George William Tomlinson (1837-1897)

George William Tomlinson (J.P., F.S.A.) was an engineer and ironfounder who achieved notoriety as a local historian and antiquarian.

Biography

He was born in Huddersfield, the son of artist George Dodgson Tomlinson and his wife Anna Maria, and was baptised privately on 30 November 1837 at Huddersfield Parish Church.

He was educated at Huddersfield College and then studied mechanical engineering at Olten, Switzerland, where he also acquired "a good knowledge of colloquial and commercial French, which proved very useful to him" in his subsequent career.

His initially found employment with a Manchester firm before returning to Huddersfield where he acquired "some finishing machine works at Chapel Hill".

He married Charlotte Heron[1], daughter of bank manager James Heron, on 11 March 1875 at Huddersfield Parish Church. The couple had seven known children:

  • (Sir) George John Frederick Tomlinson (1876-1963)[2]
  • Francis Wentworth Tomlinson (1877-1963)[3]
  • Dorothy Tomlinson (1879-?)[4]
  • Philip Tomlinson (1880-1882)[5]
  • Hugh Tomlinson (1882-1917)[6]
  • Charlotte Olivia Tomlinson (1886-1956)[7]
  • Margaret Isabel Tomlinson (1888-?)[8]

From 1864 until his death he was a continuous member of the governing body of the Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute and its successor, Huddersfield Technical College.

He joined the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association in 1869, eventually taking over the role of secretary after the retirement of Fairless Barber in 1881.

In 1875 he accepted the post of honorary secretary of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association and held the role until early 1896.[9] During the same year he wrote a series of articles titled "Some Account of the Founders of the Huddersfield Subscription Library" for the Huddersfield Chronicle which was subsequently published as a book. In the 1937 Directory of the town, the editor noted:

At the time of compiling his book Mr. Tomlinson said: "There is little time to lose, because Huddersfield is now in a sort of transitional state. Old buildings are being pulled down, old landmarks are being removed, and old faces are rapidly passing away. Very soon the younger generation will not have the faintest idea of what the good old town was like in the days before railways and telegraphs, in the days when the George Hotel formed one side of the Market Place, when Westgate and Kirkgate were the principal thoroughfares and Castlegate a fashionable street." How true of the town to-day, in view of the many great changes foreshadowed by the municipality.

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, he provided a series of articles titled "Huddersfield Typography" to the Huddersfield Chronicle which detailed early books and pamphlets published in the Huddersfield area.

In the months before his death, he was instrumental in resurrecting the previously abandoned scheme to build a tower on Castle Hill.

During a trip to Italy in 1897 he contracted malarial fever[10] which eventually led to his death on 21 August 1897 at home, aged 60. He left a sizeable estate valued at £56,556 15s. 10d.

He was reportedly working on compiling material for a "History of Huddersfield" but this remained uncompleted.

Charlotte Tomlinson died in 1918 in Rotherham.

Publications

Obituaries

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal (1898) Volume XIV by A. D. H. Leadman:

The Yorkshire Archaeological Society has most deeply to regret the loss of Mr. George William Tomlinson, whose death occurred on the morning of the 21st of August, 1897, at his residence, Wood Field, Huddersfield, after a most useful and honourable life, at the comparatively early age of 60 years.

In the springtide of this year he had been travelling in Italy, where he contracted some form of malaria, which lingered in the system, producing other and serious complications, and terminating fatally in spite of every effort. After a memorial service in the Parish Church of a most impressive character on the 24th of August, his mortal remains were laid at rest in the Cemetery. He has left behind him a widow, three sons, and three daughters to mourn his decease.

He was the only surviving son of Mr. George Dodgson Tomlinson, a well-known artist, of Huddersfield, who married Miss Anna Maria Clay, the daughter of Mr. Samuel Clay, also of Huddersfield, and one of the chief promoters of the Infirmary. His education was received at the Huddersfield College, where he made many life-long friends. He married Miss Charlotte Heron, the daughter of Mr. James Heron, then manager of West Riding Bank at Huddersfield. Starting in business in that town he established himself as a machine maker and iron-founder, but his special branch of mechanical engineering was the manufacture of machinery for dyeing and finishing cloth, &c.

He was a man of high intellectual power, and a great supporter of all educational schemes. He served on the School Board from 1877—80, was a member of the Committee of the Technical School, and, up to the time of his death, was one of the Governors. Ever an encourager of thrift, he was one of the Executive Committee of the Huddersfield Savings Bank, and was Chairman of the Board when he died. He took a keen interest in the Huddersfield Subscription Library, of which he was President, and some years ago he compiled and printed a history of that useful institution. Though a staunch Conservative, he took no active part in politics. In December, 1886, he was placed on the Commission of the Peace for the Borough, and was a regular attender on the Bench, and most careful in his decisions.

