Friday, 1 April 2016

(212) Ashworth of Birtenshaw, The Oaks and Horsley Hall

Ashworth of Birtenshaw
The Ashworth family have long roots in central Lancashire as yeomen farmers and can be traced back as far as Robert Ashworth (d. 1583), who lived at Brandwood in Rossendale. The story that they first came to the area to escape the Great Plague of London in 1665 is therefore not true, although the four sons of Henry Ashworth (d. 1670) made the more local move from Rossendale to Turton at about that time, which may have given rise to the story. They settled at two farms, called Great Oak and little Oak, which made up the core of the later Oaks estate. 

The eldest brother, Henry Ashworth (d. 1698), married Isabel, only daughter of John Battersby of the neighbouring farm, Birtenshaw, and through her acquired that property, which became the family's main home. His son John Ashworth (1696-1767) became one of the first men in the area to specialise in textile production. He bought cotton in Liverpool and Manchester and sold, or gave it out on credit, to the local cottage spinners and weavers. He then bought back the finished cloth which he marketed in Bolton or Manchester. His son, Henry Ashworth (1728-1790) shared in the local development of the cotton industry, while retaining his farming interests and also starting what was to become the family occupation of land and property agent. He had a warehouse in Bolton town centre, on the corner of Fold Street and Chancery Lane, and a share in another in Manchester. He had an extensive business in the manufacture of a coarse durable fabric called Thick Sets Fustians and Jeans, using a linen warp called Hambro Yarn and a cotton weft. After the introduction of Arkwright's water-frame a cotton warp was used. It is believed that Henry once employed the inventor of the cotton spinning mule, Samuel Crompton (1753-1827), and also Crompton's future wife, when they were living at Hall'i'th'Wood, to the south of Great and Little Oaks. 

After Henry's death in 1789, his two sons John (1772-1855) and Edmund (1776-1856) continued the family business. Both men had nonconformist sympathies, and John became a member of the Edgworth Quakers in 1793. This faith was be an important part of the family's identity over the next century. Although John's first love seems to have been the farming side of his business (he was a noted agricultural improver, and Secretary of the Manchester Agricultural Society for some years), he expanded the cotton-spinning side of the business. This was a time of rapid expansion in the cotton industry, and increasing numbers of local farmers were getting in on the act, recognising that there were larger profits to be made from industry than from the relatively poor soils of the area. In 1802-03 John built New Eagley Mill and his brother Edmund joined him in a partnership to run it. Neither man, however, wanted to devote his full time to running the business, and they put in managers who through incompetence or inattention contrived to make a loss every year until 1816. At that point, John's son Henry Ashworth (1794-1880) took over the business and was soon joined in the partnership by his brother Edmund Ashworth (1800-81). Together the two brothers quickly turned the fortunes of the firm around, and during the 1820s and 1830s rapidly expanded it, enlarging and re-equipping New Eagley Mill in 1825-28 and buying the half-finished Egerton Mill and completing it in 1829-33. By 1835 the firm was among the most technically efficient and advanced in Lancashire, albeit not the largest.

During the 1830s and 1840s the brothers - particularly Henry, as senior partner - fought hard at local and national level to prevent parliamentary interference in the operation of the free market for labour. They objected in particular to the Factory Acts which sought to limit working hours and the employment of children. After the legislation came into force they fought a running battle with the Factory Inspectors, who because of their high profile opposition, looked for every minor and technical infringement of the rules by the firm as the basis for prosecutions. Lord Ashley (later the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury) saw the Ashworths and John Bright as the principle obstacles to the legislation he sought to be pass. It was not that the brothers sought to be particularly exploitative employers; they were indeed paternalistic in many respects, providing housing and education for their employees, and seeking to enforce moral and ethical standards of behaviour. They genuinely believed that in maximising their own income, employers would make decisions that were in their own best interests and that these would also serve the best interests of the employees and society at large. They also believed that workers, in agreeing their terms of employment, would make similarly informed and rational decisions. They had, apparently, no understanding or recognition of the many factors which operated to distort the market and prevent it delivering optimal decisions, and had a very narrow view of the frame of reference within which their own decisions were made.

In the 1840s, differences began to emerge between the brothers about the running of the business, and in 1854 the partnership was dissolved, with Henry and his sons George Binns Ashworth (1823-1905) and John Ashworth (1826-88) taking New Eagley Mill and Edmund and his sons Edmund Junior (1833-1901) and Samuel (1834-78) taking Egerton Mill. By then, however, the firms had lost their technical edge over their rivals, and although they continued to make good profits for many years the loss of critical mass arising from the division of the partnership pushed them into the second rank of cotton manufacturers. By the time Henry and Edmund died, the decline of the cotton industry had begun: Edmund Ashworth & Sons became part of the English Sewing Cotton Co. conglomerate in 1898 and when that business was consolidated a few years later Egerton Mill was sold; Henry's firm struggled on into the 20th century but was eventually closed by his grandsons under wartime restrictions in 1940.

In 1820, John Ashworth (1772-1855) built a new house at The Oaks, which he handed over to his son Henry on the latter's marriage in 1823. Henry seems to have rebuilt or remodelled The Oaks at the height of his prosperity, in 1838-41 and lived there until his death. What happened to it afterwards is obscure, but none of his children seem to have taken it on and it had been sold by the early 20th century. His son, George Binns Ashworth, made his home at Birtenshaw Hall, which had been rebuilt in the early 19th century and which he apparently extended into a Victorian mansion, perhaps as early as 1867. Edmund Ashworth (1800-81) built a new house (Egerton Hall) overlooking Egerton Mill in 1826 and he and Edmund junior lived there almost all their lives. In 1899 or 1900, however, Edmund junior sold the house to his son's father-in-law, Edward Deakin, who became the manager of Egerton Mill, and moved to London. His younger brother, Alfred Ashworth (1843-1910), who was never in the family firm but became a director of a highly successful firm of towelling manufacturers, lived for twenty years at Tabley Grange (Cheshire) and then in 1898 bought the much larger Horsley Hall near Gresford (Denbighshire), which he aggrandised still further. Alfred's son, Philip Henry Ashworth (1885-1949), had no connection with manufacturing industry and trod the most traditional path through early life (Eton, Oxford, Grenadier Guards) before becoming ADC to the Duke of Connaught in the First World War. In 1917 he sold Horsley Hall to Lord Wavertree and he lived subsequently in London, where he was made bankrupt in the late 1920s, as a result of living beyond his means and losses through land speculations in Canada; he died almost penniless in Switzerland in 1949.

