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John Hulk

1861 Census
1861 Census records John Hulk and family in Cromwell Street

John Hulk was born in Coventry in 1831 and apprenticed to Thomas Hill in the city in 1844. In 1853 he took out a mortgage for £250 from the Coventry and Warwickshire Benefit Building and Investment Society, with which he bought a plot of land on Cromwell Street (now Berkeley Road South), and on which he had a house built. This mortgage, considerable at the time, was added to by a further £54.15s.0d in order that the building could be completed. The repayments on what was then, to a young artisan such as Hulk, a very large weekly expense, must have placed a heavy burden on him, and he would have been hard pushed, with a wife and family to support, to make ends meet. Unfortunately the way out of his difficulties which he chose was bound to fail. There was a tendency among some masters and manufacturers to take on a large number of apprentices, not with the intention of training them to become good craftsmen in their own right, but merely to exploit them as cheap labour - a practice not unknown in other industries - and for which the Coventry trade was notorious.

Hulk took the apprentices and called himself a 'manufacturer' and one can easily imagine the quality of the watches he produced. His business was doomed to failure, and in October 1857 he had to borrow a further £150 from an uncle, William Hulk, Beerseller of Coventry. He lasted a further six and a half years, but in March 1864 the Building Society was forced to foreclose on his mortgage, his Earlsdon property was sold and John Hulk disappeared from the watchmaking records.

From Brown Boots in Earlsdon by Mary Montes

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