Stories & People – Paper 8


Extending the Community







INVOLVEMENT WITH Building industry, professional FIRMS OR ACADEMIA

INVOLVEMENT WITH BUILDING-RELATED Community and philanthropic activities excluding church projects

INVOLVEMENT WITH BUILDING-RELATED Community, philanthropic projects including church projects






The aim of this paper is to extend the concept of ‘Building – a community’ opened up in Stories & People Paper 2 and extended in Stories & People Paper 3 and Paper 4 by looking in depth at Congregationalists who were members of Parliament during the nineteenth century and who had connections with building.


The source of material is:


Bebbington, David W (2007)

Congregational Members of Parliament in the Nineteenth Century

Occasional Publication No 1

The United Reformed Church History Society

and The Congregational History Society


I am grateful for the permission given me by Professor Bebbington to quote extensively from this source.


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David Bebbington has scrutinised ‘this whole set of local heroes, the Congregationalists elected to the House of Commons during the nineteenth century, in their specific settings’. (Bebbington p1)


Out of 139 names listed I have extracted 38 Congregational MP’s whose ‘specific settings’ are shown to include involvement with building and public and infrastructure works, grouping them as follows:


  1. Involvement with building industry,  professional firms or academia (13 MP’s)


  1. Involvement with building-related community and philanthropic activities excluding church projects (10 MP’s)


  1. Involvement with building-related community, philanthropic projects including church projects (15 MP’s)



I have kept groups 2 and 3 separate from each other in order to bring out the fact that group 2 was entirely secular in nature. Having church affiliations does not necessarily involve being engaged with church-related activities.


Bebbington’s background commentary is extensive. Specific points of significance here are as follow:


Politically, ‘the MP’s, as might be expected, were overwhelmingly Liberal. They supported the party at once associated, at least in part, with the advance of urban/industrial values and with the defence of civil and religious liberties’.

(Bebbington p4)


Socially, ‘the Congregational MP’s were drawn from ... the “mercantile class” and none belonged naturally to the “the landlord class” .... [However] many of them acquired homes outside the towns where they made their money.’

(Bebbington p3)


Industrially, they were not ‘thoughtless capitalists who exploited their workers’. Rather, ‘the normal attitude of these businessmen to their employees was a solicitude for their well-being verging on paternalism’.

(Bebbington p4)


Communally, ’it was in their home towns, not in parliament, that these individuals shone’. (Bebbington p10) and ‘Many of them were honoured for their public services’ (Bebbington p12)





In the details below (L) indicates a Liberal MP and (C) a Conservative, of whom there are only two.


I have merged Bebbington’s main list of MP’s who were certainly Congregational and his supplementary list of Supposed Congregational MP’s.


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INVOLVEMENT WITH Building industry, professional FIRMS OR ACADEMIA


In this grouping of 13 MP’s:


·         Two - Balfour and Crosfield - are concerned with building societies and mortgages


·         Six – Langley, Storey, Stewart, Pilkington and J and S Walker – are concerned with construction and engineering materials ie timber; brick; glass, iron, steel and lead


·         One – Ruston is concerned with construction plant manufacture


·         Two – Leeman and Whitworth – are involved in railway companies


·         One – Morley – is involved with a land company


·         One – Stuart – is a Professor of Engineering



Balfour, Jabez Spencer (1843-1916)          MP (L) for Tamworth 1880-85 and Burnley 1889-92

Promoter of the Liberator Building Society, by the late 1870’s the world’s biggest.

Liberator crashed destroying the savings of many Nonconformists and leading to Balfour’s imprisonment. Thereafter he became a mining engineer.


Crosfield, William (1838-1909)         MP (L) for Lincoln 1892-95

Deputy Chairman of Liverpool Mortgage Insurance Co

Member of building committee of Mansfield College


Langley, Batty (1834-1914)   MP (L) for Sheffield Attercliffe 1894-1909

Timber merchant


Storey, Samuel (1841-1925) [Sl]      MP (L) for Sunderland 1881-95 and MP (Independent) for Sunderland 1910

Partner in timber merchants Newspaper proprietor


Stewart, Sir Halley (1838-1937)       MP (L) for Lincolnshire, Spalding 1887-95 and Greenock 1906-10

Brick manufacturer


Pilkington, Richard (1841-1908)      MP (C) for Lancashire Newton

Glass manufacturer    Four times mayor of St Helen’s

Family monument on wall in Ormskirk Street Congregational Church


Walker, Joshua (1786-1862)             MP for Aldeburgh 1818-1929

Iron, steel and lead manufacturer


Walker, Samuel (1779-1851)]           MP for Aldeburgh 1818-20

Iron, steel and lead manufacturer


Ruston, Joseph (1835-97)                MP (L) for Lincoln 1884-86

Manufacturer of engineering products including excavators

‘My customer is my best friend, employed over 2500 people, supplied seventy excavators for the Manchester Ship Canal and opened a branch in Budapest.

