Re-thinking the Birtwistles

Following on from my last post, my sister also mentioned a Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Birtwistle who was awarded the DSO. She had seen a Brigadier-General Arthur Birtwistle mention as being the son of William Birtwistle on the Cotton Town site (here), and thought he must be the brother of Albert Birtwistle, the father of our grandfather James Astley Birtwistle aka Nebby.

Now our great grandfather Albert did have a father called William and a brother called Arthur. But this Arthur was born in 1853 and married Katharine Elizabeth VAN LEYDEN.

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Birtwistle (later Brigadier General) was, however, born in 1877 and married Alice daughter of W. Hillman. It’s said that his family controled more looms than any other in the world through Abbey, Carr and Woodfold mills and other interests.

As such, there seems to be some confusion in our family between William Birtwistle (father of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Birtwistle) who lived at Billinge Scar and great great grandfather William Birtwistle who was also a Cotton Mill owner and our great uncle ‘Bertie’ (also William Birtwistle), Chairman of Birtwistle & Fielding Co., Ltd. and JA Leight Co. Ltd and father of racing legend Monica Dickenson.

I’m now not sure which William owned the Norseman steam yacht I mentioned recently (here and here) because according to family legend our grandparents spent their honeymoon on it. I’m also not sure whether the Norseman is the same steam yacht as the S.Y. Iolaire. It may still be true that my grandparents spent their honeymoon on the Norseman, regardless of whether a close or distant relative owned it, but I can’t join up dots between Birtwistles of Billinge Scar and our lot.

Maybe this all documented in the book about the Birtwistle family, so hopefully my brother Hugo, cousin Hamish or mum can clarify this for me.


15 thoughts on “Re-thinking the Birtwistles

  1. Hi, Arthur’s (my GGF) father is William. Williams GF is called William. William (my ggp) had Norseman, sy olaire etc. Hope this helps.

  2. My grandfather was Brigadier General Arthur Birtwistle son of William Birtwistle. He and his wife (formerly Alice Hillman whom he married in 1906) lived at Billinge Scar which was later demolished. Arthur’s father started William Birtwistle Allied Mills, which was continued by his son Arthur, and later my own father, Arthur Hillman Birtwistle (always known as Peter). the SY Iolaire was indeed owned by my grandfather and was the flagship to the minesweepers in the war – I have never heard of “Norseman”. I have many photos and the family tree. I am, Ann, the daughter of Peter’s first wife, Allice Forrest, daughter of Sir William Forrest, Mayor of Blackburn in the 1930’s.

    1. Ann thanks for your comment, from what I can tell the SS Norseman and SY lolaire were both owned by a William Birtwistle albeit at different times. Maybe it’s not the same William Birtwistle, but the SS Norseman was owned by a William Birtwistle from 1910-1997 and the SY lolaire seemed to be owned by a William Birtwistle from 1922-1936, then by the Alston Steamship Co Ltd (owned by a W Birtwistle) until 1939 where it’s owned by Frederick J Birtwistle (possibly cousin of my grandfather) until being sold to the Admiralty in 1943. My grandparents James Birtwistle and Muriel Marwood married in 1915, so I’m pretty certain it’s the Norseman they spent their honeymoon on. The problem is that there’s a lot of William Birtwistle’s including the William A. Birtwistle who’s written the books on the Birtwistle family. From what I can tell all those involved in the cotton industry are descended from James Birtwistle of Stoups Farm, Great Harwood who married Betty Edelston in 1774. My grandfather’s family owned cotton manufacturers Birtwistle & Fielding Ltd of Great Harwood and Blackburn and J. and A. Leigh Ltd, of Preston. He also had a brother called William. Then there’s your ancestor William Birtwistle who owned the Allied Mills. He also seems to have 2 nephews called William Birtwistle, one through his brother Richard and the other through his brother Joseph.

    2. My wife and I used to work at Osprey House. I initially (1964)worked at Greenbank Mill in Preston and in 1966 I was asked if I would like to work at Osprey House. Mr Peter was a a most kind and generous employer as a was his sister Mrs Shutt.

