Corker Family


The Corker Cork-Cutters

In the eighteenth century the Corker family were in business as cork-cutters – a trade later made obsolete by the technology introduced by the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century. As a comment on the curiosity of the family name describing the occupation, in a volume of marriage licences compiled for the British Record Society, the editors remarked: "Those who are amused by coincidences will note that . . . Nathaniel Corker of Nantwich (1736) was a cork-cutter" (Introduction of Nottinghamshire Marriage Licences, Vol. 1, British Record Society, 1930, accessed at Ancestry website).

        The Cork-Cutter’s Trade
An informative review of the cork-cutter profession is given by Cheryl Bailey, "Bark’s Requiem: the forgotten trade of corkcutting" (Family History Monthly, January 2004, pp. 22–24). Cork, obtained from the bark of a type of oak tree that flourishes around the Mediterranean and Portuguese coast, was valued for a variety of uses including as a wine bottle sealer and for the inner soles of shoes.

In England, the first cork-cutting workshops started to operate in London at the end of the 17th century. The interest in cork-cutting spread and, during the 18th century, workshops were established in many towns throughout Britain.

The cork-cutter was described in the 18th century manual The General Shop Book: or, The Tradesman’s Universal Director, printed for C. Hitch and L. Hawes in Paternoster Row, London, 1753 (Google book online):

Cork-cutter. The Cork he cuts is the bark of a tree we meet with in Spain, and other warm countries; few serve apprentices to this trade; Women are chiefly employed in it, and will earn above a shilling a day in cutting them, at so much a dozen.
Fifty pound will set up a Cork-cutter.

The 1804 publication of The Book of Trades, or Library of the Useful Arts (Vol. 1, London, pp. 144–148) observed that for the cork-cutter’s work "the knives used in the operation have a peculiar construction, and they must be exceedingly sharp".

Illustration of
a Cork-Cutter

The Book of Trades, or
Library of the Useful Arts
London, 1804.

In the above illustration the items hanging from the ceiling are flotation devices or life jackets designed to assist a wearer to keep afloat in water. The text to accompany the illustration stated:

The cork waistcoat is composed of four pieces of cork; two for the breasts, and two for the back, each nearly as long as the waistcoat without flaps. The cork is covered, and adapted to fit the body. It is open before, and may be fastened either with strings, or buckles and straps. The waistcoat weighs about twelve ounces, and may be made at the expense of a few shillings.

Parish registers record that a Corker family was settled in the Nantwich area of Cheshire at the time of Henry VIII, the King of England from 1509 to his death in 1547.

Thomas Corker, born about 1695, died January 1771 in the town of Charleston, across the Atlantic ocean, in the British American colony of South Carolina. His will, archived in the National Archives, London, left money to establish a school in Nantwich under the auspices of the "presbeterial or congregational" society. This suggests great affection for Nantwich as his ancestral home. The will expressed the desire to:

pay a master and mistress twenty pounds per annum for teaching twenty boys and ten girls to write and read English until the age of twelve or fourteen years fit to put to some laudable trade to get their living.

An account of the nonconformist churches in Nantwich does not mention the Corker school charity (James Hall, A history of the town and parish of Nantwich, 1883, Internet Archive ). The executor of Thomas Corker’s will, the Charleston merchant Josiah Smith, may have had little interest in supporting a gift for a provincial town in England.

In his will Thomas Corker acknowledged three brothers: Daniel, Nathaniel who was deceased when the will was written in May 1768, and John who lived with his family in the town of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. A search of available records reveals that the three Corker brothers – Daniel, Nathaniel and John – were all cork-cutters in England.

Daniel Corker, a cork-cutter of Nantwich, was married at St Nicholas’s Church, Liverpool, on 8 October 1734. By 1736 he was active as a cork-cutter in Nottingham. On 22 November 1736 Nathaniel Corker, a Nantwich cork-cutter, married Elizabeth Craven, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, at St Mary’s Church, Nottingham.

The wedding of John Corker and Rosamond Poynton took place on 10 October 1725 at St Werburgh’s Church, Hanbury, Staffordshire. On the marriage licence the address of both the bride and groom was stated as Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. John and Rosamond Corker made their family home in Uttoxeter.

