth the circumstance and requiring immediate assistance, was dispatched to the commanding officer of the Scots Greys, stationed at Taunton; a request was at the same time forwarded to Lieut. Nicholetts, begging him to hold the llminster Troop of Yeomanry in readiness to assist us, if necessary. Simultaneously with these steps which were taken, a notice was served on all the householders of the town, to hold themselves in readiness to be sworn in Special Constables. The messenger who delivered it reported that in several instances the answer was, that the parties would mind their own houses. This went far to confirm the opinion as to the little reliance to be placed on civil aid. The Scots Greys no sooner marched into the town, than their appearance excited the utmost clamour from members of the Town Council. Soon after the arrival of the Troop, an order was received by the commanding officer, with an immediate route for Clifton, when they left the town. By this time also reports had reached which proved to be true, that the "turn-outs" were visiting the farm houses in the neighbourhood of Mr. Cuffs Factory, and demanding and obtaining large quantities of liquor. Expecting from this that the "turn-outs" would return into the town with increased numbers, and in an intoxicated state, and fearing from the confidence and advantage which the removal of the soldiers, and the outcry against their being called in, had given them, that they would be excited into committing some excess, it was considered, that after the avowed refusal of inhabitants to render assistance, there was no alternative, except to leave the town without any protection, but to call in the Yeomanry, who in consequence were applied to. " The Mayor told the " turn-outs" that if they would return peaceably to their homes, and refrain from molesting those who were willing to work, the military would be no longer wanted, and would leave the town. Immediately all the working classes left the town, and held a meeting out of the Borough, which occupied some considerable time to consider what they would do. The result was that the " turnouts " could not unanimously agree to comply with the terms of the overture which had been made. " We then proceeded to resume protective measures by issuing our precepts requiring the inhabitants to attend before us to be sworn in special constables. We had scarcely commenced doing so when eight or ten of the most influential tradesmen and others of the town, including several of the Town Council, (two of them being the ex-Magistrates,) rushed in a body into the Magistrates' room, and urgently requested us to withdraw the military, stating that they would undertake to answer for the peace of the town. By this interference our powers of acting effectively became neutralized, or could only be carried into operation at a most frightful responsibility. We therefore felt that as the inhabitants chose to take the responsibility upon themselves, we had no alternative but to comply with the call which was made upon us, and accordingly, having first required and obtained a written guarantee, signed by the parties who had waited on us, we deemed it right to dispense with the further services of the Yeomanry ; not however, we again declare, without demanding that the troop should leave the town without annoyance, and receiving a promise that for that purpose the mob should be all drawn off from the street. " In consequence of the distrust and dissatisfaction manifested by the Council, and the control and influence extended against us under the circumstances related, we felt that we could no longer hold an appointment under that body. We therefore tendered our resignation of the offices which we held, and assigned our reasons for so doing.'" In reply they received a communication through the Town Clerk, referring them to the resolutions of a meeting, wherein the best thanks of the Council were tendered to the Magistrates, and the fullest confidence was expressed in their ability and promptness, deploring that after the engagement entered into of securing the unmolested departure of the Yeomanry, any breach of faith should be imputed to the parties, trusting the Council had fully satisfied the justly wounded feelings of the Magistrates ; and assuring them that the highest satisfaction the Council could receive would be their continuance in office. The statement concludes as follows : — " Feeling strongly and decidedly on the subject, we inflexibly adhered to our resignation as we intimated to the Council. The result was a refusal, grounded on the foregoing Resolution to accept our resignations, and to allow, us to retire, except on payment of the fines. Of this we complain. The Mayor having been elected out of his turn to take the office which he holds, at your special and urgent request, and having repudiated the principle of holding office to be under your control, we complain, that after tendering our resignations to you, who had the power of immediately supplying our places with more willing instruments to carry out your views, any petty or sordid feelings should have prevailed to induce you to take what we shall always consider to be an unfair and unwarrantable advantage ; enforcing us to retain office, the duties of which we were obstructed in discharging in an honourable and efficient manner, not only by your unjustifiable interference, but active opposition. RD. WM. SPICER 24a

