Local Historian & Old Fart |
|Posted - 09/01/2008 : 07:28
Here's the relevant bits of research.. Sorry for the length. What was going on was that when Billycock formed the partnership with his sons it stipulated shares in the partnership and when William Metcalfe died, Elizabeth asked for her share. The partnership had been over-valued on inception and it turned out that Elizabeth's share on paper was more than the partnership was worth in total so when she got her settlement it banked the firm.
THE FALL OF THE BRACEWELL EMPIRE. (3)
One of the main reasons for writing this series of articles has been to give other local historians as much information as I can about the Bracewell families. I know that the lists of names and dates I have been giving are mainly of interest to other scholars and the family but before we leave Billycock’s family I want to tell you what happened to the children.
Let’s start with Ellen Metcalfe’s children. William Metcalfe(1838) married Elizabeth Forrest(1844), I know nothing about her family but have a note of her death on the 10th of February 1916. Her eldest son, William was born in 1872 at Calf Hall. He entered the clergy and eventually became vicar of St James’ at Doncaster. Canon Bracewell as he later became, died on the 18th August 1954 aged 82 years. He married Hannah and I know of one child, Mary Forrest Bracewell. Elizabeth Forrest had two more daughters; Edith Metcalfe Bracewell was born in 1876 and Ellen in 1878, I know nothing about them.
Ellen’s second child was Annie Smith Bracewell(1842), she married Smith Smith who was a solicitor in Colne. They had three children; Harold was born in Colne and all I know about him is that he married twice to Edith Hanson and Ellen Threlfall. Then came Mary Jane(1843) who died in Gargrave on the 17th of April 1925. Ellen Metcalfe Bracewell was born on the 23rd of December 1844. She married Joseph Mercer and they had three sons; Edward John and George of whom I know nothing.
Christopher George was born on the 5th of October 1846 and died on the 11th of September 1889 at Bank House in Barlick. He married Jane Smith(1843) and she died at Bank House on the 23rd of October 1895. They had five children; Herbert Smith(1878) who died at Sowerby Grange, Northallerton on the 19th of January 1906 and is buried in Sigston churchyard. George Edwin born 1879. Bertha Elsie was born on the 26th of May 1886. There were two more children: William and Christopher Frank.
Ellen’s sixth child, Nancy Metcalfe was born on the 2nd of August 1848. She married Joseph Henry Threlfall, wine merchant and they lived at Moorlands, Foulridge. Their first child Ellen married Harold Smith. Next was Reginald of whom I know nothing. Then came J Maurice whose address at one time was The Rock, Thornton in Craven. Mabel Threlfall married Edward Carr of Langroyd. Arthur, Margery, Nina and Richard fall from my knowledge.
Ellen’s last two daughters were Margaret Smith Bracewell born 15th of November 1850 and Sarah Elizabeth born on the 29th of October 1852. These were the two daughters who retired to Horton House and as far as I know remained unmarried. In 1891 there is a Lily Bracewell living with them but she may have been a visitor.
After Ellen died in 1860 William(1813) married Mary Whitaker(1823) on the 5th of June 1861. After William’s death Mary lived at Newfield Edge as the tenant of the Fawcett family until her death on the 7th of May 1901. The tenancy was taken over by her daughter Ada and her husband Joseph Slater who lived there with the mother from 1887. They eventually bought the house in 1914. Mary Whitaker had two children: Julia Martha was born on the 20th of September 1862 and died young in 1875. Ada Whitaker was born on the 20th of April 1865 at Newfield Edge, she married Joseph Slater in 1887 and they had two children: Hilda Mary who married William Greenwood of Burley in Wharfedale, they had one child to my knowledge, Cecily Deborah. I have a record from America of a son of Hilda’s, Robert Slater but know nothing of him.
Right, you know as much as I do now. I like the fact that Ada Whitaker survived them all at Newfield Edge. 94 years is a good age!
We need to take one last look at Christopher(1846). Bank House has been demolished now but from what I have seen it was an imposing house which could be seen from all over Barlick. Christopher built it in 1878 using the same architect that his father had employed for the new Wesleyan Chapel. What strikes me is that as it was being built, and bearing in mind that the Bracewell family were financing the new Wesleyan chapel, it must have seemed to be one more evidence of the power and position of the family. The Father and son lived well, rode about their business in carriages and expected and received exaggerated respect from all they met. Seven years later the whole house of cards collapsed and Christopher was plunged into a financial nightmare. What must he have thought as he watched Long Ing Shed being built and Calf Hall being planned as he reflected on where it had all gone wrong?
