Francis Wright of Osmaston Manor

Francis Wright (1806-1873)

I found this photograph of my great great great grandfather Francis Wright on Facebook Group for his descendants. I also found the portrait below on the Ancestors of David Robarts site, while putting a Google Map for this blog.

There were also some great photos/illustrations of Osmaston Manor, which was sadly demolished in 1964. However, the village Francis redeveloped to serve Osmaston Manor is very picturesque so I must take a visit, even if he wasn’t too popular for putting a stop to the annual fair and also trying to stop the Shrovetide Football tradition!

Osmaston Manor

Here’s an article from Bygone Derbyshire that no longer seems to be online:

Wright Francis: industrialist, educationalist and benefactor
Francis Wright was one of the most successful businessmen in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire – he was a director of the fast-developing Midland Railway Company and chief executive of the Butterley Company of Ripley.

Was Francis Wright outstanding? Probably not, yet he absolutely epitomises all that was extraordinary about the 19th century.

Wright saw the expanding railways and engineering, as well as the large-scale production of coal and iron, as a means of controlling local communities through school, church, Sunday school, the magistracy and other necessary amenities.

Indeed, such was his desire to improve standards among the working classes that he built entire villages and towns, thereby giving a focus to the regeneration of religion, morality and a sense of community.

This was a gospel which Wright applied to villages directly linked to his Midlands companies, to the founding of schools in line with his low-church beliefs and the manner in which the northward and southward expansion of the Midland Railways brought improvements in living standards to many thousands of people across England.

While the industrial output of the Victorian age brought many advances and certainly large wealth for men like Wright, it also caused many problems, including slums and what Wright will have seen as immoral behaviour.

Nevertheless for Francis Wright the massive increase in personal and company assets allowed him to focus even more on good works as well as railway and coal expansion in equal measure.

The Butterley Company derived from Benjamin Outram and Company which had been founded in the 18th century by Benjamin Outram and Francis Beresford joined by William Jessop and John Wright.

Outram, Beresford and Jessop came together in 1789 as partners in engineering and exploited the new wealth of opportunities brought by the Cromford Canal passing through an area with massive coal reserves.

They were joined, in 1791, by John Wright who had married Elizabeth Beresford that same year. These four men had the foresight to buy the Butterley Hall Estate where Jessop and Outram had found large quantities of coal when digging and building the Cromford Tunnel for the Cromford Canal.

The company primarily exploited the massive coal reserves. The coming together of these directors brought together great skills: two civil engineers (Jessop and Outram), the financier and solicitor (Beresford) and the prosperous and successful Nottingham banker (Wright) who also had experience in iron.

It became the Butterley Company in 1807 following Outram’s death in 1805. From the outset, this quickly became a massive concern. By 1793, the works was producing almost 1,000 tonnes of iron each year and, with expansion in facilities, this would increase to more than 5,000.

From canals came the natural extension into the developing railways. In time, Butterley would manufacture complete wagons and the original cast-iron Vauxhall Bridge, built in 1814.

John Wright bought out the Beresford concern in 1806. Jessop’s son, William, inherited this interest on his father’s death in 1814 and was now living at Butterley Hall. Jessop signed a new partnership with Wright – one third to two thirds in Wright’s favour.

Wright also bought the Butterley Park estate on his own account and the Butterley Hall estate either on his own account or in trust for the new company.

The Butterley Co operated from 1807 until 1968, when it was taken over by Lord Hanson for £4.7m and was split up to form Butterley Brick, Butterley Engineering and Butterley Aggregates with Butterley Hall being sold off to become the headquarters for the Derbyshire Constabulary.

And so to John’s son, Francis: Francis Wright took over as director of the Butterley Company from 1830 until his death in 1873. In 1830, Francis became senior partner at Butterley which was then valued at £30,000. By 1858 its assets stood at £436,000.

He was very much a hands-on chief executive. Whatever Francis’ business merit, its success was thanks to the development of the railways.

Indeed, Francis also held significant shares in Midland Railway. This combined influence, as well as the family’s earlier benefits from banking, makes Francis arguably the most significant businessman in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire during this period.

John had already connected the Wrights to another Derbyshire family by marrying Elizabeth, daughter of a close business associate, Francis Beresford of Osmaston.

Francis Wright, who was born on December 21, 1806, would also, in time, build his home at Osmaston. Francis’ education under Dr Arnold at Rugby was influential and it engendered in him an even more staunchly evangelical ethic than was common with Victorian gentleman.

His influence by 1830, when he took control of Butterley Co, over his 12 children, some hundred Osmaston estate workers and tenants and 1,266 Butterley workers was significant.