Birtenshaw Hall, Turton, Lancashire

William Linton (1791-1876), The Eagley Valley and Birtenshaw Hall, n.d. Image: Turton Tower/Artworks

Detail of the above picture, showing Birtenshaw Hall
The earliest known view of Birtenshaw Hall is in the mid 19th century painting above by William Linton, which shows a fundamentally picturesque and pre-industrial scene. The small image of the Hall itself, when enlarged, shows a gentleman farmer's house with a white painted two-storeyed hall range and cross-wings to either end. It appears to be 18th or early 19th century, but may well have incorporated the earlier building. In 1770 the farm comprised six bays of housing, five outbuildings, and 33 acres of land, which were leased by Henry Ashworth from John Chetham.

By the time the 1st edition of the 6" Ordnance Survey map was surveyed in 1844-47, however, this farmhouse had evidently been replaced by an almost square building with projections that resemble porches on both the entrance and garden fronts. This building appears to be represented today (see the photograph below) by the two gable ends facing the entrance front and the rear range joining them together. The footprint of the building as shown on successive editions of the map surveyed in 1890 and 1907-08 was essentially unchanged, but by 1928 it had evidently been extended to the west by the addition of a new wing, and this later work appears to correspond with the lower two-storey wing on the right of the entrance front.  Despite the 19th century continuity in the footprint, however, it is recorded that part of the building was pulled down in 1867 (when 18th century invoices relating to Henry Ashworth (1728-90) were found).

Birtenshaw Hall, 1847
Birtenshaw Hall, 1928

Birtenshaw Hall: a mid 20th century photograph
The only old photograph I have been able to trace of the house so far, a mid 20th century view of the garden front, shows an elevation with a big tiled roof, mullioned and transomed windows, massive chimneystacks, and semi-timbered gables which seems likely to date from the 1880s or 1890s (could it be as early as the building work of 1867?), with the recessed semi-timbered wing on the left perhaps part of the early 20th century addition.  The higher roof of the earlier part of the house can be seen behind. It would seem, therefore, that there were additions in the late 19th century which the Ordnance Survey did not record.

The house was abandoned by the Ashworth family in the 1940s and sold in the mid-1950s to a private benefactor who donated it to a local charity concerned to establish a private day school for children with cerebral palsy, which opened in 1956. Since then, the school has expanded into educating children with other kinds of disability, including autism, and into the provision of residential care. The original house was adapted and extended many times to meet the developing requirements of the school and in 2014 was superseded by new buildings on an adjacent site. As a result the original building is now rather buried in later additions.

Birtenshaw Hall: the house today.  The house of c.1840 appears to be the marked by the two gable ends facing the camera.
Descent: John Battersby; to grandson, John Ashworth (1696-1767); to son, Henry Ashworth (1728-89); to son, John Ashworth (1772-1855); to grandson, George Binns Ashworth (1823-1901); to sons, George Harry Ashworth (1865-1954) and Arthur Henwayn Ashworth (1869-1951); sold c.1955; given 1956 to Birtenshaw School.

The Oaks, near Bolton, Lancashire

New Eagley Mill in 1830, with the elevation of the first house at The Oaks visible top right.
The Oaks was built for John Ashworth in 1820 but given to his son Henry on his marriage in 1823. A view of New Eagley Mill in 1830 shows the original three-bay house, with a central porch and tripartite windows above and to either side. This house became too small for Henry's growing family, and a larger five by three bay house, also of two storeys, is said to have been designed for him in 1838 by Richard Lane of Manchester. Lane was a contemporary of his client and also a fellow-Quaker, and they may even have known one another before Lane went to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1817; but by 1838 Lane was the leading architect in Manchester. He responded to the picturesque situation above the steep-sided Eagley Brook by giving the new house a fairly plain entrance front with a Greek Doric porch on the landward side, and a more imposing front with a central three bay pediment supported on Ionic pilasters overlooking the valley

The Oaks: entrance front, probably photographed shortly before demolition.

The Oaks: a 19th century engraving

There are accounts for decoration work in 1841-42, which may perhaps mark the completion of the building. The first edition 6" Ordnance Survey map (below), surveyed in 1847, suggests that by then the house had acquired a bay window on the valley front which is not shown on the engraving above. The heating arrangements were designed by Benjamin Hick, a local engineer, who was distantly related to the Ashworths. 

The Oaks, as depicted on the Ordnance Survey 6" map surveyed in 1844-47.

W. Moss, Winter at the Oaks as seen from Hall'i'th'Wood, 1925. The hall is just visible top right.
Image: Bolton Council/Artworks

The Oaks was still standing in the early 1950s but was later demolished, perhaps about the time that Canon Slade School moved to its present site in 1956. The site of the house is today a wooded area on the edge of the playing fields of Canon Slade School.

Descent: built for John Ashworth (1772-1855); given 1823 to Henry Ashworth (1794-1880); ...sold c.1906 to John Benjamin Goulburn (d. 1918); sold to Norman Smith (fl. 1924)... sold to Mr & Mrs A.C. Openshaw (fl. 1932-41) ...sold c.1942 to Lancashire County Council for use as a Children's Welfare Hostel established under the Government Evacuation Scheme (fl. 1943-46); demolished c.1956?

Egerton Hall, Lancashire

A late Georgian house, with a front apparently composed of several curved bay windows, built in 1826 for Philip Novelli of Manchester who also constructed the nearby mill. In 1900 it had six reception rooms and eleven bedrooms. It was demolished in 1956.

