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Cotton Spinner & Industrialist

John Whittaker, Oldham borm cotton spinner and industrialist

John Whittaker was an Oldham born cotton spinner
and became an important and influential local industrialist,
noted for his great sense of paternalism to his workers. In
1860 he acquired the Hurst Mills in Ashton, and with the help
of his two sons, John and Oldham, saw the massive expansion
of his holdings and the profitability of his company. He became
a major employer in Ashton-under-Lyne in the early part of
the 19th century.
He also held interests in the local Hurst Knowl Colliery,
which supplied coal to his factories to drive its steam engines.
His sons went on to create housing for their workers as well
as schools and libraries, and even during the so-called “Cotton
Famine” of 1861 to 1865, they kept their mills open and
running to sustain their employees, having laid out a small
fortune of their own money to sustain working families in
the region. Later, their finance was to be instrumental in
the establishment of the Ashton Infirmary. The Hurst Mills
Company Limited continued its operations until its closure
in 1931.

John Mayall

Saddleworth Cotton Spinner

John Mayall, cotton spinning mill owner of Mossley

John Mayall was born on 31st December 1803 in Saddleworth
and ended up owning what was to become probably the largest
cotton spinning company in the world. By 7 years of age he
was already working in at a woollen mill in Uppermill. Sometime
between 1815 and 1823 he had set up his own business at Quick
Mill, in partnership with his brother George, his brother-in-law
Robert Barton and one Thomas Atherton – but by 1828 he and
George had broken away to create their own company based at
Nicholson’s Mill in Lees, Oldham.
He had moved to the Mossley district in 1831 and by 1846 had
established the company of John Mayall & Sons which was
to oversee the massive expansion of industry in what had been
hitherto a rather run down region.
Mayall’s ascendancy began when the newly formed London &
North Western Railway (the LNWR) planned to lay its line across
Mayall’s property and paid him compensation of £1600,
(then a small fortune in itself). This provided Mayall with
the capital needed to launch a period of rapid expansion in
his business interests and to establish his enormous Britannia
Mill in Mossley. The proximity of the railway enabled him
to receive raw materials directly from Liverpool Docks, significantly
reducing his transportation costs.
The Britannia Mill was extended several times, as well as
suffering several disastrous fires, as did Mayall’s other
Scout Mill. Wise insurance provision enabled rebuilding and
continued growth and the building of Britannia New Mill soon
after 1860, and the South End Mill No. 1, completed in 1859.
This latter mill had over 100,000 spindles in operation at
the height of its production.
John Mayall was to build up a considerable personal fortune
during his lifetime, much of which was invested in successful
business concerns, including the District Bank, the National
Newspaper League Company, the Midland Railway and the Thames
and Mersey Harbour Boards.
Mayall had a keen eye for turning a good profit, though he
seems not to have taken much interest in the welfare of his
workforce. So far as is known, he built no schools or hospitals.
By 1863 it is estimated that 40% of the population of Mossley
was in the Mayall employ. Mayall did create a good deal of
new housing in Mossley, but as sole owner and landlord, this
was almost certainly prompted by business and profit considerations
rather than philanthropy or paternalism. Many of these workers
houses still survive in Mossley today. John Mayall retired
in 1872 and passed on his properties to his sons.

Hugh Mason

Ashton Mill Owner & Politician

Hugh Mason, mill owner, politican, Ashton-under-Lyne

A philanthropic and paternalistic mill owner and Ashton politician,
Hugh Mason had been born on 30th January 1817, the youngest
son of Thomas Mason, a former textile manager in Stalybridge.
Notably, he was the only local industrialist to have a public
monument, paid for by public subscription, erected in his honour
in the town.
His philanthropy and radical approach to the care and welfare
of his workers earned him respect amongst the working classes
but considerable opposition from other mill-owners who saw his
“charitable extravagances” as a threat. He was to
become an instrumental supporter of factory reform and was actively
involved in politics and social affairs, having served as Mayor
of Ashton-under-Lyne fro m 1857-1860 and its Liberal MP from
1880 to 1885.
In 1815, Hugh’s father had set up in a business partnership
with James Booth and Edward Hulton at Currier Slacks Mill in
Ashton. The firms early success saw its expansion into the Bank
Mill and Royal George Mills in the 1820s. Hugh was eventually
employed in the company and soon rose up through the ranks and
was recognised as a capable manager with a keen business sense.
Under his management the company saw rapid expansion and greatly
improved profitability from the manufacture of sewing threads.
With the eventual retirement of his brothers and his father
in 1860, Hugh Mason became sole proprietor, and also was elected
as Chairman of the Manchester Cotton Company. By 1871 Mason
was President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. He was
eventually to hold interests in The Bridgwater Canal Navigation
Company, the Midland Railway and the Mersey Dock Board, as well
as having interests in coal and iron companies.
Between 1845 and 1851 he oversaw the erection of the two Oxford
Mills. He was also responsible for the creation of the nearby
associated workers’ colony of quality housing for his workforce
– these were in Ann Street, Hamilton Street, Bright Terrace,
Gibson Terrace and Trafalgar Square. His gifts to the working
class also included a library, a reading room, a swimming pool,
a recreation ground and a gymnasium.
During the Cotton Famine of 1861-1865 he refused to cut workers’
wages, despite it being common practice in all other mills in
the district – he also contributed £500 to the Ashton
Borough Cotton Famine Relief Fund. He continued to improve working
conditions in his mills, raising wages at the same time as cutting
hours, which brought him into conflict with many of his mill-owning
In 1857 he was made a local magistrate and in 1871 Mason was
a founder member of the Manchester Reform Club. His election
to Parliament as a reforming Liberal politician saw him promoting
Women’s Suffrage and a number of other reformist bills. Hugh
Mason died on 2nd February 1886 in Ashton.

