Thomas Duck and Elizabeth Litchfield
The journey of the Duck family over the years has endured many tragedies and joys.
So, where did the Duck family begin? The beginning is often the hardest place to start when you are researching families. There are many who have claimed connections to the LeDuc family in France and the website www.houseofnames.com states that the Duck name comes from Europe in the Middle Ages. And yet another site states that the Duck name derives from the surname Dook or even Duke.
Research suggests that there was even a Duke William Duck at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD. However, the only Duke William I can find is William the Conqueror and I am not convinced that this statement is true. With all information at hand, it is hard to determine the origins of the Duck family at this stage without further supporting evidence.
Thomas Duck and Elizabeth Litchfield began the Duck family in Australia. They came to Australia in 1848 on board the ship “Agincourt” with seven of their children and one being born enroute. Thomas was a lacemaker and Elizabeth a Tambour Worker (lace making on a free standing frame).
The struggles in France and England with lacemaking which caused the immigration of one group of the Duck family to Australia has created a world of descendents who connect through many medias and remain curious about what family stock they come from.
The history of the Duck lacemakers began in Nottingham, England. The Duck family had been making lace since the 1700s. In the early 1800s lace was handmade which was a slow and arduous process. However, the invention of lacemaking machines in the late 1700s began a chain of events that led to the immigration of Thomas and Elizabeth to Australia.
The industrial revolution in lacemaking began with John Heathcote inventing the first lace making machine and receiving patents in 1808 and 1809 for the machines. These machines created bobbin net lace with a simpler and more readily produced mesh than that of the hand made lace made by the Duck family. For many years thousands of people had been employed in and about Nottingham in the embroidering of simple ornament on net and this all changed with John Heathcote's invention.
In 1813 John Leavers began to improve the figured net weaving machines patented by John Heathcote. But it was the application of the Jacquard apparatus to these machines that enable manufacturers to produce patterns to imitate the patterns for hand made lace. Consequently, hand made lace areas in England began to feel the effect of the progress in lacemaking machines and cottage industries suffered.
Foreign lace makers could not get hold of the Leavers Machine as the British government banned export of such new machines on punishment of death. This law was to protect valuable industrial secrets.
At the time, many famous laces were designed in France, including Chantilly, Lyons, Calais, and Valenciennes. However, the French Revolution dealt a nearly fatal blow to the French lacemaking industry. At the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the passion for all things expensive and exquisite was instantly ended. Lace was too much associated with the careless extravagance of the aristocracy, some of whom were losing their famously coiffed heads at the guillotine. Some of the craftspeople who made lace were also executed for their service to the now-despised nobility. The sudden lack of demand, as well as the risk of personal injury, made lacemaking a very undesirable profession during this period.
Northern France lacemaking areas realized that to survive, lacemaking machines were required. However, the English ban on the export of the machines prevented the legal import of the machines. The machines were smuggled into Calais in parts and the first French looms were installed in Saint-Pierre-les-Calais in 1816 and in Caudry in 1820.
In 1830, the Jacquard system was adapted to the Leavers loom. This innovation meant that for the first time, all the elements in machine-made lace could be made at the same time, just as with hand-made lace. This technological progress meant that an infinite number of designs could be made. This would be the key of the lace-making industry, in the 1840s.
Thomas and Elizabeth Duck joined hundreds of families who relocated to Calais, France. Wages in Nottingham had reduced by more than 30% and it could be guessed that a promise of high wages forced them to move to France to survive and escape the impoverish conditions in Nottingham. The birth of their children indicates that the relocation occurred between 1837 and 1839. Calais is a port town in the North West of France, directly opposite and 21 miles (33.8 klms) from Dover, England. Today, it is the terminal for the Cross-channel ferry.
English ex-patriots built rows of terraced houses in the St-Pierre district of Calais with space for their workshops. Some also went to Caudry, near Cambrai, and opened lace factories there. Thomas and Elizabeth lived in Calais, France for ten years.
The French February Revolutions in 1848 forced the closure of factories, including the lace factories, putting thousands of people out of work. The King of France, Louis Philippe, abdicated and fled to England for refuge. The French citizens became hostile towards the English workers in Calais and life in France was difficult.
The English lace makers looked to England for support and work. A meeting took place on March 21, 1848 to discuss the options for the English workmen. Below, is a letter from the chairman of that meeting to the controversial English Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston:
“On 22 March 1848 the English Consul in Calais transmitted to Lord Palmerston the following petition
"To the Members of the British Government.
In accordance with the sentiments unanimously expressed at a meeting of the English workmen, convened for that purpose in the English church, at St. Pierre les Calais, on this day, March 21, 1848, the following memorial is respectfully presented to your Lordships.
