Samuel Barlow - the Man Behind the Name
Samuel Barlow - the Man Behind the Name
This article was authored by Christopher Jones who very kindly permitted us to reproduce.
The name Samuel Barlow is known throughout the canal world because of his association with the Canal Carrying Company that bore his name. For the Friends of nb “Raymond” this is of particular relevance as the boat was the last wooden boat built in this country, as well as that for the company.
But who was the man behind name? , where did he come from ? and how did he achieve so much in such as short time ? In this series of articles I hope to reflect on the life of Samuel Barlow using original documents to enable us to build up a picture of his life and the legacy he left to our canals.
Article 1 - The Origins of Samuel Barlow.
The man who was to give his name to the famous canal-carrying company was born on 28th August 1847 in a cottage at Bedworth Hill, Exhall, Warwickshire beside the Coventry canal that would play should an important part in his life. (photo ?)
Samuel was the eldest child of John and Mary Barlow (nee Bradbury) who had married that year at All Saints, Bedworth, the bridegroom being 21 , the bride just 18.
John Barlow was a boatman born and bred in the Bedworth/Exhall area. Like his sons it is believed his early working life was on the coal and stone-carrying boats traveling between North Warwickshire and London or Birmingham.
Following the birth of Samuel other children were born to John and Mary in quick succession. Susanna, Thomas, John, Charles, Isaac, Lucy, Catherine, Sarah and James. All except Charles and Isaac, who died as infants, were to marry into other canal families and these relationships were to be key to the success of Samuel’s company.
However from sources we get a picture of life for the Barlow children in their rented cottage beside the canal. Whilst their father was away with the boats Mary and the older children were occupied in the home-based hand loom weaving industry that employed large numbers of people in the hamlets between Coventry and Nuneaton.
Mary is described in census’ as a silk ribbon weaver, producing fine ribbons that were then purchased by a middle man to be sold on to the shops. Samuel himself is described as a silk ribbon turner as 14 year old in the 1861 census. The ribbon weaving industry was fashion-led and a recession would put whole villages in the area out of work and on the verge of starvation.
Mary’s siblings were also all engaged in this weaving industry though the Bradbury family could trace their ancestry in the Bedworth area back into Stuart times mainly as local Butchers, like Mary’s father Thomas.
But where did John Barlow come from ??
John was baptised in 1826, the second child of Samuel Barlow and his wife Sarah ( nee Cooper).
Samuel and Sarah had married in 1823 at Chilvers Coton Church, Nuneaton, she was 21, his age is not known. The minister officiating was Rev Ebdell who three years later would baptise one Mary Ann Evans – known to the literary world as George Elliott. In her novels Evans would use the hamlets and villages of North Warwickshire dominated by the hand-loom weaving and coal mining industries as the bases for her stories.
Their family grew in size and it is believed both Samuel and Sarah worked from home as hand loom weavers. By 1833 the couple had had five children but two had died as infants. Around this time they moved home to Stockingford, then a small hamlet on the west side of Nuneaton.
But then tragedy struck. Stockingford had begun to grow as a hamlet in the 1820s and with its expansion courtyard housing – often overcrowded with damp, unsanitary conditions with no individual water supplies – had sprung up.
In 1832 a cholera epidemic killed 24 people in the hamlet. Handloom weavers worked long hours in dust-filled rooms as the silk had to be worked in an enclosed environment and so already had low life expectancy. In May 1833 Samuel was buried at Stockingford. 12 days later his son, also named Samuel was baptised at the same church. We do not know what killed Samuel but it was likely to have been either a bronchial or cholera type disease.
Under the Settlement Acts of 1662 a family deemed to be a burden on the Poor Law were the responsibility of the parish from where they originated unless they had permission to stay in their new parish. For Sarah and her young family this meant she was forcibly removed from Stockingford back to Foleshill – then a village to the North of Coventry where presumably Samuel had come from originally. We have no record of his parentage but Barlow’s are recorded in the area from the 1760s.
By the 1850s the handloom weaving industry began to decline as factory working took over and many men in the Nuneaton/Bedworth area looked to the canals and collieries for work. We do not know when John ( and Thomas) first began work on the canals or how they got involved with the industry but both were on the boats by the late 1840s.
So we have seen that Samuel Barlow was the product of a North Warwickshire family based largely in the hand loom weaving industry. His father and uncle branched out into the expanding canal carrying centred on the Coventry canal and the hamlets and collieries that ran along side it. How then did he develop his own company with such success ??
Acknowledgments – Parts of this article are based on the work of Janice Wright (nee Barlow) and Alan Faulkner. Thanks are due to both of these persons for their permission to use their work.
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