Design a site like this with
Get started

Dorothy Kidley (fl. 1646 – 1690)

Dorothy Kidley was a Merchant Taylors’ Company apprentice and hoodseller working on Cheapside in the 1660s and 1670s.

Mulier Generosa Anglica / English gentle woman, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1643 RP-P-OB-11.525 Public domain in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Dorothy Kidley was baptised in Little Birch, Herefordshire on 5 January 1646, the daughter of Bridget and John Kidley, a gentleman.[1] Aged around 15 years old, she migrated to London and was bound apprentice to John Adams, a ‘Cheapesyde Milliner’ and liveryman of the Merchant Taylors’ Company. She completed her apprenticeship and was admitted free of the Merchant Taylors’ Company by servitude on 2 June 1675.[2] It appears that Dorothy procured the freedom of London and her livery company in order to bind apprentices in her own name as that same day in June 1675, she bound her first apprentice Marya Loving, the daughter of a gentleman from Much Baddow in Essex, with her occupation described as ‘Chepeside, hoodseller’.[3] This was the last time that Dorothy appeared in the Merchant Taylors’ Company records as on 12 February 1679 she married Henry Hurst, changed her name and lost the ability to bind apprentices through the Merchant Taylors’ Company.[4] Henry Hurst died in 1690 but his will named Dorothy as his executor indicating that she was still living at this time. It also confirmed that they had two surviving children named Henry and Elizabeth. Hurst noted that his estate was ‘small’, though he bequeathed some parcels of land to his children, with ‘the rest of their maintenance to bee made up out of the Land setled by deed at Marriage with my wife bookes sold to pay any debts’.[5]

Unfortunately Dorothy Kidley-Hurst does not appear to have left a will of her own but the evidence of her work contained in the records of the Merchant Taylors’ Company suggests that the skills that she acquired through her apprenticeship enabled her to maintain an independent income before – and probably during – her marriage from selling hoods and other such accessories, likely as a supplier to milliners’ shops on Cheapside. Cheapside was a well-established shopping street in this period and Dorothy’s presence in this fashionable location indicates that the hoods were made from silk in the latest styles, akin to the slightly earlier engraving by Wencelaus Hollar above. An anonymous pamphlet entitled Advice to the Women and Maidens of London (1678), provided instructions for women in business in how to calculate accounts and indicates how much silk hoods cost to manufacture and sell in this period. The author suggested that a businesswoman ‘Having given out 25 Ells of Allamode for making of Hoods’ found them ‘returned in 30 Hoods, cost 2s. 6d. each Hood in stuff onely, which is equivalent to 3s. per Ell’. This example priced the 30 hoods at a respectable £3 15 shillings collectively and indicated that the sempstress would need to be paid 6 pence per hood for the silk and her labour.[6] Dorothy’s sister was Susanna Kidley-Warren, a seamstress who also worked on Cheapside and it is likely that the sisters worked together as part of a wider network along with their female apprentices, Susanna’s husband Samuel Warren and Dorothy Kidley’s former master John Adams.


[1] England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

[2] Guildhall Library (GL) MS34038/15, Merchant Taylors’ Company Apprentice Book, fol. 104; MS 34018/5, Merchant Taylors’ Company Freedom Registers.

[3] GL MS34038/16, Merchant Taylors’ Company Apprentice Book, fol. 226.

[4] London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) P69/ALH5/A/004/MS05086 All Hallows, London Wall Parish Records.

[5] The National Archives (TNA) PROB 11/399/174 Will of Henry Hurst, 19 April 1690.

[6] Anon., Advice to the Women and Maidens of London (London, 1678), pp. 20-21. An ell was a measurement, which comprised the length of the forearm and extended hand, and ‘allamode’ was a type of silk.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s