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J. P. Westhead and Co

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of Manchester


We last week announced with regret that this old and respected firm had suspended payment. We this week append a history of the firm which we are sure will be read with interest. It commenced in 1801, when Mr James Wood and Mr Edward Westhead formed a partnership, and commenced business as smallware and fringe manufacturers, at No. 6, Marsden Square. Although the firm dates from this partnership, yet the real originator of the concern was Mr Peter Wood, uncle of Mr James Wood, who had a warehouse in Deansgate, and under whom he was brought up to the practical part of manufacturing smallwares by handloom, which he commenced to learn about 1784. Mr Peter Wood was a Cumberland man, and his partner, Mr Edward Westhead, was a native of Ulverston. They were both twenty-five years of age when they commenced business in Marsden Square, Mr Wood taking the practical management of the manufacturing department, which was then done by handlooms and at the operatives' cottages. Mr E. Westhead came in early youth to Manchester, being trained for business at the warehouse of Broadhurst and Morris, 37, Canon-street, linen merchants and haberdashers. He took the superintendence of the sales, and travelled through the Midland counties. In one of his journeys he met with his wife, Miss Ann Brown, of Dottel Park, Shropshire. The business of Wood and Westhead increased, and in 1816 the firm moved to fresh premises in High-street. The introduction of steam power to smallware looms in 1824 gave an impetus to the business, and in that year a smallware manufactory was built on the Medlock, of which Mr Wood took the management. This mill, which was purchased from the executors of Mr Potter, was called Potter's Mill. This business increased to so large an extent that in 1856 it was made an independent firm to the one in Piccadilly, and has since been known as the Medlock Smallware Company, and which has now been associated in misfortune with the parent firm, having also suspended payment. Mr Westhead had three sons, Joshua Proctor, Edward, and John, and one daughter. These three sons were all trained for business, both at the Brook-street mill and in the warehouse, and on reaching manhood they each took the management of responsible departments. Mr Wood had only one son — Mr Peter Wood — who followed a professional instead of a commercial career. He took a degree as doctor of medicine. In 1830 the eldest son of Mr J. P. Brown-Westhead was admitted a partner to the firm, and, a few years later, the two younger brothers also entered. This infusion of new blood relieved the senior partners, and led to a great expansion of the business. The senior partner, Mr. Edward Westhead, was compelled by illness to relinquish an active interest in the business, and in 1833 he died at Buxton, at the age of 62. In 1836 the business of the firm had increased so largely that it was found necessary to obtain larger premises, and the warehouse now occupied by the firm was built in Piccadilly. Mr John Westhead retired from business in 1839, and died in 1845. In 1841 the partnership between Messrs. Wood and Westhead expired, and in consequence of advanced age Mr Wood retired entirely from business. The only partners remaining were Mr J. P. Brown-Westhead and Mr Edward Westhead. The elder partner devoted a great deal of his time to public duties, and the responsibility of the business pressing very largely upon Mr Edward Westhead, overtures were made to Mr William Butterfield, who then carried on a hosiery and lace business in High-street, and this gentleman agreed to close his own business and remove to Messrs. Westhead. This arrangement worked so well that in 1848 Mr Butterfield was taken into partnership. In the same year that Mr Butterfield became managing partner Mr James Wood died. The firm went on prosperously under the new condition of things, but sustained a severe check in 1850, when the Piccadilly warehouse was burned down. £90,000 worth of stock was destroyed by this fire, and the damage to the building amounted to about £12,000. The bulk of the loss was covered by insurance. The warehouse was speedily reconstructed. The rapid increase of the firm's transactions rendered it necessary, in 1856, to organise their different mills under different firms. Brook-street mill was called the Medlock Smallware Company, and the Zara-street works were taken up by the Imperial Patent Wadding Company. These firms had their own separate and distinct agents, travellers, and clerks, and executed orders for the Piccadilly or other firms, and packed their goods, independent of the warehouse. Mr Marcus Brown-Westhead, the second son of Mr J. B. P. Westhead, then M.P. for the city of York, took the management of the mill, assisted by Mr Robert Smith. In 1853, Mr Marcus Brown-Westhead and Mr Walter Bousfield, sons of the senior partners, were admitted to the firm. The Medlock Smallware Company's Brook-street mill covers an area of 7,000 square yards, and was capable of turning out annually 139,473,600 yards of the various goods manufactured in it. The building was burnt down in 1874, and is now in course of re-building. After the ware- house fire in 1850, the firm was called J. P. and E. Westhead and Co., and then consisted of Messrs. Joshua Proctor Westhead, Edward Westhead, and William Butterfield. Mr Butterfield retired five or six years ago. The firm was then strengthened by the admission to partnership of several of the heads of departments, viz., Mr E. Hasleham, Mr Wm. Royle, Mr Bates, and Mr Goodwin. The firm afterwards changed its name from J. P. and E. Westhead to J. P. Westhead and Co. Some idea of the nature and extent of the business carried on by the firm may be gathered from the fact that ten years ago they turned over £1,000,000 a year, and had 7,000 accounts open in their ledgers. Since that time their business has made a large natural increase. In 1850 this was a larger firm relatively to the other houses in Manchester than it now is, but to the present day it is one of great importance. Mr J. P. Brown Westhead and Mr Edward Westhead retired from active participation in the business several years ago. Mr Edward Westhead left the firm three years ago, and his son Walter Westhead, died in 1874. The present members of the firm are Mr J. P. Brown Westhead, Mr Marcus Brown Westhead, his son, and Messrs Hasleham, Royle, Goodwin, and Bates. Mr J. P. Brown Westhead took an active part in obtaining a charter of incorporation for Manchester, and was elected by the City Council one of the first set of aldermen. He was for many years a director of the London and North-western Railway Company. In 1847 he entered Parliament for Knaresborough, and ten years later he was elected member for the city of York, and subsequently for Kidderminster. In 1855 Mr J. P. Brown Westhead's only daughter was married to Lord Kinsale, premier baron of Ireland, whose ancestor had the privilege conferred upon him by King John, on account of his military services, of wearing his hat in the Royal presence. The present suspension is due principally to causes beyond the control of the firm, and, as a consequence, a wide-spread feeling of sympathy exists which has met with very general expression. The following paragraph has appeared in the money article of most of the London and Provincial newspapers this week:—

We are requested to insert the following : “Messrs J. P. Westhead and Co. beg to express their deepest thanks for the numerous expressions of sympathy and offers of support continually pouring in from their creditors, customers, and friends."'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Wrexham Advertiser - Saturday 26 June 1875