Cork Merchant or Cork Cutter in your family history?


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Cork Merchants and the Cork Trade

My family history has been traced back as far as the founding couple of a Cork Merchant business in Dover, UK. This couple were married in Uttoxeter where they both declared themselves to be Cork Cutters, logically working for another Cork Merchant at that early time in the 1860's.

In trying to trace more about this couple, I've been looking at Cork Cutters in the UK, and this page aims to share some of that information, and appropriate links to help others with Cork Cutters in their history.

Where does Cork come from?

Cork is the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark is still removed today in a traditional manual way, carefully peeling off the thick bark layer every 10 years. The tree is then left to regrow the bark, allowing future harvesting from the same cork oak tree.

If you have a Cork Cutter in your ancestry, this will be a person who was paid to cut bottle stopping "corks" from the strips of cork.

Declining Cork use and trade

If you've not noticed the declining use of cork, take a look at your wine rack and you'll probably notice the use of screw caps for many bottles. As you open bottles you may also notice many non-screw caps use a synthetic "cork" stopper instead of the traditional cork.

Corks have been completely replaced in most bottles, with wine remaining the last real use of the traditional cork stopper (previously medicine bottles, perfumes etc.. would be stoppered by a traditional cork stopper. This wide use saw the Cork Merchant and Cork Cutter become a common occupation in the UK.

Beyond the reduced usage of cork, the trade has also been hit by mechanical advances which have seen the ability to punch highly accurate corks from bark stripes very quickly, and with minimal labour effort.

Challenge of searching Cork Merchant/Cork Cutters

I've found information on the Internet on Cork Cutters and Cork Merchants, but one of the big challenges is that searches often return information on the city of Cork in Ireland. I therefore remember you use the exclude option on any search engines to exclude the word "Ireland", assuming of course that your family isn't associated to Ireland! This will help refine your searches.

Historical Cork Merchants in UK

I intend to reference any Cork Merchants or Cork Cutters I come across in my search below. Please note this is by no means a thorough list. Below information may be of particular use to those looking in Uttoxeter or Kings Lynn, as these are my search focuses.

From History, gazetteer, and directory of Norfolk, and the city and county of the city of Norwich (1845)(on Google Books)
CORK CUTTERS. (NORWICH)
Briggs Wilson, St Paul's opening
Robinson Ann, Bridge st. St George's
Rose George, 68 St Stephen's st
Smith Alexander, Union place

HOTELS, INNS, AND TAVERNS. (NORWICH) <-- Not strictly related but logically there is a reason for this name (re: owners or location of the pub?)
Cork Cutters' Arms, John Robinson, Bridge Street, Saint George's

CORK CUTTERS. (YARMOUTH)
Burman Jas. North entc
Hallett Wm. Chur. sq

THETFORD DIRECTORY
9 Stokes Joseph, cork cutter

KINGS LYNN DIRECTORY
Bullen John, cork cutter, 68 Kirby st

CORK CUTTERS (KINGS LYNN)
"Marked * are Cork Merchants also"
Brooks Robert, Austin street
*Monement & Son 79 Norfolk street
*Mugridge Thomas, 17 Broad street

From History, gazetteer, and directory of Staffordshire (1834) (on Google Books)
CORK CUTTERS (WOLVERHAMPTON)
Fielding James, Lichfield street
Hudson Richard, Lichfield street

CORK CUTTERS (UTTOXETER)
Vernon John & Co. Balance street

DRAYCOTT-IN-THE-MOORS DIRECTORY
Leake George, cork cutter

From White's 1857 Directory of Derbyshire:
Radford Mary, baker, 26, Cork market
Vernon Cath. & Son, cork cutters, 7, Irongt
Willisford Jemima, cork manufr., 13, Corn market; h. 16, Victoria ter

 

 
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