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British Industrial History

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James Bagnall

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James Bagnall (1804-1872)

1841 James Bagnall of Golds Hill Iron Works, proprietor and manager of extensive coal mines and iron works in Staffordshire, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1873 Obituary [2]

James Bagnall was born at West Bromwich, in the county of Stafford, on the 31st of December, 1804.

He was the sixth son of John Bagnall, coal and ironmaster, of Tipton and West Bromwich, by his second wife. His father admitted five of his sons into co-partnership with him, of which James was the youngest; and when he died he was the only member left in the firm of John Bagnall and Sons thus constituted, having carried on the extensive ironworks and collieries single handed after the death of his brother William, in 1863.

He took great interest in the moral and spiritual welfare of his work people. Schools were built by the firm at Gold‘s Hill for the benefit of their children, which were licenced for Divine worship, and a chaplain was appointed in June, 1853. These institutions he continued to support until his death; and while others similarly situated, when they had acquired a fortune, left the smoky district and retired into the country, he continued to reside among his own people to the last.

He was for some years an active county magistrate, having been appointed a justice of the peace in October, 1845. He was afterwards made a deputy-lieutenant for the county of Stafford.

He died at Meyrick House, West Bromwich, on the 12th of January, 1872, leaving no issue, and was followed to the grave, at All Saints’ Church in the same parish, by thousands of his work-people and his poorer neighbours, who thus testified their affectionate regard for him.

A funeral sermon was preached at St. James’s Church, adjoining his residence at Hill Top, by the chaplain, who said: 'I would recall to your memory that not only was the structure in which we are now assembled erected mainly by his unwearied exertions, but the baptistry, the beautiful organ, and the pretty east window, owe their existence wholly to him; and as long as these walls stand, they will be a witness to James Bagnall having been a benefactor to Hill Top - to say nothing of the National Schools, towards the building of which he was so liberal a contributor; even as the school-church will bear testimony to the same truth at Gold‘s Hill. And, as to his charity, I remember, twenty years ago, being present at an annual treat he was wont to give to the children of the church and to the members of the congregation - when, with beaming countenance, he was the leader in all the children’s pastimes, and identified his happiness with theirs, affording pleasure to many hundreds of people. And I recollect, also, on two or three occasions, being present at what was at the time an annual Christmas sight, viz., the giving away in great profusion blankets, sheets, shirts, flannels, and other things to persons represented to him as being deserving of his benevolence; and at that time his eye would sparkle with pleasure, his whole Countenance would be beaming with benignity; and, as the recipients of his bounty, one and all, thanked him, I have heard him say, 'Don’t thank me, my friends, but thank God for what I give you - He gave it to me. My father was at one time a man of the people, and see how greatly the Lord has blessed him and his children!’ I was so struck by what he said - it was so truly noble, so full of deep religious sentiment, that I have never forgotten it, but have often reminded my old friend of the fact, and said, that if ever I was called upon to preach his funeral sermon, I would introduce that incident into it.”

Mr. Bagnall was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 16th of February, 1841.

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