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Thursday, 15 March 2012

3. Albert Ray's Buckinghamshire Ancestors.

Family mythology had it that Albert Edward Ray's name had been passed to him from his father and grandfather and before that came from France - Albert Eduard. While the name Ray is probably originally French (either Roi, from the servants of the king or from Old French 'raier', to gush, for someone who lived near a stream), Bert's father, like many of his time, was the first Albert Edward in the family, the result of Queen Victoria naming her first son Albert Edward (Edward VII) in 1841.

Whether this Ray family's forebears came to England with the Normans in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, or with the Huguenots in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - or indeed acquired the name another way, remains to be researched. There is a River Ray in Buckinghamshire that might bear investigation.

Bert's grandfather was in fact, Thomas Ray, his great-grandfather Robert Ray and back through two generations of John Ray's to William Ray, 1675-1727. William was born in Piddington, Oxfordshire, probably a farm worker, and married Margery Mukell, born in Buckinghamshire in 1677.

Their son, John seems to have married Sarah Coxhead, of Buckinghamshire, by licence in St Mary Magdalen, Beckley, Oxfordshire and the couple settled in Marsh Gibbon, Buckinghamshire in 1836 where they had seven children, all of whom lived their lives either in Marsh Gibbon or the neighbouring Edgcott as agricultural labourers.

Their son John drew the attention of authorities in 1806 at the age of 57, when he was accused of stealing a rail fence, an accusation dismissed by proclamation.

St Mary's Twyford
The same John had married Mary Pangston of the neighbouring parish of Twyford in 1775 and this couple also had seven children, baptised in the local parish of Twyford. All their children were agricultural labourers. Their youngest son, Robert, married Mary Susannah Tue of Charndon, Buckinghamshire in 1818 and Robert and Mary's son, Thomas, born a year later, was our Bert Ray's grandfather.

Robert and Mary had eight children,  at a time when enclosures and urbanisation were forcing people off the land. Mary died aged 61, but Robert lived into his 80s, a pauper for the last decade, taking in lodgers to make ends meet.

the ground of Bucks lace
Their children were mostly labourers or married to labourers, but the women and children began, as did many others, to take up lacemaking to supplement their income. Bucks lace, worked on bobbins, was bought by travelling middle-men who visited the main lacemaking villages, amongst which were Charndon, Chearsley and Marsh Gibbon.

At least 16 of the women in Robert and Mary's extended family in these three villages were lacemakers in the nineteenth century: Susannah, Ann, Fanny, Mary, and two Sarah Rays, Rebecca, Martha and Mary Ann Lamburn, Ann, Mary and Martha Parker, Sarah and Elizabeth Badrick, Mary North and Anne Neary.

The industry was served by lacemaking schools, run by a village woman in her home. Parents paid a small amount for their children to attend and be drilled in lacemaking. As they learned, their lace was sold to the laceman and the profit shared between teacher and parent. More than one Ray female aged 8 is listed as lacemaker on censuses.

As the century drew to a close, machine-made Nottingham lace put the cottage industry out of business. In 1880 legislation made primary schooling compulsory, speeding up the closure of lace schools.

There was a lot of hardship and exploitation associated with Bucks lace. It did, however, enable families on or below the poverty line a tiny margin that gave them options they would not otherwise have in a society that was shedding the agricultural way of life on which so many depended.

The one who saw his chance and seized it, was Thomas Ray, Robert and Mary's eldest son, and Bert Ray's grandfather.

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