Sir William Henry Hornby, fourth son of William Henry Hornby, senior, was born in the Leyland House at the top of King-street on August 29th, 1841. His grandfather, John Hornby, died in the same year, and his uncle, another John, was elected by one vote to represent Blackburn in parliament some eight weeks before his birth. It was this event which led to the riot I have alluded to in the life of his father. The following is a summary of Sir Harry's public services, from the pen of the late J. G. Shaw:
"When he was 14, young Harry served during the Crimean War in the British Navy. Ten years later, having given up the Navy and chosen a commercial career, he helped to form the East Lancashire Cricket Club and became its first captain. . . In electioneering matters he had a rough start, but came out on top and never lost the confidence of either his party or the town. As part of the great political struggle of 1868 he offered himself as a candidate for the Town Council and was defeated in St. Paul's Ward. But the General Election was won, and that was what he, and all the Conservatives in the town were fighting for. Five years later, he offered himself again for a Liberal Ward, St. Mary's. By this time he had made his mark as chairman of the School Board, and he won the election by one vote. He sat in the town council as councillor or alderman for 19 years.
"The year 1876 was the 25th anniversary of the incorporation of the borough, and Mr. Hornby accepted the very cordial invitation of his fellow-townsmen to sit in the Mayoral chair first occupied by his father.
"Ten years after his first Mayoralty, his popularity was so great that he was sent to parliament unopposed, as the colleague of Mr. Coddington. He sat in parliament for a continuous period of 231 years, without ever catching the Speaker's eye, for he was a shy speaker. After his first election, he had always to fight for his seat and always came out at the head of the poll. In 1892 he and Mr. William Coddington beat Messrs. William Taylor and Eli Heyworth. In 1895 he beat Mr. T. P. Ritzema. In 1900 the redoubtable Philip Snowden fell before his prowess, but in 1896, when Sir William Coddington had retired and Mr. Hornby had Mr. Geoffrey Drage as his co-candidate, Mr. Snowden won the second seat, coming only nine votes behind Mr. Hornby. In 1910 Sir Harry (as he now was) retired from parliamentary contests, his party lost both seats and Mr. Snowden's star was not only m the ascendant, but approaching the height of its brilliance."
On November 23rd, 1887, Sir Harry married Letitia Grace, daughter of Captain W. R. Browne, living first at Whinfield, Preston New-road, and afterwards at Pleasington Hall. He had issue, two sons and three daughters. In 1901 he became mayor a second time, this being the Jubilee year of his father's first elevation to that office, as also of the town's incorporation, and two years later he was made a Freeman of the Borough. On that occasion Mr. William Tattersall said of him:
"There were people about whom little could be said except that they held certain political opinions, but it was much more when a man like Sir Henry Hornby, holding strong political opinions, was possessed also of a character and of a broad and generous sympathy which lifted him in public esteem far beyond any political partisanship could possibly do."
This fact was remarkably illustrated during a royal visit many years ago. The distinguished visitor was cordially welcomed by vast crowds lining the streets, but the occupants of a later carriage were received with one long roll of cheers. It was Sir Harry and his good lady.
For at least half a century that sturdy, well-made figure, urbane and somewhat old-fashioned in appearance, with the distinctive monocle and side-whiskers, was a familiar and well-loved figure in Blackburn's streets. It was seen there for the last time in 1928.
By George C. Miller
Today the old Hornby mansion in King-street, somewhat shorn of its pristine grandeur, still retains more than a hint of its Georgian dignity. Here and there may be seen the scars of time, crumbling brickwork and rusting metal, eloquent of the pathetic fact that it has seen better days. The architects of Regency times were great believers in balance and uniformity - Doubtless a reaction from the picturesque irregularity of Tudor and Jacobean building - and the Hornby residence, with its plain facade, is typical of the style. Its regular rows of cashed windows stand shoulder to shoulder like soldiers on parade; its formal forecourt with diamond paving and plain iron railings, strikes a note of monotony almost depressing were it not relieved by graceful pediment and pillared portico. But within there reigned good, solid, homely comfort, heavily upholstered, maybe, but none the less real for all that.
After the death of John Hornby, in 1841, the house was for many years the home of his son, William Henry Hornby, Blackburn's first mayor and sometime member of parliament. It is recorded that the halberds, symbol of civic authority, were first placed outside his door on Saturday, March 27th, 1852.
William Henry Hornby has been justly described as one of the greatest men the town has ever produced. He was born at his father's town house in the year 1805, and when he died in 1884, at the age of 79 years, his life and achievements in the twin fields of commerce and politics, may well be termed an epitome of the town's progress in the 19th century. In 1831 he married Margaret Susannah, daughter and sole heiress of Edward Birley of Kirkham, and had issue, seven sons and four daughters. He inherited most of his father's enterprises, and when Blackburn became a corporate borough, he was regarded as the leading employer of labour in the town. His firm, William Henry Hornby and Co. was one of four employing about 1,400 workpeople, the other three being William Eccles and Co., Robert Hopwood and Sons, and Pilkington, Brother and Co.
In his early days he was something of an athlete, being extremely partial to outdoor sport, as was his father before him, and a naturally aggressive nature, developed by exercise and a sound constitution, he carried with him into the political arena thereby earning the title of "Game Cock," a measure of admiration conceded, albeit somewhat grudgingly, even by his opponents.
