Archive for May, 2006

Many of the female descendants of Francis Gant of Weeting, Norfolk  worked as furriers in Brandon, probably not the most pleasant of occupations as the job involved skinning the local rabbits!

Lingwood’s Hat and Fur Factory
Lingwood’s Hat and Fur Factory in Brandon

Extract From White’s 1844 Suffolk Directory

BRANDON, a well-built market town, noted for gun-flints, whiting, rabbit-skins, and fur, is pleasantly situated on the south bank of Little Ouse river, which is navigable for barges, and is crossed by a good bridge, at the junction of roads from Lynn and Swaffham, 6 miles W.N.W of Thetford, 9 miles N.N.E. of Mildenhall, 16 miles N. by W. of Bury St. Edmunds, and 78 miles N.N.E. of London. Its parish increased its population from 1148 souls in 1801, to 2002 in 1841, and comprises 6760 acres of land, extending six miles westward, along the south side of the vale, to the fens, and including about 4500 acres of light sandy land, which was inclosed under an Act passed in 1807, previous to which it was in open sheep-walks, and a large rabbit warren. Though now enclosed, there are still many rabbits to be seen in the parish; and on its broders are the extensive warrens of Lakenheath, Santon Downham and Elveden, which supply the Brandon furriers with immense quantities of skins, the dressing of which gives employment to about 200 females. During the late war, and before the invention of percussion caps, great numbers of the inhabitants were employed in preparing gun-flints from the prolific beds of that mineral, which lie at various depths below the chalk stratum; but the trade had become nearly obsolete in 1838, when a company was formed in 138 £25 shares, for its revival. The flint found here in large masses is said to be the best in the world for the use of fire-arms; and Brandon is now the only place in England where gun-flints are made to any considerable extent. Here are three whiting-mills, and a large brewery; and several barges ply hence to and from Lynn with corn, coal, &c.

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