Key to his family’s success was Francis’ belief that “busy hands keep the devil away”. He was a zealous low churchman or old-style evangelical. He had a strong belief in curbing the influences of low morals in the lower divisions of Victorian society. And he had a belief in hard work.

The terrace parapet of Osmaston Manor, the extraordinary mansion he built in Derbyshire, even carried the carved and pious words: “The work of our hands is vanity but whatsoever God doeth it shall be forever.”

There was a belief that Victorian men should develop strong moral communities around church and school, as well as not being ashamed of the wealth and advances which Victorian engineering could bring.

Wright was the archetypal Victorian philanthropist. His forebears had recognised the opportunity for developing significant wealth. Francis Wright ensured he was the most significant businessman and patron of good works in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Considering his low-church beliefs and values, the house he built for himself at Osmaston was ostentatious. However, Francis balanced this outward sign of their social mobility with generous patronage and charitable work.

From a business point of view he was responsible for ensuring better and more housing around Butterley for his workers. By developing a carefully designed community at Ironville with its well-built terraces, shops, schools and church, Wright ensured better conditions for his workers.

He built churches in Ironville and Lenton, as well as Osmaston, and then in Ashbourne as he did not like the high churchmanship of the parish church.

Church attendance by all his workers was obligatory. Indeed, it was reported in the British Association’s visit to Butterley in 1866 that he built churches and acted as patron “of hospitals, schools, penitents”. He also built church schools and was a significant patron to Derbyshire Royal Infirmary.

As chairman of the Ashbourne bench of JPs, he was stern, as shown by his attempt to ban the annual Shrovetide Game.

Francis Wright was highly respected by many people of Derbyshire. This was a gentleman who did not see any contradiction in the acquisition and proliferation of personal wealth as this enabled his extensive charitable work.

Central to this was his biggest educational project. In 1866, he founded, with like-minded trustees, Trent College, a public boarding school for boys in a rural setting near to the developing lace factories and fast developing rail-stock manufacturing in Long Eaton.

Originally he had planned to establish five similar colleges across the Midlands, all with the aim of educating boys in body and mind with close adherence to scripture and morals.

Its ease of access for new transport was far-sighted as the school has continued to flourish and develop from a boys boarding school of around 200 pupils to a busy co-education day and boarding school of more than 1,000 today. The school’s chapel, built in 1875, two years after Francis’ death, is a memorial to its founder.

The success of Butterley on the national stage, the new age of rail and the massive building structures which Butterley cast-iron could bring, coincided with a highly successful director.

Francis Wright’s directorship is considered to be one of taking the largest iron company in the East Midlands to one that “became even more adventurous and progressive”.

Butterley Co, under Francis Wright, was also one of the two leading coal production companies. It was his hands-on dominance of the company that saw Butterley become a leading player in the rail age and, with Francis’ directorship of Midland Railway, put Butterley on the national map, not least by building its own terminus at St Pancras.

Francis ensured Butterley was at the heart of the canal and road developments, bridge constructions and viaducts. One of his first initiatives was to pay £10,000 towards building the Nottingham-Derby-Leicester rail network. With the fast-developing railways and the steelmaking, Wright was able to make big increases in employment at Butterley, as much as 30 per cent by 1844.

By 1858, Wright had increased his shareholding to four-fifths with William Jessop holding the remaining one fifth. Francis’ son, Francis Beresford, would eventually bring all Butterley shares to the Wright family.

In 1858, the total capital was £436,000 and Francis Wright owned £350,000: the output from Butterley in 1862, from 14 shafts, was between 700,000 and 800,000 tonnes of coal per annum, one fifth of the whole of Derbyshire.

On his death in February 1873, Francis Wright’s estate was worth £1.4m. St Pancras still epitomises the times and works of Francis Wright. However, it is interesting how the debate moves on and opinions change. In September 1966, a debate ensued as to the future of St Pancras.

The Times architectural correspondent described it as “unique and possessed of visual richness” while Sir Edward Playfair, a former senior civil servant, loathed the building, seeing its Victorian pinnacles and spires as “Elizabethan vulgarity”.

It is extraordinary that, only 40 years ago, it was under threat of being demolished. How remote this threat seems from the original commissioning of St Pancras by the Midland Railway Co.

By the 1860s, it became crucial for Midland Railway to have its own direct route and terminus in London to manage effectively the increasing exports, such as coal and beer, from the Midlands.

The company could no longer guarantee a reliable service by accessing Euston Station and the London and North Western Line. The service was becoming increasingly grid-locked and delayed especially on the route in via the necessary junction near Rugby.

It was obvious to Midland railway that it had to start buying up land in the parish of St Pancras so it could extend its own direct network from the Derby, Nottingham and Leicester line.

