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Thomas Speight

Thomas Speight (1844 – 1921)
JP & 36th Mayor of Bradford, 1896-98

Thomas was born on 6 July 1844 in Catterall, Lancashire and baptised on 25 July 1844 in Garstang, Lancashire, the son of Thomas Speight, a Husbandman and his wife Maria (or Mary) nèe Wood who were married by Banns on 17 November 1835 in St Peters (Leeds Cathedral). His mother died suddenly on 12 February 1857 age 56 living with his father then manager at Messrs. Donisthorpe’s wool-combing establishment at Hunslet, Leeds and residing at Larchfield Terrace, Hunslet. An inquest was held into her death. She had a cup of Du Barry’s Revalenta Arabica (a health restoring food for invalids), then a severe pain in the head and died in an hour. The verdict was “Died from natural causes.” On 16 February 1857 Mary Speight née Wood was buried in Hunslet Cemetery, Leeds. His father died on 4 April 1879 at Oak House, Leeds Road, Pannal near Harrogate age 74. [The probate record shows Thomas as “of Oak House, Pannal & Bradford.”] He was the oldest commission comber of fine wool in Bradford and well connected with Mr. George E Donisthorpe, as Manager for 25 years, when Mr. Lister’s inventions were brought out and well known in connection with the development of Noble’s combing machines. He was well respected by Woolcombers & Spinners and highly respected by the Bradford Manufacturers. He had been ill for a few months, but while driving in March he caught a cold and took to his bed and died of congestion of the lungs. He was buried in Woodhouse Hill Cemetery, Hunslet, Leeds on 11 April 1879.

In 1851 Thomas Speight Jnr. was living in Anchor Street, Hunslet, Leeds with his father Thomas, a Cloth Mill Owner, b. 1806 in Lancaster, Lancashire and mother Mary b. 1801 also in Lancaster plus his elder sister Elizabeth Jane b. 7 February 1836 in Garstang, Lancashire and (elder) brother Robert b. 15 April 1838 in Catterall, Garstang, Lancashire, both Scholars, as was he. Elizabeth Jane went on to marry Robert Wilson, an Officer of the Inland Revenue at Hogland Nether, Yorkshire on 19 December 1857 in Leeds.

In 1861 he was living at 4 Larchfield Terrace, Hunslet, Leeds with his father Thomas, now a Manager of a Worsted Mill and only with his sister Mary b. 25 April 1841 in Catterall, Lancashire, acting as their Housekeeper. He was a Solicitor’s General Clerk at 16 years of age.

In 1864 his father started in business as a woolcomber.

In January 1865 he offered to let out his mill (Pit Lane Mill) in Pit Lane, Bradford. It had an engine of 25 hp and an abundant supply of water.
Thomas Speight, now 22, married Sarah Nicholson on 18 July 1866 in Bradford. She was the daughter of Ralph Nicholson and Elizabeth Myers who married in Jan-Mar 1842 in Leeds and was born Jul-Sep 1846 in Bradford.

In 1871 at Southey Place, Bradford, Thomas was a Wool Comber with his wife Sarah and two daughters born in Bradford, Annie b. Jan-Mar 1867 & Lettie b. Oct-Dec 1869. They had a 12-year-old female Domestic Servant as a Nurse.

In November 1873 Thomas Speight & Co., combers of Bowling, supported the nomination of the candidate to be elected onto the Council.

In July 1877 Mr. Thomas Speight, Clergyman of St Luke’s Church, presented the Rev. H Greene MA Curate-in-charge of the district with a beautiful electro-plated tea & coffee service on leaving for another position.
In 1879, when his father died, Thomas and his brother Robert took on the business – Speight & Co. in Bolton Road – until his brother died in 1883 when Woolcombers Ltd. took over.

In 1881 now at Holly Bank, Menston just north of Guiseley, Wharfedale, was Thomas who had become a Master Wool Comber employing 80 Persons, with his wife Sarah and daughters Annie & Lettie both Scholars and now with Mabel b. Jul-Sep 1871, Florence Mary b. Apr-Jun 1873, Jane Gertrude b. Jan-Mar 1875 and all born in Bradford & Scholars, Thomas Robert b. Oct-Dec 1876 in Bradford and Kate b. Jan-Mar 1879 in Menston, Wharfedale. They had a female Domestic Servant living with them.

In Jan-Mar 1889 in Bradford, Thomas Speight’s daughter, Annie, married Arthur Wood, eldest son of William Willis Wood (1844–1921), who was Mayor of Bradford from 1894 to 1896.

In 1891 now at Scar Hill, Pollard Lane, Bradford, was Thomas, now a Commission Wool Comber, with his wife Sarah and Lettie, Mabel, Florence, Jane and Thomas plus a female General Domestic Servant.

