Apr 192012
Plaque about Players on Craven Street
Craven Street, Coventry

Craven Street, Coventry

I have already written about the Player family of Coventry, England before (here and here). Recently, I have been trying to clean up my files and my research on this family, and I realized that I have much more to write about. As my academic husband always says: unpublished research is the same as research that was never done. I think that this adage can be applied to genealogy as well. I view these blog posts as steps towards the production of something longer about the Player family.

One of the enduring mysteries of the Player family research is the relationship between William and Thomas Player who lived at 9 and 6 Craven Street, Coventry for several decades. The families lived and worked together in this area of Coventry in the watch making trade and it seems very likely that they are related. But how?

William was born on 12 Oct 1794 in London, and his parents were John and Patience. Thomas was born in 1803 in Birmingham according to every census return. One of my fellow Player researchers, a descendant of Thomas, has looked long and hard for a birth or baptismal record for Thomas to no avail. Who were Thomas’ parents? Was he the youngest child of John and Patience or is he a cousin to the family?

There is some circumstantial evidence that Thomas was the child of John and Patience. First, a Daniel Player died in 1803 in Coventry. On his burial record, his parents are listed as John and Prudence and we know that John and Patience had a son Daniel James who was born in 1800. Close enough? That would put John and Patience in Birmingham at the time of Thomas’ birth. But why were they there? Although we don’t know what happened to John Player, we do know that Patience later died in London in 1831 and that her other children married there. So while the family might have been in Birmingham for a time, they returned to London at some point.

Thomas Player was the first Player to live in Coventry. In 1828, he married Margaret McGregor at the Holy Trinity Church in Coventry. Thomas and his family are the only Players living in Coventry in 1841. Thomas was a watch dial painter or an enameller. Birmingham was known for it watch dial painting, and it seems possible that this is where Thomas did his apprenticeship. This evidence, plus the fact that Thomas was the first in Coventry, would mean, however, that he did not live with the London Players for several years.

Thomas Player

Thomas Player

By 1851, Thomas had been joined in Coventry by William Player and his family. William was living at 6 Craven Street, just doors away from Thomas Player. (Thomas Player would later live in 6 Craven Street for several decades). William’s sons George and Ebenezer where also present in Coventry — both had married in the city in 1847. There is also evidence that William’s eldest son (also William) was in Coventry in 1846 as his infant son died in Coventry at that time. William Jr. and his family returned to London and were living there in 1851. William’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Joshua Willington joined her parents in Coventryand they were living on Craven Street in 1861.

Although William Player is listed as a watch dial painter on the 1851 census (when he is also living at 6 Craven Street where Thomas and his family would also live), William and his sons were more involved in mechnical aspects of the trade like engine turning. Presumably these two families worked together to make whole watches — each family contributed its special knowledge to the project.

These two families had something else in common: both were involved in non-conformist churches — churches that did not follow the Church of England. William’s children were baptized in the Providence Independent Chapel in London, and I have found records that Thomas’ two elder sons were baptized in the West Orchard Independent Chapel in Coventry. William’s son Joseph was also married in this chapel. Descendants of both families have heard rumours that the Players were either baptists or Quakers. (William’s son Joseph and his family were certainly baptists; but I have never been successful in connecting the family to the large number of Players who were Quakers.) This adds to the strong circumstantial evidence that there is a connection between these families.

I followed the Player families through the English censuses until 1911 and all of the Players in Coventry until that time were descendants of either Thomas or William. Of Thomas’ four sons, his son William seems to have been the most prosperous (living in a named house on Dover Street, Coventry), although his son Thomas developed a reputation as a talented watch dial painter.

Player Watchmaking Factory

Player Watchmaking Factory

Of William’s sons, his youngest Joseph was the most successful. (Joseph is my gg-grandfather, father of Richard Morgan Player). Joseph rode the industrial revolution to prosperity. He was a watch manufacturer (not a watch maker) and he had a factory where workers would construct the watches. By 1871, Joseph was employing 56 men and 23 boys in his factory and by 1881, he and his family were living in Allesley, a town outside of Coventry. The family was living in a large house and employed three servants. Living outside of Coventry meant it was necessary to ride to the factory in Coventry, a luxury for only the well-off. The family suffered a blow, however, when Joseph died in 1895 at the age of 61. His eldest son Joseph William took over the business, and it fell on hard times as cheaper watches were available from America, and after Joseph William attempted to make the world’s most complicated watch for JP Morgan. As far as I can tell, there are no descendants of Joseph Player left in Coventry.

None of this, however, solves the problem of determining the relationship between William Player and Thomas Player. I’m not sure how to proceed next. I think that our best bet will be to find the apprenticeship records for Thomas Player. Anyone have any other ideas?

Plaque about Players on Craven Street

Plaque about Players on Craven Street

A timeline of Players in Coventry

  • Thomas Player married Margaret McGregor in Coventry
1841 Census
1851 Census
1861 Census
1871 Census
1881 Census
1891 Census
1901 Census
1911 Census

Some good Coventry resources

 Posted by at 8:14 am

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