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The Orchid King

Wednesday, 08 March 2017

Finding the thread

Rarely to be seen without an orchid in his buttonhole, lacemaker Louis Oram Trivett embraced the core values of Freemasonry and the Scout Movement, as Philippa Faulks discovers

A visit to the present-day Lace Market in Nottingham not only offers you the chance of some fine shopping and eating in a bustling heritage centre, it also plunges you straight back into the glorious past of one of the greatest industries of the British Empire era. In this quarter of the city, the streets are still resplendent with former warehouses and merchant houses of the famous Nottingham lace industry.

One building in particular catches the eye. With its prominent tower forming a local landmark, Trivett Square is named after one of the most prolific philanthropists of the era – Louis Oram Trivett. Born in Mansfield on 26 August 1864, he was destined to be a hard worker. At the age of nine-and-a-half, he was already earning a few shillings a week working on a news-stand owned by Messrs WH Smith and Sons.

Trivett was educated at the High Pavement School in Nottingham, beginning work in the employ of Simon, May & Co lace manufacturers, followed by a rapid rise through the ranks at a succession of companies. By the time he was 26, he had gained enough experience to start his own small company in Woolpack Lane.


The business grew rapidly and new premises were sought, with the final location in the lacemaking district of Short Hill, where the factory, with its tower, was constructed. The firm became a limited liability company and Trivett appointed himself as chairman and company director. ‘LO Trivett, Ltd, lace, net, hosiery and veiling manufacturers and shippers’ had been born.

In later years, Trivett partnered with Fred Randall in patenting a new and improved version of the chenille-spotting machine. The apparatus ‘spots’ fabrics such as laces and veilings with chenille, which is a type of tufted yarn. The invention was approved by the UK Patent Office in 1901 and subsequently by the US office.

During World War II bombing raids, the Lace Market and Trivett’s building were badly damaged but the area was sympathetically restored and is now one of Nottingham’s most fashionable parts.

Aside from his business interests, Trivett was also a pillar of society. Serving as a magistrate in 1910, he also held positions on various committees including chairman of the Committee of the Care of the Mentally Deficient; a role he held until his death. He was also a member of the education, finance and public assistance committees of Nottingham. Trivett’s work for Nottinghamshire County Council was rewarded in 1926, when he was elevated to the role of alderman.

Trivett was a keen philatelist. His obituary in the West Bridgford Times (13 January 1933) stated that: ‘L Trivett was the first Vice-President of Notts Philatelic Society and went on to hold the office of President on five occasions... Some years before his death, Mr Trivett, who was a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society, disposed of a large part of his collection of foreign stamps for several thousands of pounds. However, he retained some rare specimens of Jamaica and Gibraltar, which were claimed to be the finest collection in the world.

He wrote two brochures on philately entitled The Inception of Penny Postage and Evolution to the Adhesive Postage Stamp, a copy of which the King was pleased to accept, and Philately – a National Asset as World Training for Growing Boys.’


Stamps aside, Trivett’s chief interests in his life were Freemasonry and the Scout Movement. Trivett was a close friend of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts Association. While Baden-Powell never joined the fraternity, although his brother was a member, its core values and discipline drew his admiration.

Trivett was appointed assistant county commissioner of the Boy Scouts Association and was more than a mere figurehead, becoming a hero among the boys and encouraging many of them to engage in his passions of stamp collecting and social awareness. He attended the first World Scout Jamboree at Olympia in 1920 and had the honour of conducting Princess Mary and other members of the Royal Family around the philatelic display, which included many of his own specimens.

With a masonic career that spanned most of his adult life, Trivett was one of the oldest members of Southwell Lodge, No. 1405, passing through the chair in 1901. He was present at the dedication ceremony of the new masonic hall in West Bridgford on Tuesday, 19 April 1910, which was also the date of the consecration of Bentinck Lodge, No. 3416, and the new hall became the new lodge’s meeting place. In 1914, while Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works in the Provincial Grand Lodge, he became a founder member of Rushcliffe Lodge, No. 3658, also in Nottingham.


Apart from his philanthropy and commitments to society, Trivett had several more relaxing leisure-time pursuits. As a member of the Trent Fishery Board, he became a keen angler, but his other passion, executed with his same customary thoroughness, was the cultivation of orchids.

The Orchid Review notes in October 1923: ‘[At] Grafton House, West Bridgford, the residence of LO Trivett, Esq, an ardent collector of orchids, is to be found an exceedingly well-selected assemblage of these plants. Containing over 600 plants, the collection is accommodated  in one three-quarter span house divided into three sections.’ Trivett was given the moniker ‘The Orchid King’, for he was rarely to be seen without an exquisite bloom in his buttonhole.

Trivett’s tireless role in his community, his position within Freemasonry and congenial nature ensured that he was always held in great esteem. According to a report in the West Bridgford Times, 13 January 1933: ‘His funeral was, despite indisposition and fog… the largest seen in Nottingham for many years, representatives from the many organisations with which Mr Trivett was identified being present.’

Five boys from the 1st (West Bridgford) Scouts flanked the entrance to Nottingham Church Cemetery and members of Trivett’s masonic lodges came to bid him farewell as he ascended to the Grand Lodge above. Married twice and with two children by his second wife, he was a fine man who would be much lamented in his passing.

The day after Trivett’s death, Lieutenant-Colonel P R Clifton addressed the county court as the presiding magistrate, and summed up the feelings of the community at large:

‘Alderman Trivett was well known to you… but I have had singular opportunities of being associated with him in the Boy Scout Movement, to which he gave, as he did with everything he pursued, the whole of his heart, mind and intelligence. I do not think there was anything connected with the welfare of his fellow citizens to which he did not give the whole of his mind. I am sure it will be the opinion of all of us that this county and this court are the poorer by his death.’