John Lomas was born at Colshaw in 1747; he was the son of a pedlar. As a small child he travelled with his father and when he became 16 his father entrusted him with a pack of goods and bought him his first licence. He gradually built his business until he had 10 men travelling under him. He moved into Hollinsclough village in 1785 and the following year he appeared before the House of Commons to argue successfully against a proposal to abolish licensed hawkers and pedlars. He and his wife Sarah became committed Christians and in 1797 John started to build a Chapel in his garden. The Chapel was opened on Easter Day 1801.
On 11th August 1820, he wrote a letter to Sir George Crewe (Lord of the Manor) giving details of his parentage, how he grew his business, his appearance at the House of Commons and walking the bounds. This is a copy of that letter.
Thanks to Jim Foley for sending us this picture of John Lomas - Packman and preacher
Honourable Sir Geo. Crewe Baron. Dr Sir in obedience to your request I set down to give you a short, and to the best of my knowledge a true account of my parentage –
About 80 or 90 years back, my Great Granfather Geo Lomas served as GameKeeper to Sir John Harpur, your great Granfather. G Lomas the Venerable old keeper had by his wife Dinah 4 children. Namely John, Sarah, Ellen, and Micah. GL lived I was told to the age of 102. I remember him well being a scholar to my Granmother Dinah when I was 4 years old: GL had lost but one tooth when he died and that was loose & came out. My Great Granmother lived about 10 years after his death and taught school great part of the time; she died aged 99 or 100 or 101 her friend could not tell exactly! My old Unkle John succeeded his father as Gamekeeper to Sir John Harpur & his late widow Lady Harpur. My unkle died at the age of 84 and left many children. My Aunt Ellen lived to the age of 96 and left many: my Aunt Sarah died at the age of 98 & left many families, my Granfather Micah Lomas being the youngest of the family succeed them all and before he died I believe he was father; and Granfather, and Great Granfather, and Great Great Granfather to at least about 250 persons. So that he could say to my father Geo, - arise son and go to thy son, for thy sons Daughter has got a daughter being 5 generations of the same family in being at the same time!! My Granfather died aged about 95 My father G L died aged 85 – about 15 years back the age of my great Granfather and his wife & 4 children amount (according to the account I have received) to the age of 96 and 10 months each the father mother & 4 children years in all being 575 years.
and now Honoured Sir, with regard to myself my Father & Mother Geo & Ann Lomas were poor pedlars who took me to travel before I was 8 years old, to which I submited, with all its toils, hardships & wants, until I arrived at the age of 16. My Mother died when I was about 12 and my father Married a second wife, and had many children. I still continued traveling with my Father and sometimes small journeys without him; Labouring both for the support of his first & second famileys! When I was 16 years old in the year 1764 (for I was born 1747) my father entrusted me with a pack of goods and bought me my first licence with these I began in the world for myself and the blessing of the Lord accompanying my hard labour and steady frugality. I soon saved money to buy a pack of goods of my own; when the Gentlemen of Manchester and other places offered me credit with this I steadily endeavoured to pay my creditors and please my customers and my profits increased until I had 10 men travelling under me! but so tenatious was I, of my own good name that I did not dare to trust the Men before their goods were my own, not daring to speculat with other mens property; (had the same spirit been practised to this day, we had seen fewer failures in our papers!)
Thus Hond Sir I perserveared until I put the most deserving of my men into credit & business for themselves, many of whom have done well; and those who were wanting of fidelity I discharged: and turned my business into the wholesale trade travelling with a cart & 2 horses in the year 1785. Our cuntry were much Alarmed to hear the Hawkers & Pedlars were to be abolished, the Shop Tax Bill being pased, the Pedlars Act must be repealed & that body of people Prohibited from carrying on their business: June 2nd – my wife had been delivered of a son and at night I was called to Attend a Meeting of our Travellers & Tradesmen from Manchester when it was deemed Immediately Necessary to Petition Parliament, Against the repeal of the Hawkers & Pedlars Act; when to my surpriz I and another Poor Pedlar were chosen Delegates to present this Petition to the House of Commons which considering the situation of my dear Partner I very reluctantly complyd with; but the impending ruin of our Parish or Neighbourhood being at stake, I gave myself up unto prayer & we started, for Ingleby. Mr Greaves accompanied us to Calk Hall (where I was my first and last time) we took our directions from Mr Dixon your Granfathers Agent and proceed to London where we arrived from Calk in about 25 howers. Next day waited on Mr Tillpot & Sir Henry who directed us to Mr Grevel MP who received us with kindness. Introduced us onto the Gallery and presented our Petition which was read and laid on the Table! But poor men we had been try’d and condemned before we arrived!! – nevertheless we obtained a private audience with Mr Rose the Secretary & Mr W Pitt at Downing Street together with Mr Stanley MP for Lankershire, and severl oppulent Manufacturers from Manchester. When a Mr JP told them the utility of the hawkers was such that himself received £20 000 yearly from them out of Alstonefield parish – most of which paid duty to government & after shewing them the magnitude of these mens usefulness both to king & country, they were astonished; & Mr Pitt seemed sorry he had promised the shopkeepers to sacrifice the trade and comforts of a set of men 400 in one parish who had been so servisable to their families, to the revenue & to the community: but the promis was made and we must be prohibited! – but after different hearings in the house for and against us, we at length obtaind a hearing by our selves & councel at the Bar of the House of commons: - before which hearing; I wrote to lay before some of the Members, a short lamentation stating the hardships and distress, some hundreds of the inhabetents of the Barrin hills in the Parish of Alstonefield must unavoidably suffer in consequence of the repeal of the Hawkers Act – this drew a tone of pity from some. Mr Dixon desired a copy to lay before Sir Henry, which I wrote him& left his office in Norfolk street Strand about 11 oclock. PM - Mr D laid the same before Sir H and he discharged about 2 thirds of our expenses to the amount of 70 or 80£ All the delegates were heard seperately when Mr Dallows was our Councellor, and I took upon me to prove to the house that if the hawkers were abolished, the goods then sold and consumed, would neither be sold nor consumed and therefore the Revenue would suffer loss, this I did to the satisfaction of the house. Nevertheless the Act passed demanding all hawkers to pay Double Duty and not to hawke their goods within less than 2 miles of any market town unless on a market day but having obtained a promis from Mr Pitt that a wholesale dealer only should not be deemed a hawker and having obtained a clause in the Bill to that efect I or anyone could carry on their trade whether or not they manufactured there own goods or bouht them but I shall be thought teadious by my prolixity; and so must be brief – the next sitting the Shop tax being Repealed. We again petitioned against the Double duty and the restrictions and got them all taken off so that the Hawkers Act is better than it was a century back; praise the lord.