During the years 1895 and 1896 he was Churchwarden of the Parish Church, and was mainly instrumental in obtaining a permanent Parochial Hall in connection therewith. Many pleasant and graceful contributions were made by him to the Parish Magazine concerning the history of the fabric of the church, and of those who had been called to serve within its walls.

His last great work for the town was the promotion of the Castle Hill Tower Scheme to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but he only lived long enough to see its success placed beyond doubt.

The following letter is so characteristic of him, that I consider it ought to be inserted in this notice — especially as it was the last but one he wrote to the press.

THE PROPOSED TOWER ON CASTLE HILL.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE HUDDERSFIELD DAILY CHRONICLE.
Dear Sir,
There appears to be a great diversity of opinion at present as to the best way of showing our loyalty when Her Majesty will have completed her 60 years’ reign, the longest reign in English history, and very nearly the longest reign in the history of the world.
I took the opportunity of writing a letter on this subject to the Mayor, which he was good enough to allow to be read at the meeting in the Town Hall. In this letter I ventured to suggest that an event of this kind should be marked by some 'permanent memorial which future generations might be able to see and associate always and solely with the event, and if such a memorial could at the same time be an ornament to the town, so much the better.
I think the fault of our town has been that too little attention has been paid to its ornamentation—I mean its ornamentation apart from mere utility.
Huddersfield, with its widely extended municipal boundary, has a feature within its borders which I believe to be unique. I know of no city or borough in the kingdom with an elevation 900 feet above sea-level such as we have in Castle Hill I, therefore, proposed that a tower should be built on the summit of the hill, with a platform on the top at least 100 feet high, making a total height of a thousand feet.
It is unnecessary here to dwell on the singularly isolated character of Castle Hill—it is surrounded on three sides by deep valleys, and on the fourth side by a low neck of land connecting it with Almondbury, which makes it a most conspicuous object. I do not know which is the better — the view of the surrounding country from Castle Hill, or the view of the hill itself from the numberless points whence it can be seen, suffice it to say that a view extending from Skelmanthorpe on one side to the Lancashire Hills on the other, from the heights beyond Bradford on the north, to the Derbyshire Hills on the south—a view so extensive is no common one, and the elevation might fitly be emphasised by erecting upon it a suitable tower, which would challenge observation from an area of 300 square miles, and this I would call the "Victoria Tower."
When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan they were told to raise a cairn of stones, so that when their descendants inquired what those stones meant, they were to be told that they were a memorial of a great day for Israel. So let it be with us, and when those who come after us shall ask why the tower was built, those who are then living will be able to dwell with loyal affection on the 60 years of the Queen’s reign.
They will speak of the young girl Queen who lived to be the oldest sovereign in the world, during whose reign Huddersfield grew from little more than a large village to be a large town of a hundred thousand busy workers ; they will tell of the introduction of the penny post ; of the growth of railways, of the Indian Mutiny, of the electric telegraph, of photography ; of a thousand inventions and schemes calculated to make men happier. Surely this will be a text to make any man eloquent.
In 1887 £13,000 was raised to celebrate the 50th year of the Queen’s reign ; we know the objects to which this large sum was devoted, but who will remember in 20 or 30 years, and people then will wonder why nothing was done to mark so eventful a year.
I am, yours &c.,
G. W. Tomlinson.
February 4, 1897.

Chief among his literary tastes was a keen pursuit of the knowledge of antiquities, and especially all relating to the archaeology and topography of Yorkshire.

As he loved the home and town where first he saw the light, so he loved his native county enthusiastically. He had wandered far and wide amidst its hills and lovely dales, its castles and abbeys, its moated halls and parks. Few indeed were the localities his feet had not trodden, taking a special interest in genealogy and heraldry, and one never appealed to him for help in either of these branches in vain.

His connection with our Society dates from 1869, when he first joined as a member. In 1870 he was elected on the Council. In 1875 he became Financial Secretary, acting in conjunction with the late Mr. Fairless Barber, F.S.A. In March 1878, Mr. Tomlinson was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. After Mr. Barber’s death, Mr. Tomlinson became sole. Secretary, and so remained from 1881, excepting a very short period, until 1887, when Mr. S. J. Chadwick undertook the Record Series, and in 1888 they were joined by Mr. J. W. Walker, who now became Financial Secretary, Air. Tomlinson continuing the Editorship of the Journal until his resignation in January, 1896. Although we lost his valuable services as Secretary, he was at once placed on the Council, and a handsome testimonial was most spontaneously subscribed for and presented to him by both members and friends. And so he belonged to us up to the last day of his life.

