The Tunaleys in Historical Context

The Huguenots


Recommended Reading (click here) / The Early Tunaleys and A Timeline (click here)

Origins of the Tunaley Name (click Here) George Sorocold: "First British civil engineer" (click here)




(N.B. The Tunaleys were not themselves French Huguenots. Records state the original Thomas Tunaley arrived in Derby at least ten years after the Huguenots and that he was originally from Northern Italy and born with the name "Tunalli" (click here). See also "Thomas Tunaley, Merchant of Milan".


The Old Silk Mill was the first factory-based manufacturing concern in Britain, subsequently developed by Jedediah Strutt and then Richard Arkwright with the aid of relatively unsung Derby-based engineers.

In fact, the Silk Mill was originally referred to in the plural as The Silk "Mills" as the final construction consisted of two mills, the first one built 1703 by a Derby solicitor turned London-based textile trader, Thomas Cotchett, with the help of George Sorocold, a Derby-based engineer of national repute (click here). The second construction, a five storey building, was built by the Lombe "brothers" again with the help of George Sorocold with the first building standing alongside the main construction and serving as one of two doubling shops. There is an image on Wikipedia (click here)showing the two mills as they stood in the eightteenth century.

The role of George Sorocold in these developments was crucial yet it is only relatively recently that his overall contribution has been recognised. Indeed it is thought that Sorocold's work makes him the first-ever British civil engineer (click here) and efforts continue (click here) to find out more about him in terms of his personal life in addition to his known inventions.

To emphasise the continuity in personnal regarding the construction of the two mills, John Lombe had been a mechanic working for Thomas Cotchett before he embarked on his period of industrial espionage and building of the second much larger "Italian" mill. On this later occasion, however, the project was backed by John's rich half-brother and financier Thomas Lombe - the first Cotchett mill having failed in its purpose possibly due to lack of investment. As stated above, George Sorocold was the engineer involved in both enterprises.


The Huguenots

Records suggest that the original Tunaleys first appeared in Derby in the late 1720's early 1730's. This would have been some years after the Lombe/Sorocold Silk Mill was built in Derby (1717- 1721). French Huguenots had already arrived in Derby from the Spitalfields area of London (see below) and it appears they were involved in the construction and design of the Cotchett/Sorocold mill that had been built previously in 1703. However, their involvement in the subsequent and much larger Lombe/Sorocold mill is not known as cheap child labour was used to operate the machinery although adults, possibly Huguenots, were used in the finishing and quality control of the silk product. William Hutton (1723- 1815) (click here), Derby's first historian, was one of those children and wrote about his experiences in his book "The History of Derby". This raises the possibility that the original Tunaleys might themselves have been employed at the Mill when they were children rather than arriving later in Derby as adults but this seems unlikely given the overall circumstances. For the more probable geographical origins of the Tunaley family click here.


To understand the historical context it is useful to note the following:

1. 1685: In France, under Louis XIV, persecution of the Huguenots continued following the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

2. 1696: an additional factor arose influencing the migration of Huguenots. This was a French ban on the import of cotton and cotton fabrics from the East (mainly India) threatening the livelihoods of textile workers many of whom were Huguenots. As a result, a disproportionately large number of the immigrant people to England were textile artisans including dyers and weavers arriving so as to continue their trade as well as avoiding persecution.

3. 1701: England intoduced its first Calico Act in what proved an unsuccessful attempt to ban, as in France, the import of cotton from India. One of several reasons for the introduction of this Act was to protect the wool and silk trade but, unlike the position in France, the legislation was vague and unworkable and cotton imports continued.

4. 1702: England, under Queen Anne, declared war on France with many Huguenot arrivals to England anglicising their names because of the war.

5. 1717: It was against this background that construction of the Old Silk Mill started in 1717 - a more temporary wooden structure which was not a success in terms of silk weaving having been previously destroyed. The Silk Mill enabled silk to be spun or "thrown" into threads ready for weaving. The majority of French Huguenots had moved either to the Spitalfields area of London or to Norwich. According to records, it was the Hugunots from the Spitalfields area who came to Derby and were involved in the initial operation of the mill.

6. 1721: The second Calico Act was passed by Parliamanet. This second Act led to a total ban on cotton imports and even on the wearing of cotton materials. Relaxation of this law took place only after the inventions of new spinning and weaving machinery from the 1750s onwards.

7. 1774: The Act was finally repealed in 1774 and with the new textile machines available, an accelerated expansion in the Industrial Revolution took place (click here).


N.B. The following is an extract from the Nuneaton Society's website:

"Another family in Bedworth of possible Low Country (particularly Belgian) origin is the Edmands family formerly of Tower House, Bedworth. Their family archivist, John Edmands, has written giving details of his researches. Several branches of that family have come to the conclusion that they are from the continent in centuries past. There were branches of the Edmands family, silk shirt manufacturers in the silk merchants area of Wood Street, Cripplegate, London and another in Manchester, manufacturers of silk small wares. The Bedworth family made silk trimmings. Another branch was located in Derby, clustered around the north end of town all within a short distance of the Derby silk mill on an island in the middle of the River Derwent."

World Heritage Site. This building is what remains of the Old Silk Mill and now forms the Derby Industrial Museum. To see how the five-story mill looked in the eightteenth century click here for Wikipedia.

The Old Silk Mill-a World Heritage Site














Investigations into Geographical Origins of the Tunaley Name

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

"Hall and Tunaley" 1780

The Early Tunaleys and A Timeline

George Sorocold: "The First British civil engineer"

Back to Tree