Unveiling the Radcliffe War Memorial

Most of us will pass a war memorial every day, as we drive or walk to work; as we take a leisurely stroll on a sunny Sunday morning – they are part of our community and our heritage; they are a focus for personal remembrance and a public record of gratitude for sacrifices made by our ancestors not that long ago.

They come in all forms from small brass plaques to a set of memorial gates in a churchyard; obelisks and columns, crosses and sculptures. When spending time in their presence, particularly around moments of public remembrance, they can help take us back into the past – maybe even feel some of the grief our forebears shared with each other as they stood in silence to remember those they’d lost.

Every November we might gather around these memorials, lay our poppies and wreaths in an act of remembrance. Yet how do we remember something that we have never had direct experience of? How do we imagine what a gathering of people might look like in fresh grief? Did they have poppies, did they pray or sing, just who was there at the very first unveiling?

This is where Archives come in; dipping into a box holding carefully preserved records – be they photographs, ledgers or reels – can evoke a time and place; breathe life into our imagination as it takes us back into the past. This time our journey will take us to the unveiling of the Radcliffe War Memorial on Saturday 25th November 1922.

Taken from The Radcliffe Guardian

Who to unveil?
There was a rumour that Lord Derby had promised to perform this duty. It was he who carried out the ceremonious task for the cenotaph in Whitefield; it was done with such feeling that the people of Radcliffe were disappointed that Lord Derby’s duties in the recent general election prevented him from being in Radcliffe on the 25th. What about someone from the District Council? Someone who had served in many spheres of public work and was well-respected in the town? Look no further than Dr George Scarr. His devotion to the education, health and well-being of the community was well documented in the Radcliffe newspapers. Everyone decided that Dr Scarr was a worthy replacement for Lord Derby!

Dr George Scarr. Photograph taken when he was Chairman of the Governors of Stand Grammar School. c.1928

Who will attend?
This is the community’s memorial, paid for in part by public subscription; a sizeable space must be allocated for the next of kin of those who died. An enclosure will be constructed on the Heber Street side of the memorial for relatives of the deceased soldiers and sailors. In they will flock bearing their invitations – a mourning army of mothers and sons, fathers and daughters. They will welcome the procession of ex service men accompanied by the Radcliffe Brass Band who will have walked from Radcliffe Bridge Recreation Ground. Those who have fought and survived the war and cannot take part in the procession will have their own space on Spring Lane. The seven steps that lead us to the memorial will provide an elevated platform for the clergy; members of the District Council; high-ranking military representatives and, of course, our very own Dr Scarr.

How did it go?
The morning hung heavy with fog. What if it was the same damp and misty conditions that took over proceedings when opening the Ambulance Drill Hall? Fears were unfounded and by afternoon the fog had lifted – a clear view of a crowd of thousands could be seen by the photographer whose job it was to preserve these memories. The Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony was set for 3pm but spectators had assembled long before then. The fine weather had made it possible for children to sit, huddled together in a neat, warm row upon backyard walls. Through the open upstairs windows of houses and upon the rooftops of nearby shops people gathered for a better view; waiting patiently for Dr Scarr to pull the chord which brought away the Union Jack. The crowds were silent as the falling flag revealed the bronze symbols of Victory, Liberty and Peace while Dr Scarr read out his dedication:

I unveil this Memorial in proud and grateful memory of those from this town who fell in the Great War … this memorial to the gallant lads of Radcliffe …

These words formed only a small part of what turned out to be a truly memorable speech reproduced for all to see in next Saturday’s newspaper. On finishing the Lord’s Prayer, official wreaths were laid at the base. The ‘Last Post’ was sounded by the 5th Battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers before a vote of thanks was given to Dr Scarr. Thousands of voices then joined in to sing ‘Abide with me’.