Of somewhat sanguine complexion, he was above medium stature and latterly became somewhat stout. He wore an oldfashioned blue coat with brass buttons, the style of which may be gathered from his statue in Sudell Cross, and it was said of him that he knew every workman in his extensive mills. It was under his control that the Brookhouse mills reached the zenith of their fame.
His political activities were equally remarkable. They began with tile passing of the Reform Bill in 1832, under which Blackburn became entitled to return two members to parliament. Although the town's population then was 27,000, the number of voters under the £10 franchise was only 627. At the age of 27, W. H. Hornby found himself chairman of the Conservative party, and the story of his activities in this capacity - would be a volume in itself. After playing a prominent part in the several election campaigns between 1832 and 1852, and following the unseating of William Eccles in 1853, he offered himself for election but was defeated. In 1857, however, he was returned unopposed, together with James Pilkington and at two subsequent elections, in 1859 and 1865, he headed the poll.
Following the Reform Act of 1867, he again topped the poll, but the contest had an unfortunate sequel. A petition, on the grounds of intimidation of voters, was heard at the town hall by Mr. Justice Willes, as a result of which the elected members were unseated. Because of this decision he retired into private life, spending his last years at his country seat, Poole Hall, Cheshire.
It was during an election riot in 1835 that William Henry Hornby was flung over the parapet of old Salford bridge by an infuriated mob, fortunately without serious injury. He had just emerged from the back door of the Bay Horse Inn, in company of a few friends, as the crowd of Bowringite supporters passed, and he was thrown into the mud on the easterly side of the stream. Charles Haworth the artist, who was an eye-witness, helped to scrape the mud from his clothes in the shop of Dack the hatters, on Salford Bridge, where he bought a new beaver. He took the whole incident very complacently, for, after all, had not his man been elected ?
Here is his own account of another such incident:
" In 1841, although I was, like yourselves, merely a voter in the borough, I was objectionable to the Radicals. It was then hardly safe for me to walk through the streets; my house was in danger and at last it was attacked, during my absence, about 8 o'clock in the evening and every window was smashed. Fortunately I got back there before the front door was opened, and and having a brace of pistols, I discharged one, and every man of that gallant crew ran away . In the short space of half an hour they threw above a ton of stones into my house, and my wife and children had to escape by the back door into the District Bank. The same party again -and I could almost point to the men themselves - who broke the windows of my house at the bottom of King-street in 1841 did the same at the top of King-street in 1853."
From this statement it will be noticed that between 1841 and 1853 he had removed to the Markland Mansion previously tenanted by his father and quitted the Leyland House, now numbered 2, King-street. This was built by William and Cecily Leyland and still possesses a dated downspout capping with the inscription " W.C.L. 1741." He must have removed in the summer of 1841, after August 29th, when it was recorded that his fourth son, the late Sir Harry Hornby, was born in the Leyland residence.
The subsequent history of the Markland mansion is not without interest. When vacated by W. H. Hornby on his retirement to Poole Hall in 1867, it became the headquarters of the Mechanics Institute. This excellent organisation was founded on March 27th, 1844, when at a public meeting held in the Assembly-room with John Abbott in the chair, the following resolution was carried:
" We who are here assembled do at once form ourselves in a Society to be called the Blackburn Mechanics' Institute, the objects of which shall be to encourage the acquistion of general knowledge and the study of literature and science by all classes of the community, by means of a circulating library, museum, reading-room, public lectures, discussions, &c., the introduction of party politics, controversial theology, or sentiments having an infidel or immoral tendency being strictly prohibited."
Joseph Feilden became its first president, the membership fee was fixed at 2s. per quarter and the old Music-hall in Market Street-lane was hired at a rental of £15 a year. For the writing classes slates had to be provided, and each person breaking a slate was expected to pay for it, "and that a hole be bored through the middle of each and a string put through to preserve the same."
The secretary was empowered to burn anonymous letters, and to settle squabbles which arose from time to time. These sprang from diverse causes, as for instance when one master persisted in chewing tobacco against the wishes of his pupils, or when the untidiness of the librarian (possibly the venerable bard Joseph Hodgson, who acted in that capacity for many years) called for a severe reprimand.
In the first minute book there is a whimsical note that the two door-keepers shall have a three penny meat pie apiece for their services, to be paid for out of their own pockets.
By George C. Miller
There are two Robert Hopwoods, father and son, of whom Blackburn has every right to be proud. The father, who has been described as " one of the most remarkable men of his day," was a native of Clitheroe, coming to Blackburn in 1810 to be manager of Spring Hill Factory for the Anderton Brothers. He resided in one of the cottages nearby, which are still standing. He was the founder of the extensive Nova Scotia Mills and died one of the wealthiest of our local magnates.
Spring Hill Factory was erected in 1797, being the second cotton mill to be built in the township, Wensley Fold being the first. In 1810 Anderton's factory was driven by an old beam engine, designed on a very primitive principle. The short street called Well-street, leading from High-street to Mount-street, derives its name from the fact that a well was made in the factory yard for feeding the boiler. The footpath from Higher Hallows ran past this yard, and some of the older residents have graphically described how much they were impressed as children by the sight of the great wooden beam swaying to and fro with every revolution of the driving wheel. The creaking of this ancient wooden wheel, and the thump of the "sway-baulk" must have been startling indeed to one accustomed only to the clacking treadle of a handloom.