Also, in 1891, at Upper Rushton Road, Calverley were Arthur Wood, a Worsted Spinner, born on the 10 March 1860 in Bradford with his new wife Annie Wood and 1 year old son Stanley Speight Wood b. Jan-Mar 1890 in Bradford. They had a female General Servant.

In July 1891 Thomas Speight of Scarr Hall, Pollard Lane, Undercliffe, Bradford was confirmed as an annual member of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

In April 1892 Thomas Speight of Scarr Hill, Bradford opened the 3-day bazaar held by the Pudsey Cricket Club to raise funds to purchase a cricket field, one of the finest in the district, then owned by the Vicar of Bramley for the sum of £1500.

In 1894 Thomas was elected to the Corporation as a Conservative. Councillor Thomas Speight was also one of the 5 Directors of The Peoples Palace & Prince’s Theatre on Manchester Road – and still doing so in 1896. Also, in 1894, at age 50, he turned his hand to civic affairs and represented Bradford Moor Ward.

In Oct-Dec 1894 in Hampstead, London, Thomas Speight’s daughter, Lettie, married Philip Marston Cathie b. Jan-Mar 1874 in Chorlton, Manchester, Lancashire.

In June 1895 at a court case of a company needing wool combed were disappointed with their results using those of Thomas Speight as a bench-mark. The plaintiff won!

In December 1895 at the Greenhill Chapel, Bradford Moor, Bradford, Mabel, the 3rd daughter of Councillor Thomas Speight of Scarr Hall, Bradford, married Fred, the eldest son of Alfred Newsome, b. Jan-Mar 1870 in Baildon near Shipley, Bradford.

In June 1896 foundation corner-stones of the new electricity works in Valley Road erected by the Bradford Corporation were laid by Mr. W C Dixon & Mr. Speight, the Chairman & Vice-Chairman of the Gas & Electricity Supply Committee, who were then presented with a silver trowel and a mallet.
In November 1896, after a heated discussion between the Conservatives and the Radicals, a vote was taken when Thomas Speight was elected Mayor of Bradford on his high score of his ability, the admirable work done in connection with the Gas Committee and close touch with the great commercial interests of the town by 30 to 21. Then at the East Bradford Election Poll Results Mayor Thomas Speight was present with Alderman Willis Wood (ex-Mayor) who was the Returning Officer. This presented a problem as the papers had been signed by Willis Wood but the day before Thomas Speight was elected as Mayor. The novel circumstances were overcome by the judgement of the Attorney-General that he who started the election should be the Returning Officer. There was a Conservative majority of 365. Thomas served until November 1898 when the new Mayor was expected to have the same virtues as Thomas Speight of courtesy and impartiality. Thomas was then re-elected as Alderman.

In 1897, he presided over the celebrations for the 50th anniversary (Golden Jubilee) of the incorporation of Bradford as a city and the 60th anniversary (Diamond Jubilee) of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne. Known as the “Jubilee Mayor”, his image appears on the reverse of a commemorative medal struck for the occasion.

The start of celebrations was with special services held in the Churches and Chapels attended by very crowded congregations, followed by a great procession, gala and other activities, one of which was the Mayor & Mayoress (Mr & Mrs T Speight) giving breakfast to 3000 of the poor children of the City. A peel of bells from the Town Hall, Cathedral and other churches rang out. The three-and-a-half-mile long procession started from Manningham Park and ended in Peel Park. For this the Mayor & Mayoress were accompanied by their two daughters Jane and Katie. As a measure of progress of the Town to City, in 1837 export of yarn was £337,000 and £7,113,000 in 1896.

In October 1897 a complimentary dinner was given by the members of the Bradford Town Council to the Mayor, Mr Thomas Speight, in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall in recognition of his services to the City during a very exceptional year.

Also, at the October 1897 Bradford Municipal Elections for Moor Ward, the Mayor proposed a Midland Line Extension to put Bradford on the main line, shortest route to London. He was then unanimously returned to represent the ratepayers. Also, he was present at the switching on of the new electric light installation at Sion Chapel, Harris Street, Bradford.

In April 1898 Thomas Speight was a director of a new company, The Yorkshire Laundries, which was to acquire and further develop the steam laundries not only in Bradford, Halifax and Leeds but as far away as York and Scarborough too, plus acquire or erect modern steam laundries in e.g. Ripon & Sheffield.

In August 1898 Thomas Speight the Mayor presided over a meeting how to perpetuate the memory of Dr. Cartwright by way of a memorial to the inventor of the power loom. They forwarded 4 plans for Lord Masham to select one.

