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The Wainwright Family:
Coal Merchants of Woodhouse Eaves

by Elisabeth Thomas

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A family history as told to Elizabeth Thomas in 2017.



Ray and Ann Wainwright have lived in Woodhouse Eaves all their lives – Ray was born in Mill Road and Ann in Beacon Road.
Ray’s great grandfather was bailiff on the Beaumanor Estate and his grandfather, William Wainwright started a coal merchant’s business in the late nineteenth century. He supplied coal to St. Mary’s Church in Old Woodhouse, as recorded in the church records. “1st April 1899 - Wainwright and Hillyard - 9 tons, 14 cwt, 2 quarters - £6 19s 81/2 d.”

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Ray and Ann Wainwright

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A shoe from one of the pit donkeys

At first he used a donkey with panniers to transport the coal, later using horses and carts, and also had a drag pony, which could find its own way to the pit. Ray’s Auntie Eva kept a shoe from the donkey.
Ray remembers one particular story about his grandfather going to Ellistown Colliery to pick up coal. Upon being denied a superior grade of coal he said, “If I can’t have that, I’m going” and went off to South Leicester Colliery, also at Ellistown, which had all his subsequent business.
William rented ‘Fir Tree Cottage’ on Main Street from the Beaumanor Estate. This smallholding had enough land for grazing and cutting hay. In summer his horses grazed farmers’ fields; 9 acres, 3 rods and 12 perches, let at £38 10s a year, according to Beaumanor Estate’s sales catalogue.


Ray’s father, William Born, left school at thirteen, collecting coal from the colliery and helping with deliveries. He had two brothers, Philip and Walter and a sister, Eva. Philip served in the army in WW2 later inspecting ammunition kept in tin huts around the villages of Woodhouse and Woodhouse Eaves. He also worked as a cleaner at Beaumanor. Walter lived at 7 Mill Road and owned 5 Mill Road, a sweet shop. He sold the shop to Wilf Hughes and it became a butcher’s shop. Walter repaired shoes in a wooden shed at Fir Tree Cottage and later worked at Herbert Morris in Loughborough as a crane driver. Eva married a baker, Laurie, one of the Squire brothers at the bakery on the corner of Bakehouse Lane, now Meadow Lane. Laurie baked for troops abroad during WW2. At the Beaumanor Estate sale on 19th/20th December 1946, William purchased the land and property that had previously been rented, for £1,800.

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Fir Tree cottage, Main Street

Ann (nee Tye) was one of twelve children. Ann’s father grew vegetables and her mother scrubbed floors at the Bull’s Head for money to pay for the meter. Upon leaving school, Ann went to work at Wright’s Elastic and Webbing factory at Quorn Cross in the 1950s.
The last local coal merchant business delivering to homes in Woodhouse Eaves closed on December 31st 2017 when Ray and Ann officially retired.