The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Silk Weavers named Collier

Article in Cockney Ancestor Winter 2007

The following article, written by Doreen Furby, appeared in the Winter 2007 edition of Cockney Ancestor, the journal of the East of London FHS.

"Furby – a French Connection?
By Doreen Furby, member 2569

In all my exchanges of information with researchers of the FURBY family descended from John Furby, painter and glazier of Shoreditch, born 1797, and his wife Sarah, every one has mentioned a “French Connection”, but not until 2006 was I able to prove that it existed, if only for one line of Furbys so far.

In October 1949, a Miss Grace Evelyn Priscilla FURBY, born 1890 in West Ham wrote to my father-in-law, Charles Alfred FURBY, born 1900 in Islington, whose family business as painters, glaziers, plumbers and general builders had been continuous in the Hackney and Islington areas from the early 1800s and was based in de Beauvoir Town until the late 1960s. Grace wrote to Charlie because she was researching on behalf of “a supposed relative of British descent”, Monsieur Charles E L FURBY, born in Edinburgh in 1891, a lawyer, who practised in Paris. He believed that his Furby ancestors had settled in France several centuries earlier. Grace had found a French Furby line in Nîmes, where four Furbys, including Charles’ 3 x gtgrandfather Antoine, his brother Jean and two sisters died in 1793, and in Aix. Charles grandfather, François Eugène Alcide Furby, born in 1828 and a Royalist sympathiser, fled to Edinburgh in about 1852 at the time of the second republic, but later returned to France. Charles’ father remained in Scotland, where his children were born.

Grace and Charlie quickly established that they were both descended from sons of John Furby, born c.1787 and his wife Sarah, born c.1794, who settled in Shoreditch. They had twelve known children: Charlie was descended from their eldest child, John William Furby, born 1812, Grace from James Samuel Furby, born 1823. Grace spoke of several versions of the French links story, including a possible Huguenot connection who she thought were “French Protestants who settled in Canterbury” but found no evidence to support it. Her father, George Frederick Furby, born 1859 to James Samuel Furby and Ann Maria THWAITES, talked of many craftsmen in the family. Charlie Furby’s version of the French Connection was that there were two brothers, velvet weavers, who had fled from France and settled in Whitechapel. The correspondence ended in 1960, with no positive outcome of Grace’s painstaking research. I took up the challenge in 1985.

In the 1841 census I found both James Samuel Furby and his wife Ann were weavers; as was John William's wife, Elizabeth COLLIER, born in Spitalfields in 1806. Elizabeth’s father Thomas Collier was a silk weaver, born 1779, who married Mary KEMP in Christ Church, Spitalfields, in1802. Thomas’ father, William Collier, born c., born 1747 was a fringe, ferrit and velvet ribbon maker; John William’s sister, Sarah Rebecca FAUTLEY, born 1815, was a silk weaver, and so it goes on.

So where was the French connection?

I looked at Mary KEMP’s family and there it was! Mary KEMP, one of sixteen children born to John KEMP, born c. 1742, a gardener, later poulterer, of Brick Lane, who married Ann GAUCHERON, born 1752, in St Dunstan, Stepney on 3rd October 1770. Ann’s father Louis, born in London in 1718, a member of the Huguenot congregation of the Wheeler Street chapel, died in La Providence, the Huguenot charitable foundation. Louis’ father, Pierre, had come from France as a child. The first known Gaucheron refugee, another Louis, had arrived in England in 1681: he was a weaver.

The history of the GAUCHERONS, KEMPS and COLIERS is now being researched by a network of descendants. Not only did they have large families, but somehow most of their children survived. It is no longer a surname in our lines, so far as we know, but is still found as a second given name in several branches of the family.

A “Gathering of Gaucherons, Kemps and Colliers” has been fixed for Saturday, 20th October in Bishopsgate, to “meet the family”. If you are descended from any of these lines, please write or email for details:

Doreen Furby"

Colin Bower
31 October 2014

Links to:

Silk Weavers named Collier - Introduction & Index

Silk Weavers named Collier - The Story So Far

Collier Family - Progress to Date

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