Monday, 14 February 2011


Jean Petit decided in the early 1780s to move to Birmingham and the first mention of him being in the city is in The New Directory for the Town of Birmingham 1785.  He is listed as follows:

- John Petit Toy Shop  No 7 High Street

A similar listing can be found in each directory to the year 1811 after which no entries have been found.  Perhaps as he was well into his 60s he had retired.

It is interesting to understand that a Toy Maker in the 18th century was not someone who made toys as we know today.  From my Father's notes of 1981 he wrote as follows:

"The word toy derives from the French word 'toie' possibly a variant of 'tie' or 'tye' meaning a small metal box or casket.  In the context of 1785 it would cover belt and shoe buckles, chatelaines, snuff boxes, bonbonnieres, scent bottles etc."

The first steel-toy maker to go in for making pen nibs appears to have been Mr Gillott in 1822, who decided to add them to his products and turn them into a commercial product.  Prior to this time a steel pen nib had been extremely expensive and quills were generally used. In 1828 Mr Gillott invented a self-acting pen-machine driven by steam and by 1850 it was necessary for him to enlarge his factory in Birmingham due to the success of steel pens.

With the above information in mind it is not difficult to understand, how in time, an ancestor who was a steel-toy maker/seller would have a descendant who would also make pen nibs.

However, back to 1785 when John Petit was trading as a toy-maker in Birmingham.  In 1786 John married Elizabeth Jago (who was 35 years old) at St Peter's Church Harborne  Birmingham.  They had 6 sons, two dying very young.  It was their son Francis Petit who was to become the Father of Joseph Letiere Petit, my great, great grandfather who worked with Mr Brandauer in the 19th century.

It is a strange coincidence that approximately 100 years after John Petit married in St Peter's Church  Harborne his great grandson, Canon Oliver Petit (b 1872) was for many years vicar of the same Church in the early 1900s.  I wonder if he knew?

Finally, I am proud that my ancestors have been associated with living and working in Birmingham for 226 years, long may it continue.

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