And what can we say about the flowers?
Bearers of floral tributes had been arriving since the foggy early morning. More and more arrived throughout the day, so many that they had to be laid in the Congregational school hall until the crowds had subsided. Someone tried to count the wreaths, bouquets and garlands as they were handed over but admitted to being “completely overwhelmed”. It was said that they came from every “mill, work-shop, church, school, club and public-house in the town”. The sight of all these flowers may have prompted others to contribute the next day; on Sunday thousands of people visited the cenotaph where children could be seen carefully placing bright posies on the steps. Someone saw a woman carrying a ring of red and white chrysanthemums and heard her say, “Aw’ve paid some brass for this, more thon aw con really afford, but aw couldn’t let other folks be showin’ what they thowt abeawt thur lads and me not do anythin’ for eaur Jim”.

So now you know, with the help of archives held here at Bury, just how people gathered on a weekend nearly a century ago to remember their dead. The 612 gallant lads of Radcliffe, in the immortal words of Dr Scarr, “who suffered and died in the Great War” have a memorial “worthy of their sacrifice and of the ancient town which the majority of them claimed as their birthplace”.

Inspiration for this piece is taken from:

a miscellaneous private collection of Radcliffe publications and photographs donated earlier this year catalogue number RMX/9.

Reports in the Radcliffe Guardian, November 25th, 1922 and December 2nd, 1922.

A portrait of Dr Scarr taken from Stand Grammar School Collection; Catalogue Ref SSG/12/2/6


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Photo Donation of the Month: Leslie Priestley’s view of Bury

Just look at how much fun you can have in your workplace before the Health and Safety at Work Act came into force in 1974!

This fabulous photo donation came into us recently and we felt we just had to share it! Who is this fearless duo, where are they and what were they doing so high up above the town of Bury?

Leslie Priestley (L) Tommy Cannon (R) on top of Williams Deacon’s Bank, 1936

Well, the year is 1936 and Leslie Priestley (left) and Tommy Cannon (right) were just doing their job – painting the flagpole on the roof of Williams Deacon’s Bank on Fleet Street (The Rock). What a perfect opportunity to stand on the parapet and strike a perilous pose for the camera. While Leslie was up there he took advantage of his lofty position and captured the following image of The Rock (using his first ever box camera) which he subsequently developed and printed at home.

The Rock taken from Williams Deacon’s Bank, 1936

At the time these pictures were taken both men were working for William J Bolton, Decorators & Signwriters, situated just a short distance away on Union Square. Leslie told his family that painting flagpoles was one of the worst jobs – with a ladder precariously tied to the pole!

William Bolton’s Shop, Union Square, Bury, 1931

Just four years after these photographs were taken, Lesley Priestley left Billy Bolton’s for military service and joined the Royal Artillery. His civil trade was not wasted during this time as he painted lettering on vehicles and produced signs for the army.

After the war Leslie returned to his painting and decorating working now for Fred Grandidge & Sons of Paradise Street, Bury. Not long after, he supplemented the day job by teaching his craft to apprentices three evenings per week at the Municipal School of Art in Bolton.

Leslie Priestley turned out to be a dedicated full-time teacher producing hundreds of examples of graining, marbling, signwriting, heraldry and gilding to be used as teaching aids for his students. We were so pleased to learn that these specimens have been donated to Bolton Museum where they can be preserved for future generations to admire.

You can just tell from Leslie’s proud stance on top of Williams Deacon’s Bank that he was destined for greater things and it was fascinating to read the family’s account of some of his achievements! Like the full-colour and gold-leaf restoration of Bolton’s Coat of Arms at the town hall in 1973; the restoration of the Royal Coat of Arms at Deane Church, Bolton (1976) and his production of a Bolton Coat of Arms presented to Bolton’s twin-town, Le Mans, in July 1973.

Grateful thanks go to Leslie’s daughter, Irene, for donating the photographs and providing us with so much rich history surrounding the life and work of a painter from Bury.

