Lace Maker – Frances Bush
The name Frances Bush may not mean that much to people who live outside of Long Eaton, Derbyshire but that is not too surprising when you consider the fact that records of her life are so patchy and she appears to have led a simple, modest life. Even the local council were asking for help from descendants and appealing for photographs before a recent event in her honour. Frances, who was born in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1845, became a respected figure in her new home-town in ways she did not plan and left a legacy worth remembering.
Long Eaton’s Bush Family
Soon after moving to Long Eaton, Frances found herself part of one of the town’s most famous families when she married Alfred Bush. At this point, Frances simply gained some notoriety by association by becoming the daughter-in-law of local legend William Bush. The Bush family were very successful and rightfully respected in the town; in 1842, William provided Long Eaton with a steam engine powered factory, which helped build its reputation as a industrial town, he also initiated the use of gas lighting in 1852, and employed employed a large number of local residents in his lace factory on Bank Street. His work started a transformation on Long Eaton that his sons would be forced to continue after his death, aged just 44; however, the responsibility soon fell into the hands of Frances herself.
Initially, the operation of the business was passed to William’s four sons – of whom Alfred was the youngest – but tragically all four died young and, when Alfred himself passed away at just 32, there was nobody to take over except his wife. While Frances Bush could have easily taken on the business in name only and left the work to other, more qualified individuals, she took hold of the opportunity and worked hard within the industry. She personally worked within the factories, attended lace markets and amended fabrics alongside her staff and continued her association with the business to some degree right until the end.
Frances Bush the mother.
As Frances’ work in lace manufacturing continued, from Alfred’s death right until the 1900s, she showed herself to be a skilled member of the industry and it is this work that has warranted her recognition in the eyes of many. She is highly regarded as a pioneer for women in industry but perhaps it is equally fitting to remember her as a strong widow that carried on her husband’s work while raising six devoted children. She was keen to retain control of the business for as long as she could but eventually the baton was passed to her sons and they took on the majority of the work for her. It appears that she never let her work get in the way of her family and this is clear from the events surrounding her death and funeral.
Frances’ death and her legacy within Long Eaton.
Frances’ long connection with the town where she made her name continued with her sudden death, aged 65, and she remains a respected local figure. On the 13th of October 1909, Frances was taking the train with her daughter, despite feeling unwell, and along the journey she got steadily worse and lost consciousness. By the time she arrived by into her home town she had died. This sudden passing was met with shock and an outpouring of condolences from local figures and residents and her funeral – at the local parish church – was attended by carriage after carriage of well-wishers and family members. Her children laid a wreath to “the very best of mothers” and the newspapers called her “one of the best known and most highly respected ladies in Long Eaton”.
This tag was certainly true but it appears that she has lost some of her fame in the century since her death; her father-in-law remains a well-documented figure but records of her life and work are difficult to come by. It is hoped that her success in a recent poll, which helps honour Derbyshire residents with a blue plaque, is a sign that local people still remember her significance and now her former home can act as a lasting monument to her efforts as determined, caring widow with a talent for business.