Born in the small country town of Bradford-on-Avon where her father was a butcher and her mother made straw bonnets, Louise had a respectable upbringing.
At the age of 14 she arrived in the metropolis with her family, where she was lucky enough to be apprenticed to a Milliner’s in Foubert Place, no doubt obtaining the post because of the skills learnt whilst helping her mother. Here she served out here 7 year apprenticeship living in cramped and confined workshops, working for long hours and receiving no remuneration for the first 2 years. Eventually she began to earn a regular wage although the work was especially tiring during ‘the season’ when milliners could expect to work for 10 – 12 hours a day creating accessories in the latest style and fashion for their well-to-do- customers.
Louise met and married John Richard Sherrard, a cork cutter. They had 5 children although two died in infancy. She continued to be employed as a milliner but now worked from her home in Frying Pan Alley, off Turnmill St in Clerkenwell. Sadly John had no head for business and was declared bankrupt on several occasions meaning that they were often reliant on Louise’s meagre income.
To add insult to injury, John developed pneumonia, a condition common in those who worked with cork; and after a short illness, he died leaving Louise to fend for herself. Never one to give up easily the newly widowed Louise had no option but to brave the streets seeking out the less discerning customers to buy her day-caps, bonnets and other wares.
Some say she may also be looking for a new man to share her life!
However as she aged Louise’s eyesight began to fail probably caused by continual sewing in dim light and by candlelight meaning her employer could no longer rely on the quality of her work. Her neat, fine and small stitches became a distant memory!