Descent: Philip Novelli; sold 1829 to Edmund Ashworth (1800-81); to son, Edmund Ashworth (1833-1901); sold 1899/1900 to Edward Deakin (1854-1935); to daughter, Hilda (b. 1882), wife of Edmund Hick Ashworth (1870-1960); vacant 1936-40; used by North London Homes for the Blind, 1940-53; demolished 1956.

Horsley Hall, Gresford, Denbighshire

There is thought to have been a house on this site from the early 15th century, but the first building of which anything is known is said to have been a semi-timbered and moated house, reputedly built for Thomas Powell c.1540.  However, the earliest map evidence dates from the late 18th century and provides no real evidence for a moat. 
Horsley Hall: entrance front in c.1890

Horsley Hall: garden front in c.1890

The 16th-century house was demolished and replaced by a new building for Frederick Potts, a Manchester solicitor who was also the Duke of Westminster's agent, after he bought the estate in about 1865. The new building, which is said to have cost £32,000, had evidently been completed by 1872 when the first 6" Ordnance Survey map of the area was surveyed, as the footprint of the house is essentially the same as that on the next edition of 1899. Photographs published in 1891 show that the house was a large but mostly fairly plain gabled building with tall Tudor-style chimneys, some touches of semi-timbering and one unexpected flourish of fantasy in the Germanic Hansel & Gretel tower on the garden front. The architect is unknown, but may well have come from Manchester as the house has something of the feel of a great suburban villa.

Horsley Hall: an early 20th century view of the entrance front from a glass plate.
Horsley Hall: the south end and east-facing garden front (with tower) in 1952.
Image: © Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

The Victorian house was itself transformed by a remodelling by G.H. Kitchin of Winchester begun c.1907 for Alfred Ashworth (1843-1910) and completed for his son in 1912. The house was recased in Jacobean style in orange brick with white stone dressings, and although the overall shape remained similar, with long west and east fronts, it was made a good deal grander and larger. On the west front a large single-storey porte-cochere was built, and on the garden side the pre-existing tower was entirely reworked. Inside, the house retained one inscribed 16th century fireplace which is said to have come from the house of that period on the site, and the staircase may also have survived from the mid 19th century house.

Horsley Hall:a 16th century chimneypiece said to have come from the house of that period on the site.
Image: © Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
Horsley Hall: the Victorian main staircase in 1952.
Image: © Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
The house was abandoned in 1934 and largely demolished in 1963, and all that is left of the house is a long, two-storey gabled range, with ruinous walls, very little roof, and a number of tall chimney stacks in Tudor style. The stables also survive in a ruinous condition. 

Horsley Hall: the early 20th century gardens from an old postcard

Horsley Hall: the pedimented garden gateway, reputedly moved from Great Buckingham St., London
Image: © Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
The house was given an elaborate formal garden setting by G.H. Kitchin at the beginning of the 20th century, and although the bones of this layout survive it has been much disrupted by invasive plants in the years of dereliction. A pedimented garden gateway with shell niches to either side, which survived until it was blown down in 1978, came, according to an inscription, from the house in Great Buckingham St., London occupied by Czar Peter the Great of Russia in 1697, but even if the stone dressings were 17th century the bricks dated from the reconstruction by Kitchin in the early 20th century.

Descent: Powell family sold 1792 to John Hughes of Wrexham...sold c.1865 to Frederick Potts (1819-98); sold 1898 to Alfred Ashworth (1843-1910); to son, Philip Henry Ashworth (1885-1949), who remodelled it and laid out the gardens 1907-12 but sold 1917 to William Walker (1856-1933), 1st Baron Wavertree; sold after his death for demolition but acquired by HM Government for army use; sold 1955 and used as a private school briefly; demolished 1963.

Ashworth family of Birtenshaw Hall and The Oaks

Ashworth, Henry (d. 1698). Son of Henry Ashworth (d. 1670) of Wolfenden, Rossendale (Lancs) and his wife Isabella Brooke (d. 1698). Yeoman. He married, 19 October 1693, Isabel (d. 1698), daughter of John Battersby of Birtenshaw (Lancs) and had issue:
(1) Alice Ashworth (b. 1694; d. by 1740), born 5 April and baptised 10 April 1694; married, 30 December 1714, Nathaniel Greenhalgh; died before 1740;
(2) John Ashworth (1696-1767) (q.v.);
(3) Ann Ashworth (b. 1698), born 5 May and baptised 12 May 1698; married, 5 August 1718, Thomas Longworth of Quarlton (Lancs) and had issue.
He lived at Little Oak, Turton (Lancs).
He died 25 January 1698; his effects were valued at £160. His widow died 19 September 1698.

Ashworth, John (1696-1767) of Birtenshaw. Only son of Henry Ashworth (d. 1698) and his wife Isabel, daughter of John Battersby of Birtenshaw (Lancs), born 11 April and baptised 20 April 1696. Yeoman and chapman; by 1720 he was employing some of the spinners and fustian weavers of the Turton district as outworkers; he bought cotton in Liverpool or Manchester, sold it or gave it out on credit to the local cottage spinners and weavers, and bought back the finished yarn or cloth which he then sold in Bolton or Manchester. He married, 25 February 1722/3 Ann Holt (d. 1755) of Musbury in Bury (Lancs), and had issue:
(1) John Ashworth (fl. 1780); assisted his brother Henry in the family spinning and weaving business; married, 2 May 1764, Esther Mason of Horrocks Fold, but died without issue;
(6) Alice Ashworth (1726-59), baptised 22 February 1725/6; died unmarried and was buried 6 December 1759;
(2) Henry Ashworth (1728-89) (q.v.);
(3) Edmund Ashworth (d. 1759); married, 20 February 1757, Ann Dewhurst of Turton and had issue; buried at Bolton, 23 May 1759;
(4) Mary Ashworth (d. 1771); married James Pilkington (d. 1773) of Tong (Lancs) and had issue; buried at Bolton, 12 January 1771;
(5) Margaret Ashworth (d. 1771); married, 1768, James Davenport of Stoney Brow (Lancs) and had issue; died 15 November 1771;
(7) Anne Ashworth (d. 1785); married, 23 April 1764 at Bolton, James Mason of Horrocks Fold and had issue; died 14 July and was buried at Deane (Lancs), 16 January 1785.
He was brought up by his maternal grandparents at Birtenshaw which he seems to have inherited.
He was buried 26 June 1767. His wife died 14 October 1755.