In 1851 Robert Hopwood senior was elected one of the first aldermen of the new borough and he died on July 15th, 1853, in his 80th year.
His son Robert Hopwood junior, who was Blackburn's second mayor, succeeded his father on the aldermanic bench. Later he purchased the manor of Bracewell and on his death in 1860 he was buried in Bracewell Church. A stained glass window to his memory was presented to Christ Church, Grimshaw Park, by Mrs. Hopwood.
By George C. Miller
Just as the name of James Pilkington is associated with Park Place Schools, that of his brother William is inseparably linked with the Blackburn and East Lancashire Royal Infirmary. He was born on December 17th, 1807, and baptised in Chapel-street Independent Church. In 1853 he married Martha, eldest daughter of Henry Shaw, brewer, who together with her husband, was a prominent supporter of Chapel-street Congregational Church.
Like his brother, William Pilkington was closely associated with Grimshaw Park by virtue of his joint ownership of Park Place Mills, which formed the nucleus of hundreds of dwelling houses for the workpeople in Park-road and Lower Audley. On Gillies' map, Park Place is printed in Gothic type, to indicate its antiquity. In 1822 it consisted of a straggling farm house with out-buildings surrounding a courtyard and standing on a site later occupied by Pilkington's New Mill. According to J. G. Shaw, the name Park Place was subsequently given to the enclosure where each of the brothers built a house. The area was some five acres in extent, its southern angle bounded by Eccles Row and Back Friday-street. Its position just outside the area of the old Town's Moor is indicated by the close proximity of Joiner's Row, which name, a corruption of Adjoiner's Row, shows that, when erected, the houses were adjoining the ancient boundary. Both houses and grounds appear on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1848. About 1857 William built Wilpshire Grange, where he resided until the day of his death.
When the borough was first incorporated, he was elected councillor for Park Ward and elevated to the bench of the borough magistrates. In November, 1856, shortly after the opening of the new town hall by William Hoole, his predecessor, he became Blackburn's fifth mayor, an honour he acknowledged by announcing his intention to create an infirmary. This task he inaugurated by offering £2,000 towards a building fund, together with an endowment of £100 a year.
"The Infirmary Scheme (writes J. G. Shaw), was a revival of an old project. Prior to 1824 there was a Parish Infirmary for paupers, under the control of the Overseers of the Poor. A public committee took over this work for a payment out of the rates of £225 per annum, and with donations and subscriptions, extended it to include service to poor people who were not paupers. They established the Blackburn Dispensary at 56, King-street, with Dr. John Skaife as resident surgeon-apothecary. This work they carried on for fifteen years and raised a considerable sum towards the erection of an Infirmary, but the Infirmary Scheme fell through and in 1838, on the passing of the Poor Law, the Dispensary was closed."
Thus encouraged by Mr. Pilkington, the scheme was revived with great enthusiasm, and during his second year of office he laid the foundation-stone on May 24th, when a general holiday was proclaimed and there was a public procession to the site. The original block, as designed and erected under the auspices of William Pilkington, is now completely surrounded by newer erections by way of addition and extension, but the general design which is both graceful and pleasing, has been preserved. The building, as originally planned, was completed in 1864, with Mr. Pilkington as chairman of the Building Committee, a position he only vacated to become president for the remainder of his life. His portrait in oils now hangs in the old boardroom, bearing the following inscription:
"This portrait of William Pilkington, Esquire, was placed in the entrance hall in the Blackburn Infirmary (likewise a candelabrum was presented to him on the 15th September, 1859) by his fellow-townsmen as a mark of esteem and gratitude for his having originated and munificently contributed to the erection and endowment of the Blackburn Infirmary,and for his general efficiency, courtesy and liberality while mayor of Blackburn during the years 1857-58."
In his later years William Pilkington was an invalid, spending, his winters in the south of England. He died on April 3rd, 1878 and was interred in the family vault at Chapel-street.
By George C. Miller
The Dugdale family has been native to the parish of Blackburn for many generations, and from an ancestor who lived in Great Harwood have descended the several branches of the Dugdales of Dovecote House, near Liverpool, and of Wroxhall Abbey in Warwickshire; the Dugdales of Ivy Bank, Lancashire, of Craythorne in Yorkshire; of Lowerhouse near Burnley; of Irwell Bank, Eccles; and the Dugdales of Blackburn and Witton. Thomas Dugdale was born in 1797, being the youngest son of Nathaniel Dugdale, of Great Harwood, who died in 1816. In 1824 Thomas married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Walmsley, and settled in Blackburn. After successfully practicing in the medical profession for some years, he retired from that calling, having acquired a valuable estate in Witton and Livesey, formerly belonging to the Boardman's, his wife's maternal line. Here he built Griffin Lodge and erected cotton mills. A capable administrator, he was chairman of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, the Manchester and County Bank and the Blackburn Waterworks Company.
He was returned for Park Ward on the first town council and elected alderman in 1853 in succession to William Eccles. The first mayor of the borough who served in that capacity for two years, a tablet on the gateway of the Corporation Park records that:
"The adjoining 50 acres of land were purchased for a Public Park and the erection of these gates and porter's lodge was commenced during the mayoralty of Thomas Dugdale, Esquire, in the year 1854-5".
He died on March 17th, 1875.