BRACEWELL V BRACEWELL. 05/06/1888
Transcript of an Order of trial of action in this case drawn up by Messrs. Hall, Baldwin and Weeks, Solicitors of Clitheroe.
In the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division. Mr Justice Kekewick.
Bracewell V Bracewell. Order on Trial of Action.
Hall, Baldwin and Weeks. Clitheroe.
1886. B 4107
In the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division. Mr Justice Kekewick. Tuesday the 5th day of June, 1888.
Mr Roll, Registrar.
BRACEWELL V BRACEWELL.
THIS ACTION coming on for trial this day before this court in the presence of Council for the Plaintiff and for the Defendants and upon hearing the Pleadings in this Action Letters to the administration of the Personal Estate of William Metcalfe Bracewell granted on the 26th July 1881 to Elizabeth Bracewell, Widow, probate of the will of William Bracewell granted on the 18th day of August 1885 to Christopher George Bracewell, Smith Smith and Joseph Henry Threlfall and an order dated the 28th July 1886 made in an action of re. Bracewell deceased of Barnoldswick versus Smith 1886 B No, 4929. in the Chancery of the County Palatine of Lancaster a notice to admit certain documents as evidence dated 13th February 1888 and the admissions thereof signed by the solicitors for the Defendants Smith Smith and Joseph Henry Threlfall and the documents therein referred to and the admission thereof signed by the solicitors for the Defendant Christopher George Bracewell. A notice to admit certain facts dated the 17th of February 1888. And the admissions thereof signed by the Solicitors for the Defendants Smith and Threlfall and the admissions thereof signed by the Solicitors for the Defendant Christopher George Bracewell. Two notices to admit certain documents as evidence dated respectively the 22nd of February 1888 and the 26th March 1888. And the admissions thereof signed by the Solicitor for the Plaintiff and the documents therein referred to read and upon hearing the evidence of Elizabeth Bracewell, Matthew Watson and James Hodgson on their examination taken orally before this court this day and upon reading the exhibits marked MW1 and MW2 and the account marked Account 2 produced to the said Matthew Watson on such examinations and the accounts marked No. 3&4 produced to the said James Hodgson on such examination and upon hearing what was alleged by the Council for the Plaintiff and for the Defendants.
THIS COURT DOTH ORDER that the following enquiries be made that is to say:-
1. AN ENQUIRY what was the amount of the share of William Metcalfe Bracewell deceased in the partnership businesses of Cotton Spinners and Manufacturers and Corn Millers or other businesses carried on by William Bracewell and Sons of Barnoldswick of York and Burnley in the County of Lancaster on the 10th of June 1880 the date of his death. [pencilled note:- ‘Account of W M Bracewell’s share in partnership businesses.]
And this court doth declare that the amount of his said share was and still is charged on the assets of the said partnership businesses as they existed on the 10th June 1880.
And it is ordered that the following further enquiries be made that is to say:-
2. AN ENQUIRY what were the assets of the said partnership businesses on the said 10th of June 1880 and how have they been dealt with by the defendant Christopher George Bracewell either alone or jointly with any other person or persons and of what they now consist.
3. AN ENQUIRY to what Real Estate the said William Bracewell deceased was at the time date of his death entitled situate without the jurisdiction of the County Palatine Court. And such last mentioned enquiry is not to be proceeded with except under the direction of the Judge in person. Pencilled note: ‘Not proceeded with’]
AND THIS COURT doth not think fit to give any costs to either party up to and including the trial of this action.
AND THE FURTHER CONSIDERATION of this action and the question of the subsequent costs thereof are reserved and the parties are to be at liberty to apply as they may be advised.
[Transcribed by SCG, 27 January 2004] BRACEWELL V BRACEWELL SMITH AND THRELFALL
Transcription of an article in the Nelson Times, Saturday June 9th 1888.
A BARNOLDSWICK CHANCERY SUIT.
Bracewell versus Bracewell, Smith and Threlfall.
On Tuesday [5th June] the case of Bracewell versus Bracewell, Smith and Threlfall came up for hearing in the Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice Keckawich. Sir Charles Russell, QC, MP and Mr O L Clare appeared for the Plaintiff, Mrs Elizabeth Bracewell. Mr Bigham QC and Mr Samuel Hall and Mr Farewell were for the Defendant Mr C G Bracewell and Mr Neville QC, MP and Mr Swinfen Eady appeared for the Defendants Smith and Threlfall.