William Pickles Hartley

Founder of Hartley’s Jams

Sir William Pickles hartley


Born in Colne, Lancashire, Sir William Pickles Hartley is probably
best remembered as the founder of the Hartley’s jam empire.
The Hartley family hailed from Yorkshire, where Sir William’s
grandfather had been born, and had probably moved to live near
Pendle sometime after that. Here they began as fairly modest
local grocers in the district.
Hartley married Martha Horsfield, and as the business grew the
family moved into the wholesale trade, and a chance event in
1871 started the Hartley ball rolling, (so to speak) as, so
it is said, a supplier failed to deliver a batch of jam and
William was forced to make his own. His jam, marmalade and jelly
sold so well that he continued to make it. Hartley began to
develop his business by producing his own fruit and packaging
it in his own distinctive earthenware pots.
In 1880 he moved his family to Southport, where he emerged as
an influential local benefactor and entrepreneur, as well being
a regular active member of the local Methodist Church, as were
all the members of the Hartley family. He sired eight daughters
and a son, and one of his daughters, Christiana, became Southport’s
first woman Mayor in 1921.
In 1885 Hartley moved the business to Aintree in Liverpool,
where he built Hartley Village for his workers.
Throughout his life, he donated money for religious or philanthropic
causes in Colne, Liverpool and in London. Many buildings in
Colne, built in 1911 still stand today and are known locally
as Hartley homes.
In 1902 Hartley opened a jam factory in Bermondsey, south-east
London and employed over 2,000 people. By 1908 he had been knighted
by King Edward VII for his many charitable acts and funding
to Sunday Schools and for the establishment of hospitals.
The village of Trawden, near Colne, still boasts what is thought
to be a rare monument to jam manufacturing in the area. An industrial
jam pan, found in a farmer’s field in the village of Wycoller
nearby was brought back to Trawden where it remains today.

Pickles Hartley Image © Copyright Gordon Hartley. We
are indebted to Gordon Hartley for allowing us to reproduce
the image of Willam Hartley (above). Details of Gordon Hartley’s
booklet: “The Man Who Made Hartley’s Jam” ,
and a series of wall charts on William Pickles Hartley can be
obtained by emailing

Henry Tate

Tate & Lyle Sugar Refinining
& National Philanthropist

Sir Henry tate

Born in Chorley, Lancashire in 1819, Henry Tate was to eventually
make his name and fortune as a sugar magnate and multimillionaire,
and the donor of the celebrated Tate Gallery London to the nation.
He first went to work in Liverpool as an apprentice grocer in
1832. In 1839 he opened first shop in Old Haymarket, Liverpool
and by 1855 had at least seven shops, in Liverpool, Ormskirk
and Birkenhead.
In 1859 he formed a partnership of the sugar refining company,
John Wright & Company, but by 1869 he had dissolved the
partnership and started sugar refining company named Henry Tate
located at Love Lane in Liverpool. By 1878 he had opened a major
new sugar cube-making factory beside the Thames in London, and
moved to live there, leaving his Liverpool interests in the
hands of his sons. In the first year the Thames Refinery processed
214 tonnes of raw sugar.
In 1881 Tate contributed £42,000 to the University College
London and made other donations to the Hahnemann Hospital and
the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. In 1891 he was made an honorary
Freeman of the City of Liverpool. An inveterate and committed
philanthropist, he had built the free libraries for the London
Boroughs of Brixton, Streatham and Lambert in 1893, and in 1897
he built the National Gallery of British Art in Millbank beside
the Thames – later to become known as the Tate Gallery (and
subsequently Tate London). Tate had amassed a sizeable collection
of British paintings at his home in Park Hill and decided to
give them to the nation, to be housed in the New Tate gallery
on the Millbank site, which had been donated by the Chancellor
of the Exchequer. In 1921, he formed the Tate & Lyle partnership
with the Lyle Company, which specialised in manufacturing Golden
Syrup, while Tate’s refineries concentrated on sugar cube production.
The two company’s refineries were only one mile apart in London.
Sir Henry Tate died on Saturday 5th December 1899 at Park Hill
aged 80 years.


