381-Year-Old Shawl Mystery

300-year Shawl

A feature of a Mothers’ Union function at Skegness last night was a shawl parade, in which 25 ladies took part.

The winning shawl, a gorgeous creation in flowered silk, which could be traced back for 300 years, was worn by Miss Lea of Seacroft.

Source: Nottingham Evening Post Thursday 16 Jan 1930

Note: This means that if the shawl still exists today, it would be 381 years old! Do YOU know where it is?

I have included a brief account of Miss Letitia Lea’s family history below in the hopes that someone might come forward with information about the shawl.

From the BMD records, it appears that Letitia Lea was born in 1866 and died in 1957, unmarried, presumably without issue.

The 1871 census shows her living in Burgh with her father, John, a farmer, and mother, Ann Maria. Though John Lea was born in Burgh, the family had  moved to Bratoft by 1964 where they had three girls, Kate, Elizabeth and Letitia, then returned to Burgh where they had two more girls, Lydia in 1869 and Thursa a year later.

The 1881 census and the 1891 census shows the family still in Burgh, the latter recording a 7-year-old niece of Letitia, Mary Elizabeth Epton staying with them.

Letitia Lea, now aged 34, appears on the 1901 census as working as a book keeper in a hotel in Kingston upon Hull. No doubt this gave her the experience she needed to run her own private hotel in Skegness, as the 1937 Kelly’s Directory for Skegness, shows her living at 9 Trafalgar Avenue – a private hotel.

The mystery is – how did Letitia come to be in possession of a 300-year-old shawl? This is pure speculation, but, remember reading about Jabez Good and his museum in Burgh le Marsh? He was reported to have had Oliver Cromwell’s boots exhibited at his museum. When the museum closed down, I understand the contents were auctioned off. Maybe the silk shawl was once an exhibit and was purchased by Letitia Lea? Curiously, the shawl was around the same age as Oliver Cromwell’s boots…

As I’ve stated, Letitia died in 1957 at the grand old age of 90, presumably without issue, so whoever had the task of disposing of her effects, maybe a family member, may have retained the shawl?


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