In September 1898 Mr Thomas Speight, Mayor, led a party of about 60 to visit the new waterworks at Gouthwaite and in the Nidd Valley which was expected to be completed in a couple of years. They took in Ramsgill, Rain Stange tunnel of 2,486 yards long and Chellow Heights reservoir.
In 1898 Thomas was made an Alderman and was instrumental in establishing Cartwright Hall as an art gallery in Lister Park.

In January 1899 Thomas Speight was presiding at the Annual Meeting of the Bradford Children’s Hospital. After an assessment of the balance sheet, the Chairman on behalf of the Mayor proposed it be accepted; resolution agreed. [In 1899 Thomas was Deputy-Mayor & Alderman]

In Oct-Dec 1897 in Kensington, London, Thomas Speight’s daughter Florence Mary Speight, married Henry/Harry Mainwaring Dunstan b. 1842 in Chester, Cheshire. This was Harry’s second marriage. The first was to Louisa Ellen Heritage in Oct-Dec 1865 in Brighton, Sussex, the daughter of John Heritage a Coachman of Eltham, Kent and his wife Leah. Louisa Ellen was born Oct-Dec 1841 in Worcester and had a brother and two younger sisters. Harry was a Captain in HM Army & a Deputy Commissioner in Ordnance. He & Louisa went on to have 3 sons born in Gibraltar between 1870 and 1873, a daughter born in Aldershot, Hampshire in 1875 and another son Bernard M Dunstan b. 15 February 1877 also in Aldershot and baptised on 7 June 1877 at the Garrison Church, Aldershot while living at the Ordnance Department, Ordnance Quarters, South Camp. In 1881 they were living at 17 Acacia Grove, Camberwell, London being looked after by a Governess and a General Servant. However, there was no Mrs. Duncan! And no record for her was found in Britain either divorced, re-married or had died. [Can we rule out bigamy?]

In Apr-Jun 1900 in North Brierley, Thomas Speight’s son Thomas Robert Speight, married Lydia Brown Earnshaw b. Jul-Sep 1874 in Bradford, the daughter of Edmund Earnshaw and Mary née Brown.

In 1901 at Scarr Hall (now Bradford Moor golf club) we find Thomas, now the Director of the Machine Wool Combers Association, with his wife Sarah with their daughters Jane (Jennie) and Kate, plus a female General Domestic Servant.

Scarr Hall

Also, in 1901, at The Moorlands, First Avenue, Bradford we find Arthur Wood, still a Worsted Spinner, with his wife Annie, son Stanley age 11 and now a daughter Phyllis Wood age 6 born on 18 November 1894 and baptised on 20 January 1895 at the Greenhill Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Bradford, plus two female servants: A Monthly Nurse and a Domestic Servant.

Also, in 1901, at 11 Pandora Road, Hampstead, London we find Lettie Cathie nèe Speight, a Professional Singer, with her new husband Philip M Cathie, a Professor of Music and their son Eric Speight Cathie b. Apr-Jun 1897 in Fulham, London, plus a female Domestic Servant.

Also, in 1901, at 250 Killinghall Road, Bradford we find Mabel Newsome nèe Speight with her new husband Fred Newsome, a Wool & Mohair Merchant with their daughter Vanda M Newsome b. 1899 in South Africa.
Also, in 1901, at 47 Hereford Road, Paddington, London we find Florence Mary nèe Speight with her husband a retired Army Captain, Harry M Dunstan and their son Guy Mainwaring Dunstan b. Oct-Dec 1896 in Hampstead, London – and also Bernard M Dunstan (from Harry’s first marriage), a Medical Student. Harry died Apr-Jun 1903 in Fulham, London. No record whatsoever found of either Florence or Guy since this time, nor under her maiden surname – and she didn’t re-marry.

Also, in 1901, at 5 Elmwood Place, Eccleshill, North Bierley, Bradford we find Thomas Robert Speight, a Manager Wool Comber, with his new wife Lydia and her mother Mary Earnshaw (living on her own means), plus a female Domestic Servant.

On 14 September 1904 Jane Gertrude Speight of Scarr Hall, Bradford married Reginald Clifford Bell, a Stuff Merchant, of Holmehurst, Rawdon, Leeds at St Peter, Bradford Cathedral (the Parish Church). Reginald was born on 31 July 1873 and baptised on 10 September 1873 at the Church of St John, Yeadon, Leeds, the son of Edmund Wilkinson and Mary Bell – Edmund was also a Stuff Merchant.

Annie’s husband Arthur Wood died 16 June 1905 in Bradford age 35 and was buried in Bowling Cemetery, Bradford.

