According to the book ""Recollections of Francis Boott: for his grandson F.B.D."

Thomas Tunaley came from Italy and was born Thomas Tunalli (click here).

See also "Thomas Tunaley, Merchant of Milan".

What follows is an account of the investigation leading up to the discovery.


Extensive but fruitless searches covering the U.K. and Europe have taken place over several years for signs of the Tunaley name appearing before 1700.

Even so, any subsequent speculation as to who these people were must fit with current knowledge and this at least allows a homing-in on various candidates or groups of candidates so

that in the event that more information comes to light the search can be taken a step further.

The overall investigation has gone through a number of stages starting with the obvious possibility that the name Tunaley is a derivative of the Norman name Tunley or Tunlay.

The results are as detailed below:

1. Investigation of possible Norman Origins.


The name Tunley/Tunlay is Norman French ( ) and originated in England with the Norman invasion of 1066. Many of the Huguenots who

entered Britain 1550-1780, had names that were already present in Britain from the Norman Invasion although often anglicised to some extent.

To take a close example to our name, the de Tunlay family that settled here after the Norman Invasion eventually became known as the Towneleys. having settled in Tunleia, now Towneley

in Lancashire. One might be led to assume that the name Tunaley is derived from the name of this English family. Indeed there is certainly evidence that part of the Tunley family is an

offshoot of the Towneleys. *In our case, however, no connection has yet been found between the Tunaley and Tunley families (see investigation by Paul Tunaley). In fact the Tunleys in

the Derbyshire area were found to be farmers and farm labourers, not craftsmen.

Likewise, a Turneley family of Flemish origin is recorded as living in Great Longstone village, Derbyshire. The village cross there dates back to a time (sixteenth century) when Flemish

weavers settled in this part of Derbyshire and established a stocking industry. Again, no link has been found with the Turneleys who it seems were a family of miners. For further

details click here.

* N.B. Records have recently been published on genealogical websites showing a Tunley family resident in the St. Alkmund's parish of Derby in the early 1700s. These latest records are

now the subject of further research.



No "Tunaley" name previous to that of Thomas Tunaley, the feltmaker (b. abt 1710), has been found in any genealogical archive or database. Prior to Thomas, it appears the name did not

exist. Therefore current evidence strongly indicates the Tunaleys came from abroad.


2. Investigation of possible Huguenot Origins.


The French Huguenots must have arrived in Derby from Spitalfields (click here) around the time the Old Silk Mill was first in operation in the early 1720's. Evidence to date indicates

the Tunaleys arriving at least a decade later.

Working conditions, including pay, at the mill were poor. In contrast, there is every reason to suppose that Thomas Tunaley, the feltmaker, was financially comfortable.

A researcher with the Huguenot Society has yet to find any Tunaley-Huguenot connection in terms of either spelling or phonetic pronunciation.



No evidence has yet been found of a Huguenot family link. As a result, the investigation has looked further afield including the possibility that the Turkish name "Tunali" was a

forerunner of the Tunaley name (click here). This latter possibility might at first seem implausible until one finds the same name to be found in Switzerland and its derivative "Tonali"

in Northern Italy, both names evidently finding their way to these countries through trade migration.


3. Investigation of Italian and Mediterranean Origins.


The Norman Empire and Fench Influence.

Whilst the days of Norman Invasion of Engalnd are well-known, it is not always appreciated that at the time of the Crusades, the Normans also invaded and conquered Italy, Sicily and

parts of Turkey. To gauge the extent of the subsequent French influence in Europe up to what was then Constantinople and beyond, the Franco-Turkish Alliance of the sixteenth century

continued for 200 years and in the nineteenth century the French language was the second language of the educated classes in Turkey. Trade and two-way migration between the various

countries would have accelerated the spread of people's names.


The Silk Road and the Spreading of Names

Further back in time, silk arrived in Italy from China via the Silk Road. The Silk Road ended in a split at the Mediterranean, partly finishing in what is now the Lebanon and another

branch finishing in Eastern Turkey. The silk was then shipped to Italy. As such, Rome is often described (symbolically) as the end of the Silk Road - not surprising as Italy was the

leader in silk processing and silkware. One can then see how the names may have developed i.e. from: Tonelie/Tonnelie etc. in France, to Tonali/Tonalli/Tonale in Italy and Tunali, a

fairly common name in Turkey. The two most interesting names are probably "Tunali" and "Tonali" both in how they sound and their spelling. In particular, both names contain the

mysterious "al". There is a physical link between the two names. Before shipping took over with the East India Company (around 1600), silk may have been transported along waterways from