      Today one would just be redundant – not with William Birtwistle. I only visited Mitton Hall after Mr Peter had moved into the Trough of Bowland. There was a nice article about him in the Evening Telegraph I think – Prince of Cotton it said, and he was. A Gentleman certainly. I have one or two books about Blackburn with photographs of Billinge Scarr. I called at the site perhaps 15 years ago and met a lady who had know Violet as a little girl.

  3. Not sure if it is the same person but 1919 William Birtwistle is shown in the Lloyds yacht register as owning small boats Pearl and Shamrock. Registered in Blackburn. I am almost certain it is the same person that owned Norseman. I did not take too much notice as I was researching other yachts at the time. I can look next time I am in the library if of any help.

  4. Forgot to mention that there is some confusion over Norseman as there were three of them built for Samuel Radcliffe Platt. First one 1877, next 1890 and your one 1898. All designed by the same person (St Clare Byrne) and the first two built by Lairds. The second one (1890) went to America and became USS Mohican in WW1 and appears to have been in WW2 as HMS Inquisitor. She was also the first ship down the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 when it was opened by Queen Victoria. Only mentioning this as you may find some conflicting details as I have found trying to sort out who owned what down the years.

    1. Ted thanks for info, and feel free to keep me posted. Whole point of this blog was to act as Lighthouse for those conducting historical research, so even happy to play my part in helping others find what they are looking for or at least point them in the right direction.


  5. Some further details.

    !. My father was James Astely Birtwistle, son of Albert and Annie Birtwistle. Uncle Bertie never married and was not the father of Monica Dickinson. Monica’s father was my father’s eldest brother, William, Uncle Will. Monica’s mother was Aunt Alex (nee Drew) who we all loved. Their other children were Peter, John, Thelma, and Olga. I used to ride with them all.

    2. The Arthur who owned the Norseman was definitely a 1st or 2nd cousin of my father and was definitely married to Alli. They lived at Billinge Scar, the first house I saw with its own swimming pool, and at The Plas in Snowdonia, Wales, where my mother would stay with them.

    3. It is true that my mother and father spent part of their honeymoon on the Norseman. I have photographs of it, with the name SY Norseman, but I never heard of the ‘Iolaire: Not sure this helps much!

  6. Just found your website as trying to research the big Birtwhistle yachts as pat of a local history project for Tighnabruaich, Argyll where they spent a lot of time. Much of the key information above is correct but as I have it from Lloyds Register of Yachts, William Birtwhistle JP acquired Norseman (built 1898) in 1911 and sold her to the French Navy during WWI. In 1921 he acquired the steam yacht Verve (built 1895) but ownership in this yacht was passed to Col. A. Birtwhistle CB CMG DSO in 1925 and he kept her until 1927. William Birtwhisltle acquire Iolaire (built 1902) in 1922 and retained her until WWII.

    My understanding is that Norseman and Iolaire (possibly also Verve) were skippered by a Captain Turner who lived in Tighnabruaich on the Kyles of Bute. The yachts thus mainly laid up there when not in use. There many mentions of them there and they were used as committee/mark boats in the local regattas.

    I am wondering if in the family archives there is any information on Capt Turner or other crew or photos. Would be happy to swap with other images/info already found.

    1. I am Ann, daughter of Arthur Birtwistle’s first marriage to Alice Forrest, daughter of Sir William Forrest former Mayor of Blackburn. I have no knowledge of the Norseman, but have a photo Of the Iolaire and a model of my father’s yacht Zarefsh which I sailed on when a child. Captain Turner was Donald Turner who lived in Gouroch and looked after my father’s yacht. Norseman and Iolaire must have preceded Zarefah which was the last yacht my father owned.

  7. With regards William Birtwistle’s Yacht. in a item I have written about him at the time of his death. It says he had three yachts first being Zarefah. second Noresman. Third Iolaire. also William is buried at Blackburn cemetery along with his father Micah, his grandfather William is also buried in this cemetery in a separate grave.

  8. I should have pointed pit that Arthur Birtwistle, my father, was always known as Peter Birtwistle. He had racehorses trained by the late Willy Stephenson at Royston and his horse Key Royal was 5th in the famous Grand National when the Queen Mothers horse Devon Loch slipped at the winning post in the 1950’s I think .

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