Tiplady - an unusual name with a less than desirable derivation! It is believed to be a nickname for a lecherous man or libertine. However, as we shall see, the subject of his sketch does not really fit this description, being an upstanding member of the community and a family man.
Charles Tiplady is probably most famous for the diary which he kept from 1839 until his death in 1873. It covers the history of Blackburn during that time with details about his own life, such as observations on the weather, his health and excursions that he had undertaken. W. A. Abram the well-known local historian transcribed extracts from the diary after its author's death, which were then published in the Blackburn Times, but he did not include Tiplady's more personal recollections.
Charles Tiplady was born in Blackburn on 23rd June 1808. He was the fourth child of Thomas and Elizabeth Tiplady. His father's family originated from the Bingley area of West Yorkshire and his mother's, the Lomaxes, were a long established family in Blackburn. The Lomax family business was clock and watchmaking, founded by Samuel Lomax whose son James was Elizabeth's father. The Tipladys preserved the name Lomax by using it as a second name for several of their children. Charles had two elder brothers, James Lomax and William, along with a younger brother named. His sisters were Mary, Margaret and Ann.
Very little detail exists about Charles' early life in Blackburn. He lived in the St. John's area and attended St. John's Church where he was later to become a churchwarden and sidesman. He was educated at the National School in Thunder Alley (now Town Hall Street).
In 1830 he went into partnership with his brother William as printers, a relationship which lasted fourteen years. In the later years William suffered ill health, so it was due to Charles' efforts that the business survived. Their shop was situated on Church Street next to Salford Bridge.
In 1834 the Tipladys began printing and publishing a local almanac, containing events that had occurred in the previous year and descriptions of improvements to the town and new buildings that had been constructed. It was issued for many years, Charles continuing to publish it after William's death. The business also produced books of an official nature such as the Register of Electors, publications of local companies and other notices and pamphlets. Charles came to be known as an authority on local and national matters and was frequently consulted for his opinion when disputes arose.
Charles married twice, both ladies being called Mary. The first was Mary Heaton who he married in 1834. They had two children, Maria Anne who only lived from 1835-7 and a son named Thomas. Mary herself died the year after her daughter, in her 28th year. Both are buried at St. John's Church.
Charles' second wife was Mary Callis. They married in 1839 at the Parish Church of St. Mary (now the Cathedral). Her father William had a grocer's shop at Salford, close to the Tiplady business. Charles and Mary spent most of their married life on Mount Street, moving to St. Alban's Place in later years. They had several sons and daughters, not all of whom survived into adulthood. Elizabeth Mary died at 13 months in 1845, and a son Lomax died at only 15 weeks in 1848. These two infants are buried with Charles' first wife and daughter. Their other children were Charles Lomax, William Callis, Richard, Frances Louisa and Esther. Charles Lomax Tiplady was an accountant and was killed in a railway collision at Blackburn Station in 1881. Richard spent many years in Brazil where he was an engineer involved in railway construction. Henry was at one time a book-keeper. William carried on his father's printing business with his half-brother Thomas (from Charles' first marriage).
In addition to his activities as a diarist, Charles was also a poet and satirist. In 1848 he composed a verse entitled 'On the Opening of the Market House, Blackburn', which was well received. He was active in public life for 35 years. His public service began as one of the town's Improvement Commissioners. He sat on the committee named in the 1851 Charter of Incorporation, but was not a member of the first Town Council.
Politically, Charles was an active Conservative, assisting the elder W. H. Hornby in organising the working men of the party into the Blackburn Operative Conservative Association - he later became its president. He stood himself for council elections, firstly in St. Mary's Ward where he was defeated by 72 votes in 1857. He stood again in St. Mary's the following year, but suffered another defeat. In 1860 he gained the safe seat of St. John's Ward, which he represented until becoming an Alderman in 1865. A principal spokeman for the Conservative Party on the Council, he delivered a great many speeches on wide-ranging topics, but these were often very long-winded and wordy. He retired from political life in 1871.
Like many of his contemporary businessmen, Tiplady was a Mason, and had also joined the Oddfellows Friendly Society at a young age - many passages in his diary are concerned with the numerous Oddfellows gatherings that he attended. He was also a founder member of the Philanthropic Burial Society and was chairman at some of its earliest meetings, defying the attempts of local Chartists to snatch the Society's funds for Feargus O'Connor's Land Scheme.
His financial investments in local schemes and companies, such as railways, gasworks and waterworks, gave him the right to be a speaker at shareholders' meetings and in time he became the director of some profitable local undertakings. The cynical view was that this involvement gave him many opportunities to increase his printing business!
Naturally, as a bookseller and printer, Charles had an interest in the Blackburn Subscription Library where he took on the role of part-time Librarian. He was elected as Chairman of the governing body in 1841 and was concerned with seeking ways of improving the library. The following year he was narrowly defeated (by one vote) in his attempt to secure the post of Principal Librarian. However, the library always suffered from a lack of funds. By 1851 it had closed and the premises and all its contents were sold off.
Throughout his life Charles suffered from bouts of ill-health. In 1828 he narrowly escaped a violent death, but tantalisingly leaves no details as to the nature of this near-fatal incident. In 1864 he underwent a serious operation for the removal of a gall stone which left him very close to death, his recovery taking many months.
His last diary entries record the deaths of many old Blackburn townsfolk. His own demise came on 15th October 1873 at the age of 65 and he was buried three days later at Blackburn Cemetery. The day was very wet, but that did not deter a large number of people from attending the service, including the Mayor and Corporation, the Chief Constable and a detachment of the Borough Police Force. Charles' wife, who had been disabled by a stroke some time previously, followed her husband to the grave in the following year. His son Henry was also buried in the family plot in 1909.
Unfortunately, no pictures exist of Charles Tiplady, but we do have Abram's description of him from 'Blackburn Characters of a Past Generation':
"In person 'Charlie' Tiplady was thin and rather below middle height. His face was pale, his head somewhat square-shaped, and his hair, which he did not lose in old age, was iron-grey. His features were regular and expressed intelligence and dogged determination. His gait was characteristic; he walked with his head forward and eyes bent downward, as if intent on the business he was upon; his walk was plodding and marked at each step by a slight nod of the head. 'He had his weaknesses as a man and his prejudices, but withal 'Charlie' was a capable, useful, public citizen, whom all respected, and not least those who on occasion had been engaged in opposition to him, or in controversy with him, and knew by experience his ability, tenacity, and resources in disputation."
Although not himself directly involved with the cotton industry, Tiplady lived in the town when cotton was beginning to boom and Blackburn was growing into its role as the world centre for cotton weaving. He observed at first hand the many changes this caused socially, politically and economically.
Diana Rushton & Blackburn Museum