This is the photograph that started my research and is for all intents and purposes, the catalyst for this site. It was first shown to me around 1998 by Ron Hunt and is an interesting piece of Wigan history due to the fact that the time can be pinpointed to within 30 minutes of the photograph being taken. The photograph was taken by Edward Crippin, amateur photographer and sometime landlord of The Dog and Partridge on Wallgate. It is currently held at Leigh Town Hall, catalogued 67413/4. If you would like a print there is charge. Recently I’ve tried to name the directors (the gentlemen holding spades) from various sources and by contacting surviving family members of the men involved (who all declined to help). They are, as far as I can ascertain, from left to right: William Rigby, John Dickinson, William Timberlake, Richard Johnson J.P., C.C., Charles Sawbridge and John Henry Green
We know many of those in attendance from a report in the Wigan Examiner:
Among those present, in addition to Mr. Richard Johnson J.P., C.C., were Messers W. Timberlake (chairman), W. Rigby, J.H. Green, C. Sawbridge and J. Dickinson (directors), Colonel ffarington, councillors D. Dix, P. Trickett, J. Alker, E. Molyneux, G.B. Walker, W. Taylor (Standish) and Gore (Pemberton). Drs. Bradbury, Brady and France, Messers C. Appleton (solicitor to the company), A. Williams (traffic manager of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal company, W.A. Thornton (Cheadle, vice-president of the Manchester Executive Committee of the Trotting Union of Great Britain), W. Harrison (Whalley Range, vice-president), A.B. Wood (vice-president of the Liverpool Executive Committee), J.S. Hopwood, H. Milligan, Mr. Geo. Belyea, Liverpool : Captain Walsh, Ainsdale : Mr H. Booth, Ainsdale : G.H. Brown, John Graham, W. France, E. Aukland, Warrington : E.H. Swanwick, Southport : P. Halliwell, Bury : J. Rigby, J.T. Rigby, P. Partington, W.H. Gaskell, R. Barlow, E. Prescott, T.H. Cowburn, J. Sayers, W. Morton, W. Winnard and John Weston (contractors), Mr. A. Cooper (resident engineer) J.A. Quarmby (secretary of the company) and R.T. Johnson (architect).
The band are The Wigan Borough Old Reed Band who were formed in 1883 under conductor Salvator Nifosi after a disagreement in The Wigan Old Borough Band (21st Lancashire Volunteers).
The building in the background is Springfield Hall, owned by William Wanklyn, the borough treasurer and a committee member of the Wigan Trotting and Athletic Grounds Company. It is probable that the land on which Springfield Park was built belonged to the Hall.
The Timberlakes William Timberlake b. High Wycombe (1863-1943) – Director & Committee Member of the Athletic and Cycle Club Herbert Henry Timberlake b. Maidenhead (1870 - 1.3.1944) - Committee Member of the Athletic and Cycle Club
With the proximity in age, you might be forgiven for assuming that William and Herbert were brothers when in fact they were uncle and nephew. William was the youngest brother to Herbert’s father Henry, who had links to the furniture trade but started making bicycles in the 1860’s in north Berkshire. By the 1880’s both William and Herbert were also making bicycles and found their way to the North West during the next decade, the former in Southport, the latter in Swinley. William became chairman of the Wigan Trotting and Athletic Company and the public face of the new venture at Springfield Park
It appears that the Timberlake’s main interest was cycling, as both men are found on the NCU judges panel at numerous events in the 1890’s but whether their interest was from a sporting point of view or simply to sell merchandise through the stadium isn’t clear. William had moved to Derby by the turn of the century, eventually opening a car showroom in “The Great House”, Braintree, Essex, while Herbert settled in Wigan and was of course H. H. Timberlake of the well known car dealership in Library St. The company opened in 1891 as cycle engineers, moving on to motor cycles and eventually took the agency for Humber, DeDion and Minerva cars in 1902.
John Henry Green b. Wigan (1864– 31.10.1949) - Director
John’s father, James, was a butcher at 62-64 Scholes, where John started work in the family shop. By 1890 he had his own shop and was living on Bridgeman Terrace, by now a very prosperous businessman and while William Timberlake was the perceived driving force behind Springfield Park, it is fair to say that the project would not have started without John Green’s investment of £4000 (a quarter of the total cost). John lived at “Claremont” on the corner of Mesnes Street and Wrightington Street, where his photograph hung until the 1980’s. He moved out to Hilldale in early part of last century and lived there until his death in 1949.
John was a local councillor and of the same family as the butchers in Darlington Street and the old Market Hall. He owned a horse called “Virgil Morris” which was is noted in various horse trotting events.
Charles Sawbridge b. Wigan (1858-10.11.1931) - Director John Sawbridge b. Wigan (1865-1906) - Committee Member of the Athletic and Cycle Club
The Sawbridges were a family of butchers with shops in The Wiend, in the Market Hall and at 1, 16 and 24 Market Street. They appear to be pivotal in the Springfield Park undertaking as they were known to, or lived within a short distance from the Dickinson’s, the Wolstencroft’s and John McCurdy (all committee members of the Athletic and Cycle Club) at some time in the years before construction started. They were also neighbours of Charles Samuels, president of Wigan Wednesday Athletic.