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Bernard Fielding Archive: a work in progress

We’re well under way with our scanning and cataloguing of the Bernard Fielding Image collection. We’ve had grateful help with this project from many volunteers in recent years, but for the past 12 months or so, Daniel (who is on the Bury Council Apprenticeship Scheme) has used his fine attention to detail for carrying on the task. Daniel is very methodical in his approach to working for us in the archives; we’re really pleased about that as this is exactly what’s needed to scan and catalogue this marvellous collection of slides.

Daniel Cooke scanning the Bernard Fielding Slides

We are very lucky to hold this fascinating archive, and along with the slides, it contains the personal papers of Mr Bernard Fielding (1927-2001).  Mr Fielding was a campaigner for the preservation of local historical landmarks in Radcliffe.  He was also one of the leaders in the campaign to restore Radcliffe Tower (Ref No MMX/17).  In addition to this, he was also heavily involved with the Radcliffe Civil Amenities Society (Ref No GCA).

Radcliffe Library, c.1970s taken from the Bernard Fielding Photo Collection

Some of the items catalogued include two bundles of papers documenting the efforts made by Bernard Fielding between 1968 to 1989 to restore Radcliffe Tower and bring it into public ownership; these include notebooks, technical drawings, and sketches of the tower.  Bernard also began writing a book about the history of Radcliffe Tower titled In the Hall of a Saxon King but it was never published.  A draft of this book is included amongst these set of papers.

Bridge Methodist School, Radcliffe, demolition, c.1978 taken from the Bernard Fielding Photo Collection

A large part of this archive has not yet been catalogued, although we have had lots of help from volunteers to produce a draft list of what’s inside the boxes. We hope to upload the scanned images (which fill almost half of the 33 boxes which make up the collection) to our image website in the near future.

Steve Perry, volunteer, who has helped list the contents of the boxes

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The Holiday “Spirit”

With all this rain drenching our holidays we thought we’d give August’s Photo Donation of the Month a special holiday flavour! There’s sun hats and picnics, a pebble beach and somewhere off in the distance, the sitters’ eyes take us to a suggestion of the sea.

The Holiday “Spirit”

This is Roy Hull’s portfolio entry to the Bury Photographic Society in July 1956; lucky for us we get to read the panel’s remarks which offers some insight into the attitudes of the society’s judges during the 1950s. Overall they did not like rules of composition to be broken:

“The composition I feel is L shaped with the point of interest, table and contents not in the junction of the L”

“I feel that a bit of deliberate arrangement might have made an improvement. Four figures, each facing the table and a burst of sunshine would have improved. Or even a diagonal composition might have been tried”

“The viewpoint is good, but it is a pity about the disembodied feet on the left”

Front sheet of Roy Hull’s Portfolio Entry to Bury Photographic Society

Some of the judges clearly did not ‘get’ the ironic title ‘The Holiday “Spirit”’. We would have thought that spirit being in inverted comments might have given some indication to Roy’s apparent subversion of the traditional cheesy-grin, sunshiny holiday snap:

“The title seems unfortunate, the holiday spirit to me means action, vitality, a happy jolly time had by all”

“I should like to suggest another title say ‘Holiday Relaxation’ for the word spirit to me always suggests people leaping about etc.”

Roy has sadly passed away and his son has very kindly donated this photograph (along with other documents) to the archives here in Bury to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. We hope that Roy continued pushing the boundaries with his photography as we certainly appreciated his wry interpretation of the spirit of a holiday, captured so perfectly!All that’s missing is the rain!!

Anyone donating photographs to Bury Archives Service can be safe in the knowledge that they are stored in the best possible conditions for their long-term preservation. Please get in touch if you would like to ‘preserve memories’ with Bury Archives.


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Joseph Buckley & Sons of Radcliffe: Herbal Brewery

Tom Keighley is a collector of old bottles, glassware and demijohns from the local area. His latest find is a large stoneware flagon bearing the name Joseph Buckley of Radcliffe and dated 1936. Most of the pots he collects belonged to well-known local brewers but Tom had never heard of Joseph Buckley and wondered if we could help find a location for the brewery.

