The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Silk Weavers named Collier

Article in Cockney Ancestor Summer 2007

Spitalfields and 19th Century Silk Weavers named Collier

I was delighted to see the photograph of Christ Church, Spitalfields (on the front cover of the Spring 2006 edition of Cockney Ancestor) and details of the availability of Huguenot records. It inspired me to summarise the position I have reached in researching my wife Chris’ maiden name COLLIER, where if anything I have too much information, and my mother’s maiden name BRECHT, where I don’t have enough!

It seems only yesterday that I wrote to follow up an article in the Summer 1983 edition of Cockney Ancestor. The author of the article was a descendant of Thomas Collier, Silk Weaver, and Mary KEMP who was of Huguenot descent. They were married on 4 July 1802 at Christ Church, Spitalfields (per IGI), and a number of their family followed Thomas into silk weaving. I have put the text of the previous article in my web-site:

My wife, Chris, is descended from Charles Collier, whose occupation was given as Weaver on the marriage certificate of his son, Charles Collier, Ropemaker, to Matilda GARDINER at the Parish Church of South Hackney (St John of Jerusalem, Lauriston Road) on 15 October 1853. Family legend has it that the family are of Huguenot descent.

I found Charles’ family in the 1851 Census when they were living at 2 Harrold Street, Bethnal Green. There is no mention of Charles but the occupation of his married daughter Emma (Collier) CORDELL is given as Silk Weaver. The name of her husband, William James Cordell, appears in Huguenot records.

In 1983 my correspondent sent me details of Thomas and Mary Collier’s family. He had identified the birth of one child in 1803 from Parish Records (Christ Church, Spitalfields) and a further three children born 1819-1823 (St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green). This left a long period of time between 1803-1819, when Thomas and Mary may have had more children.

In the IGI, I found the names of other children christened at St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green, including a William Collier, to a Thomas and Mary Collier. But no Charles.

The publication of Names Indexes for Censuses including the 1841 and 1851 Censuses for London has made all the difference. Firstly I was able to find Charles Collier, Silk Weaver, and Eliza Collier (both age approx 35) and a larger family than I expected, living at Pleasant Place (later named Hersee Place), Bethnal Green, in the 1841 Census.

Then I scoured both the 1841 and 1851 Censuses for London looking for silk weavers named Collier living in Spitalfields or Bethnal Green. I found some more weavers’ families living together or near each other. There was a particular concentration of weavers in Bethnal Green.

I have established that there were approximately 30 silk weavers named Collier in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green in the 19th Century, spread amongst approximately 15 families. Many members of one family were involved in weaving, and continued in the industry when they married and set up their own homes albeit close by their parents.

I have started to obtain birth and marriage certificates of Colliers in Bethnal Green shortly after registration began in 1837. This has given me the names of some more weavers, and mothers’ maiden names and addresses to try to link together some of the weavers in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green. But no link to Charles as yet. One of the birth certificates appears to confirm that the father named in the certificate, William Collier, is the son of Thomas & Mary Collier, who were living nearby.

I highlighted the names of the roads, which I had identified, on the Old Ordnance Survey map No. 51 for Shoreditch 1872 and found that most of the names fell into the area between St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch and St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green. Unfortunately Charles Collier lived somewhat away from the other Colliers near the Globe Town area of Bethnal Green near Victoria Park. I found Pleasant Place as Hersee Place on the Old Ordnance Survey Map No. 52 for Bethnal Green and Bow 1894.


In the 19th Century there were many families employed in the silk weaving industry situated around Spitalfields and Bethnal Green. Some of the members of these families were of Huguenot descent including Mary (Kemp) Collier and her children.

There were a large number of silk weavers named Collier including my wife Chris’ ancestor Charles Collier who lived in Bethnal Green in 1841, a little distance from the other silk weavers named Collier. He does not appear in the names index to the 1851 Census but as yet I have not traced his death. He is also not shown in the IGI.

In 2001, Chris and I met up with Chris’ cousin who is descended from Emma Collier, the sister of Charles Collier, the Ropemaker. We went first to Christ Church, Spitalfields then walked down Brick Lane to Austin Street, Bethnal Green where Emma was married at the Providence Chapel. We then made our way from St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch to St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green and then St John of Jerusalem, Lauriston Road. The photographs of the churches that Chris took are contained in my web-site.

Visit to East End June 2001

My mother’s maiden name Brecht is also associated with Christ Church, Spitalfields and I hope to summarise my research into that difficult name in a second article.

Colin Bower
Member 6437

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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