‘Gave JD Jones a sense of the difficulties of a Christian business man wanting to do his duty by his employees and fellow employers’

Largely responsible for new building for Newland Congregational Church


Leeman, George (1809-82}              MP (L) for York 1865-68 and 1871-80

Chairman of North Eastern Railway


Whitworth, Benjamin (1816-93)       MP (L) for Drogheda 1865-69, Mar 1880-85 and Kilkenny 1875080

Director of Metropolitan Railway         Gave money for school at Wesham


Morley, Charles (1847-1917)            MP (L) for Breconshire 1895-1906

Director of Holborn Viaduct Land Co


Stuart, James (1843-1913)               MP (L) for Hackney 1884-85, Shoreditch Hoston 1885-1900 and Sunderland 1910

Professor of Mechanism and Applied Mechanics      Associate of Institute of Civil Engineers


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INVOLVEMENT WITH BUILDING-RELATED Community and philanthropic activities excluding church projects


In this grouping of 10 MP’s:


·         Two – Colman and Reed – are concerned with conservation or preservation


·         Five – Evershed, Crossley, Leigh, Whitwell and Goddard - are concerned with housing


·         Three – Weston, Newnes and Benn – are concerned with docks or transport



Colman, Jeremiah James (1830-98)            MP (L) for Norwich 1871-95

Mustard manufacturer                        Member of Norwich town council

Believed in putting historic buildings to public use


Reed, Sir Charles (1819-91)   MP (L) for Hackney 1868-74 and St Ives, Cornwall (1880-81)

Printer             Chairman of Bunhill Fields Preservation Society


Evershed, Sydney (1825-1903)       MP (L) for Staffordshire Burton 1905-10

Brewer                        Supported land reform and cottage and allotment improvements


Crossley, Edward (1841-1905)         MP (L) for Sowerby 1885-92

Carpet manufacturer  Completed Arden Road almshouses, Halifax started by his father

Fellow of Royal Astronomical Society and erected observatory


Leigh, Sir Joseph (1841-1908)        MP (L) for Stockport 1892-95 and 1900-06

Cotton manufacturer   Director of Manchester Ship Canal

Favoured old age pensions, better housing for the poor, rating of land values


Whitwell, John (1812-80)                  MP (L) for Kendal 1868-80

Favoured revival of Small Tenements Rating Bill


Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford (1850-1922)       MP (L) for Ipswich 1895-1918

Civil engineer and chairman of Ipswich Gas Company

Founded Ipswich Social Settlement and contributed substantially to building costs


Weston, Sir Joseph Dodge (1822-95)   MP (L) for Bristol S 1885-86 and Bristol E 1890-05

Proprietor of Bristol Wagon and Carriage Works      Purchased the site of Avonmouth docks for the town


Newnes, Sir George (1851-1910)  MP (L) for Cambridgeshire E 1885-95 and Swansea Town 1900-10

Newspaper owner       Gave library to Putney and cable railway to Matlock and Lynton


Benn, Sir John Williams (1850-1922)    MP (L) for Tower Hamlets 1892-95 and Devonport 1904-10

Proprietor of the Cabinet Maker.

Member of London County Council specially concerned with development of tramways.



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INVOLVEMENT WITH BUILDING-RELATED Community, philanthropic projects including church projects



In this grouping of 14 MP’s:


·         Seven – F and J Crossley, Mason, Ripley, Salt, Morley and Woodall – were involved with both community and church building projects


·         One – Hindley – was involved with health in towns, and church building projects


·         One – Peddie – was involved in civil engineering and design education, and church building projects


·         Five – Wills, Cheetham, Hadfield, Milligan and Mills – were involved in church building projects only


·         One – Ball – may have his name implied in the balls on the parapet of the church.


Crossley, Sir Francis (1817-72)                   MP (L) for Halifax

Carpet manufacturer  Built almshouses, and orphanage and school. Presented park to town

Square Chapel Halifax (paid for spire) and maintained Somerleyton Union Church in Suffolk


Crossley, John (1812-1879)                         MP (L) for Halifax 1874-77

With brothers, built orphanage  Chairman of Congregational Chapel Building Society


Mason, Hugh (1817-86)                    MP (L) for Ashton-under-Lyne 1880-85

Cotton manufacturer   Established New Oxford colony as estate for his workpeople, providing library, lecture hall, reading room and smoking room

Supported movement for public park.

Albion Chapel Ashton-under-Line, presided over construction of Sunday School

Bought cottages for site of Charlston Congregational Chapel whose foundation stone he laid.