The object of your memorialists is to direct your attention to the singular and painful circumstances in which they are placed by the changes which have been effected in the government of this country.
The present state of money affairs in this country, added to the entire want of confidence in the public mind, has reduced trade in every department to a perfect stand, and consequently left them without the means of obtaining a livelihood for themselves and families. It is also with extreme regret they feel it their duty to inform your Lordships that recent events have called forth feelings of an hostile character on the part of the French towards the English, which we hoped had long ceased to exist, thus rendering their position one of both insecurity and destitution.
We therefore implore you, as the rulers of the country which gave us birth, to take our case into your serious and immediate consideration.
Gloomy as are our prospects here, we feel convinced that our return to England would present no brighter picture, as the paralysed state of trade there holds out not the slightest hope of our obtaining employment; if therefore, we return to England, it will be with the certain prospect of becoming a burden to our countrymen. and inmates of the already too overcrowded workhouses.
Having therefore, put you in possession of the above facts, we take the liberty of suggesting the following plan by which you can render us effectual assistance.
The plan we propose is emigration to one of the British colonies, South Australia preferred, where workmen arc scarce and labour wanted, our experience having shown us the great advantage they possess who live under the protection of the British Government.
We, your memorialists pledge themselves to be men of good moral character and industrious habits, in the full possession of health and strength, and men whose feelings revolt at the idea of becoming a burden to their native land.
If, therefore, you can provide us with the means of free emigration, we shall cheerfully and gratefully accept them, but if unfortunately, it is out of your power to grant our request on these conditions we are quite willing to enter into an engagement to refund a part or the whole expense incurred after our arrival in any way in which you, in your discretion, may think fit.
Should the prayer of your memorialists be granted, you will confer a benefit upon a body of men, who will, in after life, look back with heartfelt gratitude to those who now rule the destinies of their native land.
Signed on behalf of the meeting
Edward Lander, Chairman”
In response to this, the Colonial Land and Emigration Office made the following comments:
"The emigrants most in demand and who succeed best in the Australian colonies are agricultural labourers, shepherds, and female domestic servants. A small number of country mechanics can also find employment; but manufacturers, such as lacemakers, stockingers, weavers, etc., would scarcely find employment in their own trades, and would be of little value to the colony.
Whatever scheme therefore it may be decided to adopt in regard to the artizans lately expelled from France, the idea of sending manufacturers of the above or analogous classes to the Australian colonies should be excluded both in fairness to the colonies and in kindness to the individuals. In fairness to the colonies, because the funds for emigration being provided out of colonial revenues, the colonies have a right to demand that they should be expended in the manner most advantageous to colonial interests. In kindness to the individuals because if they be sent to a colony where there is no demand for their peculiar labour they must have recourse to new and unknown employments as a means of subsistence, and thus lose the advantage of their skill and previous education.
But there may probably be among the workpeople in question many who are capable of agricultural labour, and others who though not agricultural labourers have been accustomed to outdoor work. These, if not the most eligible emigrants, would yet be sufficiently adapted to the wants of the colony to justify their acceptance, provided some advantage could be added in their case to counterbalance the disadvantage of their want of training. Thus the great complaint in the Australian colonies being deficiency in the quantity rather than in the quality of labour, if an arrangement could be made to contribute from other than colonial sources towards the passages of the artizans from France, and thus, by economizing the colonial funds, to enable the colonies to obtain without an increased charge to themselves a greater number, though not quite so eligible a description of labourers, there can be no doubt that the arrangement would be acceptable.
The expense of sending an emigrant to Australia, supposing him to be entirely destitute, may be stated as follows:-
• Outfit about £4
• Bedding, etc. ,, £1
• Agency, etc. ,, £1
• Conveyance to port of embarkation ,, £1
• Passage ,, £13
• Total £20
Of this, the three latter items only amounting together to about £15 are borne by the colonies; the outfit, deposit for bedding etc. are provided by the emigrant himself. It may probably be assumed that the persons now in question are not so entirely destitute as to require the outfit to be provided for them, and the circumstances of the case will save all cost for agency and diminish that of conveyance to the port of embarkation. If then a contribution could be provided for them amounting to from £3 to £5 a head exclusive of their outfit and bedding by which the whole expense to the colonies would be reduced to about £9 or £10 a head, these persons would be cordially welcomed as emigrants in the colonies.
It would be desirable however, before any arrangements are concluded. To ascertain what is the probable number of persons for whom passages would be required. Emigrant vessels sent out by this department generally carry about 200 statute adults each. We are now endeavouring to send out six of these vessels every month. It would be impossible, without very largely adding to the establishments both here and at the outports to increase this number; besides that, a largely augmented demand for emigrant ships would raise considerably the price of freight. It is evident therefore that if the number of people in question be large it would not be possible to afford them immediate relief by emigration to Australia. Indeed, under any circumstances it would not be possible to provide passages for any great number of them before the middle or end of April."