Sir Charles Russell, in opening the case, said it was an action to recover certain sums of money, about £21,000 odd, from the defendants in respect of her late husband’s share in the business of William Bracewell and Sons. The Plaintiff was the widow of the late William Metcalfe Bracewell who was a partner in the firm of William Bracewell and Sons, Cotton Spinners and Manufacturers and Corn Millers of Barnoldswick and Burnley. About September 1879 a partnership was entered into between William Bracewell, the father, and William Metcalfe Bracewell and Christopher George Bracewell his sons, but no written articles of Partnership were ever executed. It was however verbally agreed that the business and assets should belong to the partners in the proportion of five-tenths to Mr William Bracewell, three-tenths to Mr William Metcalfe Bracewell and two-tenths to Christopher George Bracewell and the partnership was carried on on that footing until 10th of June 1880. He [WMB] died intestate leaving a widow (the present plaintiff) and three children. His widow took out Letters of Administration to his estate. In May of the following year the amount of capital of Mr William Metcalfe Bracewell’s share was ascertained to be £19,509-9-8 and that amount was entered in the books of the firm to the credit of an account named ‘William Metcalfe Bracewell’s estate in account with William Bracewell and Sons’ Then the Plaintiff applied to the firm for payment of her share and threatened proceedings against them for the recovery of it. However it was ultimately agreed to that if the Plaintiff would not press the firm for immediate payment Mr William Bracewell personally guaranteeing the payment of the amount with interest at the rate of £3 per cent per annum until paid, and on the 6th of July 1882, four promissory notes payable on demand for £4,335-8-10, £4,335-8-10, £4,335-8-10 and £6,503-3-3 respectively were signed by him and given to the Plaintiff as collateral security for the sum of £19,509-9-8 the amount of her late husband’s share in the business. [Making the total capital of the partnership £65,000] Mr William Bracewell made his will on the 1st of March 1885 and appointed the defendants executors and trustees of his real estate. On the 13th of the same month he died and his will was duly proved by the defendants. Various sums had from time to time been paid by the firm before and since the death of Mr William Bracewell in respect of his deceased son’s shares but all those sums had been insufficient to keep down the accruing interest and over £21,000 due and owing to the plaintiff from the firm. Since the death of Mr William Bracewell, the plaintiff had repeatedly applied to Mr Christopher George Bracewell as surviving partner and to the defendants Mr Smith Smith and Mr Joseph Henry Threlfall as executors for payment of the above amount. She had also demanded payment of the promissory notes but her demands had not been complied with. Since the death of his father, Mr Christopher Bracewell had continued to carry on the business alone. On 9th April 1886 an action was commenced in the Chancery of the County Palatine of Lancaster by Christopher George Bracewell against Smith Smith and Joseph Henry Threlfall and also Mrs Mary Jane Bracewell (two of the beneficiaries under the will of William Bracewell) for the administration of the trusts of the will and on the 28th of July 1886 an order was made for the trusts of the will and various accounts and enquiries were directed together with a reference to Chambers, to appoint a Receiver. In conclusion the learned council said in point of law he did not think there could be very much controversy or matter for controversy between them. When Mr William Metcalfe Bracewell died it could not be doubted that the firm was liable to his representatives for his interest in the firm, and the interest was fixed by Mr William Bracewell, as he would show by the evidence of Mr Matthew Watson, at the figure of £19,509-9-8. He submitted that the onus was on the defendants to show that this lady, who represented her own interests and the interests of her infant children, had done something which operated as a release of the liability of Christopher George Bracewell.
MRS ELIZABETH BRACEWELL examined by Sir Charles Russell said that she was sent for by her father-in-law in May 1882, in consequence of a letter which Mr Hodgson, her solicitor, had sent to him relative to the money due to her in respect of her husband’s share in the business. He showed her the letter and asked if she had authorised Mr Hodgson to write it. He was in a great rage and offered to give the whole thing up and told her to take it into her own hands and manage the best way she could. She was leaving the office and he called her back and asked her to get ready to go with Mr Eastwood, the book-keeper to Burnley, and they by the next train went to see Mr Matthew Watson with respect to this matter. Mr Bracewell said he was as much responsible for the children’s interest as she was, but she objected to that. It was not so and she was solely interested. She was not present when the promissory notes were signed. She saw Mr Bracewell the following evening and he said she had asked for nothing that was not right, and added that he had made ‘All square’. He would give her the notes. He said he had given her a double surety on his private estate as well as upon the Partnership and said she might have them made up in shares for the children and one for herself and then if she required she could be paid out. Between the time of her husband’s death and the time when she received the promissory notes Mr William Bracewell sent her £5 a week for household expenses.
