What is a Dabber?

Someone who comes from Nantwich is often referred to as a Dabber. It’s someone who was born within the towns boundaries (Nantwich Town football club’s stadium is ever referred to as the Dabber Dome). But where does the term Dabber come from? I found these explanations in Nantwich library:

  1. Name – Given to a person born and bred in Nantwich.
  2. Bargain – When a verbal agreement has been made sealed by the proposer spitting on his hand and dabbing it down on the palm of the other hand (or shaking hands).
  3. Betting – One who puts down stakes for a bet (Nantwich had a racecourse in 1729).
  4. Birds – One who dabbed lime on trees and bushes in order to catch wild birds for caging.
  5. Birds (again) – When chaffinch snaring a Nantwich boy would have said ‘Dab thi yed down, feyther’ implying be smart kept out of sight – thence, adept.
  6. Cookery – One who used currants for the outside of a currant loaf when only a few currants were stuck, pressed or dabbed into the dough.
  7. Expert – ‘A dab hand’ an expert in some line, e.g. No. 2 above or a champion sheep shearer.
  8. Pay up – One who pays his dues, rents, rates, promptly.
  9. Prize-fighting – One who puts up his fists or ‘dabs’ ready for a fight
  10. Builder – May be derived from ‘dauber’, one who in the days of timber framed houses, put in the wattle and daub between the timbers. The last one died in 1706.
  11. Tanning – One who ‘dabbed’ the hides into tannic acid.

There’s even more explanations on John Brough’s excellent site A Dabber’s Nantwich.

Bill Pearson \ Nantwich History

Bill Pearson’s Home Page

4 thoughts on “What is a Dabber?”

  1. Hi Bill

    Another type of DAbber mentioned on one of the other sites is a boat. So called I believe because they were mainly used to catch Dabs – a small flatfish like a plaice and at least until recently, could be bought straight from the fishermen on the Suffolk coast. Delicious if cooked the same day in butter coated in no more than a little seasoned flour.

    Best wishes

  2. I was looking at your list of public houses particularly the Leopard. You have missed Rowland Lee (not sure of spelling). He was landlord before Jacky Potts who worked for him
    He was married to Florence, Gomer Jones daughter
    I don’t know dates but he was definitely there at the time of the coronation, as a child I watched it on his tv
    Gomer Jones was my great grandfather

    1. Thanks for your comments Alexis. According to this tree Florrie (Florence) married Richard M Leigh in 1918 (if you haven’t got an account with Ancestry, it’s free in most libraries).

      It’s confusing as there’s at least three Gomer Jones in Nantwich (all related). The Gomer Jones that was Landlord of the Leopard died in 1930. There’s an interesting report in the Nantwich Chronicle (19 April 1947) which confirms what you have told me.


      When Rowland Monro Leigh, Church lane, Wistaston, former licensee of the Blue Cap, Crewe. for 30 years, applied for temporary authority at Nantwich Magistrates’ Court on Monday for the Leopard Inn, Nantwich, the Chairman (Aid. John Smith) said he understood that Mr. Leigh was retiring, and he wondered why he had now changed his mind.

      Mr. Leigh replied that it was unsettling with little to do.

      Mr. A. 0. Bevan Nantwich, who made the application, said many of them had to change their minds in these days. The outgoing tenant Mrs. Alice Lewis, widow of the late licensee, said she would be leaving the hotel that day for Liverpool if the application was granted, and Mr. Leigh said he would be moving in that day also.

      Mr. Bevan said Mr. Leigh was well known, and married a daughter of a previous landlord of the Leopard Inn, the late Mr. Gomer Jones.

      Granting the application. the Chairman said the Brewery Company concerned was fortunate in getting a man of Mr. Leigh’s standing.

  3. I recently visited the Worcester China Museum and ‘dabbers’ used to dab the pots. I did think that there were probably people in Nantwich who dabbed the leather so was intrested to read this could have been the case.

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