The Corker family owned property in Uttoxeter Market Place (Francis Redfern, History and antiquities of the town and neighbourhood of Uttoxeter, 1886, p. 237, Internet Archive ).

The demand for the Corker cork-cutting expertise justified taking on apprentices. For example, on 14 April 1742 William Key started an apprenticeship as a cork-cutter with the master John Corker of Uttoxeter. Twenty years later, in 1762, William Johnson became a cork-cutter apprentice in Uttoxeter under the supervision of Nathaniel Corker (Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures, 1710–1811, Ancestry website). Nathaniel Corker was buried at Nantwich on 12 April 1766.

In the next generation, three sons of John Corker of Uttoxeter continued in the cork-cutting business: John, Thomas and Daniel.

The youngest son Daniel Corker raised his family in his birthplace of Uttoxeter. None of his sons were attracted to the art of cork-cutting. Three sons of Daniel Corker became skilled watch-makers (The Corker Family: Clock & Watch Makers of Staffordshire and London).

Daniel Corker’s two older brothers, the cork-cutters John and Thomas, each had a son named Daniel Corker. The two cousins were the third and last generation of the Corker family (that has been traced) to operate a cork-cutting workshop.

In the late 1770s John Corker, in the cork-cutting profession, was living in east London in the district near the church of St George in the East. In July 1779 John Corker, a cork-cutter, resided at "Bluegate Fields, Ratcliffe-highway" (The Proceedings of the Old Bailey , trials held at London's central criminal court, Reference Number: t17790707-5). A plausible connection is that this was the same John Corker baptised on 6 December 1734 in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, the son of John Corker, a master cork-cutter, and his wife Rosamond.

Daniel Corker, the son of John and Sarah Corker of London, was born in 1778. On the day of his christening, at the church of St George in the East, the parish register recorded his father’s occupation as a cork-cutter.

Daniel Corker became established as a cork-cutter in Worcester, the county town of Worcestershire. A business directory for 1828 had an entry for Daniel Corker, cork-cutter, 67 High Street, Worcester (Pigot’s Directory of Cheshire, Cumberland . . ., 1828, Google Book online). In the 1851 census his shop was at 101 High Street, Worcester; the census return recorded that he was 72 years old, born in London. A death notice was printed in Berrow's Worcester Journal, 24 January 1863 (19th Century British Library Newspapers online):

[Worcester, 1863] Jan. 16, aged 85, Mr. Daniel Corker, formerly of
High Street, in this city, cork cutter.

Thomas Corker, the uncle of Daniel Corker of Worcester, was active in the cork-cutting business in Leicester, the county town of Leicestershire. Thomas Corker’s son, another Daniel Corker, was also a Leicester cork-cutter. At the United Kingdom general election of 1826 both father and son were registered voters for Leicester. It should be noted that, before the 1832 Reform Act, the right to vote was restricted to men who were property owners. Poll books recorded those who cast a vote and who they voted for (the secret ballot was introduced later). The poll for the election of two representatives in Parliament for the Borough of Leicester, 1826 (Google eBook online) named the voters with their address and occupation including:
      Thomas Corker, Bond Street, cork-cutter, and
      Daniel Corker, York Street, cork-cutter.
Father and son voted for different candidates.

In Pigot’s 1828 commercial directory for Leicester the Corkers were the only cork-cutters to qualify for an entry. Daniel Corker’s shop was still at York Street while his father Thomas Corker was now residing at Church Gate, Leicester. In the summer of 1828 Thomas Corker was aged 84.

Not long after the 1828 directory was compiled, Daniel Corker died at the young age of 37. He was buried at St George’s Church, Leicester, on 5 October 1828. His father Thomas Corker, aged 87, was buried at St Margaret’s Church, Leicester, on 18 January 1831.

To summarize, the appearance is that, for three generations, the Corker family of cork-cutters were enterprising businessmen who ran their trade from shops in various town centres in England including Nantwich, Uttoxeter, Nottingham, Leicester, Worcester, and London.

Outline Descendant Tree

Daniel Corker of Worcester in Census Returns

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