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The Prest Family

Two generations of Cullens from Greenstreet married members of the Prest family; Edward Cullen married Margaret Prest in 1821, and their son William married Margaret's niece Elizabeth Prest in 1849. A further influence is due to the fact that Elizabeth's parents, and thus Margaret's Aunt and Uncle, moved to the Greenstreet area and lived there for many years. Their names were William Chalk Prest and Elizabeth Prest (nee Hole).

The grandparents of Margaret Prest and her brother, William Chalk Prest were Hugh Prest and Margaret Goodwin, who married at St Mary the Virgin, in Dover, on October 19th, 1766. Hugh was Margaret's second husband, and she had at least one child from her first marriage. We have on hand, but have yet to transcribe, her will which goes into some detail about her family. Margaret survived her second husband's death as her will describes her as a widow. They had two daughters, Sarah (1767) and Ann (1770) plus a son Hugh, baptised on Feb. 22, 1774. In 1792 the Dover trade directory shows Hugh Prest as the Innkeeper at "The Three Kings" on the waterfront by Dover Harbour.

Hugh Prest married Elizabeth Chalk in Barham, Kent, on July 19, 1795. Barham is a village half way between Dover and Canterbury. Elizabeth was baptised on January 21, 1777 in Dover. The couple went on to have five daughters and one son. The daughters were Mary Anne (1796) who married William Matthews, Elizabeth (1798), Margaret (1800) who married Edward Cullen, Catherine (1804), Jane Amelia (1915) who married a Louis David in France in 1840. The son was William Chalk Prest, born in 1802.

William Chalk Prest

William Chalk Prest was born on June 28, 1802 in Dover. On August 27, 1823 he married Elizabeth Hole. Elizabeth may have been born in, or at least baptised in Swimbridge in North Devon. A relative was the Vicar in that parish although the exact connection is not yet known. The couple were married at St. Mary the Virgin in Dover. We know from several early records that William Chalk Prest was a Lace Manufacturer, at least until about 1850, for which see the section below on the lace industry in Calais.

The couple had five children, all born in Calais, across the English Channel in France. They were Elizabeth (1825) who married William Cullen, John Hugh (1829) who died in infancy, William Matthews (1827), Henry and Alfred (presumably twins, both born in 1836). William, Henry and Alfred appear to have spent a considerable portion of their lives in France, two of them at least having married French girls.

By 1851, William and Elizabeth had left France. They took up residence in Greenstreet where William's sister Margaret lived with her husband Edward Cullen. They remained there until their deaths.

Elizabeth Prest (nee Hole) died in Greenstreet at age 68, in 1871. Four years later, William married Emily Jane Clayton, who was born about 1859. The couple continuing to live in Greenstreet.

William Chalk Prest died on June 16, 1896 in Greenstreet at age 93, leaving £1326 to his widow Emily Jane. His will and subsequent codicils show that he had earlier given property on Bayfield Road, Sittingbourne to his daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law William Cullen.

Death Notice Emily Jane Prest

William's second wife Emily Jane survived until she was 85 years old as shown on her death notice saved in Auntie Belle's records. Ivy Cottage was located on Lynstead Lane.

The Lace Industry

The Prest family lived in the Dover area. Elizabeth Prest was born in Calais, France, just across the English Channel. William Prest was a lace manufacturer. Lace making in Calais has a fascinating history and further exploration is needed into William Prest's involvement. However, broadly speaking, English lace making was, in its origins a handcraft. Lacemaking flourished in a few quite specific communities; Honiton in Devon is one example; Nottingham is another. It was often a cottage industry with the workers, mostly women, working on piece work in their homes. In the late 18th and early 19th century, manufacturers in England, particularly in Nottingham, the centre of the trade, developed new machines that could produce high quality lace. Lace was particularly fashionable in France at the time. Wars and tariff barriers weakened the Nottingham trade and led to industrial unrest. Anger focused on the new machines and in 1813 the lace industry like the cotton industry was attacked by Luddites.

Around the same time, and due to some of these same causes, the English manufacturers smuggled the English lace making machines into France. Workers from Nottingham were brought in to operate these machines. The industry flourished and became centralized in Calais. All this lasted until the third French Revolution which, in 1848, overthrew the regime of Louisse Phillipe. An offshoot of that revolution was a turning against the English workers in the Calais factories. Most had to return to England, but there was nothing for them there, so arrangements were made for three ships to take them to Australia.

The Prest family appear to have been owners, not workers, in this trade, but the history helps explain their move from England's north country to Dover, and their subsequent move away from Dover in the mid 19th century.

For more information on the Calais Lace trade see:

The International City of Lace and Fashion

The Australian Society of the Lacemakers of Calais Inc.

The Quaker Connection

As our research continues, an interesting connection appears to be emerging. Dover had a significant Quaker community. The family names of Prest, Chalk, Cullen and Sims all appear in those records. We have not been able to establish any firm links, but our research into this continues.