By George C. Miller
According to Baines' Directory for 1824, there were in Blackburn no fewer than sixteen private schools. Included in their number we find Hoole's Academy at 86, King-street; the upper storey of which still remains unchanged, although the ground floor is now divided up into shop premises; Miss Parke's Seminary for Young Ladies in Church-street, and George Edmondson's Academy at Lower Bank, facing the top of Branch-road.
In the Blackburn of a hundred years ago the name of William Hoole stood high in the list of local worthies. His private school; a large brick house on the north side of King-street, opposite the site of the old vicarage, was built by Isaac Glover, a prominent cotton manufacturer, late in the 18th century. He married Mary, eldest daughter of James de la Pryme, at the Parish Church on August 25th, 1792, and his residence probably dates from this time. Mrs. Glover survived her husband and continued to reside here until her death on July 31st, 1815, when the premises were leased to William Hoole, who used the ground floor for academic purposes and lived overhead for a period of more than thirty years. During this momentous interval many notable citizens, including John Morley and Adam Dugdale, passed through his capable hands. Mathematics were the chief feature of his curriculum, together with History, French and some rudiments of science. He was a rigid Nonconformist; every day of the week his scholars had to commit to memory some verses of scripture, and twice every Sunday were his boarders solemnly marched under escort to the adjacent Independent Chapel. Like Lord Palmerston, he insisted on good writing and it was said that a boy from his academy could always be distinguished by his meticulous penmanship.
"After Morley became famous (writes F. W. Hirst), stories began to circulate in the town about his schooldays. When Hoole, their headmaster, was elected mayor of the town, the boys decided to elect a mayor of the school, and chose John Morley at a meeting in the playground. . . One example of his boyish humour is preserved. Being deputed on a fine day to plead for a half-holiday, he was asked by Hoole for a reason and replied: 'The oyster season is at hand.' He was a favourite with Hoole, who said after he left: 'John Morley was the best English scholar I ever had in my school.' Another clever boy at the academy was James Eccles, whose father was a cotton broker in Liverpool. The two were fast friends. They studied Latin together and made some progress with Greek. Moore's 'Ushers' were as a rule graduates of Scotch Universities, who were glad to earn a trifle while they waited for their first pulpit appointments. We know from Morley's own recollections that Hoole's Academy laid strong hold upon him: 'It abounded in the unadulterated milk of the Independent word, and perhaps accounted for Nonconformist affinities in some of the politics of days to come. . ."
A Liberal in politics, William Hoole was also a man of great energy and public spirit, taking a leading part in local administration. Prior to the town's incorporation, he was for many years chairman of the Improvement Commissioners and it was in great part owing to his initiative that the Borough received its Charter of Incorporation in 1851. The original petition to the queen was drawn up in the Session-room adjoining the Hotel in King-street, on November 28th, 1850, and it was from the same place some eleven months later that, as Returning Officer, William Hoole issued the following proclamation:
"Borough of Blackburn in the County of Lancaster.
"I, William Hoole, Returning Officer named and appointed in and by the Charter of Incorporation of this Borough, give notice that the Burgesses of these six wards must elect on the first day of November next, six councillors for each ward of the said Borough of Blackburn.
The following Polling Places have been appointed: No. 1. St. Mary's Ward. A shop, No. 77, on the north side of Church-street. No. 2. St. John's Ward. The Independent Schoolroom on the south side of James-street. No. 3. Trinity Ward. The Schoolroom in Mount street. No. 4. Park Ward. Park School, in Grimshaw Park-lane. No. 5. St. Peter's Ward. The Independent Schoolroom on the south side of Chapel-street. No. 6. St. Paul's Ward. The building lately occupied as Barracks, on the south side of King-street.
The Polling will commence at nine o'clock in the forenoon and will close at four o'clock in the afternoon of the same day.
Dated this 28th day of October, 1851.
W. HOOLE, Returning Officer."
William Hoole also had the honour of presiding over the first meeting of the newly-elected Town Council, which was held in the Sessions-room, Heaton-street, on Monday, November 10th, 1851. The first business to be transacted was that of taking the declaration of the town councillors, which normally were taken before two aldermen or councillors, but as none present had yet qualified, the chairman was in something of a quandary. He solved it by appointing two magistrates then present, Mr. W. H. Hornby and Mr. W. Eccles, to administer the necessary oath.
"A considerable crowd (says the report in the 'Blackburn Mail') had collected in the streets adjoining prior to the hour at which the meeting was appointed to take place and during the afternoon it was greatly increased by the accession of parties anxious to ascertain who were elected as aldermen and more particularly, upon whom the honour of the first mayoralty was conferred... As soon as the fact of Mr. Hornby's appointment was known to the crowds outside the most hearty cheering was heard for several minutes. The mayor was then conducted to the chair by Alderman Eccles and Councillor Backhouse."
Whilst chairman of the Improvement Commissioners, William Hoole opened Blackburn's first Market Hall on January 28th, 1848, and to him also was accorded the gratification of opening the Town Hall on October 30th, 1856, during the year of his mayoralty. From 1819 to 1821 he was classical tutor to the Blackburn Independent Academy in Ainsworth-street, in premises still indicated by a plaque, only resigning this appointment to commence his private academy in King-street.
He died in London in 1878.
by George C. Miller
John Baynes was born in Lancaster, being the son of Thomas Baynes and Isabella, daughter of John Farrow, of Lancaster. He learned the cotton business with his uncle and was later appointed manager of Park Place Mills, in Blackburn. Here, on the dissolution of partnership between Mr. Eccles and his brother, Mr. Baynes was taken into the firm as a junior partner. Along with James and William Pilkington and Edward Eccles, he subsequently rented the old mill from the trustees of Banister Eccles.