Tom Keighley and his flagon bought from a local antique shop

We couldn’t find anything for him in the trade directories but from the 1939 register we found that Joseph Buckley was a botanic brewer living at number 14 Bury Rd, Radcliffe. The 1911 census tells us he was working from his home at number 4 Scotson Fold, Radcliffe as a herbal brewer.

As you can see the jar is in pristine condition and will no doubt take pride of place in Tom’s collection. And finding out a little of its history makes it that bit more special!

Did you know that Ancestry now includes the 1939 register in its records set? You can access Ancestry here in the search room, all you need is a valid library card.

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Cheers to Crown Ales: Crown Brewing Company Ltd archive

We were recently contacted by the archivist from Cumbria Archive Service to ask if we would be able to take in a hefty couple of share members’ ledgers relating to the Crown Brewing Company of Bury; they were duly delivered to us by courier and we added them to our existing collection of the company’s records. All that ale must have made the clerks who handled these ledgers super strong i’th’ arm! These volumes are seriously weighty!

Share and members’ ledgers for The Crown Brewing Compnay

The company was registered in 1861 as the Bury Co-operative Brewing & Distilling Company Ltd, changing its name to the Crown Brewing Co. in 1866.

The brewery and its offices were located in Rochdale Road, Bury.

Newspaper article regarding demolition of the premises on Rochdale Road 1967

The company was acquired by Dutton’s of Blackburn in 1959, at which point it controlled some 127 tied houses*.

Photo of Crown Hotel (1989), Gardeners’ Arms (c1960)

Lists of tied houses

Lists of tied houses

Dutton’s in turn was taken over by Whitbread’s in 1964.

The records we hold cover the period up to 1964 and were originally held by the Whitbread Group Archives. The company dispersed their archives in 2001 – we received records relating to Crown Brewing Co and also Richard Seed & Co Ltd, brewers of Radcliffe. Cumbria archives must have received the Crown Brewing share members’ ledgers from Whitbread during the transfers.

Transfer of mortgage Richard Seed of Blackpool, William Seed of Whitefield and John Lord of Walsall

Together these collections hold a substantial amount of fascinating information charting the history of the brewing industry in Bury and Radcliffe. Below is just some of the material from both collections.

Miscellaneous correspondence

Miscellaneous correspondence

Minute book

When Dutton’s took over in 1959, Crown was the only remaining brewery in Bury and employed more than 60 workers. A report in the Bury Times on 8th August 1959 stated that some of the workers would be offered positions by Dutton’s but some, sadly, would have no job at all. A compensation payment of £25,000 was proposed by Dutton’s which would be distributed between the employees paying particular attention to workers with long service.

Documents relating to the takeover by Dutton’s

For a full listing please check out our archive catalogue – entering catalogue Ref BCB (for Crown) and BRS (for Richard Seed & Co.).

*a tied house is a public house required to buy at least some of its beer from a particular brewery or pub company. That is in contrast to a free house, which is able to choose the beers it stocks freely. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tied_house


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Unknown Photograph Donation

We are always pleased to receive donations of images and photographs but we do ask that the donor supplies as much information as to the identity of persons, location and dates to make these fully accessible as a resource and as useful as possible for any customers wishing to view them for family and local history research.

Back in 2009, an unknown donor left the following photographs with Bury library which were subsequently handed over to the archivist. As yet we haven’t been able to trace any more information. If anyone can help to identify the location and/or the people featured in the images we would love to hear from you!


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Lost Treasure: Missing WW1 Medal has found its soldier’s Archive

Last November we marked the Armistice Centenary of WW1; it was an intense and emotional time for everyone who helped the borough remember local military personnel who had lost their lives during the conflict. For us it really felt like a culmination of the previous four years’ work which saw staff and volunteers extracting and digitising obituaries and soldier’s images from the local newspapers. With plenty of media presence we helped family members learn more about their fallen ancestors, often seeing their faces for the first time.

