Felix Parsonson Tolliday and Arthur Woodlow Tolliday

Felix Parsonson Tolliday, (1838 – 1917), was the son of a well-known Sudbury bell-ringer and hand loom-silk weaver, Stephen Tolliday. The Tolladays were very proud of their craft and what they considered to be the superior finish of the hand-loom work.
Felix and his brother Arthur were the first members of the family to abandon weaving at home and work in a silk factory.

In March 1887 the Sudbury silk weavers’ strike over the reduced price paid for “Tape Border Silk Works” by Mr. Kipling’s firm, (a 1d in the yard reduction), was resolved when it was announced that the old price would be reinstated. The Tolliday brothers attended a meeting at the Waggon and Horses Inn where some of the cocoa-nut matting and mat weavers advised the silk weavers to form a local branch of the Trade Union. Arthur was chosen as the first President and Felix became a trustee. It was not an easy time to be involved in a union as there was much distress and unemployment amongst the silk weavers and there were further attempts to reduce prices by Mr. Kipling in the next few years as it became difficult to sell stock as a result of foreign competition in the silk umbrella trade.

Felix and Arthur Tolliday were employed by Messrs. Kipling, Pain and Co., in Sepulchre Street, (Gainsborough Street today), who were celebrated silk umbrella weavers; Felix worked for the firm for 45 years whilst Arthur was later engaged on red satin work at Mr Kemp’s factory across the road.

Mr. Kemp

The building where Felix Tolliday worked was demolished c1963 when the forecourt at Bloys Garage was enlarged. (Photo from the Sudbury Photo Archive.) The building which housed Mr. Kemp’s silk manufactory still exists today.

Extract from the 1885 map of Sudbury town centre, (from the Sudbury Museum Trust website), showing the sites of the silk factories in what is now Gainsborough Street.

The Tollidays lived near St. Gregory’s Church and were a very musical family. As a young boy, Felix sang in the choir at a time when ladies could sing alongside the men. He was a great chimer, having been taught by his father, and he rang the bells in all the local towers and in a good many others such as Greenwich and Bow. He was in some of the noted, local long peals and had the distinction of ringing hand bells on top of the Imperial Institute in London.

St. Gregory’s Church, handbell ringers. Felix Tolliday, second from the right, middle row. Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive.

When Felix died in November 1917, aged 79, he was the last but one of the recalcitrant patriotic ringers and chimers who barricaded themselves in St. Peter’s tower, Sudbury, in defiance of the then Rector to ring for the wedding of the Prince of Wales in March 1863, who had refused to allow any ‘joy bells’ during Lent.
He joined the Sudbury Volunteer Rifle Corps when it was first established in 1860 and served for 28 years. The Volunteers were provided with a smart dark green uniform with black braid and a slight scarlet edging. He would often talk about the good times the Volunteers used to have through the kindness of the local gentry. Felix was much respected by his fellow ringers and weavers who found him always ready to lend a helping hand when he could.