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


Newspaper Stories         Return to top of page

Congleton Chronicle 5th April 1924 Page 3 Right hand Column
The circumstance attending the death of a seven year old boy, named John Edward Knapper, were investigated by the coroner (Mr HC Yates) at an inquest held at the Town Hall Congleton on Tuesday. 
Emma Rutland of 16 John Street Congleton said deceased was her Grandson. His mother died when he was six months old and on her death bed she surrendered the child to witness. The boys father James Knapper, had never contributed towards the boys maintenance. Deceased had not been strong since birth. Twelve months ago he suffered from bronchitis and pneumonia, but since then had not been medically attended. On Saturday afternoon last the boy went to the pictures accompanied by witness’s daughter. He had dinner before he went and appeared quite lively. Shortly before 4 pm. he came home and she was informed by her daughter the deceased had complained of feeling unwell and had been sick. He had tea and at 9:50 pm. she took him to bed and slept with witness and her husband. They were not disturbed during the night and on Sunday morning about 8 o’clock her grandson went downstairs and had breakfast. He made no complaint of any pain, but witness kept him in the house all day. He had his meals as usual on Sunday and before he went to bed she gave him some Scotts Emulsion. About 4 o’clock on Monday morning deceased asked her for a drink of water and he then appeared rather restless. After having a drink he fell asleep. At 6:50 am she noticed a change in the deceased and thought he had had a fit.  He threw his head back and his face went very pale and his lips blue. Her husband went for Dr Ingram who pronounced the boy dead when he arrived. Deceased passed away quite peacefully.
 At this point of her evidence the witness collapsed and was attended by Dr Moir.
 Daisy Rutland said she took deceased to the Pictures on Saturday afternoon. He complained of feeling ill while watching the pictures so she took him out. On the way home he said he was tired and sat down near the top of Little Street and her he became sick.
In answer to the coroner, witness said she had not given the deceased any sweets.
 Dr  Moir said he made a post mortem examination and found no marks of violence and the child was well nourished. Internally there were signs of diaphragmatic pleurisy and a post mortem rupture on the inside of the stomach. There was pleurisy on both sides of the lungs and double pneumonia.
 By the Coroner: Could this have arisen since Saturday when the child said he was ill? – I should think from Friday night.
Then the child was ill on Friday? – I should say Saturday certainly. The boy was at school on the Friday.
Some children attempt to hide their ailments from their parents because they are so afraid of getting nasty medicine. Could this child have hidden the pain it must have been suffering? – I think that as the fact that he had been a delicate child they did not think much about it as he had been accustomed to ailing.
 Further in answer to the coroner, Dr Moir said the child had previously had two or three attacks of pneumonia and this had left the chest weak, but the child would certainly be worse on Saturday that usual. In his (the Doctors) opinion the child died from cardiac failure due to double pneumonia which had been on since Saturday.
The Coroner: You have knowledge of this child because 12 months ago you attended him. Was this child more susceptible to catching a chill that a healthy child – Yes.
What surprises me is that the Grandmother says deceased had not wanted any medical attension from 12 months. Is that possible?  my point is, if the child was so well surely itwould not contract double pneumonia so readily as it was ailing – Children get pneumonia very easily.
And you are not surprised? – No.
Had the child been well cared for? – Yes. This is one of those incomprehensible cases! – The child was suffering from pneumonia and suddenly sitting up in bed, would bring on heart failure. This is the great danger with pneumonia.
 The coroner said this was a very surprising case, because he was a child  which according to the grandmothers statement had not had medical attention for twelve months. Apparently deceased was not a healthy child and had suffered some time ago from bronchitis and pneumonia. It was to the grandmothers credit that she bought this child up as she had done, because, as the doctor had said, it was well nourished and had had ever care and attention. Although deceased was subject to these ailments nothing in the grandmothers opinion had taken place which necessitated her calling in a medical man until Monday. He (the coroner) returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence, adding that death was die to natural causes.
 14th January 2005
Points arising from this report –
1)      John Edward Knapper’s mother’s maiden name was Ellen Newbold. She died of Bronco Pneumonia 21 April 1917 at 16 John Street Congleton.
2)      Ellen’s father was John Newbold, a birth reference from Free BMD is Wolstanton 1894 Vol 6b page 110.
3)      No detail of John Newbold’s marriage or death has yet been found.
4)      There was a marriage of Alexander Rutland and Emma Newbold in 1903 at St Lawrence Biddulph. The same reference has Alexander Rutland marrying Emma Triner. In other words it was Emma Newbold formerly Triner, she remarried following the death of John Newbold.
5)      Daisy Rutland was born on 2nd April 1912 at 16 John Street the daughter of Alexander and Emma (nee Triner). Alexander was an Ironworker.
6)      Daisy had taken John to the pictures on Saturday 29th March, he died on Monday 31st March. The inquest was the day after on the Tuesday 1st April – following a post mortem! Daisy had her 12th birthday the following day Wednesday 2nd April. Things happened quickly in 1924.