Soldier’s images used in the East Lancashire Railway Armistice Display 2018

It’s important to be reminded though – there isn’t a specific time to remember those who lost their lives; their memories live on in public war memorials, rolls of honour, a photograph on a mantelpiece, a family archive – they’re always here with us in some form or another. And sometimes they are hidden just waiting to be found.

Taken from the Met exhibition November 2015. Artwork inspired by our newspaper archive

At Castle Leisure centre a few years ago, a soldier’s WW1 medal was handed in at reception. It had been found in the car park – the orange and blue ribbon probably long since detached. Staff working there at the time placed it in the safe and, as no one came to claim it, the medal was forgotten about. The centre staff explained that they receive so much lost property and, understandably, due to its relatively small size, it would have been pushed to the back of the safe-drawer.

British World War 1 Medal found in Castle Leisure Centre Car Park, Bury

During a recent sort-out, a member of staff retrieved the medal and recognising its potentially sentimental value she put a call-out on social media. One response led to another and eventually to Christine North from Lancashire Family History & Heraldry Society who, no stranger to research, took up the leads. That is where we come in! With the service number, rank and name impressed on the rim of the medal the soldier’s details led Christine to one of our blog posts: Rifleman Edmund Kaye.

We had received Edmund Kaye’s archive from his grandson, Bernard, in October 2015; (coincidentally, this collection was one of the ones we chose to go on display during the Armistice last November).  Once Christine had made the connection she sent Edmund Kaye’s medal to us for it to be returned to its owner.

We contacted Bernard straightaway – his response was one of amazement and delight. Amazement because the medal had never been in his family’s possession; delight – as now it could complement the collection; Bernard and Julia were adamant that the medal should be preserved here at the archive with the rest of Edmund’s items.

Bernard and his wife, Julia, with Edmund Kaye’s photograph and medal

We were happy to invite Bernard and Julia back into the archive to see the medal.

Below are a few words from Bernard:

“In October 2015, we donated some records of my grandfather, (Rifleman Edmund Kaye) to Bury Archives which were included in a small display for Armistice 100 during November 2018.

The records comprised of Edmund’s letters home and various other items relating to his death in action at Ypres.

Unfortunately, missing from the collection was Edmund’s service medal which we knew existed but had no info as to its whereabouts.

To our astonishment, we were contacted on the 21st February by Wendy from Bury Archives about a WW1 war medal which was found on Castle Car Park in Bury some time ago. The medal was handed into reception and eventually was passed on to a member of Lancashire Family History Society who then researched the name on the medal. A google search directed her to the blog that Wendy had written about Edmund Kaye so she contacted Bury Archives and subsequently sent them the medal.

The medal was confirmed to be the one that belonged to my grandfather, Edmund Kaye.  

It was an astonishing revelation for the medal to be found and returned to Edmund’s collection in this way. I have to sincerely thank the person who handed the medal in and Wendy and the Bury Archives team for all of their input to completing the collection.

I and my cousin Kevin feel that his story and his memory is now properly recorded and accessible for all in the future.

We are now planning a future visit to Edmund’s war grave at WHITE HOUSE CEMETERY, ST. JEAN-LES-YPRES Location: West-Vlaanderen, Belgium Where Edmund’s grave is located.”

The mystery of how the medal was lost in Castle Car Park remains. However, what’s more important is that it has found its way home and will be preserved for years to come.



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Your House Through Time: A guide for tracing your house history

The return of the BBC’s hugely popular series, A House through Time, has generated lots of enquiries from the local community asking how they go about tracing the history of their house. As a result we thought we’d put together a guide on resources we hold here at Bury Archives which can help you on your journey.

House History

Before you begin, ask yourself what it is you’d like to find out about your house’s past. For example, are you interested in its architectural history and how it may have changed over the years? Or would you rather trace the occupants of your house? Many of you will probably want to find out answers to both eventually but it’s best to concentrate on each as a separate strand of research. This approach helps you to stay focused!