About 38 years agoe the people in Hartington Upper Quarter walked a Boundary – which went to take away from Sir Henry, common & inclosed lands, to a large amount perhaps 1000 or 2000 Acres & set up stones with H for Hartington bounds, which remained for 8 or 10 years and about the year 1798 they made an attempt to prove their boundary & demand the land but I having often been upon the commons with my old Unkle and my father they had shewn me the Exact marks of the boundary – which I remembred well where the then Derbyshire and Staffordshire divided. Mr R C Greaves sent for me and desired me to walk the Boundary with a number of men whom he provided with stakes a whitening pot, Brush & when I walked the Boundary followed by the company who drove down the stakes and I saw them whited and left accordingly – the boundary follows the River Dove – up to a welll or spring at Patchhead and from thence by a line to Gospel stone from there to a rock called the man or lad of Axedge. From thence by a line to 3 rocks on the top of Drister Edge and from thence to a tall heap of stones piled up on Cheekshill and from thence leaving the Orchats fence to the left down a small hollow or flat of heath to the Glead tail – and from thence by a small run of water and fence which divides the orchats farm and Blackclough down to panyerspool – where it meets the River Dove which parts Staffordshire from Cheshire all the way to Gradbach & High Forrist.
NB – there is a place near a mile up the River Dean from Panyerspool which ever was and is still known by the name of threeshireheads there is a well or spring on the west side of the Brook dean, which is called the 3 shireheads spring – and I have heard my old Unkle and father say Staffordshire Boundary must assuredly ought to have goon to that point. Down a Holloway from the pile of stones upon Cheeks hill – to 3 shireheads spring which would have added to Sir H Harpurs Estate the Blackclough Farm & about 800 or 1000 acres of common but 90 or an 100 years back those mores being like wilderness & little inhabited and as such little noticed, and I have heard say that a man came and jumped out of Cheshire over the River Dean and said he then stood in Derbyshire. It appears probable to me that the person who built the blackclough House went and got tenanted to the Duke of Devonshire and that the blackclough House and inclosed land together with all the cole common & up to 3 shireheads has remained in the unmolested claim and Books of the Dukes of Devonshire to the present time but this with me is only conjecture. However when the Marks & Boundary of Sir Henrys claim was fixed we heard the Duke had entered an Action against that claime. When Mr Greaves requested me to go and enquire if it Orchats farm he had served any offices for the parish of Alstonefield I went and proved that the several farms cottages had not only done offices but had also done suit & servis for them in the court of Stafford – altho the Duke made an attempt to claim them. I recd a letter 25th June 1799 requesting me to meet Mr G Greaves at New Haven to examin the map of Hartington Surveyors - and point out unto them the just line, which I did & after which the matter in dispute was, I believe finally settled. These are the accounts of the things I was requested to write and are all true to the best of my rememberance……………
And now Honoured Sir, you having droped a word in my hearing when on the road the other day struck my mind whith hope and pleasure; when I heard you say you was but Steward under God true Hord Sir, we are all Stewards and everyone has a tallant to improve – some have many!! Lord give grace to improve them.
For be the talents what they may whether Ritches or learning, or health or time; every good and perfect gift cometh from the Lord, and tho we can profit great(?) nothing yet he that is wise may be profitable to himself, Lord grant that whatever our talents may be, we may wisely and faithfully occupy til our lord come. And although our best dutys will never attone for our smallest transgressions! Yet he that cometh yo god as a penitent and true believer trusting in the merits and death of Christ alone, may be saved without one scrap of his own righteous ness had not this been the case I had as a chief sinner, been lost for Ever! Oh to grace how great a dettor; Our god is loving to every man & his tender mercys are over All his works; may they rest upon you and yours for ever! Pray pardon the liberty I have taken in these last lines, I daren’t say more for fear of giving offence; and therefore beg leave to subscribe my self
Yours Most Truly
11th August 1820