This was no mean task in terms of surveying and addressing problems and delays from tunnelling a canal beneath the site, removal of slums and cemetery, relocating St Luke’s Church, as well as the location of a gas works.

Butterley not only designed and built the station roof with its 240ft tied arch but also supplied the 60 million bricks for Sir Gilbert Scott’s station building and Midland Grand Hotel.

Butterley also supplied 9,000 tonnes of iron work. There remain many who still gaze in wonderment at this marvel of Victorian engineering with its “series of tightly-sprung ribs of cast-iron, held together with tie-beams placed parallel on top of brick vaults”.

Crucial to the design and engineering of St Pancras were WH Barlow, the brilliant railways engineer who conceived the idea, and Sir John Alleyne, the equally brilliant company engineer and manager of Butterley Co for 28 years, who transformed the idea into reality.

The roof, in particular, was a collaboration between Barlow and Rowland Mason Ordish, another Derby-based engineer whose other projects included the great dome of the Albert Hall.

Francis Wright was at least fortunate, if not visionary, in whom he had working for Butterley Co. Sir John Gay Newton Alleyne was educated at Harrow and, for almost a decade, was warden of Dulwich College. A brilliant engineer, he was also Francis Wright’s brother-in-law.

He patented industrial machinery methods for manipulating iron and also the Butterley Bulb – “a shape devised and patented in 1858 for longitudinal riveted or fire-welded girders and beams of wrought iron”. At the time, much of the company’s iron was leaving Butterley for the construction of iron Navy battleships.

The station was designed to handle 50 trains per day and could cope with three times this amount – a scale impressively far-sighted in terms of modern capacity.

The terminus roof was the largest in world and, incredibly, was supported without any intermediate supports, spanning more than 240ft and more than 100ft high at its apex.

The budget for St Pancras Station, not including the roof, was £320,000, with the tender for the roof being awarded to Butterley for a proportionally significant amount of £117,000.

This project was an immense national success for Butterley and tied together through Francis Wright all the varying interests: the expanding importance of a rail network, his directorship of Midland Railways, Butterley, as well as the social and educational improvements that could be brought by a busy rail network.

It was as much Francis Wright’s success as it was his progressive attitude and drive that placed Butterley in a firm position to take on such a prestigious national engineering project which has been restored and reopened at the end of last year with its important new Eurostar terminus in what was once the beer storage depot for beer delivered by rail from the Midland breweries.

The vision of Francis Wright endures and so should his name. Mention of St Pancras or Butterley should give due merit to the importance of the driving force behind both successful concerns.

Francis Wright must surely be judged to have been one of the great progressive industrialists, educators and benefactors of the 19th century.

Osmaston is an old village approximately 3 miles from Ashbourne. At the time of the Domesday Book it was known as Osmundestune and had a population of between 60 to 80.

It is known as an estate village and most of the buildings seen today were built around 1850 when the village was redeveloped to serve Osmaston Manor built by Francis Wright.

Nottingham bankers, the Wright family had made a considerable fortune from iron and coal production during the Industrial Revolution and they owned the Butterley Ironworks near Ripley in Derbyshire (builders of St Pancras Station). Francis Wright (1806-1873) inherited Osmaston from his mother’s family (she was a daughter of Francis Marcus Beresford of Compton House, Ashbourne and Osmaston) and married his cousin Selina, daughter of Sir Henry FitzHerbert of Tissington. In 1845 Francis Wright started to build Osmaston Manor, which was completed in 1849. Realizing that he needed somewhere to house estate workers, he had Osmaston village built developing the village even more (although there has been a settlement in Osmaston for about 1000 years.) Francis Wright also contributed to the village new schools, a new church and built or rebuilt estate properties in the village, and in Ashbourne he had St John’s Church built.

Osmaston Manor was built in the early Victorian Tudor style of limestone and echoed Tissington Hall in much of the design. The house was set in within 5000 acres of parkland with trees and lakes; Sir Joseph Paxton advised on the layout of the park. Once completed it had 70 rooms, a bake-house, wash-house and a brew-house. A central tunnel carried smoke from the house to a communal chimney in the garden which was an ornate 150 feet high Italian type tower.

The only remains of Osmaston Manor today though are the (reduced) smoke tower and sawmill with original waterwheel, the garden terraces and the kitchen gardens.

Francis Wright died in 1873 and there is a memorial to him in Ashbourne Market Place however during his lifetime he did not prove very popular. He had put a stop to the annual fair and also tried to stop the Shrovetide Football tradition! This did not prove very popular at all.

Today the village still retains it’s picture postcard appearance with delightful half-timbered cottages and thatched roofs The village green overlooks a duck pond and the 160-year old church and old world pub give the village an picturesque charm.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Francis Wright of Osmaston Manor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s