See also on the Home page a link to a Knapper book

Link to Newspaper Stories connected to Knappers

Link to Crime Stories connected to Knappers

This Knapper page is in three distinct sections

Early Knappers      Return to top of page

The Staffordshire Archive hold a collection of manorial documents once held in the William Salt Library.
Manorial documents are among the few types of records where genealogical information about ordinary people - rather than the upper classes - have survived from medieval times.
These present some idea of the society at Audley in the days of the Meynell Lordship. It contains a list of inhabitants on a parchment Suit Roll for the years 1756 - 1762. This contains thirteen sittings of the court of the manor and is in effect a register of those who owed suit to the court with their attendances and absences marked down. The register therefore is a fairly
comprehensive return of the population taking the family as a unit. The information presented here is taken from a transcription completed by the Audley Family History Society.

  1756 1757 1758 1759 1760 1761 1762
Widow Adgett (dead) Ex a e a e a e a d a e ex  
Wm Knapper (removed to Wolstanton) e   d d d a e d          
Harvey Adgett the elder (Past Age) e a a a e a e a e a ex ex  
Harvey Adgett the younger (crossed out) a e d                    
John Adgett a a e e d a e d d a e d d
Geo Adgett (crossed out)   Void                      

a = attended         Ex or ex = exempt          e = excused (or essioned)       d = default
A presentment given in at the Court Leet and Court Barron of Hugo Menell Esq this 22nd October 1761 contained:
Mary Aget   I Cottage   I Inclosure -  Mary then married William Knapper on 21 December 1761
A similar presentment on 21 October 1763 contained:-  William Napper   1 Cottage   1 Inclosure and there are similar entries in 1764 and 1765.

talke pitts drawingThis seems to prove that William moved in with Mary when they married and became "head" of the family. There are more Adget(t) names in the documents but no other (K)Napper names. From the spread of names around that time I suspect that  William was born in Wolstanton, Stoke or Newcastle Staffordshire.

There are no suit role entries for any women except those listed as Widow ie. widow Adgett is noted as dead - last entry October 1761, just before Mary married William so possibly Mary's mother.

The drawing on the right is of Talke Pitts (this is from the internet and was not sourced). Note in the background of the Talke Pitts drawing is the Wedgwood monument built in 1850 in memory of John Wedgwood a local colliery owner 1760-1839.

The earliest recorded person on this part of the family tree is William Knapper who was born in the early 1700's and lived at Talke o'th'hill Staffordshire. He was a brick and tile maker.
William married twice, both times at St James Audley His first wife was Jane Hancock, they married on 5 February 1757. Four years later Jane died and was buried on 5th November 1761 at St James Audley. William and Jane had two children, the first one born in 1757 was called Edward and most of the  Congleton Knappers are descended from him. The second child was John, who died in infancy and was buried on the 13 October 1761 23 days before his mother Jane was buried. Six weeks after Jane's burial William married Mary Adgett, on the 21 December 1761.

William Knapper and his second wife Mary had ten children.

Details of William Knapper's family follows, to go straight to the "Congleton" Knappers use the links on the left or bottom of each page.

The move to Barthomley and then to Congleton    Return to top of page

The move to Barthomley

William Knapper's first child Edward born in 1757 married Elizabeth Thursfield in St Bertolines Barthomley Chehsire on 1st January 1781. Elizabeth was the daughter of William and Mary Thursfield of Haslington. Edward was a Husbandman when he married. It is not known when Edward moved to Barthomley, however he had six children and they were all christened at St Bertolines. The births were at Barthomley, Englands Brook and Ingleshaw of Englands Brook, Englands Brook in now known as Englesea Brook and is in Barthomley. Edward was buried at St Bertolines at the age of 90 in 1847.

The move to Congleton

The third of Edward and Elizabeth Knapper's children was called John and he was christened at St Bertolines on 3rd April 1786. The next record of John is when he married Hannah Oakes at St Bertolines on 31st December 1810.