Ashworth, Henry (1728-89) of Birtenshaw. Second son of John Ashworth (1696-1767) and his wife Ann Holt of Musbury, baptised 8 September 1728. Farmer, fustian manufacturer and land agent; he had warehouses in Bolton and Manchester, and acted as a middle man, putting raw cotton out to cottage workers for spinning and weaving, and collecting and selling the resultant fabric. He married, 30 March 1769, a Quaker, Isabel (1747-1804), daughter of John Wood of Turton and had issue:
(1) John Ashworth (b. & d. 1771), baptised 19 July 1771; died in infancy and was buried at Bolton, late August 1771;
(2) John Ashworth (1772-1855) (q.v.);
(3) Alice Ashworth (1774-1802), born 16 September 1774; married, 4 December 1794 at Bolton, Edward Best (d. 1807) and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 17 August 1802;
(4) Edmund Ashworth (1776-1856) of The Folds, Sharples (Lancs), born 27 October and baptised at Bank St. Presbyterian church, Bolton, 7 November 1776; partner in New Eagley Mill; married, 28 September 1809 at Bolton, Mary Kay (d. by 1841?) and had issue one son and three daughters; died Jan-Mar 1856;
(5) Henry Ashworth (b. & d. 1780), born August 1780; died in infancy and was buried 8 September 1780.
He inherited Birtenshaw House from his father in 1767.
He was buried 17 June 1789; when his will was proved his effects were worth between £3,000 and £5,000. His widow was buried 16 November 1804.

Ashworth, John (1772-1855) of Birtenshaw. Eldest surviving son of Henry Ashworth (1728-89) and his wife Isabel, daughter of John Wood of Turton, born 27 August 1772. Farmer, land agent and cotton spinner. After his father's death he continued in business as a fustian manufacturer with his uncle Edmund, but his first interest was in agriculture. He became a renowned improving farmer, and several of his inventions were described in Stevenson's survey of the agriculture of Lancashire in 1795; he was Secretary of Manchester Agricultural Society for some years from 1802. He was also employed as a land surveyor and in 1815 was one of the enclosure commissioners for Horwich (Lancs). In 1802-03, under the influence of his wife's family, he built New Eagley Mill for cotton spinning, which he operated in partnership with his younger brother, Edmund, but neither of them seems to have been much engaged in the business personally and with incompetent managers they contrived to make a loss every year until they gratefully handed the business over to Henry Ashworth in 1818. He became a Quaker in 1793, shortly before his marriage, and he went on to become an overseer and Clerk of the Lancashire Quarterly Meeting. He married, 26 September 1793, Isabel (1771-1852), daughter of Thomas Thomasson of Thomasson Fold, Edgworth (Lancs) and had issue:
(1) Henry Ashworth (1794-1880) (q.v.);
(2) John Ashworth (1796-1879) of Rose Hill, Turton (Lancs), born 21 February 1796; married 1st, 31 May 1820, Sarah (d. 1838), daughter of Edmund Naish of Flax Bourton (Somerset) and had issue four sons and five daughters; married 2nd, 6 October 1840, Grace (d. 1890), daughter of Richard Binns of Crawshawbooth (Lancs) and had further issue six sons and two daughters; died 17 April 1879;
(3) Tabitha Ashworth (1797-1803), born 28 July 1797; died young, 11 February and was buried at Edgeworth, 13 February 1803;
(4) Isabel Ashworth (1799-1827), born 1 January 1799; married, 4 June 1819, Edmund Naish  (1798-1845) of Flax Bourton (Somerset), tanner, son of Edmund Naish of Flax Bourton, and had issue; died 1 November 1827;
(5) Edmund Ashworth (1800-81) (q.v.);
(6) Thomas Ashworth (1802-70) of Claverton Lodge, Bath (Somerset), born 4 August 1802; secretary to two turnpike trusts; married 1st, 25 February 1836, Anne (d. 1838), daughter of Thomas Christy of Chelmsford (Essex) and had issue one son (who died in infancy); married 2nd, 22 July 1841, Sophia (d. 1844), daughter of Jacob Bright of Rochdale (Lancs) and had issue two daughters; married 3rd, 7 October 1847, Alicia Sarah (d. 1891), daughter of Maj-Gen. Sir Edward Nicholls, kt. and had issue a daughter (who died young); died 30 April 1870;
(7) Tabitha Ashworth (1804-72), born 24 January 1804; married, 10 October 1822, Isaac Hadwen (d. 1865) of Liverpool and had issue seven sons and two daughters; died 23 April 1872;
(8) Alice Ashworth (1805-29), born 3 December 1805; died unmarried, 13 February and was buried at Wandsworth (Surrey), 18 February 1829;
(9) Mary Ashworth (1808-09), born 3 February 1808; died in infancy, 30 June 1809;
(10) Joseph Ashworth (b. & d. 1810), born 22 June and died in infancy, 27 June 1810;
(11) William Ashworth (1812-26), born 18 February 1812; died young, 15 November 1826.
He inherited Birtenshaw House from his father in 1790 and apparently rebuilt it c.1840. He also built a new house at The Oaks in 1820 which he gave to his son, Henry.
He died 23 October 1855; will proved 6 December 1855 (effects £40,469). His wife died 19 November 1852.