Laid foundation stone of Lees Congregational school chapel

With Nathaniel Buckley, bought Dukinfield Old Chapel for new church


Ripley, Sir Henry William (1813-82)     MP (L) for Bradford 1868-69 and 1874-80

Vice-President of Mechanics Institution heading list of subscribers to building fund with £1200      Built Ripleyville suburb of model houses for his workers; provided school

Laid foundation stone of new Horton Lane Chapel


Salt, Sir Titus (1803-76)                                MP (L) for Bradford 1859-61

Textile manufacturer   Creator of Saltaire Model Village, equipped with schools, institute, almshouses, Congregational and Methodist chapels, bath and wash houses and park

On building committee of Salem Congregational Church and chairman of building committee of Lightcliffe

Gave £2500 for Airedale College, whose foundation he laid and £5000 for Memorial Hall


Morley, Samuel (1809-86)   MP (L) for Nottingham 1865-66 and Bristol 1868-85

Hosiery manufacturer 7 Midland factories with 3000 direct employees. London warehouse equipped with reading rooms and parlours

Congregational churches in London and elsewhere. Spent £14400 on new chapels and £6000 for Memorial Hall. Supported 12 Congregational colleges.


Woodall, William (1832-1901) MP (L) for Stoke-upon-Trent 1880-85 and Hanley 1885-90

Potter  Secretary to Wedgwood Memorial Institute, providing additional wing. Presented free library to Burslem

Bust on facade of Burslem Congregational Church!


Hindley, Charles (1796-1857)          MP (L) for Ashton-under-Lyne 1835-57

Cotton spinner            Supporter of Health of Towns Association

Laid foundation stone of Westminster Chapel and Park Chapel, Crouch End


Peddie, John Dick (1824-91)           MP (L) for Kilmarnock District 1880-85

Glass manufacturer in Southwark

On Council of Institute of Civil Engineers from 1840 and of the School of Design

Laid foundation stone of Folkstone Congregational Church


Wills, Sir William Henry (1830-1911) MP (L) for Coventry 1880-85 and Bristol E 1895-1900

Tobacco manufacturer           Director of Great Western Railway and Bristol Waterworks Company

Gave £1000 to buy new site for Shaftsbury Mission sponsored by Redland Park Congregational Church


Cheetham, John Frederick (1835-1916) [SL] MP (L) for Derbyshire N 1880-85

Cotton manufacturer   Built Stalybridge public library

Laid foundation stone of Congregational Sunday School and donated £1000


Hadfield, George (1787-1879)                     MP (L) for Sheffield 1852-74

Congregational churches in Salford. Laid foundation stone of Rusholme Chapel and gave £10000 for the erection of 100 independent chapels


Milligan, Robert (1786-1862)                       MP (L) for Bradford 1851-57

Worsted merchant      Builder of Rawdon Congregational Church


Mills, John Remington (1798-1879)            MP (L) for Wycombe 1862-68

Silk manufacturer

Founder of Egham Hill Congregational Church and benefactor of Tonbridge Wells

Donated £120000 to building of Memorial Hall and most generous donor to Congregational Chapel Building Society


Ball, Edward 1793-1865                                MP (C) for Cambridgeshire 1852-63

Member of Burwell Congregational Church, where the balls on the parapet are supposed to be a tribute to the family.


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My first response to this analysis is one of re-assurance.  Over the course of the 19th century there were 36 people


·         who sat for varying lengths of time in the House of Commons


·         who also sat, either currently or retrospectively in their memories, in Congregational or similar pews


·         who were concerned with building firms, activities and projects of varying kinds.


Lest it be thought that unadulterated virtue pervaded these MP’s lives, I will expand the information given earlier on Jabez Balfour:


His firms collapsed in 1892, the crash of the Liberator destroying the savings of many Nonconformists. Balfour fled to Argentina, with which an extradition treaty was arranged in order to bring him back to England for trial in October 1895. Sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment, he was released in 1906, becoming a journalist and then a mining engineer.


(Bebbington p23)


My second response is of satisfaction that in their networks of Parliament, industry, community and church these MP’s were at least for some of their time concerned with the stuff of bricks and mortar and the things that bricks and mortar make, particularly things that meet the greatest human needs.


My third response is that I see these people, and the facets of their work of most concern to me, as a small brick in the house envisaged by JH Oldham:


The only way in which, in the organized life of society, desirable changes can be brought about, and undesirable changes prevented, is by political action. All talk about a better society is idle daydreaming till it is translated into public policy.


Quoted by Mark Gibbs in Christians with Secular Power - Laity Exchange Books, Philadelphia, 1981


MP’s are the critical people in the final determination of public policy, arguably one of the greatest concerns of us all.



My fourth and final response is that these people were there involved in the political world, and they left enough trails for us to find out that they were there. This immediately poses questions to us in our later century:


·         Where are we – in Parliament, industry, community and church?


·         Are we where we should, or could, be?


·         Will our successors be able to know that we were there?



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