Paul, George Onesiphorus (DNB00)

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PAUL, Sir GEORGE ONESIPHORUS (1746–1820), philanthropist, born in 1746 at Woodchester, Gloucestershire, was son of Sir Onesiphorus Paul (1706–1774), who was engaged largely in the manufacture of fine woollen cloths at Woodchester. The father introduced many improvements into the trade, and on 19 March 1748 took out a patent ‘for preparing cloths intended to be dyed scarlet, to more effectually ground the colours and preserve their beauty, and for other purposes.’ At Woodchester the first napping-mill established in that part of the country was set up by him. In August 1750 he entertained Frederick, prince of Wales, and his suite. In 1760 Paul was sheriff of Gloucestershire, and was knighted on presenting an address from the country to George III on his accession. On 3 Sept. 1762 he was created a baronet. He died on 21 Sept. 1774 at Hill House, Rodborough, Gloucestershire, and was buried in Woodchester churchyard. Paul was thrice married. By his first wife, Jane, daughter of Francis Blackburne of St. Nicholas, Yorkshire, he was father of the philanthropist.

The son matriculated at St. John's College, Oxford, on 8 Dec. 1763, and was created M.A. of Oxford on 12 Dec. 1766. He took the additional christian name of George in February 1780. He passed several years in travelling on the continent, living in 1767–8 at the courts of Brunswick and Vienna, and afterwards visiting Hungary, Poland, and Italy, and returning through France. In 1780, the year of his return, he was high sheriff of Gloucestershire; and it was then probably that the state of the county gaol and houses of correction began to attract his attention.

At the spring assizes held at Gloucester in 1783 Paul, as foreman of the grand jury, addressed the jurors on the subject of the prevalence of gaol fever, and suggested means of treating it, and of preventing it in the future (Thoughts on the Alarming Progress of the Gaol Fever, 1784, 8vo). At a meeting summoned by the high sheriff on 6 Oct., at the grand jury's request, he carried a motion that ‘a new gaol and certain new houses of correction’ should be built; and a committee, with Paul as chairman, was appointed to carry out the work (Considerations on the Defects of Prisons, 1784, 8vo, and 2nd edit. with a postscript).

Paul obtained a special act of parliament, and he himself designed a county gaol at Gloucester, with a penitentiary annexed. The building was opened in 1791. It had a chapel, a dispensary, two infirmaries, and a foul-ward in the upper story; workrooms were provided for debtors, and those who were unable to obtain work from outside were given it on application to a manufacturer, and were allowed to retain two-thirds of what they earned (Neild, State of the Prisons). At the same time five new bridewells were erected in various parts of Gloucester. In the preface to Paul's ‘Address to the Magistrates of Gloucestershire at the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions, 1789,’ with regard to the appointment of officers and the adoption of regulations for the government of the new prisons, he says that the proposed regulations had been ‘hastily drawn up for Mr. Howard's perusal previous to his very sudden departure on his forlorn tour to the east.’ Paul, though intimately acquainted with Howard's writings, does not seem to have known him personally.

He was interested in the Stroud society for providing gratuitous medical advice and medicine for the neighbouring poor, of which he became president in 1783. He was active in putting down ‘slingeing,’ or the embezzlement of, and fraudulent dealing in, cloth material. On 14 Aug. 1788 George III, Queen Charlotte, and their three eldest daughters, when on their way to Cheltenham, breakfasted at Hill House with Paul, and visited Obadiah Paul's cloth manufactory at Woodchester Mill. Paul was one of the party who accompanied Sir Walter Scott to the Hebrides in 1810. Scott called him, in a letter to Joanna Baillie (19 July 1810), ‘the great philanthropist;’ and in one to J. B. Morritt of Rokeby, Scott writes of

Sir George Paul, for prison-house renowned,
A wandering knight on high adventure bound.

Paul died on 16 Dec. 1820. On his death the baronetcy expired, but was revived on 3 Sept. 1821 in the person of his cousin, John Dean Paul, eldest son of Dr. Paul of Salisbury, and father of Sir John Dean Paul [q. v.] Besides the pamphlets mentioned above and some insignificant brochures, Paul published: ‘Proceedings in the Construction and Regulation of the Prisons and Houses of Correction of the County of Gloucester,’ 1810, 8vo.

[Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Foster's Baronetage and Alumni Oxon.; Fisher's Notes and Recollections of Stroud, pp. 122, 126, 178, 180, 182; Neild's State of the Prisons, lv. 244–9; Dict. of Architecture, 1858, vol. vi.; Reuss's Register of Authors, 1804, p. 176; Watt's Bibl. Brit. ii. 737; Fosbroke's Gloucestershire, i. 365; Gent. Mag. 1804, ii. 993; Lockhart's Life of Scott, 1845, pp. 197–9; Paul's Works; Rudder's New Hist. of Gloucestershire, 1779, pp. 841–3; Ann. Reg. 1774, p. 197; Woodcroft's Alphabetical Lists of Patentees.]

G. Le G. N.