Henry Ashworth (1794-1880)
Image: detail of original in NPG
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Ashworth, Henry (1794-1880) of The Oaks. Eldest son of  John Ashworth (1772-1855) and his wife Isabel, daughter of Thomas Thomasson of Thomasson Fold, Edgworth (Lancs), born 4 September 1794. Educated at Ackworth School. Entered his father's cotton spinning business in 1808, and since his father's main interest lay in agriculture, he had assumed control by 1818. He was in partnership with his brother Edmund Ashworth (1800-81) (q.v.) from 1824-54, but increasing disputes between the brothers, unresolved by Quaker arbitration, led to the division of the firm in 1854, with Henry taking New Eagley Mill. He was a paternalistic but not philanthropic employer and resisted all interference with the operation of a free market, including factory legislation and trade unionism. He was one of the founder members of the Anti-Corn Law League. He self-consciously epitomized the northern, nonconformist mill owner, seeking through industrial progress to liberate the middle classes from the shackles of aristocratic rule and strengthen their influence in the country. With his brother he was until 1847 co-owner of the Bolton Free Press newspaper in which he promoted causes such as radical electoral reform, state education, and municipal incorporation. In 1859 he helped to found the National Reform Union, with a view to reviving entrepreneurial radicalism, and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in Salford. He was appointed JP for Lancashire in the 1850s. In old age he wrote,  with the help of John Watts, Recollections of Richard Cobden MP and the Anti-Corn Law League, 1876, a lengthy memorial which helped to establish the historical reputation of Cobden and the League. He remained a committed Quaker in religion, but this did not stop him having ‘a most unquakerly passion for the gun’ and he regularly rented Scottish shooting lodges for his holidays. In the 1850s he undertook some travels, visiting Egypt and Palestine in 1855 and the United States, Canada and Cuba about two years later. He was a handsome, physically powerful, man, with a more extroverted enjoyment of good company and conversation than his brother Edmund. He married, 9 January 1823, Letitia (1798-1868), daughter of George Binns, leatherseller, of Liverpool and had issue:
(1) George Binns Ashworth (1823-1905) (q.v.);
(2) Isabella Ashworth (1825-94), born 1 July 1825; married, 11 September 1851, George Crosfield (1820-87) of Walton Lea, Warrington (Lancs), soapmaker, and had issue two daughters; died at Folkestone (Kent), 29 July and was buried at Hounslow (Middx), 2 August 1894; will proved 1 October 1894 (effects £48,740);
(3) John Ashworth (1826-88) of Ollerton, Bolton (Lancs), born 3 August 1826; partner in his father's firm of cotton spinners; married, 11 September 1861, Mary Jane (1838-1902), only daughter of Thomas Knowles of Clively Bank, Pendlebury (Lancs) and had issue four sons and one daughter; died 18 September and was buried at Turton, 22 September 1888; will proved 14 November 1888 (effects £59,907);
(4) Henry Ashworth (1828-62), born 22 March 1828; partner in his father's firm of cotton spinners; died unmarried, 26 September 1862; will proved 13 October 1862 (effects under £10,000);
(5) Sarah Ashworth (1829-96), born 23 July 1829; married, 21 January 1852 at Bolton (Lancs), Frederick Bower (c.1827-1905) of Liverpool and had issue two sons and two daughters; died 21 February 1896; will proved 15 May 1896 (effects £12,860);
(6) William Ashworth (1830-31), born 14 November 1830; died in infancy, 20 January 1831;
(7) Alice Ashworth (1832-99), born 14 March 1832; married, 9 January 1862, Richard Christy JP (1819-98) of Fairfield, Manchester (Lancs) and had issue two sons; died 10 November 1899; administration of her goods was granted 13 January 1900 (estate £3,112);
(8) Letitia Ashworth (1834-82), born 1 September 1834; married, 13 May 1868, George King Harrison JP (1826-1906) of Hagley (Worcs) and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 27 March 1882; administration of goods granted 27 April 1883 (effects £513);
(9) Arthur Ashworth (1836-48), born 4 October 1836; died young, 6 June 1848;
(10) Eliza Ashworth (1838-1919), born 21 November 1838; married, 17 January 1860 at Bolton (Lancs), John Leech (1835-70) of Woodville, Reddish, son of John Leech of Gorse Hall, Stalybridge (Cheshire), and had issue two sons and one daughter; as a widow lived at 4 Kensington Palace Gardens, Kensington (Middx); died 26 September 1919; administration of goods granted 11 November 1919 (estate £46,557);
(11) William Ashworth (1841-83) of Nottingham, born 28 August 1841; married, 6 June 1867 in Truro (Cornwall), (Mary) Philippa (1839-1918), daughter of Robert Tweedy of Tregols, Truro, but had no issue; died 10 November 1883; will proved 7 December 1883 (effects £101).
He was given The Oaks on his marriage in 1823 and rebuilt or remodelled it in 1838-42. 
He died 'of the Roman fever' on his way home from attending the Quaker Yearly Meeting in Italy, 17 May 1880; his will was proved 26 July 1880 (effects under £80,000). His wife died 21 March 1868; her will was proved 12 June 1868 (effects under £1,500).

Ashworth, George Binns (1823-1905). Eldest son of Henry Ashworth (1794-1880) and his wife Letitia, daughter of George Binns of Liverpool, born 29 November 1823. He was born a Quaker but joined the Church of England after his marriage. He travelled in Egypt in 1862. Although brought up to the radical Liberal politics of his father, he moved to the right politically and joined the Tories. JP for Lancashire. He married, 13 August 1863, Ruth (1838-1910), daughter of John Jones JP of Ruckley Grange (Shropshire) and had issue:
(1) George Harry Ashworth (1865-1954) (q.v.);
(2) Arthur Henwayn Ashworth (1869-1951) (q.v.).
He inherited Birtenshaw House from his grandfather in 1855 and appears to have extended it in the 1880s.
He died 9 June 1905; his will was proved 21 September 1905 (estate £115,554). His widow died 15 October 1910; administration of her goods was granted, 11 January 1911 (estate £11,964).