Bernard M Dunstan went on to marry Eleanor Stewart Moody (born Jul-Sep 1880 in Nantwich, Cheshire) in Apr-Jun 1907 in Nantwich, the daughter of Enos Moody and Jane nèe Bourne of Spilsbury, Lincolnshire.

In Apr-Jun 1909 in Bradford, Thomas’s wife Sarah Speight nèe Nicholson died age 62.

In 1911 at Normanhurst, Killinghall Road, Bradford there was Thomas, now 66 and a widower, a Mohair Merchant & Employer, with his daughter Kate now 30, plus a female General Domestic Servant. Kate married James H Garfit (b. 27 January 1891) in Apr-Jun 1914 in Bradford. In 1939 they were living at Shetfield Road, Bradford, James an Upholsterer, with their son Jack Garfit b. 16 January 1923, an Apprentice Weaver.

Also, in 1911, Annie Wood nèe Speight was living on her own in a dwelling-house at 148 Moody Street, East Bowling, Bradford.

Also, in 1911 at 8 Birchwood Mansions, Muswell Hill, Hornsey, Middlesex, we find Phillip Cathie, now a Musician (Violinist), and divorced/single! With him are his son Eric age 14 and now Maurice (9) born Oct-Dec 1901 in Edmonton, Middlesex, plus a widowed Housekeeper. No record for Lettie could be found after 1901.

No record for Mabel’s family could be found in Britain after 1901 – Did they emigrate to South Africa? [No record in Passenger Lists found for them.]
In 1911 we find Bernard M Dunstan and his wife Eleanor, he a Physician Surgeon at 34 years old, living at 33 & 35 Hightown Road, Crewe, Cheshire with their daughter Kathleen Mabel Dunstan b. Jul-Sep 1908 in Nantwich, Cheshire plus 2 female servants: A Cook and a Domestic Housemaid.
Also, in 1911 at “Pinewood”, Clifton Road, Southbourne (near Christchurch), Bournemouth, Hampshire (a house of 11 rooms) were Reginald Clifford Bell, a Gentleman, with his wife Jane and a Visitor: Conrad Stucley Gilbert, a Secretary & Employer at a General Hospital in Hammersmith, London who signed the Census form pp Reginald Clifford Bell. Reginald & Mary had 2 female servants: A Cook and a Housemaid.

Also, in 1911 at 5 Elmwood Place, Undercliffe, Eccleshill, Bradford was Thomas R Speight, a Mohair Dealer on his own account with his wife Lydia and sons Thomas Edmund Speight b. Apr-Jun 1901 in North Brierley, Bradford, a Scholar, and Norman Speight b. Jan-Mar 1907 in North Brierley, Bradford with his mother-in-law Mary Earnshaw, widow, age 67, plus a General Servant.

Stanley Speight Wood, the son of Arthur Wood and Annie nèe Speight, of Westminster Drive, Pannal, Harrogate, Yorkshire served in the Mechanical Transport Company of the Army Service Corps and died on 25 May 1918 in Baghdad, Mesopotamia, Iraq, in WW1. In Apr-Jun 1914 he had married Violet Louise Sampson in North Brierley, Yorkshire, so left her a widow.
Thomas Speight died on 29 May 1921 at Normanhurst, 305 Killinghall Road, Bradford, in his 77th year known as being a Mohair Merchant but also a successful Inventor. Probate was granted on 19 August 1921 in London; Effects: £15657 10s 9d – approx. £0.9M in today’s money. He was buried in Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford on 15 November 1921 along with his wife Sarah.

Thomas Speight must also be remembered for being an inventor. Here are some representative examples: – In November 1868 his application for a patent on improvements in wool combing machines was passed. In May 1877 he made an application for a patent for improvements in rotary wool combing machines. In May 1879 he was a wool comber and granted a patent for improvement in looms for weaving. In September 1892 he made an application for a patent for an improved arrangement for operating and regulating the dabbing brushes of combing machines. In March 1893 he made an application for a patent for improvements to gill boxes for preparing wool and other fibres.

Thomas Robert Speight of 4 Highfield Place, Bradford died on 15 November 1925. Probate in London on 11 March 1926 was granted to Lydia Speight, widow, and James Gwynne Hutchinson, Solicitor. Effects: £2634 13s 3d. Lydia Brown Speight nèe Earnshaw died Jul-Sep 1959 in Bradford age 85.
Annie Wood nèe Speight died Apr-Jun 1926 in Bradford age 59. Kate A Garfit nèe Speight died Apr-Jun 1951 in Bradford age 72. Her husband James H G Garfit died Apr-Jun 1960 in Bradford age 70.

Research by David Broomfield – March 2021

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