Turkey to join the River Danube (Turkish: "Tuna Nehri") and on to an area north of Italy. It is possible the name of the river has some bearing on the names "Tunali" and subsequently

"Tonali" but, on the assumed basis that the Tunaleys were originally huguenots, it is difficult to see how they could have been Turkish or of Turkish origin given the obvious religious

and language divide (prior to Ataturk's language reforms of 1928, the Turkish language was based on Ottoman Script). Having said that, there is one possibility - that the original

Tunaley was not a Huguenot at all but a merchant originally trading with the Levant Company (see below).


The Italian Connection


Linking this to the construction of the Silk Mill, we find the following:

All historical documents state that the people who arrived in Derby were French Huguenots coming from French-speaking enclaves in London. However, there are a few other people involved.

John Lombe, who spoke good Italian, spent some years in Italy working at and secretly copying the design of Italy's own silk spinning mill. John’s father, Henry Lombe, a rich worsted

weaver of Norwich sponsored this espionage project. The actual location of the mill in pre-unification Italy was in the Kingdom of Sardiinia, an area that was partly the island itself

to the south and partly a state in Northern Italy. This kingdom, capital Torino (Turin), bordered protestant Switzerland.

Despite Italy being a Roman Catholic country and an unlikely destination for Huguenots, a protestant group of around 20000 Waldensians lived in and around Turin.

(From Wikipedia: "The movement was started partly in response to the schisms that had consumed the Catholic church in the 12th century and advocated a return to the vows of poverty and

preaching of the Gospel as advocated by Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament. Originally a reform movement within the Catholic Church, the movement was declared heretical by

1215 and became persecuted by Church officials. Upon the rise of the Protestant Reformation, church leaders met with Swiss and German Calvinists and agreed to join with the Reformed

church, adopting many of the Calvinist tenets and becoming its Italian arm").

With such a scenario including the proximity of the Swiss border, it would not have been too difficult to smuggle design secrets across the border which is what John Lombe did using

agents of his half-brother the Norwich and London silk merchant Thomas Lombe. What is not generally known is that Lombe then managed to persuade two Italian workers to travel with him

to England to help build the Silk Mill at Derby. Industrial espionage in those days was regarded as treason and punishable by death.

This legal position applied not just in Italy but in England as well: (click here for information regarding Samuel Slater from Belper, Derbyshire, who took Jedediah Strutt’s secrets to

America and started the industrial revolution over there in what became known as Slatersville). Indeed it is reported that John Lombe himself was subsequently assassinated by poison.

Fact or myth, the story does highlight how daring John's actions were considered at the time. One question then remains. Who were these two Italians? Any transfer of these people would

have had to be carried out in strict secrecy.

William Hutton (1723- 1815) (click here for Wikipedia biography) was originally a Derby man, a poet and a historian who served a 7-year apprenticeship at the Mill. He writes in his

book, "The History of Derby", "An artful woman in the character of a friend came over and assisted in the business. She attempted to gain both the Italians but succeeded with one. By

these two slow poison was supposed and perhaps justly to have been administered to John Lombe, who lingered two or three years in agonies and departed. The Italian ran away to his own

country and Madam was interrogated but nothing transpired except what strengthened suspicion."

Hutton later states, referring to a period of around 1732," A mill was immediately erected in Stockport, in Cheshire, which drew many of the workmen from Derby, and, among others,

Nathaniel Gartervalli, the remaining Italian who, sixteen years before, had come over with John Lombe". This rules out the possibility of one or both these Italians being a Tunaley.


The Merchants of the Levant Company (previously known as "The Turkey Company".

This would appear to leave two other possibilitie: (i) that the original Tunaley or Tunaleys, far from being Huguenot, were or had been merchants (ii) that they were Italians who

arrived later after the Silk Mill was in full production.

The Levant (or Turkey Company) and East India companies were formed around the same time (abt. 1600). The East India Company traded with India, Indonesia and south-East Asia and China,

their ships sailing via the Cape of Good Hope. The Levant Company (previously the Turkey Company) traded with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, that area including what is now the

Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Eastern Turkey.

Many of the merchants in the Levant region were Italian colonists or their descendants from the Italian maritme republics and of Roman Catholic religion. These merchants, by the very

nature of their job, were educated and multilingual whilst Turkish merchants would use a spoken language that included numerous French, Italian and English loanwords.