Cross-examined by Mr Bigham she said that Mr Bracewell advised her to go to Mr Watson.--- Mr Bigham: Do you mean to say that after you got these promissory notes you believed that nobody but your father-in-law was liable to you in respect of this money? Just let me read it to you: ‘I promise to pay on demand to Elizabeth Bracewell on her order the sum of £6,503-3-3, being part of the sum of £19,509-9-9 due from me to my late son William Metcalfe Bracewell on the day of his death which occurred on the 10th of June 1880 the said sum of £6,503-3-3 to bear interest after the rate of five per cent per annum payable half-yearly.’ Did you read it when you got it? The Witness: ‘Yes’ --- Do you mean to tell my Lord that after these negotiations with the father you regarded the firm, or Christopher George Bracewell, who was not the monied man, as in any way liable to you in respect of the money which your husband had left in the firm? ‘Yes, I always considered the firm responsible.’
In reply to Mr Neville the witness said that she claimed the promissory notes as security for what was due to her husband from the firm of William Bracewell and Sons, and also from the separate estate of William Bracewell.
MR MATTHEW WATSON, auctioneer of Burnley said he examined the books of Bracewell and Sons and found that William Metcalfe Bracewell’s share in the concern was three-tenths. No stock was taken at the time the partnership was entered into. He saw Mr Bracewell Senior on the Manchester Exchange and spoke to him about giving security to Mrs Bracewell. He was very indignant and said that all he could do was make his private property available as well as the partnership and he was willing to give the promissory notes as collateral security, and the whole business was carried out along those lines. He (the witness) never heard of such a thing as Mr Bracewell buying his late son’s interest in the firm. He asked for an account to see how matters stood and he received one on the 9th of December 1881. He found £19,599-9-8 due to William Metcalfe Bracewell at the time of his death.
Cross examined he said he was first called in for the purpose of ascertaining the value of the personal estate for administration purposes. He examined the ledger. The ledger was only posted up to the year 1878.
In reply to Mr Neville he said the sum of £22,816-5-6 included £10,000 which the late William Metcalfe Bracewell paid into partnership.
Mr James Hodgson was called and said he acted as solicitor for the Plaintiff. She instructed him to write the letter referred to, to Mr Bracewell, demanding security.
This concluded the case for the Plaintiff.
Mr Bigham, on behalf of the defendant Bracewell pointed out that even on the case presented to the court by the Plaintiff, it was perfectly obvious that an account must be taken. His Lordship agreed with that and observed that he could not say anything which would justify him in holding that there was an account stated binding Christopher George Bracewell.
Mr Justice Keckawich, in giving judgement said that his opinion on the matter of law was that in order to fix the amount due to the estate of a deceased partner from the surviving partners, both those surviving partners must concur in taking the account though one of them might depute the duty to the other. In this case there was no sufficient evidence to make it a right conclusion that Mr William Bracewell, though the senior partner, and holding by far the largest share, and being apparently of a despotic disposition, had authority to bind Christopher George Bracewell, the junior partner. That being his decision however, he hoped the parties would have the good sense to come to some understanding as to what amount they ought to part with because, there having been no stocktaking at the commencement of the partnership and there having been no stocktaking at the death of Mr William Bracewell, but the whole thing as being between relations was conducted in a somewhat loose manner, the expense of taking the account would be very great and would not fall unfortunately on one party alone. Mr C G Bracewell would suffer and Mrs Elizabeth Bracewell would suffer. After some discussion his Lordship directed an account to be taken.
[Transcribed by SCG, 28 January 2004 from a photocopy given to him by Geoff Shackleton.]
Reactions on reading this account.
Anyone who has studied William Bracewell (Snr.) and his business dealings will recognise the picture painted by the judge when he referred to Wm. as despotic. The account by Elizabeth of his summoning her to his office and his rage and Matthew Watson’s account of Bracewell’s ‘indignation’ when approached on the Exchange are telling clues to the man’s character. My overall impression of Bracewell after 25 years chasing him down the avenues of time is that he was ferociously competitive, had no compunction as to who he crushed in pursuit of his goals (see his relationship with his cousins, William, Christopher and Thomas of Coates) and only felt comfortable when he had complete control. One gets the feeling that the formation of William Bracewell and Sons in 1879 wasn’t his preferred option but doubtless his advancing years and pressure from the sons persuaded him.
The crucial factor in all this is the sudden death the following year, 1880, of his most able son William Metcalfe. This forced William Senior to fully engage with the partnership because he must have known that Christopher George was, by all contemporary accounts and other evidence, not fit to manage the business as sole partner. Because William Metcalfe died suddenly and had no will, his widow had clear rights to his estate and this, in effect, made her senior partner over Christopher in terms of her share of the business. However, notwithstanding the fact that she was now a legal entity in her own right, it was inconceivable under the mores of society at that time that she could become active in the business.