Architectural History


The first Ordnance Survey (OS) maps for the area date between 1845 and 1850; the next series published in 1893 and then in most of the decades of the 20th century. All these maps are on open access and can be viewed in our search room – maps are a great place to start and are really useful to determine an approximate date of when your house was built. They also help you discover how the location has changed through the decades.



From the 1860s onwards, anyone building or substantially altering a property had to deposit plans with the local authority for approval. For the period c1860 – 1948, the archives holds a large collection of original paper plans. And from c1948 – 1998 a large number of plans are available to view on microfiche. Anything post 1998 will be held at the Council’s planning department.

What’s included in the planning documents will vary considerably depending on the property and date but expect to find a submission date, approval date, name of architect alongside block plans, perspective drawings and site plans.

Plan of Bury Dispensary from 1889

It is worth noting that many of the earlier plans will not have house numbers allocated to them so identifying a plan belonging to a particular property will take some time and preliminary research. Consulting maps, local history publications, house deeds – even chatting to some of the oldest residents in your street might provide vital clues to help track down that elusive building plan!


Over the years we have amassed a huge collection of photographs of the local area. Some of you will be familiar with our online Image Bank which enabled users to browse through the images. While this site was removed due to copyright infringement, you’ll be pleased to know that a bigger and better image website will be ready to use in the next couple of weeks! All the images will be properly watermarked but available for download at a small fee. Searching for your house or street location will have never been easier and can be done from the comfort of your own home!


In addition to our images searchable online, we hold photographs within separate archives holdings which have not yet been digitised or uploaded to our website. It’s always worthwhile searching our archive catalogue using keywords such as your house name, street name or district to see what results you get. You then need to jot down the catalogue reference and make an appointment to view the items here in the search room.


Rochdale Old Road c1905


Local newspapers were often used to advertise properties for rent or sale and these adverts can be full of useful detail. Here’s a summary of which newspapers we hold over on our website. Again you would need to have done some preliminary research to find out when the property changed hands so you have a date point for searching. However, the British Newspaper Archive has a free search facility (a paid subscription would be needed to view the newspaper image) and luckily holds the Bury Times from 1855 – 1909. Any search results will provide the edition date and page number; take a note of these and make an appointment to view the newspapers on microfilm here in the search room.

House Occupants History

Census Returns

The census is a head count of everyone in the country on a given day and can provide a snapshot of an entire family (including lodgers) living in your house at a particular moment in time. A census has been taken every 10 years in England and Wales since 1801 (except 1941). Microfilm copies of the Bury Census 1841-1901 are available for consultation here in the search room. In addition, we have free access via our public PCs to commercial genealogy site Ancestry where you can search the census returns from 1841-1911, as well as the 1939 register (discussed below).


The 1939 Register

The 1939 register provides a snapshot of the civilian population just after outbreak of World War Two. As the 1931 census was destroyed by fire during WW2 and no census was taken in 1941, this is certainly an invaluable resource for anyone tracing 20th century inhabitants of their home. For further information on the 1939 register please check out The National Archive’s Research Guide

Rate Books and Valuation Lists

Rate books are accounts kept by local authorities for raising local taxes on property. In order to collect this tax, a periodic valuation of all properties was needed which produced a valuation list. Each time the rate was collected a rate book had to be made out to track payments. Information gleaned from these books varies depending on district and year but expect to find name of owner, name of occupier (head of household only) and type of property. For larger properties, some valuation lists will even give an inventory of rooms and outbuildings. A comprehensive list of dates and districts held at the archives can be viewed on our website.


Rate books are a fabulous census substitute and as they were produced with more regularity will fill in the gaps of who lived in your house and street in between census years.


Voters Lists

Poll lists, Burgess Rolls, Parliamentary and Electoral Registers can be useful sources of information, providing that the limitations of the franchise laws are taken into account. We hold a varied selection of voters lists – for a detailed list refer to our summary of resources over on our website.

