Sunday, October 15, 2023

Sunday school demonstration

‘Great demonstration of the Church of England Sunday Schools. About 15,000 walked in procession. Hugh Birley, Esq., addressed them in the Park.’ This is from the diary of a well-respected 19th century businessman, Charles Tiplady who died a century and a half ago today. His diary was thought lost for a century or more before turning up in a house clearance. It was then sold at auction to Blackburn Museum and friends. Since then, substantial extracts - though not those of a ‘too private a nature’ - have been transcribed and made freely available online.

Tiplady was born in Blackburn in 1808, the fourth of five children, though little is known about his childhood. He was educated at the National School in Thunder Alley (now Town Hall Street), and in 1830 went into partnership with one of his brothers, William, working as printers. In 1834, he married Mary Heaton. They had two children, though one of them died very young; Mary herself died aged only 28. Also in 1834 the two brothers began publishing a local almanac, containing events that had occurred in the previous year and descriptions of improvements to the town and new buildings that had been constructed. The business produced many books of an official nature (such as the Register of Electors), and in time Charles came to be known as an authority on local and national matters. In 1839, he married a second time, to Mary Callis. They also had several children, though two of them died in infancy. 

William died in 1844, but Charles carried on the printing business, eventually with one of his sons. He invested in local schemes and companies, such as railways, gasworks and waterworks, and was active at shareholder meetings. He was very involved with the Blackburn Subscription Library; and he was both a Mason and a member of the Oddfellows Friendly Society. He became increasingly focused on public affairs, being appointed one of Blackburn’s Improvement Commissioners, and sitting on the 1851 Charter of Incorporation committee. He was an active member of the Blackburn Operative Conservative Association (becoming its president at one point). He was elected in 1860, after previous defeats, to the safe seat of St. John’s Ward, which he represented until becoming an Alderman in 1865. He retired from political life in 1871, and he died on 15 October 1873. Further information is available from Cotton Town, a Blackburn Library initiative.

Tiplady is only remembered today because of the diary he left behind covering over three decades (1839-1873). Extracts were published in the 19th century in the Blackburn Times (log-in required) which was, at the time, being edited by a well known local historian, William Alexander Abram. However, thereafter the diary disappeared, and was only re-discovered more than a century later in 1999 during a house clearance in Derbyshire - 500 pages of hand-written memoirs bound into one volume. The auctioneer contacted Blackburn Museum which confirmed it was the long lost Tiplady diary - see this Lancashire Telegraph article. Local resources were then pooled to purchase the diary for the museum, where a successful exhibition was then organised. More recently, members of the local history society have transcribed the diary (from microfilms of the original) for publication online.

The website’s introduction concludes with the following rider: ‘Of course there is much in the Diary which is of too private a nature for publication. All such parts [have been] scrupulously omitted; but there is no harm in including, as as been done, entries which relate to the external activities of the Diarist himself, such as his journeys on business or pleasure, and his notes on the death of kinsfolk as of other friends and neighbours.’

Here’s a selection of those edited diary extracts.

21 August 1841
‘At half-past 2 o'clock this morning, a terrific thunderstorm broke over the town; the rain literally descended in torrents, and quickly laid under water the various shops and cellars in low situations. Salford, Penny Street, and other places suffered severely.’

 22 August 1841
‘Went to Great Harwood charity sermons with James Livesey. The Rev. Gilmore Robinson (incumbent of Tockholes), preached an excellent discourse. A wet afternoon, but the church was filled to overflowing.’

7 February 1843
‘My third son was born. His name will be Richard.’

7 July 1843
‘Attended Mr. Spencer T. Hall's Lecture on Phreno-Magnetism in the Theatre. The House was thronged, and a very lively sensation had been excited in the expectation of a spirited discussion. I was called to the chair. So far as I could discover from vigilant observation, no deception was practised.’

20 April 1850
‘The 96th anniversary of the Subscription Bowling Green. A large attendance of members. Amongst the guests were W. H. Hornby, Esq., Thomas Dutton, Esq., and other gentlemen. I was appointed chairman. Mr. Thomas Bennett was elected steward. The entrance fee was increased to two guineas, and the Rules were ordered to be revised by a committee of seven members then nominated.’

15 September 1860
‘Died, James Gregson, aged 97, years; the oldest man in Blackburn.’

7 February 1865
‘This day died in his chair, Mr. Councillor Edward Holroyd, aged 56 years; a man highly respected’

17 February 1865
‘Friday. Sad accounts from Scotland of the great severity of the winter, great fall of snow and storms. To-day it snows very much in Blackburn, and we have not had so much snow for many years.’

27 February 1865
‘St. Mary's Ward Election - Mr. Stafford elected in the room of Mr. Holroyd. - The grand new Organ of St. Peter's Church opened by Mr. Best, of Liverpool; splendid performance.’

16 May 1868
‘To Accrington. Grand Procession, laying of corner-stone of new Market House.’

15 March 1869
‘At 5 15 p.m., a shock of earth-quake was distinctly felt in this town by great numbers of persons.’

11 April 1869
‘This day two very old friends departed this life, viz., James Shorrock, Esq., aged 63, the excellent chairman of the Over Darwen Gas Company; and the Rev. Dr. Robinson, of Holy Trinity Church, in this town, aged only 51 years. Mr. Shorrock had attended divine service with his wife at Belgrave Chapel in the morning, and about dinner time had a fit of apoplexy which proved quickly fatal. Darwen has lost one of its brightest ornaments. Dr. Robinson's health and faculties had given way for a long period prior to his death, and he was but a wreck of his former self. He was much beloved by the congregation of Holy Trinity Church, a powerful writer, and an energetic opponent of the errors of the Papacy.’

22 June 1872
‘Great demonstration of the Church of England Sunday Schools. About 15,000 walked in procession. Hugh Birley, Esq., addressed them in the Park.’

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