About 1848 new mills were erected at Park Place and he ended his connection with the undertaking, accepting the Knuzden Brook estate and mill (owned by the firm) as a retiring partner. He likewise commenced the erection of the Cicely Bridge Mills, Audley, and there for a time carried on a very successful business.
He held a seat on the Board of Commissioners before Blackburn was incorporated, was elected as representative of Park Ward in 1851 and later became an alderman, his long service earning him the title of Father of the Corporation. He also took an active part in the formation of the 5th Lancashire Artillery Volunteer Corps, in which he held the rank of major. During the cotton famine he was on the Central Relief Committee and contributed over £1,000 to the local fund. At the same time he ran his mills at a loss in order to keep the workpeople employed, a generous act which greatly depleted his resources and ultimately obliged him to compound with his creditors. In no way deterred by this reverse, he made the most strenuous efforts to retrieve his former position, and it was thought that his close application to this task led to his death. He died on October 2nd, 1873, whilst on a return voyage from America, where he had gone under medical advice. He was in his 59th year.
by George C. Miller
Robert Hopwood Hutchinson was a native of Blackburn. His father, a land surveyor in Darwen, married the eldest daughter of Robert Hopwood, and on his mother's side he was a cousin to Sir William Coddington. He inherited a large fortune through his mother, and, joining the firm of Robert Hopwood and Sons cotton spinners and manufacturers, Nova Scotia, subsequently became the principal. When the firm failed at the end of 39 years he left the town.
He sat on the aldermanic bench from 1862 to 1892, and for many years moved the election of the mayors in the town council, in consequence of which he was styled "the king-maker." A staunch Conservative, he was a borough and county magistrate and a deputy lieutenant of the county.
His term of office as mayor came at a critical period of the town's history, this being in 1861-2, at the outset of the Cotton Famine. On his election he gave £200 to relieve distress in the borough and later gave £1,000 to the general fund, besides guaranteeing a twentieth part of the total required for the erection of the Blackburn and East Lancashire Infirmary, which scheme threatened to fall through in consequence of the distress. On December 23rd, the day of the funeral of the Prince Consort, he took part in a procession to the Parish Church, where an appropriate sermon was preached by Archdeacon Rushton, D.D. During the service the Artillery Volunteers fired minute-guns from the Park Battery.
In January, 1862, he presided at a lecture given by John Morley in the Town Hall on "The American War," and on the 22nd of the same month he opened a Soup Kitchen in Cleaver-street, with two boilers capable of holding 80 gallons each.
"The composition of 130 gallons of the soup was as follows: beef, 1201bs.; barley, 601bs.; groats, 201bs.; peas, 60 lbs.; onions, 18 lbs.; carrots, 201bs.; turnips, 10lbs.; salt, 101bs.; cayenne pepper, 8oz.; white pepper, 3 ozs. The cost was 5d. per gallon."
By Saturday the 25th the Soup Kitchen Committee was distributing 2,400 quarts daily. On the first of March he showed his sympathy with the distressed operatives by heading a deputation to the Guardians on behalf of some able-bodied men who had been employed on the workhouse site and had been discharged for alleged idleness.
In lighter mood he attended a costume ball at Preston forming part of the Guild Celebrations where Mrs. Hutchinson, the mayoress, took the part of Rosaline from Shakespeare's "Love's Labour Lost."
Robert Hopwood Hutchinson died at his residence, Tenter House, Rochdale, on February 28th, 1893, in his 69th year.
By George C. Miller
Born on March 24th, 1820, James Thompson was the son of Richard Thompson, a successful builder and contractor, and superintended the construction of the Blackburn and Daisyfield railway tunnel, as well as the erection of several cotton mills. He commenced cotton spinning and manufacturing at Whalley, later transferring his business to Blackburn. Here he built Hollin Bank Spinning Mill in 1860, adding the weaving shed in 1872. In 1874 one of the boilers at the mill exploded, killing his eldest son, together with ten of his workpeople, and soon after this disaster he retired from the practical management of the business.
Mr. Thompson was a borough magistrate and was elected alderman in 1866. At the time he entered the town council in 1860 as a representative of Park Ward, the Liberals had the majority of seats but by masterly organisation and unswervable resolution he gradually wrested power from them seat by seat, and for about ten years he was the complete master of the political forces in Blackburn. In 1874, however, the fortunes of the Conservative party began to decline. Mr. Thompson, tired of his leadership and weighed down by domestic sorrow, resigned. Shortly after he was invited to stand as a candidate for parliamentary honours but declined. In 1888 his portrait was presented by his family to the town council and in January, 1889, his children placed a beautiful stained glass window in St. Peter's Church to the memory of their parents.
James Thompson, who held the office of mayor in 1865, died at Southport on June 25th, 1887.
By George C. Miller
In the 103 years of its existence as a Borough, Blackburn has had some 79 chief magistrates. They have been men of all professions and walks of life and many have revealed remarkable traits of character. Indeed, it is often the responsibility of high office that brings out unexpected and often unsuspected talents. Men draw upon hidden reserves of courage, or invention, or resource to cope with sudden emergencies and by so doing, reveal themselves to their fellow-townsmen in an entirely new light. Of such was W. H. Hornby, the charter mayor; F. T. Thomas, who held the mayoral office for six consecutive years - a record for the town - and last, but by no means least, that storm petrel of civic strife, "Jackie" Smith.