 John received some compensation £4 13s 9d

 Saturday 01 October 1842

CHARD. Special Petty Session.— We last week observed that the individuals whose property sustained damage during the late riotous proceedings here, had given the requisite notices to the Hundred Constable (Norris), and against the church doors, of their intention to claim compensation from the Hundred of Kingsbury East. A special petty session of all the Justices of the division acting for the above hundred was accordingly appointed by those gentlemen to beholden at the Chard Arms Hotel, on the 27th inst. So after the hour fixed for the meeting, the following gentlemen took their seats on the bench ; namely, Rev. W. Palmer, D D Rev. W. B. Whitehead, Rev. j. S. Coles, J. B. Coles Esq., C. W. Loveridge, Esq., John Hussey, Esq., S. Pitt, Esq. The case of Mr. Hill, lace manufacturer, was first called on; when the notices being duly proved, and the other requisites shown to have been compiled with,—that gentleman detailed shortly the proceedings of the rioters, and their threats to pull down his mill and house, together with the damage done to the latter on the evening of the 23rd of August. He knew none of the parties who had used threats. Order made for the amount claimed, £2 15s. and costs, the evidence in the other case being nearly of the same description, it a needless to go through it here : suffice it to say, that similar orders were made in favour of all the claimants ; namely, R. W. Spicer, Esq. (Mayor), £1; Mr. Oram, lace manufacturer, £4 13s. 9d.; Mr. Nathaniel Jeffery, George Inn, £1 ; and Mr. Toms, £1. The Rev. Dr. Palmer, as Chairman, said, that the Bench wished it to be understood, that persons riotously assembling and demolishing wholly or in part, the property of any individual, could not do so with impunity ; such attacks and injury to property failed to effect the object intended by the destroyers, as would be seen by that day's proceedings, which they trusted would operate as an example and warning. 25

In 1843 the price of plain bobbin net was the lowest figure at which they had ever been sold. 26 John obviously prospered during the twenties and thirties and became a man of some standing in the community. It seems unlikely that his venture was a large one but perhaps with the help of his brothers he was able to do well enough to ride some of the earlier dramatic fluctuations in the lace industry. The nature of his partnership with William is not clear. It would certainly appear that John was the leading partner for some time as the Directory entries all put his name first. It seems that John had an interest in the Nottingham business whereas William does not appear to have had an interest in the Chard business.

In 1839, John Oram & Co., lace manufacturers were at the Mill Lane Factory, Chard. In 1840 and 1842 he is listed as being at Old Town Chard. Mill Lane running into Old Town Street was a factory not a dwelling house. The mill still stands, and parts of it are still let to small firms. On the top floor is one of the original lace machines, maybe one of our ancestors worked it.27


28 To the Nobility, Gentry, Clergy, Yeomanry, and other Inhabitants of the Towns and Neighbourhoods of CHARD, CREWKERNE, ILMINSTER, and SOUTH PETHERTON in the County of Somerset.

 the Undersigned, request the attendance of all Persons of the above District, who may approve of the establishment therein of a FRIENDLY SOCIETY, upon a sound principle and on an extensive scale,

at a PUBLIC MEETING  to be held at the George Inn, in Ilminster, on Tuesday, the 12th day of February next, at Twelve o'clock, tor the purpose of forming and bringing into operation such Society forthwith.

 Dated 30th January, 1839.

