WALLSUCHES AND THE
The Ridgways were one of the most influential
and successful families in Horwich in the nineteenth century.
The bleachworks at Wallsuches, owned by the family provided employment
for a large number of people. Three
generations of the Ridgways achieved political and social standing in the local
The brothers, John and Thomas Ridgway had
started a bleachworks in Bolton at ‘Dog Brow’ in the 1860’s.
The area became known as ‘Ridgway Gates’ because gates were erected
at the entrance to the fields where cloth was spread to bleach in the sun.
The land was sold to Bolton Corporation for £800, after a fire had
destroyed most of their stock in trade. The
Market Hall was eventually built on the site.
In 1777 the Ridgways leased the property at
Wallsuches. They soon built up a
thriving business. Thomas was the
dominant partner. When John died in
1800 Thomas became the sole owner and took his son into partnership.
Much of their success stemmed from a willingness to try new methods and
install machinery that would make the bleaching process more efficient and
The Ridgways were the first to use chlorine in
the bleaching process. The method
proved very successful and consequently a large five-storey building, known as
Gingham House was built for the purpose. Steam
power was introduced to the factory before 1800. Many other industrialists did not realise the value of steam
until much later. A callender which
produced a ‘glaze’ or ‘finish’ to the cloth was erected in the factory.
Placing the cloth in a simple metal drum and inserting hot irons into the
drum achieved the glaze. Samuel Crompton’s spinning mules were also brought into the
factory. They improved the quality
and the speed at which thread was produced.
Prosperity at Wallsuches brought benefits to
the whole community. In 1801 Thomas
bought land from the ‘Stocks Estate’. He
set up a ‘building society’ or ‘club’ to enable his workers to lease the
land on easy terms and buy their own homes.
The houses are standing today and are still referred to as ‘club
houses’. The family contributed large sums of money towards the cost
of the new Parish Church. Their
influence can be seen in both the church and churchyard.
Later in the century ‘Young Joe’ Ridgway sent twelve scholars, at his
own expense to be educated at the village school.
Thomas Ridgway retired to Southport and died
there in 1816 aged 77 years. His
sons, Joseph and Thomas took over the bleaching works.
A nephew, T. R. Bridson was also brought into the business to help on the
management side. In 1818 he was
made a partner. Wallsuches
continued to thrive and prosper. It
was a well-known and highly regarded business.
A Swiss inventor, Bulmer, a Mechanical Engineer interested in textile
machinery is known to have visited Wallsuches as part of a nationwide tour of
factories and institutions. He was
most impressed with the bleachworks.
In the 1820’s the factory was completely
reorganised. Larger steam engines
were installed and the bleaching process was moved to Lever Works where a mill
had been leased. Wallsuches was
then used only for finishing the cloth.
Bridson left the firm in 1834 to establish his
own business Thomas Ridgway, eldest son of Thomas was killed in early manhood
whilst hunting at Euxton, near Chorley. Joseph
continued to run the business with his own son ‘Young Joe’.
‘Young Joe’ inherited the bleachworks on
the death of his father at Leamington, in 1842.
It was not to be. In 1860
‘Young Joe’ was advised by his physician to go abroad for the winter.
He took his wife and son, then aged seventeen with him.
At Thebes, in Egypt Joe was stricken by an illness.
His wife tended him, but as he recovered she and their son contracted the
disease and both subsequently died. Joe
brought the remains of his wife and son back to the family vault at Horwich. The bodies were later moved to the mausoleum at Goudhurst.
Joe himself died at Eaton Place in London in 1879 aged fifty-nine.
Wallsuches passed into the hands of two
employees, Christopher and Charles Howarth.
One of their descendents, Joseph Howarth sold the mill to the Bleachers
Association in 1900. The Ridgways
had been an influential family in Horwich for most the nineteenth century.
They had proved to be caring and generous benefactors, although some
would say rather paternalistic. They
made a considerable contribution to the development of Horwich and helped to
build a prosperous community.