Street and Trade Directories

A variety of Bury and District directories from 1772 – 1967 are available for reference in the search room on open access. The information contained in these varies but they can provide alphabetical lists of inhabitants, street by street lists and alphabetical trade listings. With huge thanks to funding from Bury & District Local History Society these directories can now be viewed online over on our website:


The intention of this article is just to introduce you to some of the main sources used in tracing your house’s history and the types of records we hold here at the archives. When you have dealt with the basics, there are many other sources to consider – such as probate records, deeds, published histories, business records to name but a few. Some of these will be held here, some online and others held in various record offices.

Did you know we offer a research service? Charged at £20.00 per hour we can undertake most types of research including family history, local history, or the history of a business, house or building. Contact us for more details or send your request over on our website.


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Bury Art Gallery and Public Library: laying of the foundation stone April 1899

April 29th 2019 is the 120th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for Bury Art Gallery and Public Library; using items from our archive we want to explore the origins of this beautiful building – why it was built, who designed it and who was chosen to lay that very important foundation stone?

Accepted design for the Art Gallery and Library published in the Bury Guardian 29th April 1899

Why an Art Gallery and Public Library?

In 1897 Bury was presented with the art collection of the late Thomas Wrigley by his three surviving children – Emma, Oswald and Frederick to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The gift was conditional that the town would provide a building to house these valuable paintings. Thomas Wrigley had made his fortune through the manufacture of paper and was head of the firm at Bridge Hall Mills from 1846 – 1880 – his wealth enabling him to accumulate a considerable collection of oil paintings, water colours and Wedgewood china. This generous gift of a treasured art collection was indicative of a family who had a keen interest in promoting the health, welfare and education of the people who shared their native town. On the day of the foundation stone-laying, The Bury Guardian dedicated a full page to the Wrigley’s – applauding their benevolence, charitable involvement and expressing what a privilege it is to have been gifted such a unique legacy.

Where to build?

In early 1897, shortly after the gift to the town was announced, the Town Council set up an Art Gallery and Public Library Committee. Members of this committee could now begin to administer the huge amount of work which went into the design, construction and overall organisation of erecting such an important public building. The committee minute book opens with a discussion on possible locations and, ‘after carefully considering the advantages of various plots of land’, suggests two suitable sites.

Art Gallery and Library Committee Minute Book 1897

The land on Moss Street and Silver Street, in which years before was the site of Broom Hall (home of another well-known Bury family, the Hutchinsons), was chosen in preference to land adjoining the technical school possibly due to the school considering future extensions to its buildings.

Plan taken from Conditions of Competition & Instructions to Architects, June 1897 (click to view full size)

Which Design?

After a survey of the site was made, the Borough Engineer, Mr J Cartwright, prepared the conditions for competitive drawings and architects were invited to submit their designs to the Corporation Offices on Bank Street. Premiums of £75.00, £50.00 and £25.00 were to be awarded for the designs ‘adjudged to be of sufficient merit and placed first, second and third in order’. An assessment of the quantity and dimensions of the artwork (stored at the Wrigley’s family home, Timberhurst) had been carried out so that the set of architects’ instructions were quite specific:

The first floor to be devoted entirely to the Art Gallery, with the necessary
conveniences, and to have three galleries of special dimensions: one to contain
not less than 270 lineal feet of wall space; the second to contain not less than
106 lineal feet and the third not less than 90 lineal feet‘.

Instructions for the Public Library were:

The ground floor to contain suitable reading and news rooms with a special room
for ladies, as also accommodation for lending and reference library and provision
for librarian, with the necessary offices, lavatories and conveniences‘.

A total of 22 sets of plans were submitted and, after much consideration, the Council decided upon a design in the style of 18th century English Renaissance which boasted a classic portico and carved terminals with friezes of sculpted figures. The architects were Woodhouse and Willoughby of King Street, Manchester.

Who will lay the foundation stone?