George Harry Ashworth
Ashworth, George Harry (1865-1954). Elder son of George Binns Ashworth (1823-1905) and his wife Ruth, daughter of John Jones JP of Ruckley Grange (Shropshire), born 14 May 1865. Educated at Eton and New College, Oxford (MA), he remained a classical scholar. Cotton manufacturer at New Eagley Mills in partnership with his father (from 1884-1901) and brother until 1940. JP for Lancashire, 1915; County Councillor (later Alderman) for Lancashire, 1910-53; member of Turton Urban District Council, 1891-1954 (Chairman, 1924-26, 1940-41, 1944-45). He was a keen tennis player and enjoyed dancing up to the Second World War. With his brother, he made a gift of £2,000 to Turton UDC which helped to establish Turton Tower as a museum. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited Birtenshaw House from his father in 1905 and apparently extended it before 1928.
He died 30 January 1954.

Ashworth, Arthur Henwayn (1869-1951). Younger son of George Binns Ashworth (1823-1905) and his wife Ruth, daughter of John Jones JP of Ruckley Grange (Shropshire), born 3 September and baptised at Bradshaw, 29 September 1869. Cotton manufacturer in partnership with his father (until 1901) and brother (until 1940). He was unmarried and without issue.
He lived with his brother at Birtenshaw House.
He died 7 February 1951; his will was proved 22 October 1951 (estate £129,888).

Ashworth family of Egerton Hall and Horsley Hall

Edmund Ashworth (1800-81)
Ashworth, Edmund (1800-81) of Egerton Hall, Bolton (Lancs). Third son of John Ashworth (1772-1855) and his wife Isabel, daughter of Thomas Thomasson of Thomasson Fold, Edgworth (Lancs), born 17 November 1800. Educated at Quaker schools in Bolton and Manchester, and later studied chemistry under John Dalton at Manchester. Cotton-spinner, initially in partnership with his father, uncle and brother Henry Ashworth (1794-1880) (q.v.), then with his brother only until they parted company in 1854, when he became sole proprietor of Egerton Mill; he handed over control to his sons Edmund and Samuel in 1864. The firm's mills were run on humanitarian lines (Engels acknowledged the relatively good conditions there) and he continued to provide employment through the 'Cotton Famine' depression of the 1860s when most mills stopped and laid off their workers. In partnership with his brother Thomas he bought the Galway Salmon Fishery in Ireland in 1852. He was also a Director of the South Lancashire Fire Insurance Co, Vice-President of the Cotton Supply Association, 1857-81, and a member of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce (President, 1875-77). A radical Liberal in politics and a Quaker in religion (he was described in 1842 as 'a Quaker of the fighting school'), he was was a vocal opponent of the Crimean War, a member of various social reform, temperance, anti-slavery and peace organisations, a founder member of the Anti-Corn Law League and a keen supporter and benefactor of local schools. Until 1847 he and his brother were joint owners of a Liberal newspaper, the Bolton Free Press. He seems not to have wanted public office, and declined an invitation to stand for Parliament in Bolton in 1837 and 1841, but was a member of Bolton Board of Guardians and Chairman of Turton Local Board, 1872-80.  JP for Lancashire, 1847-81 (and thus the first Quaker magistrate in the country). A handsome man, he comes across as more introverted than his elder brother, though perhaps intellectually more able. He married, 7 March 1832, Charlotte (d. 1873), daughter of Thomas Christy of Chelmsford (Essex) and had issue:
(1) Edmund Ashworth (1833-1901) of Egerton Hall (q.v.);
(2) Samuel Ashworth (1834-78) of Egerton Lodge, born 15 August 1834; partner in his father's cotton-spinning business; married, 6 December 1867, Clara (1847-1910), daughter of Samuel Mendel of Manley Hall (Lancs) and The Manor House, Chislehurst (Kent), and had issue three sons and three daughters; died 29 December 1878; will proved 1 July 1879 (effects under £4,000);
(3) Charles Egerton Ashworth (1835-1901) of The Heath, Knutsford (Cheshire), born 23 September 1835; JP and DL for Lancashire and JP for Cheshire; married, 4 August 1869, Mary Ann Taylor (c.1845-84), daughter of Samuel Mendel of Manley Hall (Lancs) and The Manor House, Chislehurst (Kent), but had no issue; died at Mytton Hall, Whalley (Lancs), 22 February 1901; will proved 16 April 1901 (estate £34,830);
(4) Mark Ashworth (1836-1902), born 13 November 1836; emigrated to Melbourne, Victoria (Australia) and died unmarried there, 20 May 1902;
(5) Rebecca Maria Ashworth (1838-1908); married, 16 December 1874, as his second wife, John Hick (1815-94) of Hill Top, Belmont (Lancs) but had no further issue; died 29 October 1908; will proved 15 January 1909 (estate £36,706);
(6) Charlotte Anne Ashworth (1839-70), born Oct-Dec 1839; died unmarried, 16 May 1870; administration of her effects granted 15 March 1882 (effects £4,163);
(7) Thomas Christy Ashworth (1841-69), born 5 October 1841; died unmarried and without issue, 22 October 1869;
(8) Alfred Ashworth (1843-1910) (q.v.);
(9) Philip Ashworth (1844-71), born 15 November 1844; died unmarried and without issue, 17 January 1871 at the Alameda Hotel, Malaga (Spain) and was buried at the English cemetery there, where he is commemorated by a tomb; administration of his goods granted 13 May 1871 (effects under £5,000).
He bought Egerton Hall, Bolton (Lancs) in 1829.
He died at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Southport (Lancs), 21 March 1881 and was buried at Walmsley (Lancs); his will was proved 22 November 1881 (effects £47,215). His wife died 8 June 1873.