John and Hannah had seven children, most were born in Wheelock Cheshire, John the sixth born was christened in Sandbach which is close to Wheelock. It appears that the move to Congleton was some time between 1825 and 1841 when John and Hannah and their family appeared in the 1841 census in Buglawton, Cheshire. Almost all of the Congleton Knappers are descendants of John and Hannah.

John was living in Mill Street Buglawton in 1841 and 1851, he did not appear there in the 1861census. John died aged 84 on the 21st April 1870 in Havannah Street Buglawton. His occupation was given as Farm Labourer, he was buried at St John's Buglawton two days later.

The Condliffe Connection  Return to top of page

The third child of William Knapper his wife Mary Mary (nee Thursfield) was born in 1765 and called John, he married Martha Stephonson on 28th May 1785 at St Martins Talke. John and Martha's second child was called Fanny (Frances) Knapper who went on to marry Benjamin Hancock on 8th April 1811 at St James Audley. Benjamin and Fanny had a daughter Ann Hancock who married William Henry Condliffe, son of John Condliffe and Mary Poole. Therefore the Knapper family tree is linked directly into the Condliffe family tree. There are over 400 Condliffes including William Henry in our family tree.

Knappers in Congleton    Return to top of page

John Knapper was born in Barthomley in 1786. He moved to Buglawton (Congleton) some time before 1841. He remained there until he died in 1870. Almost all of the Congleton Knappers are direct descendents of John.
It was a hard life in the 1800's. Education finished at the age of 11 and it was to the mills for most of the Knappers.

knapper employmentThis link Census details and occupations shows a spreadsheet detailing the Congleton area Knappers as they appeared on census returns in 10 year intervals from 1841 through to 1881.There are 13 entries for people employed in the Silk Industry, two were aged 11 - Martha Napper a silk piecer in 1851 and George Birtles a Silk Worker in 1871. The oldest silk worker was 43. Children were used as silk piecers as they were small enough to sit under the machinery and join broken pieces of tread together. It may be that they were employed at a younger age, as the census detail is only taken every 10 years. However in 1841 and 1851 there were two 9 year olds who were not in employment which would indicate that the children started work at 10 years of age.

There were 13 entries for the Cotton Industry, the youngest being a Cotton Piecer - James Napper who was 12 years old.
Five people were employed in the Fustian Industry, George Knapper was the  youngest at 14 years. There were numerous Fustian Mills in Congleton, George Napper went on to run a Fustian Mill with his brother Edward. The oldest person in employment was 66 year old farm labourer John Napper in 1851.

Clickik on this link for information transcribed from death certificates between 1837 and 1900.

Some details from the death information:knappers death age

Number in list 29
Average age at death - all entries 29
Average age at death before 1860 10
Age at death - youngest 5 mins
Age at death - oldest 84
Number not reaching 30 years 17
Number not reaching 20 years 15
Number not reaching 10 years 14
Number not reaching 1 year old 11
Number reaching 70 or older 3

The Mills In and Around Congleton

Click on the link above to go to an article by Karen Braddock published on

George & Edward Knapper - Fustian Masters         Return to top of page

Trade directories for Congleton reveal the following:
Slater 1890 - Knapper Edward, fustian cutter (Edward and George Knapper), 32 Victoria Street
                    Knapper Edward and George fustian cutters Salford Mill Rood Hill
                    Knapper George, fustian cutter (Edward and George Knapper) Havannah Street Buglawton
Kellys 1892 - Knapper Edwin and George Bridge Mill Fustian Cutters
Kellys 1896 - Knapper Edwin and George fustian cutters Bridge Mill
This map of about 1900 shows the locations of Bridge Mill and Salford Mill.

location bridge & salford millsIt is probable that Kellys names are in error and it was not Edwin and George but Edward and George who were brothers, there does not appear to have been an Edwin Knapper in Congleton in the 1890s. The address's in the Slater directory tie in with the census address of Edward and George. It is not clear when the brothers ceased producing fustian but there were when Edward died in 1902 see report of Edwards death .