Front Page Congleton Chronicle 7th May 1947

Died by his Fireside – 39-years-old Mans Collapse

A 39 years old fitters sudden death as he sat by his fireside reading and smoking his pipe was described at the inquest on Saturday on Edward Knapper of 15 Rood Hill Congleton.

His wife Mrs May Knapper told the coroner (Alder.R.A.Daniel) – that her husband was medically treated some time ago for pains in the chest. He had kept on working until the electricity cut, as a result of which he had been home about a fortnight. On Wednesday February 26th he again complained of chest pains and a feeling of tightness and about 9:30 p.m. as he sat in front of the fire reading and smoking he said the pains were more severe. He asked for Brandy which she gave him, and later for a glass of water. As he began to drink this his head fell on one side and he collapsed in his chair. Believing he had fainted she undid his shirt and ran for help. Later it was found that he was dead.

Dr P.G. Leese Congleton said a post mortem examination revealed an enlarged heart and extensive degeneration of the arteries. Sudden death was liable to have occurred at any time.

The coroner asked if the deceased was not rather young to have a heart condition described and wwitness replied that a child who had suffered from rheumatic fever might have a deposits in the arteries similar to those he had found.

Eric Knapper Bricklayer 12 Victoria Street who gave evidence of identification said to his knowledge deceased (his brother) had never had rheumatic fever.

Returning a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence the coroner said that death had been due to perfectly natural causes.

The Funeral was at St Peters Church on Monday, the Vicar (Conon WR Johnson) performed the last rites. Mourners were Mrs M Knapper (widow), Mrs H Knapper (mother), Mr E Knapper (brother) Mr & Mrs J Farr, sister and brother in law, Mr & Mrs Malkin, Mr & Mrs Walker, Mrs Redfern, Mr & Mrs H Mountfield, Mr S Hughes, and Mrs Gaskell. Messrs E Blease, H Brocklehurst, N. Kennerly, Ed & Eric Porter, and H. Mansfield acted as bearers. Messrs TE Cooke Park Street had charge of funeral arrangements.

From Congleton Chronicle 23 July 1910 page 5 left had column.


On Tuesday afternoon , Mr HC Yates and a jury with the Rev H Gardner as Foreman, held an inquiry into the circumstance attending the death of Harriet Ann Knapper, (27) of 9 William Street, Buglawton. Emily Knapper wife of George Knapper said the deceased was her daughter. On Tuesday last week she became suddenly ill at Mr Hopkins Mill where she was employed, but from this attack she recovered. She appeared alright on the Friday and Saturday in the following week, and on Sunday morning came down for breakfast apparently in her usual health. Deceased had just sat down to the table when witness noticed she became pale and her breathing heavy. Witness immediately rendered assistance and gave her brandy but the deceased never recovered and passed peacefully away – Mary Elizabeth Owen of William Street Buglawton spoke to finding deceased in the position stated by the last witness – Reviewing the evidence the coroner said Dr Watt was called to see the deceased on Sunday, but he arrived after death had taken place. The girl had been an invalid from birth , and had suffered from attacks of Asthma, which as was generally the case put a severe strain on the heart. She had been attended to for this complaint two years ago by Dr Furness and recovered, but since she had not been medically attended. There was not suggestion of foul play and as they knew to ascertain the precise cause of death, there was only one way and that was by post-mortem, but to this he (the coroner) had a strong objection unless it was absolutely necessary and in his opinion it was unnecessary it this case. He suggested a verdict of death by cardiac failure due to natural causes. The jury concurred in this view, and a verdict was returned accordingly.

Also in the same paper under Deaths:

KNAPPER – on July 17th at William Street Buglawton Harriett Ann daughter of George Knapper aged 27 years.

Photos         Return to top of page