During his two years of office as mayor, in 1867 and 1868, "Jackie" probably faced more ugly political situations than most men would care to tackle in a lifetime, and he solved them all in his own inimitable way.
"It is a circumstance one can hardly help observing (writes W. A. Abram) that oddity of colloquial speech, of general personal appearance and dress, of habit, motion, gait and manners, does not increase with the growth in numbers of a community, but ineed tends more and more in these times of social fusion to wear out and disappear. When Blackburn did not hold nearly half the number of residents it now contains, it would have been easy for a person well acquainted with the town to name ten or a dozen men and women in the place who were recognised by their neighbours as real originals, and being so, accepted their local reputation and never put forth the smallest effort to confirm themselves to the ordinary standard of behaviour. How many such can be mentioned now?"
Beyond doubt, one of the quaintest and most remarkable of these "originals" was John Smith. Of humble stock, he was born in Snig Brook in 1826, the year memorable for the widespread loom-breaking riots which led to so much destruction of property and some loss of life in several Lancashire cotton centres. At the age of seven he was working in a factory "breaking cans off" for 4s. 2d. a week, being later apprenticed to the firm of Lawrence and Richard Hacking, masons and builders, where doubtless he inherited some of the mannerisms of the younger partner Richard, who was also a notable character in his day. Having finished his time, he took the stone quarry known as "Wagtail Delph," just off Dukes Brow, and by 1860 had progressed so far that he was able to purchase Bank House from Lady Whitehead and embark on a political career. A short, thick-set man, hard as nails, with a plain rugged face and a broken nose, he was indeed a son of toil and he took no pains to hide his origin.
During the desperate and dangerous riots which accompanied the notorious "bludgeon" election of November, 1868, resulting in the return of Hornby and Feilden, he intervened single-handed in a party clash in Penny-street, which might well have resulted in bloodshed. The "Brookhouse Boys," carrying a live gamecock in triumphal procession, were waylaid by a party of militant radicals, and the fray was rapidly assuming the dimensions of a battle-royal when "Jackie" declared that he had sent to the King-street barracks for soldiers, and would have all the fighters "shot like rapputs." Having no reason to doubt his word, the combatants decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and beat a hurried retreat.
When Mr. Justice Willes heard the subsequent petition which led to the unseating of both the newly-elected members on grounds of bribery and intimidation, "Jackie" as mayor took his seat beside the bewigged president of the court. Feeling the atmosphere somewhat oppresive, and serenely indifferent to the majesty of the law, he turned to the attendant constables and roared: "Hey, do summat for yo'r brass. Oppen them windows an' let a bit o' fresh air i' th'hoyle."
On another occasion, he attended a civic banquet at Barrow-in-Furness, taking with him his regalia wrapped up in a bundle under his arm, for fear it might be stolen. He found himself sitting next to a peer, who would insist on discussing the Abbyssinian war, about which "Jackie" knew rather less than a Zulu, as he confessed when he related the story some time later. "Soa aw said 'Ay' to everything he said for a bit, an' then aw thowt id war time to change, soa aw started saying 'Nowe'. Thad lord an' me drunk eawt o't' same bottles, an' aw drunk as oft as he drunk. Eh, lad, aw can sup beer wi' onybody bud aw soon fun eawt aw couldn't sup wine wi' a lord."
When Blackburn's first public baths were inaugurated the whole proceedings were organised by Councillor Smith, who had a flair for anything spectacular. The foundation-stone was laid by William Stones on Saturday, October 28th, 1865, and to mark the occasion a procession was marshalled on the market place in the following order: Artillery and Rifle Volunteers. Grammar School Boys, Clergy, Magistrates. Market inspector with mace, escorted by halberd-bearers. His worship the Mayor accompanied by Blackburn's M.P.s. Town Clerk with inscription plate. Borough Surveyor with plans. Aldermen, Councillors, Tradesmen. Order of Oddfellows Licensed Victuallers. Order of Shepherds. Order of Joiners. Order of Stonemasons. Lamp-lighters, Fire Brigade.
The procession moved along the market place, Victoria-street, Church-street, Darwen-street and Weir-street to the site, and was about half a mile in length. Unfortunately, after this auspicous start, there was some delay in completing the building, as indicated by a letter to the editor of the "Blackburn Patriot," dated April 1866, which declared roundly that:
". . after seven months of patient expectation, all that can be seen is a solitary stone, called a foundation, and a wretched, old abandoned hut something like a dilapidated log but of a solitary migrant in the backwoods of America."
"Jackie" Smith's later years were, as Abram puts it, "years of misfortune and reverse for him."
"Loss succeeded loss and failure followed failure. He was Jack of many trades and eventually none of them was worth a subsistence to him. He was a master mason and builder, but made little out of that beyond building a few houses and rows of cottages for himself. He was for a while, partner with his relatives, Kenyon Brothers, in a cotton mill at Holehouse, but that did not answer. He was many years a quarry master, but that occupation failed him when the two delphs were worked out and closed. Subsequently he had a share in a small brewery, but even his manufacture of beer did not set "Jack" on his feet. . . His struggle to carry on led to queer transactions and involved him in deeper difficulties. At last he was reduced. . . He died in Burlington-street, at the age of 65, on the 26th of January, 1892."