The Society was an especial care of his, a great friend to him, and he to it. He had witnessed its steady progress, had helped to overcome the early struggles, saw its name changed from the "Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association," to the more extensive and comprehensive title of "Yorkshire," and took part in its progress until the Society was incorporated in 1893, and a new and permanent home was found for it at Leeds in 1896. He designed the Official Seal, and one of bis last acts of kindness was to arrange the library on its transfer from Huddersfield to Leeds.

Of published papers he had not many — the only one appearing in the Journal with his name attached is "On Monuments at Normanton, with Genealogical Notes," in Vol. V. However he helped others with numerous footnotes, and when Programmes for the Excursions, Prospectuses, Catalogues, and various notices are considered, the amount of secretarial work he got through was very heavy and arduous. Then he took a large part in editing "Paver’s Marriage Licences," Glynne’s "Churches of Yorkshire," &c., &c.

For many years be had been engaged on a History of Huddersfield, but I believe it is not completed. He was also working up a pedigree of his own family, and likewise that of the Rooses of Ingmanthorpe, which last he intended for the Journal.

It will be difficult for those who knew him to realise a Council Meeting or an Excursion without his kindly face, his cheerful smile, and his pleasant manner to all, for his greatest friends were those who shared with him, and enjoyed his antiquarian tastes.

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal (1915) Volume XXIII by S. J. Chadwick:

George William Tomlinson, F.S.A., who for twenty-one years acted as honorary Secretary of this Society, and who by his ability and energy contributed greatly to its advancement, was the only surviving child of Mr. George Dodgson Tomlinson, a well-known artist, of Huddersfield, who married Miss Anna Maria Clay, the daughter of Mr. Samuel Clay, also of Huddersfield, and one of the chief promoters of the Infirmary. Mr. G. D. Tomlinson was an early member of the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association, and was a member of the first Council elected at the public meeting held on the nth November, 1864, which is mentioned in the early part of this paper. His wife was also no mean artist, and no doubt their son derived his artistic tastes from his parents. I have a vivid recollection of my visits more than forty years ago to their tasteful home in Ramsden Street, Huddersfield, which recollection is kept alive by mementoes given to me by their son after their deaths in the shape of an oil painting ("Eagle Crag, Thirlmere") done by his father, and a water-colour sketch of flowers done by his mother. I had a great regard for both parents.

George William Tomlinson was educated at the Huddersfield College, where he made many friends. After leaving the College he learnt mechanical engineering at Olten, in Switzerland, where also he acquired a good knowledge of colloquial and commercial French, which proved very useful to him in after years. He was also with a large engineering firm in Manchester, and eventually he acquired some finishing machine works at Chapel Hill, Huddersfield, and carried on a very successful business up to the time of his death. The making of finishing machinery was his principal work, but he dealt in all kinds of woollen machinery, especially with the continent, where his knowledge of French was of great service. Although he was a successful businessman, he found time for other things. He was very fond of travel, and made many journeys abroad, both for business and for pleasure. In 1876 I had a very enjoyable walking tour with him in Switzerland, an account of which he printed in the Huddersfield College Magazine. We also had many walks amongst the English Lake Mountains, the Yorkshire Hills, etc., and in the course of years the country round Huddersfield was pretty well explored. These walks were not confined to Mr. Tomlinson and me, but were often joined in by other friends of similar tastes. The obituary notice published in volume XIV of the Yorkshire Archceological Journal says that "as he loved the home and town where first he saw the light, so he loved his native county enthusiastically. He had wandered far and wide amidst its hills and lovely dales, its castles and abbeys, its halls and parks. Few, indeed, were the localities his feet had not trodden, taking a special interest in genealogy and heraldry, and one never appealed to him in vain for help in either of these branches." Mr. Tomlinson was a man of high intellectual power, and a great supporter of educational schemes in Huddersfield. He was prominent in establishing an Old Boys’ Scholarship in connection with the Huddersfield College, and was a trustee for it. He served on the School Board from 1877 to 1880, and from 1864 to his death in 1897 he was continuously a member of the governing body of the Mechanics' Institute, and its successor, the present Huddersfield Technical College. He was one of the Executive Committee of the Huddersfield Savings Bank, and was Chairman of the Board at the time of his death. He took a keen interest in the Huddersfield Subscription Library, of which he was President, and he compiled an "Account of the Founders," which first appeared in the columns of the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, and subsequently in the year 1875 was published in book form.

Mr. Tomlinson was a staunch Conservative, but took no active part in politics. In December, 1886, he was placed on the Commission of the Peace for the borough, and he was a regular attender on the Bench. During the years 1895 and 1896 he was a Churchwarden of the Parish Church, and was instrumental in obtaining a permanent Parochial Hall in connection therewith. Many pleasant and interesting contributions were made by him to the parish magazine concerning the history of the church and of those who had served within its walls.

