Sir William Henry Houldsworth

(1834 - 1917), a Reddish Mill Owner

Sir William Henry Houldsworth, 1st Baronet, was born at Ardwick, Manchester, on the 20 August 1834 and he died on his Scottish estate at Kilmarnock on the 18 April 1917. He was the son of Henry Houldsworth and Helen Hamilton and he was Christened at St Thomas's Church, Ardwick Green, Manchester, on the 30 December 1834. He was their fourth son and he was educated at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. On completion of his education, he joined the family business as a partner.

Sir William Henry Houldsworth,
1st Baronet.

In the early 1860s, he purchased land alongside the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal in Reddish, Stockport, where he built Reddish Mill, which was started in 1863 and completed in 1865. Four members of the Houldsworth family owned 60% of the shares in the newly formed Reddish Spinning Company, which was responsible for the construction of North Mill, started in 1870, and Middle Mill, started in 1874. Nowadays, this complex of mills is known as Houldsworth Mill. William Houldsworth was also responsible for building the Mechanics Institute and Library (now Houldsworth Working Men's Club), which was completed in 1874. The mill architect, Abraham Henthorn Stott of Oldham, designed all these buildings.

He then commissioned the renowned Architect, Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), to design St Elisabeth's Church, the adjoining rectory and a nearby school. A model village for the mill worker's was built close by the mills in a range of sizes to suit the status of the workers. Regrettably, some of these have been demolished but those on Houldsworth Street and Liverpool Street are still standing.

Alfred Waterhouse designed buildings around the country but in Manchester he was responsible for the design of Manchester Town Hall, the Refuge Assurance Building on Oxford Street, (now the Palace Hotel), the original Owens Park building (now part of the University of Manchester) and Strangeways Prison.

Between 1883 and 1906 William Houldsworth was the Conservative MP for the constituency of Manchester North West and in 1892 he was the government's delegate to the European Monetary Conference held in Brussels. His successor was Winston Churchill, who was the MP for Manchester North West until 1908, as a member of the Liberal Party. He became a Baronet in 1887. He was also chairman of the Fine Cotton Spinners' Association for a while. He was made a freeman of Manchester in 1905 and the Victoria University of Manchester awarded him an honorary LLD. He retired to live on his Scottish estate in 1906, after ceasing to be an MP. Following his death, a four-faced clock and drinking fountain was unveiled in Houldsworth Square, Reddish, on the 11 September 1920, paid for by public subscription.

The construction of St Elisabeth's Church was undertaken during 1881-1883, the work being paid for entirely by William Houldsworth. It was consecrated in 1883, being named after Houldsworth's wife, Elisabeth Graham Crum, and it is a high church (Anglo-Catholic) within the Church of England, reflecting Houldsworth's personal belief.

St Elisabeth's Church, Bedford Street, 22 July 2007.
The church is now listed as Grade I and the surrounding wall is Grade II*.

The church was designed in the neo-Gothic style of architecture, the bricks being manufactured in nearby Openshaw and the stone used for the embellishment coming from Wrexham. Columns of polished granite, arranged along the nave, support the roof. The adjoining bell tower contains a peel of eight bells.

The church was built but a short distance away from the Stockport Branch Canal and the church records show that the granite columns were conveyed along the Ashton Canal and then the Stockport Branch Canal as far as Houldsworth Mill Wharf. Due to their substantial weight, the problem was how to transport the columns the short distance from the wharf to the church building site. The records show that the solution was to borrow elephants from Belle Vue Zoo in Gorton and to use these to draw the carts containing the columns.

St Elisabeth's Church is situated on Bedford Street and it now lies within a conservation area. This area contains, Houldsworth and Broadstone Mills, the former Mechanics Institute and Library (Houldsworth Working Men's Club), mill worker's houses (formerly part of the model village) and a section of the derelict Stockport Branch Canal that includes mill wharfs, Grey Horse Wharf, Grey Horse Bridge and Grey Horse Hotel (currently disused).

Houldsworth Mill, Houldsworth Street, 22 July 2007.

It closed as a cotton mill in 1958 and it is now listed as Grade II*.
The former Mechanics Institute and Library, Leamington Road, 22 July 2007.

Now a Working Men's Club, the building was briefly used as a church and school before purpose-built accommodation was provided. It opened on the 16 May 1874 and it is now listed as Grade II*.
Former mill worker's houses, Houldsworth Street, 22 July 2007.
The Rectory of St Elisabeth's Church, Liverpool Street, 22 July 2007.

The rectory and wall are now listed as Grade II*.
A commemorative four-faced clock and drinking fountain in Houldsworth Square, 22 July 2007.

This memorial to William Houldsworth is now listed as Grade II. See below for further details and the inscription.
A commemorative entrance floor to William Houldsworth, Manchester Cathedral, 12 July 2007.

See below for the inscription.

 

Clock and Drinking Fountain
The memorial to William Houldsworth was designed and constructed by Messrs J & H Patterson of Manchester, the cost being met by public subscription. In design, it is similar to a monument in Douglas, Isle of Man, and it was unveiled on the 11 September 1920.

The memorial is made of sandstone with pink granite pillars supporting a clock having four faces. Three sides carry the dedication inscription, a bronze portrait plaque and a drinking fountain, respectively. The ground-level animal drinking troughs have been removed.

In 1986 it was moved to the centre of a raised brick-paved area with seating when Houldsworth Square was redesigned as part of a community programme.

The inscription is as follows:

DEDICATED
TO THE MEMORY OF
SIR WILLIAM HENRY HOULDSWORTH,
BARONET,
BY THE PEOPLE OF REDDISH
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE
OF THE BOUNTIFUL GIFTS WHEREBY
HE ENRICHED AND ADORNED THEIR VILLAGE
AND MANIFESTED HIS CONCERN FOR THEIR
SPIRITUAL, MENTAL AND PHYSICAL WELFARE.

Commemorative Entrance Floor, Manchester Cathedral

WILLIAM HENRY HOULDSWORTH
Baronet
Churchwarden and
Benefactor
1834
1917