William Henry Chaloner (1914-1987) in his book first published 1963 "People and Industries", challenges some of Hutton's statements but Hutton and Chaloner do agree that a proportion of

silks were brought in from various parts of the Levant region including Turkey. This trade would have been particularly necessary after the King of Sardinia prohibited the export of raw

silk in 1724. Chaloner also states that the superior Chinese silk brought in by the East India Company became too expensive for the economic running of the mill. We also know from these

books that silk was brought in from Canton and the American plantations of Georgia and the Carolinas. Trade, even to the American colonies, was carried out by the Levant Company that

had its Mediterranean headquarters in Aleppo, in what is now Syria close to the Turkish border.

What becomes increasingly evident as these details unfold is that Thomas Lombe who took over from half-brother John after the latter's death would have needed expert assistance in terms

of trading in the Middle Eastern silk market in order to buy the best silk at the lowest prices and in sufficient quantity. The Lombe brothers also showed how they had carefully and

successfully planned the whole project to the finest detail and always with good financial backing. Hence one supposes they would not have considered sacrificing this success for want

of obtaining the right people.

Could it be that our Tunaley ancestors were traders with The Levant Company brought over to England from the Mediterranean area to operate as buyers for Thomas Lombe and The Silk Mill

and to trade with the Levant and the East India Companies for the purchase of silk on the best possible terms..?

Alternatively, the website at: describes how silk plantations were set up in

the new colony of Georgia (1734) and states that Italian silk makers were brought in "to teach the colonists how to do a better job". As such there appears to have been a migration of Italian workers whenever developments in the silk industry took place and the arrival of the original Tunaleys in Derby could have followed the same pattern.

Chaloner, in his book (see above) points out that there had been criticisms of the quality of the organzine silk produced by the Derby Silk Mill in comparison with that produced at

Piedmont Italy. Perhaps the most convincing reason for our ancestors' arrival in Derby, given the silk position in Georgia and influx there of Italians, is that the original Tunaleys

were also Italian experts brought in to improve the quality of the organzine silk at Derby, an operation that they evidently carried out with some success.

The Waldensians

This leaves one question unanswered: how did Thomas Lombe persuade the Italians to come to England in spite of the inherent dangers in doing so? It had previously been thought these

people could have been Italian religious refugees but no written evidence had been found.

Subsequently a message was received from a reader indicating that Nathaniel Guardivaglio the Italian who first came to Derby and then moved on to Stockport came to England for

"religious reasons" and this message led to a search for further evidence. Records that were then found traced the movement of one Jean Louis Poyas who was a Protestant “Waldensian” and

both a silk maker and merchant moving from Piedment to England then America around 1734.

The year of arrival, 1734, could be significant because it was around this time that records appear for the Tunaleys. This was also the time when silk production had started in the

American colonies that created a new wave of migration from Piedmont.

Further investigation revealed the following: the protestant religious refugees from the Italian border area were variously known as Vaudois (after the Swiss canton of Vaud) Vallenses

(Swiss canton of Valais) or Waldensians (after Peter Waldo c. 1140 – c. 1218), a protestant sect that originated from the Lyons area of France. We now know there to be a concentration

of people named Tunali in Switzerland and Tonali in Piedmont. Also in Harry Butterton's book "The Old Silk Mill and its Rivals" H.B. states that the French Huguenots who came to Derby

were also from the Lyon/Tours area of France. As such there would have been a strong link in terms of religion and heritage between these Huguenots and the Swiss/Italian Waldensians.

Consequently there is now firm evidence that the first Italians who, along with the French Huguenots, came to the Old Silk Mill did so at least partly because of their religious

convictions. A similar argument might also have applied to the original Tunaleys although in this case a more likely possibility is that the original Tunaley (or Tunaleys) was a

Levantine merchant of Italian descent.

Click here for more on this Levantine theory.

For further detailed information, including statistics and maps that provide evidence for these possibilities including the migration of the family name "Tunali" and its deivatives,

please contact the author at


Special thanks to Dr. Jane Holmes of Auckland for providing significant sources of information.


"Thomas Tunalli, Merchant of Milan"

George Sorocold "The First British Civil engineer"

The Early Tunaleys - the Feltmaker, the Throwster, the Innkeeper and the Merchant Tailor

"Hall and Tunaley" 1780

The Early Tunaleys and A Timeline

Huguenot Connection to the Silk Mill

Back to Tree

Phil Tunaley