John Brogden (industrialist)

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John Brogden
John Brogden 19C Industrialist.jpg
John Brogden – Industrialist
Born2 February 1798
Clitheroe, Lancashire, UK
Died9 December 1869
Sale, Cheshire, UK
OccupationRailway contractor, iron and coal master

John Brogden (2 February 1798 – 9 December 1869) was a cleansing, building and railway contractor, railway promoter, a miner of coal and iron and an iron smelter. He was brought up on a farm near Clitheroe, Lancashire. As a young man he migrated to a rapidly growing Manchester and applied his farmer's knowledge of horses as a cleansing contractor. He worked in partnership with Joseph Whitworth to use the latter's patent cleansing machines. He also started the same business in Westminster.[1] He seems to have extended his contracting work to building, for in 1838 he obtained contracts with the Manchester and Leeds Railway Company to build their Manchester station (now Manchester Victoria station) and the viaduct from there to Miles Platting.[2] Other railway contracts followed.[1]

As the eldest four of his five sons came of age and joined him to form John Brogden and Sons he took iron-mining leases in Furness. They quickly saw that a rail link from Furness to the rest of England and Wales was critical to the industrial development of Furness so they promoted the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway to run across Morecambe Bay from Carnforth to Ulverston, receiving the Royal Assent in 1851. This was an innovative, challenging and risky project but it was eventually completed in 1857 and soon purchased by the Furness Railway.[3][4]

Beginning in 1853 the family expanded into South Wales buying mining leases and an Iron Works in the Llynfi and Ogmore Valleys. They developed these vigorously, also building a railway in the Ogmore Valley and a new harbour at Porthcawl.[5]

From an early age Brogden was a Methodist and in later life he contributed generously in time and money to Methodist and other good causes.[1]

When John Brogden died in 1869, his business was outwardly strong and profitable. However it failed spectacularly after ten years, under the leadership of Alexander Brogden, the eldest surviving son.[5]

Early life[edit]

He was born on 2 February 1798 on his father's farm at Worston, near Clitheroe in Lancashire. He was educated at Clitheroe Grammar School.[6]

As a young man he left home for the rapidly expanding town of Manchester. Whereas other young men at that time chose to work in the burgeoning cotton industry, Brogden was an outdoor man, fond of riding and hunting so he preferred to work in haulage and transport. For further details of his work see John Brogden and Sons.

Family life[edit]

In 1822 he married Sarah Hannah McWilliams, only daughter of Alexander McWilliams of Hazelhurst near Ashton-under-Lyne. She had been educated at the Moravian School in Dukinfield .[1][7] The family lived as Methodists. The Methodists had close connections with the Moravians and John would have found Methodist chapels much easier to find on his many travels. Their children were:

John, born Manchester 1823, married Ellen Garstang 20 March 1849 at Manchester Cathedral, died suddenly on 6 November 1855 at his home, Lightburn House, Ulverston, age 32.[8] Lightburn House was later pulled down and replaced by the Coronation Hall.[9]

Alexander, born Manchester 3 November 1825, married Ann Garstang 6 September 1848 at Manchester Cathedral.,[8] died 26 November 1892 in Croydon.[10]

Henry, born Manchester 1828, married Sarah Ann Marshall on 11 September 1862 in Stockport, died at Hale Lodge, Hale, Altrincham, Cheshire in 1913.[8]

James, born Manchester 7 April 1832, spent most of his adult life in Mid-Glamorgan, first at Tondu and later at Porthcawl, where he died in January 1907.[8]

George William Hargreaves Brogden, was born in 1842 and died in London in 1892.[8]

All the above sons except George joined him in his business on reaching the age of 21.

Sarah Hannah, born in 1834, married Samuel Budgett on 5 June 1858. He was son and joint heir of the Bristol grocer Samuel Budgett.[11] She died in 1905.