The honour would, of course, be granted on the Wrigley family. Sadly, Emma had died just a couple of months after the art collection had been offered to the town. That left the surviving brothers, Frederick and Oswald. In a meeting of March 23rd 1899, the Art Gallery committee chaired by Alderman Walker suggested that ‘Mr O. O. Wrigley should lay the foundation stone on Saturday 29th April’. A further meeting on the 27th April reported that Mr O. O. Wrigley had accepted. The minute book does not detail why he was chosen over his brother Frederick. However, Martin Tillmanns, in his book Bridge Hall Mills: Three Centuries of Paper & Cellulose Film Manufacture suggests that despite his benevolent nature, Frederick ‘was not greatly interested in local affairs and was never persuaded to take part in them’.

Minute book 1897

In a meeting held on April 20th 1899 a decision was made to honour Mr Oswald Wrigley with Freedom of the Borough which would be conferred on the same day as laying the foundation stone. The Bury Guardian reported this honour was granted to Oswald, ‘in recognition of the esteem in which he and members of the Wrigley family are held by the inhabitants of their native town’.

Oswald Osmond Wrigley (1836 – 1917)

Saturday 29th April 1899 – How did it go?

The day was to be one of ceremony and celebration; it began at 1pm where members of the Town Council met at the Corporation Offices on Bank Street to begin a procession to the Athenaeum. The streets were decorated with banners and bunting – the Bury Guardian reported that a very large crowd had gathered where ‘the spectators were allowed to gather close to the barriers and the sea of upturned faces presented a very interesting sight’. Members of the public were also invited inside the Athenaeum Hall to witness Mr Wrigley accept the honorary freedom of the borough; the resulting speeches were full of gratitude, designed to arouse a real sense of civic pride amongst those present:

Colonel Walker: ‘It is a happy thing for the people of Bury that our friends, the members of the Wrigley family inherited not only the pictures from their father, but that they inherited also his generous impulses and kindly heart. We honour them, and are grateful to them for the magnificent gift’.  

Mr O. O. Wrigley: ‘By conferring on me the freedom of the borough of Bury – a sign of kindliness and esteem from my fellow townsmen which I know is meant to embrace all the members of the Wrigley family. I feel it to include my father … of whose memory we are all proud. It includes my brother and sister, by whose aid it has been possible to give to our native town the collection of pictures which my father brought together at Timberhurst, and which we have been delighted to present in his memory. I am to lay the foundation stone of their new home today and I hope that the pictures may be of use and enjoyment to those who come after us’.

Silver Freedom Casket made by W&Co and hallmarked in London in 1898, presented to Oswald Osmond Wrigley when he was made the first Freeman of the Borough of Bury. The hand illuminated scroll announcing this fact, which the casket was designed to contain, is pictured below. The four sides are engraved: one end has the coat of arms of the Wrigley family and the other that of the Corporation; one of the long sides shows the new building and the other the Wrigley’s house, Timberhurst. From Bury Art Museum Collection

A public luncheon followed at Phillips Hall on Garden Street and afterwards another procession, headed by the 1st Battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers. The procession was led over several streets including Haymarket Street, Fleet Street and Princess Street – the whole of the route lined with spectators.

Stone-Laying Ceremony Saturday April 29th 1899

The final ceremony at the site of the Art Gallery invited architect, Mr Willoughby, to hand over a beautifully designed mallet and trowel to the Mayoress, Mrs Wike, who duly presented this to Oswald Wrigley for laying the stone. Oswald expressed his honour with another heartfelt speech which gave thanks to the town while assuring them that once the building was complete it would be ‘an ornament to our town and when filled with books and works of art, will afford a means of education and enjoyment to both old and young who live here’.


M Tillmans, Bridge Hall Mills: Three Centuries of Paper & Cellulose Film Manufacture (Tisbury, Wiltshire Compton Press, 1978)
Bury Guardian, 29th April 1899
Bury Guardian, 6th May 1899
Corporation of Bury Minute Book: Art Gallery and Library Committee,
c1897 (Archives catalogue: ABU/1/1/10/1/1)
Proposed Art Gallery and Public Library: conditions of competition and instructions to architects on competitive drawings,
c1897 (Library Catalogue: A78.5)



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