In Lyndon Murgatroyd's Mill Walks and Industrial Yarns he records for Bridge Mill  - John Sheppard and son fustian cutters in 1890 and Edward Mason (shirt and blouse manufacturer) in 1906. Also records for Salford Mill show Edward Knapper (fustian cutter) 1890 and Thomas Taylor (fustian cutter) 1893.


In 1871 Edward was living in Biddulph a lodger at Towerhill , head was Sarah Shaw a 63 year old charwoman. Edward was 18 and his occupation is difficult to read but something like Collier Hewer Engine Stoker, place of birth Cheshire Congleton.
When he married on Feb 23 1879 Edwards occupation was Sawyer, Sarah Ann his bride was a fustian cutter, witness's at the wedding were James Wood Hunt 
and Elizabeth Frost. By 1901 Edward is living in 7 Albert Street aged 48 and a Fustian Cutter Employer, his birthplace is given as Eaton. Also living there are wife Sarah A, step daughter Elizabeth A Dutton (30) a Fustian cutter, daughter Mary (20) a cigar maker and son Charles E. Knapper (19) a Fustian Cutter.

salford mill


George is Edwards older borther and in 1881 census George in living in Mill Street Buglawton as a Lodger, he is unmarried, aged 24 and employed as a Fustion Cutter. He is living with Julia A. Broscombe (Head) and her son Albert (28) and daughter Alberta (16) both of whom were Fustian Cutters.
In 1891 he is still a fustion cutter, living in Havannah Street Buglawton with his wife and daughters Harriett, Emily and Ada.

bridge millIn 1901 he has moved to Bank, Mow Cop with wife and four daughters the earlier three being joined by Lilian. His occupation is again fustion cutter but he is classed as employer, so could be described as fustian master.

Other than the entries in the trade directories there seems little record of the Knapper brothers fustian cutting business.
From the information in the directories and Lyndon Murgatroyd's book it can be inferred that Edward Knapper started making fustian at Salford Mill between 1881 (at which time he lived with his inlaws in Victoria Street and was a Wood Sawyer) and 1890. Also that around 1893 he joined with his brother George and they produced fustian at Bridge Mill until some time between 1902 and 1906.

The tree pictures here show at the top the locations of Salford Mill and Bridge Mill. In the center is Salford Mill with its classical facade and at the bottom Bridge Mill. The photographs were taken in 2005.

More about Fustian Cutting            Return to top of page

Fustian is a term that includes a number of hard wearing fabrics usually of cotton. It is woven so that part of its weft is close to the surface and can be cut to form a nap.
A full description of fustian cutting can be found in Mill Walks and Industrial Yarns by Lyndon Murgatroyd an excellent account of the history of the mills and businesses of Congleton and District. The cutting below, reproduced by kind permission of Lyndon Murgatroyd, is an extract from that book.

excerpt from lyndon murgatroyd  The fustian cutter walked up and down leaning across the material, until all the loops were cut. The fustian cutters could walk up to 30 miles a day and they frequently suffered from severe backache as a result of having to stretch and lean across fustian frames.

The picture on the right appeared in an article by Roger Mallows in The Industrial Scene published in 1972 and edited by Dr Joan Alcock Congleton's eminent local historian. Dr Alcock has kindly agreed to allow this picture to reproduced here. Fustian mills required a long uninterrupted floor space on which the cutting tables could be erected. Some mills were purpose built and some were converted idle Silk mills where the owners removed valuable equipment to make way for the long fustian cutting frames. The floor boards were usually 4inches (100mm) thick to allow for the constant walking back and forth of the fustian cutters.

A report in the Congleton Mercury fustian cutterJuly 28th 1888 described the closing of a fustian mill. There had been an attempt to drop the hands about 12 per cent, and the men who were only earning about 9s a week, rather that work and starve , resloved to turn out, and the pieces being finished, one mill was closed. We understand that other fustian mills in the town are likely to be closed in a few weeks. On Thursday the silk dressers employed at the Forge and Dane mills turned out in strike against a reduction of 1/2d per ib and the prickers a deduction of 3/4d. per pound