Mary Jane, referred to as Jenny, married William Billing in Manchester Cathedral on 18 December 1867 and at one time they lived at Dunham Grange, Bowdon, Cheshire.[8]

Death and afterwards[edit]

John Brogden (sen.) died at his home, Raglan House, Raglan Road, Sale (then in Cheshire) on 9 December 1869.[8][12]

In his will he left his business to his sons Alexander, Henry and James but he also set up a trust for Mrs Billing of £7,250 and previously a marriage settlement of £10,000. The trustees were: Alexander and James Brogden, and Samuel Budgett. For five years from his death the partners were empowered to use the trust money in the business but after that they had to provide evidence of good assets that were independent of it. They failed to do this so that, from December 1874, all the trustees were in breach of trust and therefore all individually liable to replace all the assets of the trust. No doubt they hoped that the firm would pull through. In fact, Brogdens failed in 1880 and Mary Billing sued the trustees for the money. The action "Billing vs. Brogden" was tried in 1887 and appealed in 1888 with the result that Samuel Budgett, the only solvent trustee, had to replace all the trust's missing money himself.[13][14][15] The partnership of James, William and Samuel Budgett, trading as H.H. & S. Budgett, broke up. James and William each ended up successfully running his own part of the old firm as a separate enterprise. Samuel and two of his sons also got a small piece but rapidly went bankrupt.[16][17][18]


  1. ^ a b c d Smiles (1870)
  2. ^ Wells p73
  3. ^ Marshall pp 153, 204
  4. ^ Andrews pp 75–88
  5. ^ a b Higgins
  6. ^ According to Smiles p223. Also a John Brogden of Worston was baptised at Downham (the local parish church for Worston) on 25 February 1798 and many earlier Brogdens were baptised, married and buried there. However some authorities say he was born in Furness. The reason for this is that Casson, page 66, misquoting Smiles, changes the place from Worston to "Marton, in North Lancashire". Then Marshall (1958) accepts this and mentions that Marton is "near Dalton-in-Furness". Then Higgins (1978) in his turn accepts Marshall, leaves out Marton and just puts "Furness". It is quite clear from Smiles' text that Brogden was born at a farm called Worston, moved a short distance to another called Hookcliff and from there attended Clitheroe Grammar School "the nearest and best that was accessible". The place names Worston and Hookcliff can still be found near Clitheroe. The Furness theory can be rejected.
  7. ^ The County Families of Glamorganshire (c. 1875), page 165: Brogden, Alexander, provides 'Sarah Hannah', which is not given in Smiles
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Higgins (1978)
  9. ^ Gilpin (1988)
  10. ^ The Times (1892)
  11. ^ Richardson, p. 231
  12. ^ Wednesbury Herald
  13. ^ The Times (10 August 1887), "Law Reports – High Court – Chancery Division: Billing v Brogden", The Times: 3
  14. ^ The Times (9 May 1888), "Law Reports – Court of Appeal: Billing v Brogden", The Times: 4
  15. ^ Wednesbury Herald (13 August 1887), "The late Liberal Member for Wednesbury – Important Action", Wednesbury Herald
  16. ^ The Times, 1 July 1875, p 8, Col A and 4 Sep p 6 Col A
  17. ^ The Times, 14 March 1893; p 13 and 16 Mar, p 14
  18. ^ The Times 26 July 1898, p 13, Col A & 27 Jul, p 15, Col A


Andrews, Michael (2012), The Furness Railway: A History, Barrai Books, Barrow in Furness

Casson, Robert (1889), A Few Furness Worthies, pp. 66–68

Gilpin, L.R. (February 1988), "John Brogden of Manchester", Cumbrian Railways, 3 (15) Online

Higgins, L.S. (Summer 1978), "The Brogden Pioneers of the early industrial development in Mid-Glamorgan", National Library of Wales Journal, XX (3): 240–252 Online

Marshall, J.D. (1981) [1958], Furness and the Industrial Revolution, Michael Moon, Beckermet, Cumbria, ISBN 0-904131-26-2

Richardson, Joseph (1870), Furness Past and Present, 1

Smiles, R (1870), "Memoir about John Brogden (Senior)", Richardson (1870): 223

The Times (10 August 1887), "Law Reports – High Court – Chancery Division: Billing v Brogden", The Times

The Times (27 February 1888), "Law Reports – High Court – Chancery Division: Billing v Brogden", The Times

The Times (9 May 1888), "Law Reports – Court of Appeal: Billing v Brogden", The Times

The Times (29 November 1892), "Obituary: Alexander Brogden", The Times: 10

Wednesbury Herald (13 August 1887), "The late Liberal Member for Wednesbury – Important Action", Wednesbury Herald

Wells, Jeffrey (2000), The Eleven Towns Railway: The Story of the Manchester and Leeds Main Line, Railway and Canal Historical Society