Edmund Ashworth (1833-1901)
Ashworth, Edmund (1833-1901) of Egerton Hall. Eldest son of Edmund Ashworth (1800-81) and his wife Charlotte, daughter of Thomas Christy of Chelmsford (Essex), born 2 January 1833. A partner in Edmund Ashworth & Sons Ltd, 1864-98, when the firm was one of fourteen that combined to form the English Sewing Cotton Co. JP for Lancashire. He was a member of Turton Local Board and Urban District Council, 1873-89 (Chairman, 1882-86). He married, 19 February 1868, Margaret Elizabeth (1847-1929), daughter of John Hick JP MP of Hill Top, Belmont, Bolton (Lancs) and had issue:
(1) Edmund Hick Ashworth (1870-1960), born 13 May and baptised at Walmsley, 21 June 1870; stockbroker; married, Apr-Jun 1902, Hilda (1882-1964), daughter of Edward Deakin of Hill Top, Belmont (Lancs) but had no issue; died 24 June 1960; will proved 12 September 1960 (estate £53,081); 
(2) Charlotte Beatrice Ashworth (1871-1905), baptised at Walmsley, 13 December 1871; married, 11 December 1900, Rev. John Briscoe Bromfield (1862-1910); died 11 January 1905;
(3) Margaret Ashworth (1873-1956), baptised at Walmsley, 21 June 1873; married, 27 January 1898 at Walmsley, Harvey Richard Drew, stockbroker, of Bletchingley (Surrey), son of Richard William Drew, gent., and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 9 March 1956; will proved 25 July 1956 (estate £14,602);
(4) Winifred Mabel Ashworth (1875-1938), born 14 March and baptised at Walmsley, 14 April 1875; died unmarried, 17 January 1938 and was buried at Godstone (Surrey); will proved 28 March 1938 (estate £19,580);
(5) Sylvia Mary Ashworth (1878-1958), born Jul-Sep 1878; died unmarried, 28 April 1958; will proved 8 July 1958 (estate £47,522).
He inherited Egerton Hall from his father in 1881 but sold it in 1899 or 1900 to his son's father-in-law, Edward Deakin and moved to Kensington (Middx). His widow lived latterly at Weybridge (Surrey).
He died in London, 10 May and was buried at Christ Church, Walmsley (Lancs), 15 May 1901; his will was proved 4 July 1901 (estate £894). His widow died 20 February 1929 and was buried at Godstone (Surrey), where she is commemorated by a tombstone that gives her dates incorrectly as 1846-1928; her will was proved 25 April 1929 (estate £6,703).

Ashworth, Alfred (1843-1910) of Horsley Hall. Sixth son of Edmund Ashworth (1800-81) and his wife Charlotte, daughter of Thomas Christy of Chelmsford (Essex), born 23 April 1843. A director of W.M. Christy & Sons Ltd. of Stockport and Droylsden (Cheshire), towelling manufacturers, 1874-1910 (Chairman, 1901-08). JP for Cheshire and Denbighshire, 1901. A Unionist in politics. A keen sportsman, who hunted and shot regularly. He married, 17 February 1881, Edith Alice (c.1856-1904), daughter of Frederick Bower of West Dean Park (Sussex) and had issue:
(1) Philip Henry Ashworth (1885-1949) (q.v.).
He leased or bought Tabley Grange (Cheshire) in about 1880 and sold it when he bought Horsley Hall, Gresford (Denbighshire) in 1898. In 1906 he bought the adjoining 700 acre Parkside estate and at about the same time he initiated a major remodelling of Horsley Hall and its grounds which was completed by his son.
He died of a heart attack, 21 October 1910 and was buried at Gresford; administration of his goods was granted 5 December 1910 (estate £3,650). His wife died after a short illness, 15 November 1904; her will was proved 31 March 1905 (estate £12,882).

Ashworth, Philip Henry (1885-1949) of Horsley Hall. Only child of Alfred Ashworth (1843-1910) of Horsley Hall, Gresford (Denbighs.) and his wife Edith Alice, daughter of Frederick Bower of West Dean Park, born 4 October and baptised 22 November 1885 at Great Budworth (Cheshire). Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford (MA 1912); served in Cheshire Imperial Yeomanry (Lt., 1908-10) and Grenadier Guards (2nd Lt., 1914; Lt.; Capt).; ADC to HRH The Duke of Connaught, 1917-21; awarded Italian Order of the Crown; JP for Denbighshire; High Sheriff of Denbighshire, 1913. He seems to have been a spendthrift, and became acutely financially embarrassed in the early 1920s, apparently as a result of speculation in Canadian property. Although he appears to have avoided bankruptcy in 1921, his finances never recovered and he was made bankrupt later in the 1920s (discharged 1930); he attributed the disaster to 'living beyond his means', a considerable achievement given inheritances totalling £200,000 and a marriage portion of £62,500. He married, 20 July 1909 at St Peter, Eaton Square, Belgravia (Middx), Dorothy Muriel Crichton (1884-1937), second daughter of Sir William Vincent, 12th bt. of D'Abernon Chase, Stoke D'Abernon (Surrey), and had issue:
(1) Ivo Vincent Ashworth (1910-47), born 10 June 1910; served with Royal Pioneer Corps (private, 1939; sergeant, 1940; Lt., 1941; Capt., 1944; Major (Acting Colonel at the time of his death)); married, 18 July 1946 at Lacock (Wilts), Patricia Beryl (1910-48), daughter of Col. Waldron Harold Fletcher Kelly of Pipers Mill, Fontmell Magna (Dorset) but had no issue; murdered by intruders on the verandah of his bungalow at Fayid (Egypt) while Deputy Director of Labour in the Suez Canal zone, 17 November 1947; buried at Fayid War Cemetery, Al Isma'iliyah (Egypt); will proved 15 April 1948 (estate £3,315); his widow shot herself in the grounds of Maunsell Grange near Bridgwater (Somerset), 3 June 1948;
(2) Rosemary Ashworth (1911-95), born 11 October 1911; married, Oct-Dec 1936, Richard Isdell Howard Isdell-Carpenter (1909-86) and had issue one son and one daughter; died 6 October 1995 and was buried at Kirdford (Sussex); will proved 27 February 1996;
(3) Daphne Ashworth (1916-2001), born 13 April 1916; married, Oct-Dec 1948, Eric Ford and had issue two sons; died June 2001.
He inherited Horsley Hall, Gresford (Denbighs.) from his father in 1910 and completed the remodelling of the house and grounds. He sold the estate to Lord Wavertree in 1917 and lived thereafter in London.
He died 22 July 1949 at Montana Hall, Montana (Switzerland); administration of goods with will annexed granted 14 January 1950 (effects £100). His wife died 17 January 1937 and was buried at Stoke d'Abernon (Surrey); administration of her goods was granted 17 August 1937 (effects £510).


