My seven times maternal great-grandfather, William Ray, 1675-1727, was born in Piddington, Oxfordshire. He was 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|
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|
At least 17 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, Rosa Briscoe,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.
I am very proud of my association with these women, their skill and labour to improve their families' lot. I include as much of their story as I have been able to reconstruct in my blog because their contribution should not be forgotten