Waring & Gillow, Furniture

Robert Gillow,
the originator of the Gillow furniture making company, was born
in Singleton in the Fylde region of Lancashire in 1704. Working
out of Lancaster, Robert was known for his use of mahogany,
a popular wood imported from the West Indies – Robert’s clever
use of this material turned a hitherto small and unknown local
cabinet-making company to a world famous enterprise, whose work
is still widely collected, copied and admired today.
When Robert Gillow died in 1772, the business passed to his
two sons, Richard and Robert. While Robert managed the London
branch, and was thereby familiar with all the latest London
fashions, Richard ran the Lancashire base. It was between 1750
and 1811 that some of the best English furniture ever was being
fabricated by the Gillow company in Lancaster.
Richard was also a respected and popular figure in Lancaster
and attracted many skilled craftsmen to work with him.
Richard had also a trained architect and several important buildings
in Lancaster are to his credit, including the Custom House on
St George’s Quay, which now houses the Maritime Museum.
Richard died in 1811 and his son, another Richard, born in 1772,
succeeded him in the family company. In 1827, he purchased Leighton
Hall near Carnforth, where he lived until his death in 1849.
The company name soon became associated with honest quality
and value for money.
Gillows continued to expand, and beside their traditional furniture-making
they began to specialise in fitting out luxury yachts and liners.
The Royal Yacht ‘Victoria and Albert’, Tsar Alexander III’s
yacht ‘Livadia’ and the ocean liners ‘Lusitania’, ‘Heliopolis’
and ‘Cairo’ were all fitted out by the Gillow company.
In 1903, following a collaboration for the 1900 Paris Exhibition
Pavilion contract, Gillows merged with S J Waring to form the
company of Waring and Gillow. Their final ship fitting contract
was with the Cunard liner ‘Queen Elizabeth’.
Many examples of their work can be found around Lancashire,
and there is a Gillow Museum in Lancaster. Other examples can
be seen in the Lancaster City Museum; Lancaster Town Hall, and
Leighton Hall.


Inventor – the waterproofing
process, the Mackintosh Raincoat

Manchester mill-owner and inventor, Charles Mackintosh, inventor of waterproofing and the Mackintosh raincoat

Manchester mill-owner and inventor, Charles Mackintosh was born
on 29 December 1766 in Glasgow, the son of a well-known dyer,
he took an early interest in science. In 1786 he started work
in a chemical factory and in 1797 he opened the first alum works
in Scotland.
Two men, Thomas Hancock and James Syme, had quite independently
of each other, been experimenting in waterproofing fabrics using
rubber, but had failed to develop any viable commercial product
from their researches. Hancock had begun experimenting with
natural rubber in 1819, and in the following year rented a factory
in Goswell Road, London working raw rubber with machinery of
his own invention – machines which may be regarded as the prototype
of the rubber mill and mixer. In 1826 made a working agreement
with Charles Mackintosh and Company for the manufacture of waterproof
garments in Manchester. Mackintosh, became the inventor of waterproof
products, and also had a factory in Wellpark.
Glasgow born, Charles Mackintosh, took out a patent in 1825
for practical waterproof fabric using India rubber. He gave
his name to the raincoat, the mackintosh raincoat (or simply,
“the mac”), which he had probably developed while
working in his father’s chemical works in Dennistoun.
Meantime, James Syme (1799-1870) another Scot, born in Edinburgh
in 1799 and had an interest in chemistry. He discovered that
clothing could be made waterproof by application of a solution
of India-rubber dissolved in coal-tar. But, being a medical
practitioner, he had scruples about patenting the process and
it was taken up by Charles Mackintosh. Mackintosh was trying
to find uses for waste products generated by gasworks, he used
naphtha, a by-product of the distillation of coal-tar, as a
solvent for rubber. He then made a rubber solution that enabled
him to make a sandwich of rubber between two layers of cloth
and made the first mackintoshes. Macintosh was elected a fellow
of the Royal Society in 1823 and he died on 25 July 1843.


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This page last updated 24 Jan 12..