Bridport Thos. E. Clarke, Jun, John Riste T. Axe
H. Powell Collins Richd. Bridge John Oram Richard Lowe
William Speke John Bishop Wm. Rodbard C.Penny
William Raban W. Middleton C. W. Loveridge Robt. Lowman
Robert Raban Arthur Tucker John Baker J.E.Norman
Henry Knowles J. W. Clarke W. Forward George Salter
Thomas Duke Thos. Palmer George Ware John Budd
John Dampney Thos. Deane J. Langdon Thomas Wilce, Jun
Samuel Ware Wm. Tierney Elton Chas. Ben. Tucker William Higgins
B. Peren Richard Wyatt W. G. Dymock Isaac Sparks
W.J. Bussell John Long Jas. Stayner W. F. Cuff
J. C. Cox John Wm. Spicer Thos. E. Clarke William Sparks
James Benj. Coles James Winter C. Woodcock E. Bowdage
W. B. Whitehead


Chas. Haydon, Lieut R.N., J.

Churchwarden of the Parish of Chard

Henry Bond T. M. Sparks


Edwin Lance John Banfield S. Bridge William Ewens
John Nicholetts J. W. Templeman Amos Helliar J.Ford
R. W. Spicer Mayor of Chard Thomas Templeman Henry Codrington George T. Williamson
John Toms Thos. A. Baker John E. Norman, Church

warden of the Borough of Chard

John Whitman
J. B. Edmonds J. Symes Capt. R.N W. Loveridge Zachariah Chick
Wm. Goodall H. Jolliffe J.S.Coles John Beviss, Jun.
Alex. Templeman Samuel Wills John Gerard W. Phelps
W. Fowler Jno. Young William Norris W. Duinmctt and Son
John Hecks Robt. Young J. M. Tern pieman Joseph Cross, Vicar
John lndge Walter Galpin S. S. Sparks Samuel Webb
Wm. Routledge E. S. Burnard Robt. Perry Robert Norton
William Vincent Merriott Edward Brown John Wheadon John Clyde
Isaac Treasure W.C. Bicknell J. Horsey and Son Thos. Bidgood
William Brooks Thos. Noon William H. Webb James Grove, Jun.
Samuel Gare Saml. Cotlell R. James Josiah French
Robert Marsh Edward Hodge John Murly John Vincent
Wm. French Simeon Symes Robert England John Silvester
Paul Reed Robert Silvester F. Hayward Samuel Stuckey
Thos. Hagley George Dunn William Rousell James Cuff


In 1840 John is also entered in the Somerset Gazette under the heading of Gentry & Private Families:

            ORAM John                   High St, Chard 29

Saturday 28 March 1840


CHARD. Church-rate.— At a vestry Meeting, numerously and respectably attended, and which was convened at the school this morning (Thursday), pursant to due notice, a rate was, —on the motion of Mr. J. Welch, seconded by Mr. J Wall, two principal farmers of the parish,— unanimously granted, two-thirds of which will be forthwith collected in the parish, and one-third in the borough, according to ancient custom. New Overseers. — At the Lady-day meeting of the Parishioners, Messrs.John Oram, John Phillips, Benjamin Hodder, Zachariah Major, and James Burrow, were chosen overseers of the parish for the year ensuing. On the same day, at the Town Hall, Messrs. Jams Smith and Richard Keeping, were selected as Overseers for the borough. 30





In 1841 31John and his family were listed in the census as living at Old Town Street.

John Oram 50 lace manufacturer

Sophia Oram 50         
Sarah Oram 15           
William Oram 14
Sophia Oram 12
Mary Oram      5
Richard May 40 minister

And one female servant Jane Solway 21

 John, Sophia, Sarah and the minister Richard May were not born in Somerset. Sarah would have been born about 1826.

Saturday 8 May 1841

LIST OF NEW PATENTS FOR APRIL, 1841. (Abridged from Newton and Berry's list.) John Oram, of Chard, in the county of Somerset, machinist, for improved machinery or apparatus, for making or manufacturing netted fabrics.-Sealed 31st March. 32


In the "CHARD BAPTISTS" by Michael BONNINGTON, 1997 Pg 113: 27 Oct 1841 there is mention of John and his brother Benjamin  -  “Planning Meeting re new Chapel, Building Committee includes John & Benjamin ORAM as members.” . 33

The Chapel was opened in June of 1843:



Saturday 24 June 1843


CHARD. The weather at length appears to have become settled, and haymaking is going on in all directions. In a great many places potatoes are being relocated, the wet having destroyed the former seed. The new Baptist Chapel in Holyrood-street was opened on .Wednesday last; and being a fine day, a great influx of " dissenters of all denominations" into the town was the consequence. The building is a handsome one, and as such, an ornament to the street; it is also very commodious, perhaps unnecessarily so. We were struck at seeing most  of the ministers of the multifarious sects which swarm here (one springing out of another) wending their way into the new chapel, conscientiously of course, praying it might prosper; while next Sunday, probably, they may he at loggerheads in their opinions about baptism. Such inconsistency, for to us it appears such, merits at least exposure. 34

In 1841 Deverill's machine marked a turning-point in the history of machine-made lace. Prior to this date machines were designed to make a particular pattern; but after Deverill's success, new machinery, especially the leavers lace machine, became highly versatile. ....Deverill's machine was important not only because of its effect upon the quality and range of fancy laces which it could produce: of equal importance was its suitability for operation by steam power. 35


On 22nd July 1843, the following notice appeared in The Times.



22nd July 1843

John Oram, Chard, Somersetshire, lace-manufacturer, Aug. 3, 29, at 2'oclock, at the Bankrupts District Court, Exeter: solicitors, Mr. Church, Bedford-row; Mr. Dommett, Chard; and Mr. Tyrrell, Exeter; official assignee, Mr. Hanaman, Exeter 36






1 September 1843


JOHN HERMAN MERIVALE; Esq. one of Her Majesty's

Commissioners authorized to act in the prosecution

of Fiats in Bankruptcy in the Exeter District

Court of Bankruptcy, has appointed a public sitting for the

allowance of a Certificate of conformity to John Oram, of

Chard, in the county of Somerset, Lace Manufacturer, Dealer

and Chapman against whom a Fiat in Bankruptcy, bearing

date the 15th of July 1843, has been duly issued, to beholden

at the District Court of Bankruptcy, at Exeter, on the 28th

day of September instant, at eleven of the clock in the forenoon,

at which sitting any of the creditors of the said bankrupt

may be heard against the allowance of such Certificate.38


Saturday 02 September 1843  39

NEW COURT OF BANKRUPTCY FOR THE EXETER DISTRICT, Tuesday, August 29. Re John Oram, of Chard, lace manufacturer. The bankrupt passed his last examination. 


Oct. 6, 1843


CERTIFICATES. ......allowed Oct. 27 Oram John, of Chard, lace manufacturer    40


28 November 1843


EDWARD GOULBURN, Esq. Serjeant at Law, one of

Her Majesty's Commissioners authorized to act under

a Fiat in Bankruptcy, bearing the 15th day of July 1843,

awarded and issued forth against John Oram, of Chard

in the county of Somerset, Lace Manufacturer, Dealer and

Chapman, will sit on the 21st of December next, at half past

One of the clock in the afternoon precisely,- at the Court

of Bankruptcy for the Exeter District, in the city of Exeter*

in order to make a Dividend of the estate and effects

of the said bankrupt; when and where the creditors

who have not already proved their debts, are to Come prepared

to prove the same, or they will be excluded the benefit

of the said Dividend. And all claims riot then proved will

be disallowed



 In September 1844 there is an advertisement for the sale of John's Mill and Factory:



Thu 5 Sep 1844  42



Freehold Factory, Steam Engine, Lace Machines &c.&c.




TO BE SOLD OR LET, all that Excellent Roomy and Convenient FREEHOLD MILL and FACTORY, with Workshops, Dwelling-House for a Foreman, Counting-House, Engine-House, and Yard thereto belonging, situate in Mill-lane, in the Town of Chard, late in the occupation of Mr. John Oram, Lace Manufacturer; with an excellent Eight Horse Power STEAM ENGINE, on the principle of Boulton and Watt, and the Driving Gear and Line Shafts complete and ready for Work. Also, SIX LACE MACHINES, some of which are ready to be put to work immediately.

