The "Tunalli"-Tunaley Name Change and Potential Links to Sir Thomas Lombe e


No doubt there would have been a combinationn of reasons for Thomas's name-change. However, amongst the various possibilities there is a significant contributing factor of

historical interest.

In 1716 John Lombe brought back to Derby his own secretively copied designs of a successful Italian silk throwing operation in Piedmont where Lombe had taken employment about 1715.

This spying operation was arguably a first-ever case of international industrial espionage. Indeed, had Lombe been caught on Italian soil carrying out his illegal activity he could

well have faced capital punsihment by order of the King of Sardinia.

N.B. the state of Sardinia then incorporated parts of northern Italy including Piedmont, with Italy, as it is now, then being composed of various autonomous states.

As it was, Lombe returned to Derby a hero and by 1722, the Old Silk Mill had not only been built under the guidance of engineer George Sorocold but was operating successfully to

the detriment of the Italian silk industry.

Documentary records of what followed consist partly of fact and partly of speculation. John Lombe died 1722 from some form of chronic poisoning, the firm opinion at the time

being that Italian agents had been sent over from Italy to exact retribution. Whilst it seems such assassination was never proven due to lack of evidence with at least one

Italian having already fled back to Italy, this account nevertheless took a firm hold in Derby as being the true and correct one.

N.B. Following John Lombe's death, the enterprise was taken over by John's wealthy haif-brother and wool/worsted manufacturer/merchant Thomas Lombe of Norwich, later to become Sir Thomas Lombe.

Given the detailed accounts of William Hutton and George White (see extracts below) it seems likely that, for an Italian working at the Old Silk Mill, even ten or so years later, the

shadow of what took place in 1722 lingered on. To the extent that an Italian, such as Thomas, subsequently arriving to take on work at the mill may have been viewed by some as a

potential spy/agent for the King of Sardinia. More importantly, Thomas may have considered himself a possible second target for the King of Sardinia, however remote that possibility.

Additionally, the evident hysteria surronding John Lombe's death may have generated an anti-Italian sentiment amongst a small impressionable section of the community.

And this scenario may have provided at least one reason for Thomas "Tunalli" to consider changing and anglicising his surname prior to or on arrival in Derby.

In the event, information enabling the recent uncovering of Thomas's origins appeared in Francis Boott Jnr.'s publication of his memoirs entitled "Recollections of Francis Boott: for

his grandson F.B.D." (click here for further details).

N.B. From National Archives: "Contrary to popular belief, it has always been possible to change your name without having to register the change with any official body. It is still perfectly legal for anyone over the age of 16 to start using a new name at any time, as long as they are not doing so for a fraudulent or illegal reason."

The History of Derby

by William Hutton (1723 – 1815), historian of Derby and Birmingham. This book first published in 1791.

N.B In his formative years and before achieving success as a historian, Hutton was apprenticed at the Old Silk Mill, Derby.

Short extract from events of 1722:
Re: John Lombe:
"But, alas, he had not pursued this lucrative commerce more than three or four years, when the Italians, who felt the effects of the theft from their want of trade, determined his destruction, and hoped that of his works would follow. An artful woman came over in the character of a friend, associated with the parties, and assisted in the business. She attempted to gain both the Italians, and succeeded with one. By these two, slow poison was supposed, and perhaps justly, to have been administered to John Lombe,who lingered two or three years in agonies, and departed. The Italian ran away to his own country; and Madam was interrogated, but nothing transpired except what strengthened suspicion.
Grand funerals were the fashion ; and John Lombe's was, perhaps, the most superb ever known in Derby. A man of a peaceable deportment, who had brought a beneficial manufactory into the place, employed the poor, and at advanced wages, could not fail to meet with respect, and his melancholy end with pity. Exclusive of the gentlemen who attended, all the people concerned in the works were invited. The procession marched in pairs, and extended the length of Full-street, the Market-place, and Iron-gate ; so that when the corpse entered All Saints, at St. Mary-gate, the last couple left the house of the deceased,at the corner of Silk-mill -lane."


