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Celebrity Drawings by John Moss

Manchester Philanthropy, Philosophy &


John Rylands

John Rylands’ name is well known in Manchester, on account of
the John Rylands Library
in Deansgate which bears his name. He was a wealthy local manufacturer
and merchant. His skill in enterprise and commerce was to make
him one of the wealthiest men in Manchester, and probably the
biggest cotton manufacturer and merchant in Great Britain. His
father had been a cotton merchant before him, who had formed
a company, Rylands & Sons, in Wigan. For several years, John
travelled the country taking orders for the company’s goods.
Then, in 1823, he moved the business to Manchester, opening
a warehouse at number 11 New High Street, which considerably
expanded their already thriving business. They acquired new
properties, including Ainsworth Mills near Bolton. By 1847,
John had become the sole owner of the firm as a result of the
deaths of his father and brothers. Despite a ruinous fire at
one of his factories, he survived and grew even richer than
A quiet private man, he had a shrewd business brain, and invested
wisely in profitable projects, including the Manchester
Ship Canal
Company. He was also very charitable and socially
conscious. He founded orphanages, homes for aged gentlewomen,
and donated a Town Hall, Library and Swimming Baths to the Borough
of Stretford, where he had a home at Longford Hall. His huge
donations of money to aid the poor of Italy earned him the “Crown
of Italy” honour from the Italian king. He was also interested
in theology and books in general, and amassed a sizeable private
book collection, which were to constitute the basis of the John
Rylands Library collection, initially predominantly religious
works, which his wife Enriqueta set up after his death according
to his wishes.
He was a devout Congregationalist and despised all religious
intolerance. When he died, in 188 at his home at Longford Hall,
he was buried at Manchester’s Southern Cemetery. His widow set
about creating the library he had dreamed of by purchasing the
contents of the famous Althorp Library, consisting of more than
40,000 books, including work by Caxton and Gutenberg. The wonderfully
Gothic building which houses the collection in Deansgate was
designed by Basil Champneys and opened to the public in October
1899. Enriqueta Rylands was given the Freedom of the City of
Manchester in 1899.
The Library now houses the largest collection of rare books
and manuscripts in Britain. It is still open to the serious
scholar, and entrance is free.

Sir Joseph Whitworth

Sir Joseph Whitworth

Born in Stockport in 1803, Sir Joseph Whitworth was a celebrated
philanthropist and engineer, whose name is remembered throughout
Manchester in many street names, an art gallery and a park.
His father, a schoolmaster, educated him at home until he was
12, at which time he was sent to William Vint’s Academy near
Leeds. By the age of 14, Joseph was working in his uncle’s cotton
mill in Derbyshire, demonstrating an adaptive and inquisitive
mind, and a thorough understanding of all the machines used
in cotton production. At 18 years he determined to become an
engineer, and he joined a firm of machine makers in Manchester.
Here he learned precision and the need for mechanical standardisation,
so that when in 1833 he was in a position to set up his own
business, he had all the expertise he needed to become a successful
businessman. His first workshop was in Chorlton Street, Manchester,
and was to be the forerunner of his later great Whitworth Works
in Openshaw.
His engineering skill enabled him to produce many mechanical
innovations, and his reputation soon grew world-wide. At a time
when accuracy was to the nearest sixteenth of an inch, Whitworth
developed a technology where on-thousandth of an inch was his
acceptable tolerance.
His greatest abiding gift to engineering was the standardisation
of sizes and threads in machine screws – the “Whitworth Thread”
reigned supreme in metal crafts until the introduction of metrication
in the 1970s and 80s. He was also involved in weapon production.
The War Office paid for a shooting gallery to be built in the
grounds of his home, The Firs, in Fallowfield, so that he could
work on improving the accuracy of rifles. His rifles were so
improved that Napoleon III of France awarded Whitworth the Legion
of Honour. A strong believer in the value of education, he backed
the new Mechanics’ Institute in Manchester, and helped found
the Manchester School of Design. By 1868 he was donating upwards
of �3,000 a year towards scholarships and the training of young
men in mechanical engineering. On his death he left �100,000
to continue the scholarships, as well as another �500,00 to
other Manchester educational establishments and charitable institutions.

