Gregson, Matthew (DNB00)

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GREGSON, MATTHEW (1749–1824), antiquary, son of Thomas Gregson, shipbuilder, of Liverpool, previously of Whalley, Lancashire, was born at Liverpool in 1749. He was many years in business as an upholsterer, and when he retired in 1814 had amassed considerable property. Although of deficient education he took a deep interest in literature and science, and especially devoted attention to the collection of documentary and pictorial illustrations of the history of Lancashire. These he used in compiling his ‘Portfolio of Fragments relative to the History and Antiquities of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster,’ which he brought out in 1817 in three folio parts. The second and enlarged edition is dated 1824, and the third, edited and indexed by John Harland, came out in 1867. This work led to his election as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and to his honorary membership of the Newcastle-on-Tyne Society of Antiquaries. He was offered knighthood by the prince regent on presenting a copy of the book, but declined the dignity. The ‘Portfolio of Fragments’ remains a standard work of reference for local history and genealogy. He wrote often on antiquarian subjects in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’

He played an energetic part in developing the public institutions of his native town, especially the Blue Coat School, the Liverpool Library, the Royal Institution, Botanic Gardens, and Academy of Art. He introduced the art of lithography into Liverpool, and used it in his ‘Fragments.’

He was elected in 1801 a member of the Society of Arts, and in 1803 received the gold medal of that society ‘for his very great attention to render useful the articles remaining after public fires.’ He had shown that paint, varnish, and printers' ink could be produced from burnt grain and sugar (Trans. of Soc. of Arts, xxii. 185).

He was a most charitable and hospitable man, and his house, ever open to his acquaintances, acquired the title of ‘Gregson's Hotel.’ He was twice married, first to Jane Foster; and secondly, to Anne Rimmer of Warrington, and he left several children. He died on 25 Sept. 1824, aged 75, after a fall from a ladder in his library. A monument to his memory was afterwards placed in St. John's churchyard, Liverpool.

[Baines's Lancashire (Harland), ii. 381; Gent. Mag. 1824, pt. ii. p. 378, 1829, pt. ii. p. 652; Smithers's Liverpool, 1825, p. 410; Local Gleanings (Earwaker), 1875, i. 63, 87, 113; Picton's Memorials of Liverpool, 1875, ii. 311; Fishwick's Lancashire Library, p. 57.]

C. W. S.