Full Title:

by George Savage White (1784-1850) Published 1836.
Short extract:
"In the year 1718, he (John Lombe) procured a patent to enable him to secure the profits thus arising from his address and ingenuity, for the term of four teen years ; but his days verged to a close, and before half this period had elapsed, treachery and poison had brought him to the grave. The Italians, whose trade rapidly decreased from the success of the new establishment, were exasperated to vengeance,
and vowed the destruction of the man whose ingenuity had thus turned the current of their business into another channel."


Potential Links to (Sir) Thomas Lombe (1693-1739)

Records show that Thomas Tunaley ("Tunalli") and third son John Hezekiah had strong links with the London area with the additional likelihood of Thomas having formerly been a merchant

working for either the East India Company or the Levant Comapny.

Evidence below also suggests links between Thomas Tunaley ("Tunalli") and Thomas Lombe (later Sir Thomas Lombe) who took over the running of the Old Silk Mill after

half-brother John Lombe died 1722 (see above).

Thomas Lombe's business and family background.

Thomas Lombe came from a a wealthy Cawston, Norfolk family and inherited a successful worsted weaving/merchant business based in Norwich. This worsted business continued to prosper

and expand under Thomas's leadership .

The following is from the article "Key Figures-Thomas, John and Henry Lombe" on the Derwent Valley Mills website (click here),"He was apprenticed to a London Mercer, Samuel Totton,

and in 1707, aged 22, he was admitted to the Mercers’ Company and made a Freeman of the City of London. He became an Alderman for Brassishaw Ward in the City of London, becoming

sheriff and giving a congratulatory address to George II on his accession to the throne in 1727".

Thomas had earlier been interested in developing machinery for creating British-produced organzine, a name given to both the strong raw-silk thread made up of finely-twisted

silk strands and the textile that was subsequently produced . Up to then, organzine had been an expensive import from Italy with England not having the knowhow to design and

manufacture the appropriate spinning machinery.

It was Thomas Lombe who persuaded and financially backed half-brother John in his operation of industrial espionage at the Italian mill in Piedmont.

The placing of John at Piedmont may not have been quite as complicated as it would first appear because according to The Derwent Mills account merchants were frequently sent abroad

to obtain training and, in adition, the Lombes had family links with Europe.

Moreover, there was also a family connection with George Sorocold who according to the Derwent Valley Mills article had previously laid pipes in Norwich. Hardly surprising,

therefore, that it was George Sorocold, the brilliant civil engineer, who was subsequently chosen to design and oversee the building of the Old Silk Mill at Derby.

The connection with Thomas Tunalli (Tunaley)

It is known that in 1755 Thomas Tunaley was working as a master feltmaker. Additionally, John Hezekiah Tunaley, one of Thomas's three sons had

strong connections with London, ultimately by marriage but possibly through previous work as a wool merchant. It is known that John Hezekiah was in later life and semi-retirement

the landlord of the public house, The Old Crown, situated very close to the wool centre in Leeds. Overall information (click here) suggests he'd formerly been a wool trader and

his son, Thomas Nelson Tunaley, was certainly both a tailor and a wool merchant.

Returning to the early 1700's, Italy, like England, had a thriving wool trade and Italian textile craftspeople and merchants were able to transfer their skills, relatively easily,

from wool to silk and vice versa.

In that sense, Thomas Tunalli, had he been originally both a wool and silk merchant as suggested above, this would have provided a common link with Thomas Lombe, who, self-evidently,

was a silk and wool expert of some stature.

If, as it later seems, Italy created difficulties with the import of raw silk to Derby following John Lombe's espionage and later success with the operation of the Old Silk Mill,

Thomas Lombe would have been forced to examine other international outlets for silk including what we know from William Hutton's book to have been Turkey and China.

Lombe was a member of the Mercer's Company and Freeman of the City of London. He was therefore in an ideal position to recruit merchants from the Levant or East India company

with regard to raw silk imports from the East.

It is suggested that, over a period of time, Thomas Tunalli was one of these merchants with whom Thomas Lombe may already have been acquainted through the Mercer's

Company and his own wool trading.

Thomas Lombe (by then Sir Thomas Lombe) died 1739 with the Old Silk Mill subsequently undergoing a succession of changes in management.

One might suppose it was then that Thomas Tunalli (now Tunaley) set up his own business in felt-making at Full Street, Derby, closeby the Old Silk Mill.


© P.Tunaley, 2016.