1853, was presented to Wright, and left by him to the visiting justices of Salford prison. Since the demolition of that building it has been placed in the committee-room of Strangeways prison, Manchester.
Wright gave evidence before select committees of the House of Commons in 1852 on criminal and destitute juveniles, and in 1854 on public-houses. He was a promoter of the reformatory at Blackley, and worked on behalf of the Boys' Refuge, the Shoeblack Brigade, and the ragged schools of Manchester and Salford. He was strongly in favour of compulsory education.
Wright died at Manchester on 14 April 1875, and was buried in the churchyard of Birch-in-Rusholme. He was twice married, and had nineteen children.
[McDermid's Life of Wright, 1876, with photograph portrait; Chambers's Edinb. Journal, 12 May 1849, p. 296; Household Words, 6 March 1852, p. 553; Graphic, 8 May 1875 (portrait).]
WRIGHT, THOMAS (1810–1877), antiquary, was born at Tenbury in Shropshire on 23 April 1810. His father's family had long been settled at Bradford in Yorkshire, where they had been engaged in the manufacture of broadcloth. His grandfather, Thomas Wright, who for many years occupied a substantial farmhouse named Lower Blacup, at Birkenshaw, near Bradford, was a supporter of the Wesleyan methodists of the district. He knew John Wesley and John Fletcher of Madeley, and engaged in theological controversy with Sir Richard Hill. His chief publication was a satiric poem in defence of Arminianism entitled ‘A Modern Familiar Religious Conversation’ (Leeds, 1778; 2nd edit. 1812). He died on 30 Jan. 1801, having married twice, and leaving a family of thirteen children. He left in manuscript a detailed autobiography reaching down to 1797; this was published by his grandson the antiquary in 1864, under the title of ‘Autobiography of Thomas Wright of Birkenshaw.’
The antiquary's father, also Thomas Wright, was apprenticed to a firm of booksellers and printers at Bradford, and finally obtained employment with a firm carrying on the same business at Ludlow. He compiled ‘The History and Antiquities of Ludlow’ (2nd edit. 1826). He was always in poor circumstances, and died of cholera at Birmingham.
The antiquary was educated at King Edward's grammar school at Ludlow. His zeal for literary research showed itself in early youth, and attracted the attention of a well-to-do neighbour named Hutchings, who defrayed the expenses of his education at Cambridge. He was admitted to a sizarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 7 July 1830, Whewell being his tutor; he graduated B.A. in 1834 and M.A. in 1837. While an undergraduate he contributed antiquarian articles to ‘Fraser's,’ the ‘Gentleman's,’ and other magazines. He came to know John Mitchell Kemble [q. v.], who induced him to devote himself to Anglo-Saxon, and he formed a lifelong friendship with a younger student, James Orchard Halliwell (afterwards Halliwell-Phillipps) [q. v.], with whom he collaborated constantly in later years. The chief labour of his undergraduate life was an elaborate ‘History and Topography of Essex,’ which he was invited to undertake by the London publisher George Virtue. It formed one of a series of topographical compilations which had been inaugurated by a ‘History of Kent’ from the pen of the Shakespearean forger Henry Ireland [see under Ireland, Samuel]. Wright's ‘History of Essex’ was issued in forty-eight monthly parts between 1831 and 1836. It was illustrated with a hundred plates, and the completed work was published in two demy quarto volumes in 1836. The work was based on Morant's ‘History,’ but Wright supplied much new topographical, historical, and biographical information. He had many correspondents in the county, but he seems to have rarely visited it himself.In 1836 Wright left Cambridge to settle in London. He soon took a house at Brompton, and for nearly forty years plied his pen unceasingly. He recovered from manuscript and printed for the first time many valuable historical and literary records. Much of his work was hastily executed, and errors abound, but his enthusiasm and industry were inexhaustible. At first his efforts were mainly confined to mediæval literature. In 1836 an anthology of ‘Early English Poetry,’ prepared by Wright, was issued in black letter by William Pickering [q. v.], with prefaces and notes, in 4 vols. sq. 12mo. At the same time he was giving much aid to the French mediæval scholar Francisque Michel in his researches. In 1836 Michel and his friend Renaudière issued in Paris a French translation of a sketch by Wright of Early English literature; this they entitled ‘Coup d'œil sur les Progrès et sur l'État actuel de la Littérature Anglo-Saxonne en Angleterre.’ Wright's original English version was issued in 1839. In 1838 Michel and Wright combined to produce ‘Galfridi de Monemuta Vita Merlini: Vie de Merlin attribuée à Geoffroy de Monmouth.’ There followed