Mr. Tomlinson’s last work for the town of Huddersfield was the promotion of the scheme for the erection of a tower on Castle Hill to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond jubilee, but he only lived long enough to see its success placed beyond doubt. In connection with this scheme he wrote a characteristic letter to the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, which has been reprinted in volume XIV of the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, pp. 515 and 516, and which is worth reading.

Having great literary tastes, and being fond of archaeology and topography, and especially the archaeology and topography of Yorkshire, Mr. Tomlinson joined the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association, now the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, in 1869, five years after his father. In 1870 he was put on the Council, and in 1875 he became Financial Secretary, and acted as joint Secretary with Mr. Fairless Barber until the retirement of the latter on 24th January, 1881, when Mr. Tomlinson and I were elected joint Secretaries, and we acted together until 24th April, 1882, when, having met with a serious accident, I retired, and Mr. Tomlinson acted alone as Secretary and as Editor of the Society's Journal until the 22nd November, 1888, when Mr. J. W. Walker was elected, and acted jointly with Mr. Tomlinson until the retirement of the latter on 30th January, 1896. Mr. Tomlinson was very successful in all the departments of his secretarial work, and especially in the organisation and management of the Society’s excursions. His handsome presence and genial manners, combined with his powers of organisation, made the excursions very popular, and contributed greatly to their success. He took an active part in obtaining the incorporation of the Society in 1893, and he lived to see it established in the rooms at 10, Park Street, Leeds, which were subsequently purchased by it and the Thoresby Society jointly. In the year 1888 some of his friends, as a small recognition of his services to the Society, presented him with some plate, consisting of a silver bowl, two silver fruit dishes, two flower vases, etc., with the following inscription:

Presented to G. W. Tomlinson, F.S.A., Honorary Secretary of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1875-1888, by his friends.

After resigning the posts of Secretary and of Editor of the Journal, Mr. Tomlinson was elected a member of the Council, and continued to act and to take a great interest in the Society and its work up to the time of his death. After the incorporation of the Society he designed the official seal, and when the headquarters were changed to 10, Park Street, Leeds, in 1896, he took an active part in the removal of the library and in its arrangement in its new quarters.

He did not publish much. The only paper appearing in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal with his name attached is "On Monuments at Normanton, with Genealogical Notes," in volume V. But he helped others with numerous notes, and when programmes for the excursions, prospectuses, catalogues, and notices of various kinds are considered, it will be realised that the amount of work which he got through was very heavy and arduous. He also took a large part in editing "Paver's Marriage Licences," "Glynne’s Churches of Yorkshire," etc. For many years he was engaged in collecting material for a History of Huddersfield, but it was not completed. He also worked at the pedigree of the Rooses of Ingmanthorpe, which he intended to publish in the Journal. In the spring of 1897 he went to Venice, and I had arranged to travel with him as far as possible, as I was arranging a journey to the Holy Land by way of Trieste, Port Said, and Jaffa. Unfortunately, our engagements would not permit of us travelling together, and when I returned to England I found him on what proved to be his death-bed. He is supposed to have contracted some form of malaria in Venice, which he was unable to shake off, and after a lingering illness he died at his residence in Huddersfield on the 21st Aug., 1897, to the great grief of his many friends. After an impressive memorial service in the Parish Church, he was interred in the Huddersfield Cemetery on the 24th August. He married Miss Charlotte Heron, daughter of Mr. James Heron, bank manager, Huddersfield, and had three sons and three daughters. Mrs. Tomlinson and her children are all living.

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Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. Born 22 August 1845 in Dewsbury.
  2. Born 3 May 1876 and baptised 6 June 1876 at Huddersfield Parish Church. Worked in the Colonial Service.
  3. Born 25 October 1877 and baptised 18 December 1877 at Huddersfield Parish Church. Died 8 July 1963 in Kent.
  4. Born 6 March 1879 and baptised 9 April 1879 at Huddersfield Parish Church.
  5. Born 19 October 1880 and baptised 30 November 1880 at Huddersfield Parish Church.
  6. Born 20 June 1882 and baptised 17 July 1882 at Huddersfield Parish Church. Served as a captain in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. Awarded the Military Cross in June 1916. Engaged to Madeleine de Lacy in October 1916. Died in France at a German field hospital on 2 April 1917 and buried in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Calais.
  7. Born 26 April 1886 and baptised 4 June 1886 at Huddersfield Parish Church. Did not marry and died 5 September 1956 in Berkshire.
  8. Born 15 February 1888 and baptised 15 March 1888 at Huddersfield Parish Church.
  9. Obituary in Leeds Mercury (28/Aug/1897).
  10. "Notes of the Month" in The Antiquary (Oct 1897).