It seems quite clear that Elizabeth realised this and her preferred course was evidently to get out of the partnership and pursue a life more oriented to her son, the clergyman, than her abrasive (and not very attractive) father in law and his wastrel son. The problem in this for the partnership was that in order to pay her out, the partnership would lose three-tenths of its capital. I have a small problem here which may be a telling commentary on the partner’s attitude to accurate book-keeping. If there was no accounting of the stock of the partnership on the formation of the partnership and at William Snr’s death, how could the remarkably precise sum of £19,599-9-8 be arrived at?
Another telling point could be the statement that William Senior was giving her £5 a week housekeeping money from the time her husband died up to when she initiated her demands for some form of security to buttress her legacy. I have to use my imagination here but my reading of it is that William Senior, acting as the despot, was so dismissive of his daughter in law’s rights that he simply paid her £5 for housekeeping each week and expected her to keep quiet, just as every other female in the family had to do. What he didn’t allow for was the fact that Elizabeth was no longer a chattel of her husband but a property owner in her own right. Whatever the route, Elizabeth was aware of this and the trouble boiled over in May 1882 when she instructed her solicitor to write to William Senior about the security of her legacy. In passing I note that her view of the power structure in the partnership was such that the letter was sent to her father-in-law, there is no mention of Christopher being involved even though he held 20% of the partnership.
In order to fully understand what was going on we have to take a broader view of conditions in the partnership and the wider textile trade at the time. Forty years after building his first mill, William Senior was still pursuing his trade in the same manner he started. In truth, his enterprise which still spun yarn and wove on the same premises was behind the times. It is significant that the from the Long Ing Mill Company formation in 1888 and the Calf Hall Shed Company in 1889 specialisation in weaving, modern engines and plant and letting space to tenants was the route to profit. Bracewell and Sons had none of these advantages. In 1879 they bought a large share of the Ingleton Coalfield and invested money there. There is evidence that apart from any financial strain, this was not a good investment because the coal was poor quality, the Butts Mill chimney had to be extended in order to burn it. We have no evidence of how well Bracewell coped with the hard times between 1861 and 1870 during the Cotton Famine but they never diversified into alternative staple like Slaters at Clough and I would hazard a guess that they came out of that period weakened financially.
I think there might be another factor as well. William Senior was omnivorous when it came to acquisitions. His search for control over both water resources and the town itself led him into land purchases. The Corn Mill was part of this strategy. In 1884 he started to build a new gasworks for the town. We have mentioned the Ingleton coalfield. There was also his foundry, engineering and weaving shed interests in Burnley. There must have been heavy reliance on the bank to finance these holdings and after the death of William Metcalfe I have no doubt that the astute manager of the Craven Bank was following the same policy as his predecessors and taking account of the quality of the management as well as the assets they held for security. From their point of view, here we had a man running an old-fashioned business, suffering the loss of an able son, advanced in years and with a successor who they would know to be unsound. It would surprise me if there wasn’t pressure to reduce borrowings from 1879 onwards. Indeed, this may have been a factor in the creation of the partnership in the first place.
However we speculate, it seems fairly clear that from 1880 onwards the biggest threat to the business was Elizabeth because of her power to demand her money. Everything that William Senior did after that looks like a rearguard action to prevent this happening. The promissory notes were an effort to reassure her of the security of her investment but she would most likely be getting contrary advice. What part in all this was played by William’s sons in law, Smith Smith and Joseph Henry Threlfall? They were certainly not acting in concert with Christopher George in this action.
Finally, there is the matter of the immensely complicated 1885 will of William Senior which shouts of control reaching beyond the grave. He had every intention of being as great a despot in death as he had been in life. I can’t help thinking of classic Greek tragedy when I survey this family. The year after this action Christopher George is dead. The sale of 1887 indicates that the pressure from the bank was so great that a fire sale was the only way out. After CG’s death the bank seems to have acted as liquidator. It was they who sold Butts and Wellhouse mills. What we are looking at in this court case is the dying throes of a once great enterprise brought down in the end by a combination of bad luck, autocratic behaviour and sheer bad management. I wonder how much Elizabeth got in the end? What did the unmarried daughters living comfortably in Horton House make of all this? I can’t help reflecting that the house was their mother’s property which she brought into the marriage but on her death it passed solely to William Senior. The daughters had no security of tenure under the 1885 will and if William Senior’s personal estate collapsed even the two trusts he formed couldn’t have saved them. Sleepless nights all round I reckon.
I have to insert my rider, the account above is based on my knowledge as I write. The research will amplify and clarify all this. However, I think we are close to a broad truth, it is only the details that will change.
SCG/28 January 2004
Stanley Challenger Graham
stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk