We have met Thomas Eskrigge before, his daughter Julia married his neighbour William Roby Barr of Heaton Lodge.
Thomas Eskrigge was the son of Thomas Eskrigge and Sarah Brockbank. Sarah had previously been married to Captain William Linton, who we shall meet later.
The Eskrigges were a prominent Lancaster family who lived at Eskrigge Hall, Eskrigge near Lancaster. Thomas Eskrigge Senior (1767-1844) was a merchant in the town, owning land and several properties in Lancaster and the surrounding area.
Thomas and Sarah had five children. The eldest John (1797-1819) passed away on returning from a journey. On arriving home he was indisposed and a fever was diagnosed. Unfortunately he died. His obituary ends by counselling that the public (should) be careful to examine the beds on which they sleep when from home. Advice I think that we should heed to this day.
Thomas Eskrigge Junior was born on 10 March 1800 in Lancaster. He married Ann Tatham in 1821. Ann was the daughter of a Sea Captain turned Liquor Merchant, Thomas, who died a few years later in 1805. Thomas Tatham had captained HMS Penelope which saw service in the Carribbean and sailed between 1783 and 1797.
Thomas and Ann moved in the mid 1830s to Warrington , where they lived in Hope House and established a cotton factory at Hope Mill. This is next to the railway line, which will enter the story soon.
On 7 August 1841 the factory suffered a fire, the top two floors of the throstle mill, which on the map is the smaller of the two buildings, were completely aflame. Fortunately the firemen were able to extinguish it, and although the upper floor was completely damaged, along with the roof, as well as the throstles on the second floor and a large quantity of cotton, the mill was saved, and Eskrigge was insured with the York and London Fire Insurance Company (else of course the fire engines would not have come out)
However, either by bad luck or design, this fire bankrupts him and a few years later we find him living at 17 Tiviot Dale in Heaton Norris, followed by a few years living in Didsbury where he becomes managing partner in Kershaw Leese and Company managing the Mersey Mill.
He is returned as a councillor in 1847 and builds many connections in the local political and business community.
He is not above dirty tricks when trying to prevent people for voting for his political rivals, in a practice referrred to as bottling, his son Thomas was instrumental in kidnapping local men in order to prevent them from voting.
Samuel Southman testified in the Manchester Courier of 22 December 1847:
I Samuel Southman, cab driver of Stockport, declare that on Thursday evening of the 8th instant I was engaged to drive to Manchester by young Thomas Eskrigge, and I took up at the Woodman Inn, in Heaton Lane, William Ramscar and Thomas Hanson inside, and Thomas Eskrigge outside. Ramscar had a bottle of whisky with him. Hanson appeared tipsy and to some extent stupified. I drove them to the Ducie Arms, near the Victoria Station, Manchester. Then Eskrigge engaged a one horse dragg, for which he paid a pound, to Warrington. They had great difficulty in getting Hanson into it, he was so anxious to come home. He got some cheese and bread and a glass of ale to it. They mixed him a glass of whisky, gin, rum and brandy, “for all nations” as it is usually called, but he would not drink it. He said he would be made a fool of by them. At last he got into the dragg at the front and I saw no more of them. Eskrigge gave me 3s 6d (17.5p) 2s 9d for myself and 9d for the bars and he desired me not to say a damn’d word about it. I was conscious that they were bottling Hanson.
Thomas Hanson goes on to say that he is a registered voter in Stockport and was intending to vote for Major Marsland. He was drinking at the Pack Horse on Middle Hillgate, Stockport playing dominoes when
Miles Slater treated me with two glasses of ale. I had not had much to drink and I am sure the liquor I took had been drugged with plum or some other sedative, for I went completely senseless and remember nothing more until I was somewhere near Warrington in a Spring Cart with Thomas Eskrigge who was driving. Ramscar and Eskrigge had a wine bottle filled with some kind of strong liquor on the way and they kept frequently putting it to their mouths and pretending to drink and then handing it over to me and pressing me to drink freely. We arrived at a private house in Warrington at 3 O’Clock on Friday morning and I did not know what town we were in until Sunday morning. I was so stupified with drink … Ramscar and four other persons kept watching over me and would supply me with any kind of meat or drink I had a mind to ask for, but no money. and I only had 6d (2.5p) in my pocket and wanted to go home again on the Saturday morning but the folks in the house would not let me have my shoes….. on Sunday morning I was determined to go home… Ramscar and two of the men came about two miles on the road with me and kept pressing me to call in at every public house on the way to have a gill or two before we parted, as they said. I left them all at that house and walked to Manchester, and then got upon the Railway at Manchester and so expended my last penny ( having spent 2d in apples and 4d on my railway fare on my last journey).
He was probably taken to Hope House in Warrington, as the Eskrigges still lived there. He was relatively lucky. On the same night another potential voter for Marsland, one Eli Waller, was literally carted off by Eskrigge’s men to Preston where he was stuck until the 16th December, although he did receive 3s 1d to pay his rail fare back to Stockport.
The Eskrigges were nobbling voters in support of a Liberal MP against the incumbent Tory, Sir Thomas Marsland. And they succeeded, Aldeman James Kershaw (his partner in Kershaw, Leese & Co) was elected MP for Stockport in 1847 and sat for the constiuency until his death in 1864.
His political connections serve him well when the factory acts attempt to outlaw the use of child labour for more than 10 hours a day, a child being nine to thirteen years old.
The normal factory day was considered to be 15 hours from 05:30 to 20:30. At maturity, 18, they therefore would work 72 hours a week – by contrast the Emancipation Acts enforced a 45 hour work for freed adult slaves).
The mill owners soon found a way around this law by creating relay systems whereby children could determine their own meal breaks individually. This meant that hours worked became impossible to track. The relay system was allowed as long as it was approved by a local court, and so Thomas Eskrigge proposed a relay system for his mill. The factory inspectors refused, a few months later, another mill owner appeared before the local magistrates to face charges of operating a similar system.
As Eskrigge was sitting as a magistrate (along with two other cotton spinners) he saw no issue in the system being managed by the accused and acquitted him. He then used that acquittal as a precedent for introducing the same system at his own mill, therefore getting the longer hours he wanted his child labourers to work.
For posterity Karl Marx who was in Manchester at the time used this example of millowners exploting child labour, and cited Eskrigge as an example of wicked capitalists in Das Kapital.
The Morning Post of 9 June 1849 records how a number of millowners from around the country, with Thomas and James Marshall representing the Stockport interests, met Sir George Grey, the Home Secretary to protest the Factories Act reducing women’s weekly working hours from 63 to 58. That is five days at eleven hours and a generous eight hour half day on Saturday. The petition also demonstrated the extent of cotton manufacture in the Lancashire area:
The combined salary for these was £100,000 per week. In 2019 money that represents an annual wage bill for Manchester Cotton mills of £655 million, which demonstrates why Manchester became so rich with cotton.
In 1851 he is living with Ann and his family at West Bank. His standing in the community (but perhaps not with Marxist dialectics) continues to rise, and he is appointed to the board of the National Provincial Mutual Life Assurance Society, and in 1856 elected president of the Reform Society in Stockport.
Thomas died at West Bank in early 1858, and was buried at Heaton Mersey Congregational Church, Ann died two years later in 1860.
Thomas and Ann had twelve children. Their first son, George Brockbank Eskrigge was born in 1821 in Warrington and died shortly afterwards.
Thomas Eskrigge Junior (1823-1881) married Amelia Slater at the Manchester Collegiate Church in 1848, and in 1856 he appears on the electoral roll at 17 Tiviot Dale.
In the mid 1850s he travelled to Nagasaki in Japan for the firm of Tatham & Company. He traded from Yokohama between 1861 and 1863
It is claimed that the first foreign trade in raw silk from Japan took place when Thomas Eskrigge purchased silk from a Japanese merchant Shibaya Seigoro on July 1, 1859 in Yokohama. A Chinese man called Achiu mediated negotiations between the two.
However, Thomas also attempted of one of the most audacious gold trades ever.
Japan had closed itself off from the world for centuries, and therefore did not have an established system for currency exchange. The Japanese offered visiting ships an exchange rate of one Spanish silver dollar (aka Mexican dollar, or in pirate speak, a piece of eight- the de facto international currency) to one Japanese ichibu. Four ichibus made a gold koban. In terms of metal exchanged this gave nobody an advantage as the trader could exchange his silver ichibu for gold koban at the prevailing bullion rates, and be no better or no worse off, in either dollar or bullion terms.
For whatever reason the Americans did not like this arrangement and wanted the Japanese to accept a weight for weight exchange based on the silver contained in the ichibu coin (which was a lot less in the Japanese) The Japanese considered the ichibu to be a token, not valued according to its silver content. They did not trade on the value of the silver, but instead on the promise to pay an amount from their central bank.
The Americans forced this weight for weight exchange rate between the ichibu and the dollar, under the ironically named Treaty of Amity & Commerce of 1859. The new rate was three ichibus to one dollar This gave a opportunity for foreigners purchase gold three times the value than they could before. For every Mexican Dollar they exchanged for an ichibu, by subsequently buying gold koran they tripled the value of their funds.
Not surprisingly canny traders exploited this gap in the market, however, Thomas Eskrigge is singled out as applying to exchange an extreme amount, the Illustrated Times quotes $1,200,666,778,244,601,066,953 but I suspect that is more a sub editors imagination. A request to change $250,000,000 was not unusual during this frenzy. The motivation was that even if they received a percentage of the amount requested they would enrich themselves substantially.
Thomas did this using a variety of hardly convincing aliases, such as Snooks, Jack Ketch, Stickitup, Sweedlepipes, Moses, Bank, Nelly, Smell Bad, No Nose and Bosche. The Japanese were naturally not familiar with these nonsense names and therefore for a while they paid up, but eventually they were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of trades being requested and they closed the Exchanges, thus closing down newly and delicately negotiated trade.
Eventually the problem was solved when the Japanese issued a new koban gold coin containing one third of the value, thus closing the possibility of further arbitrage. A Stockport man had caused Japan to alter the size of their coin dramatically.
There were further repercussions in Japan. The debasement of the currency resulted in a huge fall in the purchasing power of the koban. The Samauri lived off fixed incomes and were rendered poorer, thus Samauri revolts became much more frequent over the next years. The Tokugawa dynasty itself had profited by the sale of token coinage, and was now poorer, and the last Tokugawa prince resigned in 1867.
Thomas returned to Stockport and lived in Drynie House in Heaton Chapel where he died on 21 September 1881. Amelia lived on there after his death and died on 21 August 1898.
Thomas and Ann’s third child was the second George Brockbank Eskrigge. He was born in 1824 in Warrington and attended the grammar school there. In 1843 he attested for the Scots Guards in Liverpool, and was in the army for three years, but only never attained more than the rank of Private. He is living at West Bank in 1851 and died in St Columb, Cornwall in 1863.
The next child, John Eskrigge was born on 26 October 1825 at Hope House, and by 1841 he was working alongside his father at Hope Mill as a cotton manufacturer.
He moved along with his father to Stockport and in 1848 he married Ann Ellen Brownhill in Didsbury. and they lived at 81 Wellington Road North in Heaton Chapel. He was also a cotton spinner and employed 2,341 men at Springmount, Park and Newbridge Mills in partnership with his brother in law , William Roby Barr.
By 1861 he is living in Hollywood House, which was on the site of Hollywood Park in Stockport.
The Eskrigges and the Barrs then commence a three year mayorality, John’s turn is first in 1863, followed by his brother William in 1864 and then William Barr in 1865.
In 1882 he retired, possibly through illness or infirmity to a home in Farnworth near Bolton, whilst Ann moved to Nap Top, Marsland Fold in Marple. John died in April 1889 in Marple, and was buried at All Saints Church there. Ann lived on until September 1906 living in Marple with her daughter, Ellen, before herself going into a home at Rusholme Lodge in Rusholme, Manchester. She too is buried at All Saints.
William Linton Eskrigge (1827-1901) again followed in the family trade. He was named for the artist William Linton (1791-1876). The artist was the son of Sarah Brockbank’s first marriage and Thomas Eskrigge was one of his patrons. He has been compared favourably with JMW Turner and painted scenes of the North of England and Italy. He married Julia Adeline Swettenham, for whom another Eskrigge child was named.
Our William Linton was a partner in Eskrigge and Barr, and mayor of Stockport in 1864. He married Ann Crossley Tatham in 1858 at St Stephen The Martyr in London, before settling down first at Lark Hill Road then at Spring Mount House in Cheadle.
We have heard so many negative points about the Eskrigges that at times I am hard pressed to paint them in a good light. Whilst the mill owning side may not have been positive, WL Eskrigge did serve as a Trustee to Stockport Grammar, and the boys had happy memories of him wangling half holidays for them and arrange treats involving pop and Eccles Cakes. Not a lot I know, but looking for good I am on fallow ground with the Eskrigges.
The couple finally settled at 7 Woodbine Crescent in Stockport. William died in early 1901 and Annie in late 1915.
Frances Eskrigge, known as Fanny had a short life, she was born in 1828 at Hope House, but on Thursday 26 July 1838 she was sent on an errand to fetch a servant from the fields, which involved crossing the railway line parallel to Hope House. On the way back she tripped on the line and was panic struck as an engine hit her shattering her leg, which had to be amputated. Unfortunately she died the same day, and was buried two days later at St James’, Latchford.
Julia Adelina Eskrigge (1803-1905) we briefly met above. She married her next door neigbour William Roby Barr, and lived first at Heaton Lodge, then Priestnall Road in Heaton Mersey.
Robert Atkinson Eskrigge (1839-1898) was also involved in the family firm. He married Eliza B Robson in 1858 on the Wirral, and they lived in Liscard where he became a cotton broker and JP. He died in November 1898 at Fir Cottage in Liscard.
One of his daughters, Edith Eskrigge (1872-1948) did much to revive the Eskrigge good name. She became involved in the Settlement for Women Workers, also known as the Canning Town Settlement. This was a movement set up to to encourage educated people to settle amongst workers and strive to improve the quality of their lives. She then became a member of the South Wales Women’s Suffrage Federation. During the first world war she became involved with the Liverpool War Pensions Committee and Soldiers and Sailors Family Association, becoming Chief Officer of the latter.
In Liverpool she established a school for invalid children, which evolved into the Child Welfare Association, and also participated actively in the Child Adoption Society.
The next child Edward Eskrigge died aged five in 1843.
Ann Eskrigge was born in 1840 and like her sister Julia Adeline, she married into the Barr family. Joseph Henry Barr. Joseph was a GP and a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. They lived first on Ardwick Green, before moving to Brighouse.
Elizabeth Eskrigge (1844-1923) married her cousin Thomas Tatham in 1865. He was was the head of Tatham & Co, Iron Merchants of Whitworth Street in Manchester. They lived first in Meols and then at Wilmslow Park, Wilmslow.
Finally Henry Bridgeman Eskrigge (1846-1891) married Annie Bewley and worked as a cotton broker in Liverpool. They lived on Carter Street in Liverpool.
Copyright 2019 Allan Russell