For many years "Jack Smith's Lamp" stood at Sudell Cross as a memorial to the chequered years of his mayoralty. He presented it to the town, or rather, proposed so to do, for unfortunately, he was beset by financial difficulties, and I have heard it said that ultimately the town council footed the bill.
by George C. Miller
It is often of great interest to people of the modern age, to wonder how someone like us - and also those not like us– would have lived over a hundred years ago. What was different? What is surprisingly similar? During the research into the Abergele Train Crash, a rather interesting character cropped up, and we at Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery decided it would be a good idea to dig a little further into this man’s fascinating background. This article has been written as an insight into the life of a gentlemen living in the Victorian era; it is a pen portrait of Mister Thomas Lund.
Thomas Lund entered the world in 1825, into a wealthy and respected family with a colourful history. His mother was Mary Townend, a lady from Yorkshire, while his father was James Lund, owner of Wensley Fold Mill. The wealth and prestige of the family came from his father’s family background, the Lunds having first moved to the area around the middle of the eighteenth century, with all subsequent generations being prosperous cotton spinners. Tom would grow up to be a good representative of his well-known family, and become quite the local celebrity himself.
Commonly known as Tom, he spent his childhood like most others, living with his family at home at 5 Richmond Terrace in Blackburn. He had three brothers – William Townend, George and James, and two sisters – Alice and Mercy Hannah. It was through William Townend that we found written references to Thomas in connection with the 1868 Abergele Rail Disaster (the subject of our previous article on Cottontown). He was the oldest son of the Lund family, and it is thought Thomas lived at Richmond Terrace with his family right up until the time he was married.
Like many Lunds before him, Tom was successful in his profession. His job at this time was that of a commission agent, partnered with his brother William T. He was head of a very large business dealing in not only cotton but also cloth and yarn, and employed a large number of men. They dealt with the shipping of these materials to various markets of the world. The business was situated in Ainsworth Street, Blackburn.
As he was from a middle-class background, it would only be appropriate that Tom married a lady of similar status to himself. He wed for the first time in 1855 to Esther Thwaites, daughter of Daniel Thwaites, founder of the famous Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn. The Thwaites family ensured the newlyweds were happy and comfortable living in the large mansion of Lovely Hall in Salesbury, Blackburn, along with a handful of servants.
Although Tom was certainly not from a poor background, research suggests that Tom craved more than he was born into. After his marriage he sank well into the luxurious lifestyle that had developed from his own increasing wealth and the wealth of his wife’s family. He engaged in the typical pastimes that a middle-class Victorian would – he was an active field sportsman; for several years the Master of the Craven Harriers (a gentleman’s hunting group). Politically he was Conservative, and a faithful man of the Church.
Tom is still known by some to this day for possibly his greatest achievement which happened around this time. Impressively, he was one of the originators of the Rifle Volunteer movement, and subsequently Captain of the 2nd Lancashire Regiment. This regiment was formed in 1859 by wealthy middle class men, and Tom’s role was very prestigious in his community. This fits very well with his vision to be the local well-to-do gent!
The movement would practice shooting and drill every week, and sometimes in uniform for an audience on a Saturday. Unusually, the uniform of the 2nd Lancashire Regiment was grey, but later changed to a more traditional red, and Tom’s red uniform can be viewed at Blackburn Museum. Tom can also be seen in his uniform on Vladimir Sherwood’s painting of the laying of the foundation stone of the Cotton Exchange. This was painted in 1863, and also hangs in Blackburn Museum. Tom’s presence on the painting is evidence to us of how well-known he was to the people at the time – anyone who didn’t know his name already certainly did once the volunteer movement was formed.
Tom was devoted to the Rifle Volunteers; he was a member for a number of years, investing a lot of his time and money into the movement, and taking advantage of any of the opportunities that opened up. These are just a few of the events that Tom participated in during the movement’s first few months; they give us a flavour of what was involved in being a volunteer at this time. Clearly, the social side of the Rifle Volunteers was equally as important as the training, especially for someone like Thomas who knew how to network! For instance, he and J.G Potter (Captain of the 3rd Lancashire Regiment) travelled to Hythe for a fortnight’s training at the School of Musketry at the end of October 1859. The Rifle Corps Banquet was then held in November, at which he made a speech and had a toast made to his health (which was drunk ‘with great cheering’ according to the Blackburn Standard!) On Monday the 2nd of January Tom held a field day at his own home, Lovely Hall. He provided a ‘good old English dinner’, and awarded a prize to the best shot at ball practice.
By the 1860’s Tom had numerous successes under his belt. He was a magistrate, a successful cotton merchant, a farmer of one hundred acres and had five men and a boy working under him. He also had had five children with Esther born between 1856 and 1868 – Henry, Florence, Frederick, Esther Blanche and Beatrice. It is interesting to note that the two sons went on to great successes themselves, the former owning a large cattle ranch in America, and the latter the Captain of the 9th Lancers.
Tom added another string to his bow in 1863 when he became Mayor of Blackburn. He had been a member of the Blackburn Town Council for many years, and kept his position of Mayor until 1864. This role was significantly more prominent in local politics than it is now. Aside from chairing all council meetings and being a figurehead for the town, it was the Mayor’s job to deal with any crises that may occur and organise relief for the poor and needy. In Tom’s term, this would have been the Lancashire cotton famine. He would have written letters to the national press - updating them on the situation up north - and travel down to London to consult with politicians at Westminster.