            A considerable part of the Premises are newly built, and may be easily appropriated to the Lace, Silk, Flax, or Woollen Manufacture. Chard is supplied with Coals by Canal, which are consequently cheap, and the Mill has a constant stream of Water flowing through the Premises. To treat for the same apply to Messrs. CLARKE & Co. Solicitors, Chard.


The fact that John had a steam engine for sale is interesting it was thought that his mill was hand operated as is stated by Margaret Bonfield (see above). This must only to have applied to the

first mill that burnt down in 1825.


 For a visual demonstration of the  Boulton and Watt engines

INDENTURE dated 11 April 1851

“Between John ORAM late of Chard, Somerset now residing at 29 Fulham Place, Paddington Middlesex, machinist and Francis HANAMAN, of the City of Exeter, Gentleman, John TOMS of Chard, Grocer, Benjamin ORAM of Sheepshead near Loughborough, Leicester, Mechanic and Joseph GUNDRY of Bridport, Esquire”

John ORAM was granted letters patent for his invention of ‘Improved Machinery or Apparatus for making or manufacturing netted fabrics’ on 1 March 1841. John ORAM owed Benjamin ORAM the sum of £100. Francis Hernaman and John TOMS contracted with Joseph GUNDRY for the absolute sale to Joseph GUNDRY of John ORAM’s interest in the patent for £60. Joseph GUNDRY also paid £100 for Benjamin ORAM’s interest in the patent. 43   


NEW COURT OF BANKRUPTCY FOR THE EXETER DISTRICT, Re John Oram.—The bankrupt, a lace manufacturer of Chard, applied for his certificate, which was granted without opposition.  44 


Dividends.—J. Oram, Chard, lace manufacturer further div. of Id. in the pound, any Tuesday or Friday after Dec. 5, at the office of Mr Hanaman, Exeter. 45

One problem John may have faced was the obsolescence of his machinery. During the thirties obsolescence occurred on a huge scale and between 1833 and 1836.46

25 May 1844

CHARD.. Fire.—On Monday, about eight p.m., a fire broke out in one of the bed-rooms of Mr. John Oram, near the King's Head Inn. An engine was soon on the spot, but the active exertions of the neighbours had succeeded in subduing it. It was occasioned by a maid servant going in and out of the room with a lighted candle, which caught the window. 43curtain. Hay-making. —Mr. John Hecks, of Lords Leaze Farm, near this town, last week cut and carried a field of hay.47


Saturday 23 January 1847 DIED. January 10, in London, Sarah, eldest daughter of Mr. John Oram, formerly of Chard. 48





In 1851 John and his family were living at 29 Fulham Rd in Paddington, London. 49

            John Oram head married 62 m gentleman b Sheepshead , Lei

            Sophia Oram wife married 59 f  b Coles Prestwood Lei

            Mary E Oram  15 b Chard Som

            Benjamin Oram brother unmarried 59 b Sheepshead Lei

            Ann Potter visitor 36 b Cuttifords Door, Som

            Ellen Ahern servant b Ireland

I have found neither John nor Sophia in the 1861 Census so they may have died sometime between the censuses.



1. British Vital Records FHL Number 816004 Dates:1820-1820 Note:3112

2. British Vital Records FHL Number 816013 Dates:1820-1820 Note:3187

2a The Times, Dec 25, 1822; pg. 2; Issue 11751; col E
2b Many thanks to Mike Gould for finding this reference Leicester Chronicle, Saturday 16th April 1825 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

3. Worcester Journal - Thursday 21 April 1825, p.4 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

4.  Northampton Mercury - Saturday 23 June 1827 TRANSCRIPT© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

5. Christie, P. & Gahan, D. .Barnstaple's Vanished Lace Industry 1997. Edward Gaskell, Devon. P 12

6 Christie, P. & Gahan, D. .Barnstaple's Vanished Lace Industry 1997. Edward Gaskell, Devon. P 13

7.  Letter of Dianne Birks to authors dated 7 January, 1994.

8. Letter of Dianne Birks to authors dated 15 November, 1993.

9. Roy A. Church, Economic and Social Change in a Midland Town, Victorian Nottingham 1815-1900. Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. 1966. pp. 64 -71

10. The Times. 25 December 1822. p. 2. col. d.

11. James Barclay, Curate of Edmonton, Barclay's Complete and Universal Dictionary. Although the title page is missing we think it is the 1810 edition published in Liverpool. (NUC Press 1956 Imprints 1a 742 + 792d) 27cm.

12.  Birks, `Lace and Luddism.' p. 27.

13. Letter of Len Hoskins to Gwen Oram dated 4 October 1995.

14. ibid.

15. Letter of Gwen Oram to authors dated October 1995. Thanks to Gwen and to the Chard Museum.

16. Letter of Gwen Oram to authors dated October 1995. Thanks to Gwen and to the Chard Museum

17. Sherborne Mercury - Monday 16 May 1836 P4 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

18.  The Times. 12 May 1835. p. 5. col. b.

19. The Times. 6 July 1837. p. 6. col. c.

20.  Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 08 August 1840 p 3 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

21.Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 10 July 1841 P 3 TRANSCRIPT© THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

22.   .the Second Report of the Commissioners Trades and Manufactures Part 1

Source CMD Paper No4701 Political crimes and offenses - Ireland/Public policy (Law) - Ireland Publisher HMSO

Breviate Page198 Sessional papers Volume 54 Sub Volume 1 Session1886

 23  Sherborne Mercury - Monday 15 November 1841p3 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 24. Tales from the Museum booklet number 9, entitled Riotous Assemblages and other Picnics - Lace and other Riots at
Published by the Chard Museum


24a Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 08 October 1842 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

25. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 01 October 1842, p 3 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

26. Felkin, W. A history of the machine-wrought hosiery and lace manufactures Longmans, Green, and co., 18,  p 425 Google EBook


27.Letter of Gwen Oram, to authors dated October 1995


28.Sherborne Mercury - Monday 11 February 1839 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

29. Letter of Gwen Oram, to authors dated October 1995 

30.  Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 28 March 1840 p 3 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 31 Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841. Kew, Surrey, England Class: HO107; Piece: 949; Book: 3; Civil Parish: Chard; County: Somerset; Enumeration District: 3; Folio: 11; Page: 14; Line: 24; GSU roll: 474600. 1841 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2010. 

32 Preston Chronicle - Saturday 08 May 1841 p 4 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

33 Letter of R.J.E. Bush, Somerset P.R.O. to authors dated 4 July 1989

34.Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 24 June 1843  Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

35.Roy A. Church, Economic and Social Change in a Midland Town, Victorian Nottingham 1815-1900. Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. 1966. p. 97.

36. The Times. 22nd July, 1843. p. 5. col. b.

37. Reports of cases in bankruptcy: argued and determined in the Court of Review ...By Basil Montagu, Edward Erastus Deacon, Edward Chitty, Great Britain. Court of Review, Sir John Peter De Gex

38 The London Gazette Gazette. Issue 20257 published on the 1 September 1843. Page 24 of 36

39 .Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 02 September 1843 Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette -

40 Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette - Saturday 07 October 1843 p 5 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

41.The London Gazette Issue 20289 published on the 28 November 1843   Page 23 of 40  

42. Bradford Observer  Thu 05 Sep 1844  Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

43.Documents relating to John ORAM of Chard. [D/BGL:A 38) (Extracted from Document 2) Dorset Record Office

44. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 30 September 1843 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

45 Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 06 December 1851 p 3 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

46 Roy A. Church, Economic and Social Change in a Midland Town, p. 100.

47.Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Sat 25 May 1844 p 3 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

48 Sherborne Mercury - Saturday 23 January 1847 P 4 Transcript © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

49 Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841. Kew, Surrey, England HO107; Piece: 1466; Folio: 155; Page: 34; GSU roll: 87787. 1851 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2010.