The fears of the Calais workmen about what they might expect if obliged to return to England are borne out by reports in the Nottingham Review of unprecedented poverty, unemployment and distress at this time. Appeals were made (the Queen and Prince Albert contributed £2008) and a "Committee of Noblemen and Gentlemen for the Relief of British workmen, Refugees from France" was formed."
The meetings and liaison between the Calais lace makers and the British Government concluded that the best solution was that the lace makers should emigrate to one of the British Colonies, preferably South Australia. The Government stated that the lace makers would not be awarded special assistance because of their distress, the possible threat from the French, commercial panic or the change in the course of trade. The British Government created specific criteria the lace makers needed to meet to be accepted as a Government Assisted Immigrant:
· No bad characters where not permitted – however, having a bad character were those who could not produce their marriage certificates or who were not legally married. This was an attempt by the Government to not affront to the colonial morality;
· The lace makers had to adapt and become agricultural labourers, shepherds and female domestic workers. Lacemakers and weavers would not be able to work and would be of little value in the colony so if the workers could adapt to doing outdoor or agricultural work they could be accepted as immigrants to Australia.
The lacemakers were eventually accepted as Government Assisted Immigrants and sailed to the Colony of Australia in three ships:
1. The ship “Fairlie” departed from Plymouth with 296 passengers on 30 April 1848 and arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney) on 7 August 1848.
2. The ship “Harpley” departed from London with 254 passengers on 12 May 1848 and arrived in Adelaide on 2 Sept 1848.
3. The ship “Agincourt” sailed from Gravesend with 263 passengers on 16 Jun 1848 and landed at Port Jackson on 6 Oct 1848.
It was on the ship Agincourt that Thomas and Elizabeth Duck sailed with their family. They arrived in Port Jackson on 6 Oct 1848 - nearly four months after setting out from Gravesend, England. Eight days after sailing into Port Jackson, Thomas and Elizabeth travelled by the steamer “Maitland” to Morpeth, near Newcastle in the Hunter Valley.
The Maitland Mercury, dated Saturday, 14 Oct 1848 had this article on the arrival of the immigrants:
ARRIVAL OF IMMIGRANTS. – On Tuesday evening 106 of the Agincourt immigrants arrived at East Maitland. They consist of 39 married persons (including one widow), 8 young women, and 10 young men above fourteen years of age, 45 children under fourteen years (including ten of eleven years and older), and 4 infants. Most of them are English refugees from France, and they appear to be an eligible body of immigrants. On their journey from Morpeth to East Maitland on Tuesday evening (three miles), they were caught in a heavy thunderstorm, and were completely drenched before they reached their quarters. As they passed the Trades Arms Inn, their way appearance roused the attention of a number of gentlemen standing under the verandah, and a subscription was commenced on the spot, and a quantity of ale and bread and cheese taken to the barracks to the immigrants immediately after their arrival, which proved very acceptable.
- On Thursday 22 more of the Agincourt immigrants, and 13 of the Charlotte Jane immigrants arrived. Among the 35 there were 14 married persons, 4 young women and 2 men over fourteen years, and 15 children under fourteen (4 of them being above eleven years old). – A fair number of these 141 immigrants have been already engaged, but up to noon yesterday the only engagements registered at the police office were the following: two married couples engaged as general servants, at £26 and £30 per year respectively, with board and lodging; six young women engaged as house servants, four being at £10 per annum, one at 8s. and one at 5s. per week, all with board and lodgings; and one young man engaged as general servant at 6s. per week, with board and lodging.
The lacemakers found various jobs, besides those mentioned in the newspaper, boys were apprenticed in various trades with some of the younger boys employed as house servants and given clothing, board, lodgings and washing done but given no wages. Some families were lucky to be employed at the one location with the parents as general servants and the children as house servants.
Some families left the barracks to open shops or to start up some sort of enterprise while others left the barracks to find work in other locations.
Families and friendships would have been broken as everyone went their different ways in their new country.
Thomas and his family moved to Gresford probably as an agriculture labourer. By 1852 he was an established farmer at Mallinson, Gresford on the Paterson River. His last four children were born at Mallinson.
Thomas and Elizabeth had 12 children:
George, James and Samuel were born at Radford, Nottinghamshire.
Walter, Thomas, Mary Ann, Charles and Henry were born in Calais France where James died by accidently drowning.
Edward was born at Vacy, Francis and Reuben born at Gresford and the last, Emma, born at Mallinson.
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