In 1896 he was knighted and received the Albert Gold Medal of
the Society of Arts for his pioneering inventions and improved
processes in engineering. Whitworth Park near the University
of Manchester and the Whitworth
Art Gallery
are both named after him.

Lord Ernest Simon of Wythenshawe

Lord Ernest Simon

Born Ernest Darwin Simon in 1879 in Didsbury, Manchester, he
was to become a celebrated industrialist and politician, and
to be created Lord Simon of Wythenshawe for his services in
both. His father had emigrated from Germany in 1860 to settle
in Manchester and to establish two successful businesses, Henry
Simon of Cheadle Heath , Stockport, which specialised in flour
mill construction, and Simon Carves Limited which made ovens
and blast furnaces.
Ernest Simon was educated at Rugby Public School and at Pembroke
College, Cambridge, where he studied engineering. By the age
of 20 he was already running his late father’s businesses, and
by gradual expansion and combining both firms, the Simon Engineering
Group was formed. In 1912 he married Sheena Potter, a well educated
and socially minded woman, and together they set about encouraging
social reform – he in housing and in smoke abatement ( at that
time Manchester was the blackspot of the western world due to
the large concentration of industry that existed), and she in
education. Both were to serve as city councillors, and in 1921
he was appointed Lord Mayor of Manchester. He also served 2
terms in Parliament as a Liberal MP for Withington, Manchester,
and was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health. Gradually,
however, his political viewpoint changed, and in 1946 he crossed
over to the Labour Party benches.
In 1947 he was offered a peerage, and served as Labour spokesman
on housing in the House of Lords, by this time having become
somewhat of a world authority on the subject. He is chiefly
remembered in Manchester for his massive slum clearance schemes
and for rebuilding houses which promoted healthy modern living.
He also purchased Wythenshawe Hall and its 250 acre park and
gave it to the city for housing development – Wythenshawe estate
emerged as a result. His desire to improve the living conditions
of ordinary Mancunians and his promotion of the new subject
of “Civics” in schools, made him a popular and well-loved figure
in Manchester politics. He also bequeathed the Simon Research
Fellowships at Manchester University. He was chairman of the
BBC until 1952, was made a Doctor of Laws by the University
in 1944, and made a Freeman of Manchester in 1959.

Thomas La Warre

Thomas La Warre was the last of the surviving La Warre family
to hold the Manor of Manchester after the Grelleys. He was a
priest in the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne from around 1371-72,
and afterwards became rector at Manchester, though he did not
inherit the title of Baron until the death of his elder brother
John, who died childless in 1398.
By the early 15th century, Manchester had begun to grow in size,
meriting permanent clergy, and in 1421 La Warre secured a licence
from King Henry V to form a college at the church in Manchester.
The new collegiate church, now Manchester
, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and to two
other saints – St Denis (patron saint of France, La Warre still
hanging on to the vestiges of his Norman ancestry), and St George
of England. La Warre subsequently gave a great deal of his lands
and wealth to the church, and to building halls for the clergy
and for students, as well as his own residence, “The Baron’s
Hall”. This building still stands in the form of Chetham’s School
of Music and Chetham’s Library (formerly Chetham’s Hospital
School). The college comprised the Warden, eight fellows, chaplains,
four clerks and six choristers, and La Warre built residences
for them all. On completing the project, La Warre resigned 1422
and appointed John Huntingdon in his place as Warden. La Warre
maintained his interest and patronage in the collegiate church
until his death in 1426-7. He is buried in the Abbey Church
at Swinehead, which had been founded by Robert Grelley in 1134.
There is a statue of Thomas La Warre on the facade of Manchester
Town Hall


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This page last updated 30 Dec 11.