Catherine Lawrie (1786-1873), Brazier, Tin Plate Worker and Plumber

Catherine Lawrie traded in Carlisle while she supplied the workhouse in the village of Dalston some 4 miles away with a number of items. Her bill of April 1831 for repairing 8 tins at a cost of 8d and supplying 12 tins at 3s along with the supply of a boiler costing 1s. 2d was settled by William Barker. [1] She was still supplying them with items in 1837. [2]

the former Workhouse at Dalston

William Barker’s employment with Catherine was abruptly terminated in January 1836. He fell from a ladder fracturing his leg leading to his death. His wife Catherine Henderson was left with four young children.[3]

Richard Johnson became one of Catherine’s employees as her foreman. In 1857 he left Catherine’s employment and set up business on his own. [4] Advertising his new venture, he placed an announcement in the newspaper stipulating his role as foreman to Mrs Lawrie for nearly 20 years, suggesting Catherine was someone respected within the city. It was standard procedure to alert the public of your previous experience when setting up a new venture.

Catherine Elizabeth Henegan was born in Ireland. On 1 January 1814 she married Archibald Lawrie a brazier and tinplate worker from Carlisle at St Mary’s church. Her residence was given as Canonbie, North Britain (Scottish Border region).[5] Archibald and Catherine had four children: Richard Hanegan (1815-91), Catherine Anne (1817-86), Mary Isabella (1819-89), and Archibald,  baptised 17 July 1822. By the time of Archibald’s baptism, his father, lately of Eden Court, was recorded as deceased. His death, aged 51, appears in the burial register of Stanwix on 23 June 1822. [6] The running of the business was taken on by Catherine. When her children were young, Mary Bell became a part of her support network, remaining with her for 30 years.

When Mary Bell died in November 1851, the Carlisle Journal recorded:  ‘At Rockliffe on the 21st inst Mary Bell 58 nearly all her industrious life was spent in the service of the widow of Russell the historian of modern Europe and Mrs Lawrie of Scotch Street Carlisle with the later of whom she lived upwards of 30 years’. [7]

Catherine’s name is in the local trade directory of 1834.  The name of her son, Archibald, begins to appear in the trade directories in the late 1840’s. [8] Their place of business always clearly specified as 54 Scotch Street, Carlisle.

Guildhall and Fisher Street, Carlisle Cumbria Image Bank

Using entries from local newspapers, Catherine’s business activities can be traced. She appears to be the only woman on a list of those allocated shares in a stock company for the provision of a building for the Literary and Philosophical Society in 1838. [9] There is evidence of her securing tenders for work in the city for lanterns costing £12.9s 4d in 1841[10], the maintenance of a force (water) pump in Fisher Street in 1843, [11] and plumber’s work at the Court buildings costing £8.6s.9d in 1845.[12]

Catherine chose to give to charitable causes in the City. She subscribed to a fund for the widow of Thomas Dougall, a mail guard killed in a railway accident in 1840 [13], and to the relief of the distressed poor in Carlisle in 1842.[14] In her later years in business she contributed to the building fund of the Dispensary in 1857.[15 ]

When John Nicholson a stone mason stole 11 lb of lead from her property and sold it on, she decided not to pursue matters further. [16]

While Catherine’s eldest son, Richard, had chosen to pursue a career as a barrister from 1840 practising in the city until 1849, [17] it appears that Catherine was gradually withdrawing from the business in preparation for Archibald to take over. Unfortunately Archibald died on 29 January 1852 aged 29. [18]

In 1860 Catherine appears to have decided to call it a day. Although she is not named in the notice for the sale of plumber’s stock, the address of the retiring proprietor is given as 54 Scotch Street so it is assumed this is her.[19]


The Tin Plate Worker Wellcome Collection

In 1868, creditors received a once only payment relating to her business. [20] Catherine left Carlisle with her two daughters to live with her son Richard at Wellington Terrace, Hammersmith. Without the existence of the vouchers Catherine Lawrie’s business interests outside of the city of Carlisle may not have become apparent.

[1] Cumbria Archives, Dalston Overseers’ Vouchers, SPC44/2/48/114, 30 April 1830
[2] Cumbria Archives, Dalston Overseers’ Vouchers, SPC44/2/46/16, 1837
[3] Carlisle Journal, 30 January 1836, p.2, col. d.
[4] Carlisle Journal, 30 January 1857, p. 4, col. c.
[5] Carlisle Journal, 8 January 1814, p. 3, col. d.
[6] Cumberland Paquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser, 24 June 1822, p. 3, col. a; Cumbria Archives, PR117/13, Stanwix Burial Register, 1814-1846.
[7] Carlisle Journal, 28 November 185,1 p. 3, col. g.
[8] Pigot & Co., National Commercial Directory of Chester, Cumberland, Durham, Lancaster, Northumberland, Westmorland and York (London and Manchester: J Pigot & Co., 1834);Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland (18470, p. 164.
[9] Carlisle Journal, 17 March 1838, p. 3, col. a.
[10] Carlisle Journal, 16 October 1841, p. 2, col. b.
[11] Carlisle Journal, 15 April 1843, p. 3, col. b.
[12] Carlisle Journal, 18 October 1845, p. 3, col. b.
[13] Carlisle Journal, 21 March 1840, p. 2, col. e.
[14] Carlisle Patriot, 19 February 1842, p. 2, col. b.
[15] Carlisle Journal, 14 August 1857, p. 4, col. d.
[16] Carlisle Patriot, 21 August 1858, p. 6, col. d.
[17] Alumni Cantabrigienses A biographical List of all Known Students Graduates & Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge from the Earliest times to 1900, vol 2, 1752 to 1900, ed. John Vale, Cambridge Library, accessed at
[18] Carlisle Journal, 30 January 1852, p. 3, col. g; Cumbria Archives, PR 117/14, Stanwix Burial Register, 1846-1862 entry 264
[19] Carlisle Patriot, 19 May 1860, p. 4, col. b.
[20] Carlisle Patriot, 28 February 1868, p. 3, col. g.

Catherine and her daughters are buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, London. Richard at Cheritan Road Cemetery, Folkestone, Kent.

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