The cotton famine was a major turning point for a lot of people living in Blackburn during the early 1860’s, but unlike some unfortunate Victorians, Tom and his business seem to have survived the worst of it. Strangely, it seems that it was in the aftermath of the famine, from 1865 onwards, that Tom had struggled to keep a strong income. The first record of his bankruptcy was in 1867, whilst he was living at the enormous Woodfold Hall. The proceedings continued for the next year, as Tom was brought before Registrar Macrae at the Manchester Court of Bankruptcy to have the situation and his conduct examined – the court believed Tom had not complied with his legal obligations. Not only that, we at the Museum where shocked to find that our generous volunteer and prestigious ex-Mayor was being investigated for fraud!
Thomas Lund Goes Bankrupt
The events leading up to the bankruptcy are not entirely clear, but we can form an idea of what Thomas was up to. It seems that Tom had debts with both his blood relatives and his relatives by marriage – the Thwaites brothers. They believed Tom to be withholding a financial record so he could repay his own family’s debt and leave theirs untouched. The reason Tom gave to the court for withholding one of his books was that it was his private diary, which he just happened to have made some business notes in. Understandably he would not want this book to be made public! Evidence suggests however that Tom was selling the assets in his house, loaned to him by the Thwaites brothers behind their backs, so he could pay back his blood relatives debt! However, it would appear that is not all; under the condition of being bankrupt, Tom was legally prevented from running a business. Yet he was still profiting! The case seems to be that he and his brother William T. continued with a business; they disguised it by just asking their other brother James to ‘front’ it for them. Unfortunately, the verdict of the investigation demanded Tom to give up his diary for examination.
That was not the end of the case however. Tom appealed to a higher body against this decision, who stated Tom did not need to give up this final book. The Thwaites brothers responded by leap-frogging Tom’s appeal by consulting with Lord Justice Cairns, the next most senior body. Interestingly, Cairns ruled in favour of Tom not based on principle but on the law – the original verdict was void as Registrar Macrae did not have the authority to order Tom to give up his diary. If any illegal activity had been taking place, Tom had gotten away scot free! Because the case was held only shortly after the Bankruptcy Act of 1861, it could possibly have been a precedent verdict. It is clear from the difficulties in the case that there was confusion over how the law was applied, and Tom would certainly not have had such luck today!
Once more, Thomas was in the newspapers again in 1868. His brother William T. along with William’s brothers-in-law had been killed in the disastrous train crash in Abergele, which took the lives of 33 upper-class ladies and gentlemen. Tom went down to Abergele on Saturday August 22nd in search of his relatives, and this is how he was brought to our attention at the Museum. He was present on the first day of the inquest into the cause of the calamity, along with all the other victim’s relatives. During the taking of the evidence, he stood up to second the motion that the funeral of the victims be carried out on the Tuesday morning. Tom was clearly revelling in being in the company of so many high-status people. As far as we are aware, Tom stayed to witness the funeral three days later on the Tuesday.
Unfortunately there was another funeral to attend not to long after, as Tom's wife Esther sadly died in early 1869. Tom moved down to London not too long after in the early to mid 1870s, and his children have been found to be residing with his two remaining brothers George and James, who were also in London. It is clear even though he had moved away from his hometown, Tom was still attached to Blackburn, and wrote into the local newspaper every now and again with personal news updates.
These turbulent years seem not to have broken Tom; he married for the second time to another woman of prestige – the daughter of Captain Shum, he was an officer of the Durham Light Horse who was living in Watford. It is unclear where Tom met Margaret Emily, as although he and his family appear to have moved away, their first child, Charles, was born in Blackburn. He and Margaret were blessed with at least five more children after Charles in 1876 - Muriel, Winifred, Marguerite, Vivia and Hubert. If Hubert was Tom’s last born, that would mean Tom was still having children at 62! He lived with his new family and their servants at 164 Ladbroke Grove Road, Kensington.
In 1881, the past took a cheeky peek into the present as Tom himself fell victim to a fraudster. Robert Rust, a London piano builder, was a serial con artist who convinced his victims to invest a small fortune into one of his businesses to become a partner. In Tom’s case he was tricked into giving Rust £100 to become a partner in his ‘Science & Art Union’. This Union of course did not exist and Tom would have made no money - Rust would most likely advertise for a partner in the newspaper, take their money and move onto the next victim. Luckily for Tom it was only £100, two of Rust’s other victims had been tricked into paying up £500!
The story of our middle class Blackburnian comes to an end on the morning of Sunday the 26th of February, 1893. Tom passed away at St. Charles’ Square in London aged sixty-seven. Previously Tom had been taken ill through complications of gout, but he died peacefully, with members of his family and his first wife’s family present. Thomas Lund’s body may be gone and while his once so prestigious name in Blackburn has faded, his story is still worthy to be told after his service and commitment to our town over a hundred years ago. He has given us a fascinating insight into Victorian Blackburn, and the drama that came with being a Victorian Gentleman.
We would like to express our thanks to the staff at Pierce Accountants in Blackburn, in particular to Andrew Stephenson, for their help in unravelling the complexities of Thomas's bankruptcy and their insights into his likely financial dealings at that time.
Researched and written by Carla Harwood, volunteer, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery
back to top