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, pp. 66-67; E. Powell, The pedigree of the family of Powell of Horsley, 1891; R. Boyson, The Ashworth cotton enterprise: the rise and fall of a family firm, 1818-80, 1970; E. Hubbard, The buildings of Wales: Clwyd, 1986, p. 388; T. Lloyd, The lost houses of Wales, 2nd edn., 1989, p. 25; R.J. Silvester, Horsley Hall, Marford - Archaeological Assessment, Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, 2000; R. Lowe, Lost houses in and around Wrexham, 2002, pp. 58-59; ODNB entries on Henry Ashworth (1794-1880) and Edmund Ashworth (1800-81);

Location of archives

Ashworth family of Birtenshaw: family papers, c.1880-94 [Lancashire Archives, DDAs]
Ashworth, Henry (1794-1880): family correspondence, political and personal notebooks, 19th cent. [Private Collection: enquiries to Archives Sector Development, The National Archives]; misc. correspondence, papers and diaries, 1819-73 [Staffordshire Record Office, Stafford, D3016]; scrapbooks about Preston millworkers strike, 1854 [Lancashire Record Office, DDPr 138/87a]
Henry Ashworth & Co., cotton spinners (and predecessors): business records, 19th cent. [Lancashire Archives, DDAs]; accounts, stock book, 1831-79 [John Rylands University Library, Manchester, Eng. MS. 1201]; registers of children employed, valuations and family papers, 1823-87 [Bolton Archives & Local Studies, ZWL50-69, ZZ/31]
Edmund Ashworth, cotton spinner: private ledger, n.d. [Private Collection: enquiries to Archives Sector Development, The National Archives]

Coat of arms

The arms are given alternatively, by different sources as either:
Gules, a cross engrailed humettée or, between four fleurs-de-lis argent (illustrated above);
Gules, a passion cross invected, or, between four lozenges saltirewise argent, each charged with a fleur-de-lis azure.

Can you help?

Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.
  • The houses described in the article are unusually poorly documented. If anyone can provide any further information, drawings or photographs of Birtenshaw Hall, The Oaks or Egerton Hall that can make the account above fuller and more accurate, please get in touch. A photograph of Egerton Hall would be particularly welcome.
  • If anyone is able to provide additional career information, genealogical details or portraits for this family, especially for the earlier generations, I should be very pleased to hear from them.
  • Can anyone throw more light on the financial disaster which appears to have befallen Philip Henry Ashworth (1885-1949) in the years 1919-21?
  • Does anyone know more about the business careers of George Harry Ashworth (1865-1954) and Arthur Henwayn Ashworth (1869-1951), and the later years of Henry Ashworth & Co.?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 1 April 2016 and updated 2 April 2016. I am grateful to Jeff Chambers for addition information about P.H. Ashworth.


  1. Hi Nick,

    Philip Henry ASHWORTH
    The Times article regarding bankruptcy.

    Source Citation:
    Captain Ashworth's Discharge.
    The Times (London, England), Thursday, Jul 24, 1930; pg. 5; Issue 45573.



    1. Many thanks for this; I have updated the article accordingly.

  2. Hi Nick
    Afraid I don't have a great deal of information. Just you referenced John Ashworth (1826-88) of Ollerton, Bolton (Lancs), born 3 August 1826. I believe the "Ollerton" is Ollerton Hall which is now named Sharples Hall. We live just over the back and are desperately (unsuccessfully)trying to find information out about our home so if you do find any more information I would be most grateful to hear.

    1. Thank you for this identification. Ollerton/Sharples Hall is not a house I have investigated, but it seems to be an Italianate building of c.1850-60, which could well have been built by John Ashworth. It is not shown on the 1844 Ordnance Survey map. The original Sharples Hall was further south, about where the Cottonworks now stands. Local newspapers, most readily accessed online through the British Newspaper Archive might be informative if you have not already used them. And have you tried Lancashire Archives in Preston, who have much for the whole of the historic county?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. My paternal family are Ashworths dont really know alot about them my grandma and her sisters were all born ashworths not 100% on who there father was. Your blog is fantastic x

  5. Hi Nick ,
    I have just returned from a wedding in Dartmoor in Devon. I stayed in the two bridges Hotel near Princetown. In room 23 where we stayed there were various family photos of Philip and his parents celebrating his 21st birthday. One photo of Horsley hall and another of Philip in his Cheshire Yeomanry uniform. How they ended up in the Hotel I don't know, but its been interesting reading the history of the family. Thank you

    Chris Berry

  6. Hi, my maiden name is Ashworth. I was born in Bolton and lived for many years in Bromley Cross. On a visit to Turton Towers I was struck by the resemblance between George Harry Ashworth and my father, something with which other members of my family also agreed. I've never been able to establish any connection between his family and mine, but feel that at sometime in the dim and distant our families' lines crossed. BTW I have a website which contains a page about the constables at Turton Tower, and also Sharples Hall. Thank-you for the blog.

  7. hi .my grandmother was edith ashworth of southport, lancs .family owned bakeries . married tommy white , footballer for southport ,everton and England, toms parents were emma rimmer of southport and Frederick white ,carpenter from cockermouth , cumbria , looking for photos of Frederick white died 1948 , st.cuthberts,church town. any help welcome,

  8. Hello there,

    I have just been going through the family tree (attached), and noticed that four sons don't seem to be mentioned or written down fully on the tree. Sons of John Ashworth b. 1826 / d. 1888. The names: Walter, Thomas, Henry and Percy.

    Could someone clarify why these are not fully discussed?



Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.