Lest we forget…the Bealey’s and the Great War part 1


An evocative image of trench warfare in the Great War.

The Bealey family were involved in World War I, or The Great War as it is sometimes known, both as a family and as a business. Over the next few blogs, I will be telling their stories.

With the help of Philip Mather from the Fusiliers Museum in Bury, I have discovered the story of two members of the Bealey family who died in the conflict and this blog is about the first of these family members.

Major Frederick Arthur Harold Bealey

Frederick Bealey
Major Frederick Arthur Harold Bealey at Bad Colberg prisoner of war camp, 1918. He is holding a double photograph of his wife Muriel and daughter Felice who was 9 years old.

F.A.H. Bealey had already served for 10 years with the Lancashire fusiliers and had resigned his Commission in 1900. However, when war broke out he rejoined with his old rank of captain and was promoted to Major in May 1915.

He went to France in May 1917 but was wounded in four places and taken prisoner on 21 March 1918 just east of Peronne. Over the next nine months, he was moved between four different prisoner of war camps in Germany, the last one being at Bad Colberg, Saxony.

The armistice was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

The day before peace was signed, Frederick was attacked by influenza and later died from bronchial pneumonia on Sunday, 17 November at the age of 38.

Niederzwehren Cemetery

Niederzwehren Cemetery, Frederick's last resting place a long way from his home in Bury, Lancashire.

He is buried in the Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Hessen in Germany along with 1795 other World War I servicemen who are buried or commemorated in the Commonwealth plot there.

“His cheerfulness in misfortune and the patient fortitude with which he bore the long-lasting trouble of his wounds earned for him the admiration of us all”. Brig.-General Dawson, D.S.O., head officer in the Bad Colberg camp.

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Bleachers’ Association Archive

Quarry Bank Mill

Quarry Bank Mill

Having found out so much about the Bealey’s and the Bleachers’ Association, I paid a visit to the Bleachers’ Association Archive held at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-quarrybankmillandstyalestate

Quarry Bank Mill Tower

Quarry Bank Mill owned by the National Trust, is the home of the Bleachers' Association Archive.

The archive holds documents relating to many of the Bleachers’ Association members and is quite extensive. We found some records which were missing from our Bealey collection and even some relating to the Bealey Convalescent Memorial Hospital which must have become detached from ours when the company was closed by the Association in 1981.

Some of the other records which we found there will feature in our next blog on the WWI soldiers of Bealey’s bleachworks.

If you would like to visit the Bleachers’ Association Archive, please contact Amanda Lunt at the Education Office. When we visited, we were looked after by two very nice lady volunteers who made us feel extremely welcome and went to great lengths to find all of the items we were looking for!

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Good times and bad times with the Bleachers’ Association

Bleachers' Association Logo

The Bealey's were members of the Bleachers' Association and through their documents we can trace the good and the bad times for the company.

As with many heavy industries in the nineteenth century, the influential and wealthy owners of many large bleaching companies in the North West of England got together and formed an association to protect their interests and profits.

The Bealey collection holds a copy of the Bleachers’ Association minute book for the years 1837-1848. Here we have details of the  day-to-day business matters that they dealt with, resolutions, orders, memorandums and the rules of the association.

It all seems very serious and businesslike but mixed in among the pricing and regulations there are occasional glimpses of a lighter side of the Association.

Bleachers Association Minute Book

The lighter side of the Association can be glimpsed from entries in the minute book such as this one for the 3 May 1842 recording Mr Bridson's fine.

 I can’t help but wonder what Mr Bridson had done to be fined two bottles of Champaign. Did he pay up and who got to drink it? We will never know but I suspect that the members’ liked to have fun.

Bleachers Association hotel receipts

With that amount of alcohol being consumed at the monthly meetings, it looks as though the Association members knew how to enjoy themselves.

My suspicions were confirmed when I found the receipts of the Association’s monthly meetings. Click on the image above to enlarge it and see what they managed to consume, most of it is alcohol!

There was also a more practical side to the Association though. Important business decisions were made at the monthly meetings with members voting on proposals and responding to government legislation.

Bleachers Association Meeting

Important business decisions were made at the Associations' meetings which could affect the profitability and demand of their goods.

The Bealey’s were also members of the Shirting Starchers’ Association who fixed prices for the trade and monitored the progress of their decisions.

Shirting Starchers' Association
At this meeting of the Shirting Starchers’ Association, it was decided to reduce the cost of light shirting and that a meeting should be held every Friday at Glaister’s office to report where the reduction had been made.

Despite the efforts of the Association, there was an increasing threat to business from abroad where investment had resulted in new developments and techniques which had been stunted in the British trade due to internal competition.

In June 1900, the Bleachers’ Association became a business in its own right amalgamating around 60 businesses in bleaching and finishing of cotton goods. Between 1901 and 1910 nine works were purchased and a further 21 works were purchased after World War I.

At some time not long after this, Bealey’s became part of the newly formed Association and the good times that they had enjoyed came to an end.

The company was no longer a family business with Herbert Bealey as the Works Manager rather than the owner. The business became a “branch” of the association and was run by Managing Directors who were focussed on group profit rather than the individual companies that they amalgamated.

Bleachers' Association Annual Report

The Managing Directors are concerned about the costs of Bealey's "branch" of the Association.

 By the 1930’s the company was accountable to the Association and had to produce an annual report on the state of the business.

However the success of the Bleacher’s Association, in maintaining high profits on a declining volume of trade, could not last. Prices were reduced in 1928 and from then on trade was severely restricted by the long-term decline in export of British textiles.

Bleachers' Association Annual Report

Bealey's costs seem to be higher than other branches in the Association who were mercerising with an old-fashioned technique and so Mr Thwaites is asked to explain why. It later transpires that many of the branches using this technique were later closed by the Association.

Rising costs of production and the threat from cheaper imported goods (see the blog about International Trade) also took their toll on Bealey’s bleachworks and the profit per ton of cloth bleached started to fall.

Falling profits

The falling profits of Bealey's led to a loss per ton of cloth bleached in 1934 and 1935.

The lavish Association dinners and Champaign enjoyed by Adam Crompton Bealey were a far cry from the hard treatment his son Herbert had to endure as a branch manager of the association – the good times were well and truly gone!

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“The Bealey Family” talk at Radcliffe Library

A talk has been produced to tell the story of the Bealey family as extracted from the records and research and will be presented at Radcliffe Library on Monday 15th November, 6.30-7.30. The event is free, just turn up on the night and find out more about one of the towns most famous families.

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Radcliffe, the Library and the Bealeys

Radcliffe Library 1908

Radcliffe library in 1908, a year after it was built on land purchased by Adam Crompton Bealey.

Radcliffe library has a very strong connection with the Bealey family. In 1902, the Urban District Council applied to Andrew Carnegie, a U.S. millionaire of Scottish extraction, for a Public Library Grant. The Carnegie U.K. Trust responded with an offer of £5000 topwards the cost of building a Public Library for Radcliffe.

In response to this, the Radcliffe & District Literary & Scientific Society which was founded in 1887, offered £300-£400 for the books stock. Additionally, Adam Crompton Bealey, the President of the Society put up £500 for the site to mark his year of office.

A.C. Bealey

Adam Crompton Bealey, President of the Radcliffe & District Literary & Scientific Society, who bought the site of the present library for the town.

Despite this generous offer, the Local Authority had second thoughts about taking responsibility for the cost of the annual upkeep of the proposed library and the question of “Shall Radcliffe have a Public library” became a controversial issue.

The Literary & Scientific Society ran its own referendum and campaigned vigorously for acceptance of the Carnegie offer, with eventual success.

Radcliffe Library on Stand Lane

Radcliffe Library on the Stand Lane site, formerly the site of a chapel and a newspaper.

The building, which is the one still in use in Stand Lane, occupies the original site of the first Bridge Wesleyan Chapel. When the new chapel was built in 1883, the old building was sold to the proprietors of the “Radcliffe Express” weekly newspaper which ceased publication in 1901. This is the site that Adam Crompton Bealey bought and presented to the town for its new library.

Radcliffe Library lending department

The lending department of the new library in 1907.

The new library was opened on 19th October, 1907 and the upstairs hall was allocated to the Museum. The facilities provided by the new library were modern and plush for the time with a reading room and an extensive lending department.

Radcliffe Library reading room

The reading room of the library provided facilities for everyone to read the latest editions of the newspapers.

Radcliffe Library lending department

The lending of a wide selection of books for the general public allowed many people to enjoy a new width and depth of knowledge which they had never previously had access to.

By 1952, the library contained over 35,000 volumes in addition to a reference department and a junior library for children to join. The reading room was still in operation with all of the leading daily and weekly newspapers, and weekly and monthly periodicals available for public use.

Radcliffe Library

The Radcliffe Library building would still be recognisable to Adam Crompton Bealey, whose benefaction has enabled the town to enjoy the leisure and education facilities, on the site he donated, for many generations.

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Publicity and our Bealey Poster

As with most collections, one of the most difficult things for me to do as the project archivist is to get what I’m doing publicised and the archives used by as many people as possible without compromising the limited time I have available for doing the “professional” things such as arrangement, conservation and cataloguing.  To help me get the Bealey’s noticed at this stage in the project, I’ve enlisted the help of Amy Gregory, a professional graphic designer from Lancaster who kindly volunteered to use her expertise to create this fantastic poster for the project.

Bealey poster

A professionally created poster makes a huge difference for the image of the project and will help to get the archive noticed.

 This poster has been sent to all of the local libraries and is displayed in the main library at Bury including the local history section.

 There are also copies in the museum and art gallery which is particularly appropriate as the picture of Adam Crompton Bealey is part of the “Bury International” exhibition.

 Without this poster on display in public places, it would have been difficult for me to get people to see what I’m doing, advertise the blog and to publicise the papers while I’m still using my time on the cataloguing stage of the project.

 The response which we have had so far has been good and we have found photographs of other members of the Bealey family which we will be sharing with you soon.

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Keep the Receipt!

A bundle of receipts from 1910 and 1911 for goods and services provided to the Bealey Convalescent Hospital may not sound like the most rivetting reading, but you would be amazed not only at the information they contain on local businesses and the lifestyle and buying habits of the time, but also how beautifully designed and illustrated some of the receipts are.  These documents are miniature works of art in themselves, perfect examples of fashionable graphic design and typography.

James Rider & Son Butchers

This is a perfect example of how illustrations were used to embellish everyday items such as receipts.

They are often accompanied by delicate etchings, for example James Rider & Son Butchers and Farmers; Thomas Bradford & Co (‘Asylum, Hospital, Hotel, Workhouse, Baths and Laundry Engineers’), whose receipt is embellished with a detailed etching of the Crescent Iron Works, Salford, complete with trams and horse-drawn vehicles; and Samuel Renshaw & Sons Ltd. who manufactured cotton sheets and bedding from their  Britannia and York Street Mills in Bury.  The Britannia Mill building on Cobden Street is still there, although nowadays it is home to several small businesses and a dance and fitness studio.

Britannia Mills, Cobden Street

Their corporate identity was important to the Mill owners, who commissioned these idealised images of their Mills.

On 30 September 1910 a mop and bucket was purchased from James Lawless the Ironmonger in the old Market Hall.   Bury Market Hall is still thriving, albeit in a different location, although

James Lawless

Bury Market lives on!

100 years on this is now quite a different environment with its nail bars, delicatessens and mobile phone accessory stalls.  Bury Market as a whole is one of our most popular attractions, attracting shoppers from all over the country.

We can see from the receipt from Samuel Yates the Seed Merchants that the hospital must have grown some of its own herbs and vegetables, including cabbage, cauliflower, celery, parsley and sage.  In fact, patients at the hospital appeared to eat quite healthily, as there are lots of receipts for fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, which were plentiful at this time. 

Yates Seed Merchants

Can you imagine an NHS hospital growing their own food today?

They operated independently and purchased all their own medical supplies (both medicines and equipment such as laundry stoves) and utilities (coal, coke, water) in a world before the existence of contracts and tenders.

The Radcliffe & Pilkington Gas Company pointed out the ‘advantages of the gas cooking stove’ thus: ‘The stove can be used at any time at short notice…they are also invaluable during the absence or illness of servants, when by their use ladies and their daughters can undertake or supervise the household cooking without discomfort.’

More intriguing receipts include those for two weeks’ hire of a piano and two bottles of Hennessy’s XXX Brandy, although whether these are for the benefit of patients or staff is unclear.

All these provisions could be obtained locally when horsepower (literally!) was the preferred mode of transport.  Coal came from Clifton, Kersley (their spelling) and Newtown Collieries and Outwood Collieries, both local mines.

Crescent Ironworks, Salford

Another example of artwork which perfectly illustrates life as it was in Salford in 1910 showing trams passing the factory gates.

These humble receipts paint a picture of the everyday life of a hospital that shows not only how medical establishments operated pre-NHS – self-contained, autonomous communities operating free from outside influences – but also show that even the most mundane of everyday items can yield a wealth of information about past lives.

A quick inspection of the contents of my handbag reveals a similar batch of ephemera: bus tickets, shop receipts, loyalty cards for various hot drinks purveyors, restaurants’ business cards and flyers for exhibitions I will probably never visit.  Should I be keeping them?  Will they still be of interest to anyone in 100 years’ time?

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