Charles Sawbridge owned a butchers shop in lower Wallgate. His main interest was horse trotting, having a pony called Isobel who was entered in many local meetings. The family also had links to the Wigan Rowing Club. Sawbridge’s still had a presence in the town centre until 1969 with a branch in Commercial Yard (demolished to make way for the Marketgate precinct).
William Rigby b. Wigan (1851-1911) - Director John Rigby b. 1873 Wigan - Committee Member of the Athletic and Cycle Club
William and John were father and son, coming from very humble beginnings as William’s father, Richard, started life as a journeyman clogger in the slum area known as Little London before moving onto Wigan Lane. William opened “William Rigby’s High Class Boot Store and Sports Depot” at 14 Wallgate in the 1880’s and would have been in direct competition with Jack Broughton (JJB) in later years. John managed the shop from the late Victorian period until handing over the reins to his younger brother Richard. Rigby’s later moved to the top of Library Street, closing in the 1970’s.
John Dickinson b. Wigan (1859-3.2.1903)- Director Edward Dickinson b. Wigan (1867-1925) - Committee Member of the Athletic and Cycle Club
The Dickinsons hailed from Scholes and were brought up in the furniture trade. John took over the business in 1876, as a pawnbroker, having premises in Wallgate. Later Edward joined him and formed Dickinson and Co. which was taken over by John’s son, Clifton Graham Dickinson after the death of Edward. At the turn of the last century, John was living next door to Charles Sawbridge.
Richard Johnson J.P. C.C. b. Ince (1852- 14.4.1906) - Cut the first sod
Richard was born, lived and died in Ince. He was a mineral water manufacturer, magistrate for the Borough of Wigan and for the County of Lancaster, county councillor for the Ince-in-Makerfield Division, member of the Ince Local Board and Chairman of the Wigan Liberal Association.
He had a colourful but successful political career, surviving a trial in 1894 for corrupt practices during an election, at which he was ultimately cleared. He withdrew from public life in the late 1890’s only to return and rise to the office of Mayor in 1902
He was at various times President of the National Union of Mineral Water Manufacturers
He died at his home, Ince Hall and is buried in Ince Cemetery
William Winnard b. Pemberton (1841-1921) - Contractor
William Winnard was the contractor responsible for the groundwork at Springfield Park and was at one period one of the best-known builders and contractors in Wigan with “a high reputation in many parts of the country”.
His father was a well-known stonemason and builder in Wallgate and Pemberton and by his early 20’s William had a business on his own account in Wallgate, “engaged on important contracts in the town and further afield”. He built St. James Church, Poolstock, St. Matthew and St. James at Mossley Hill, Liverpool (both grade II listed), and “several churches in Wales and other places”. He was involved in various water schemes and he laid the tramways to Hindley and to Pemberton. He also had an interest in the stone quarry at Parbold with a Mr. Taylor. Unfortunately, in later years, his business speculations proved unsuccessful and he had some financial problems. William Winnard “held himself responsible for a large amount of money in the concern” at Springfield Park and along with his partner, John Weston, presented each of the directors with a spade to mark the occasion of cutting the first sod. William was declared bankrupt in February 1906, with debts of over £25,000.
The directors were all businessmen and part of a well connected social circle in Wigan at the time Springfield Park was built. As you read the notes below it will be come apparent how the families intertwined and how many links there was to Wigan Council:
John Green was married to Margaret Blaylock, whose father, Richard, was landlord of The Crofters public house until he met a violent death in 1894. Richard was also on a number of council committees. The establishment was then taken over by Charles Samuels, president of Wigan Wednesday Athletic and husband to Margaret’s sister, Mary.
Charles Sawbridge was married to Alice Dix, sister of former Mayor of Wigan (1894) and serving councillor, Daniel Dix.
William Rigby was married to Maria Trickett, daughter of serving councillor, Peter Trickett. He later became a councillor for Swinley Ward
In the early 1890’s, Edward Dickinson was lodging at 8 Wigan Lane with Ann Cowap. Ann was great-grandmother to former Wigan Athletic chairman and director, Ken Cowap. John Dickinson married Ann’s daughter, Emma Jane Cowap.
After his death, John Sawbridge’s wife, Emma, ran a guest house at 19 Swinley Lane where the residents in 1911 included Annie and Mary Worswick, sisters to John Worswick, one of the founding directors at Wigan Athletic. Another resident was Ann Blaylock Samuels, daughter of Charles and Mary Samuels. Ann married the famous rugby player, Lance Todd, a few months later.
The sixth director, Samuel Williams (not on the photograph) was born in 1850 at Montgomery, North Wales. He ran a grocers shop at 6, Hallgate, yards from The Crofters, until his death in 1903. He was called as a witness for the defence in Richard Johnson’s corruption trial.