Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Crossley, Francis

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CROSSLEY, Sir FRANCIS (1817–1872), carpet manufacturer and philanthropist, was born at Halifax on 26 Oct. 1817. His father, John Crossley, a carpet manufacturer at the Dean Clough Mills, Halifax, died 17 Jan. 1837, having had by his wife Martha, daughter of Abram Turner of Scout Farm, Yorkshire, a numerous family. Mrs. John Crossley died 26 Nov. 1854. The fifth and youngest son, Francis, was from the earliest age trained to habits of industry. He was sent to school at Halifax, but while still a schoolboy his pocket money was made dependent on his own work. A loom was set up for him in his father's mill, in which he wrought in the time not spent at school, and thus learnt the value of money. The carpet manufactory at Dean Clough was commenced by John Crossley in a very humble fashion, but it became, under the management of John Crossley, jun., Joseph Crossley, and Francis Crossley, who constituted the firm of J. Crossley & Sons, the largest concern of its kind in the world. Its buildings covered an area of twenty acres, and the firm gave employment to between five and six thousand persons. Its rapid growth takes its date from the application of steam power and machinery to the production of carpets. These had already been used somewhat extensively in the manufacture of other textile fabrics, and the Crossley firm saw at once the immense advantage that would accrue to them from their use in their own business. They acquired patents and then devised and patented improvements which placed them at once far in advance of the whole trade, and gave them for a length of time the absolute command of a description of carpet which has since been more extensively manufactured than any other. One loom, the patent of which became their property, was found capable of weaving about six times as much as could be produced by the old hand loom. The possession of this loom and the acquisition of other patents compelled the manufacturers of tapestry and Brussels carpets to throw their hand looms aside, and to apply to Messrs. Crossley for licenses to work their patents. Very large

sums thus accrued to them from royalties alone. In 1864 the concern was changed into a limited liability company, and with a view to increasing the interest felt by the employés in the working of the business, a portion of the shares in the new company were offered to them under favourable conditions, and were very generally accepted. Crossley was elected in the liberal interest as M.P. for Halifax, 8 July 1852; he sat for that borough until 1859, when he became the member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. On the division of the riding in 1868 he was returned for the northern division, which he continued to represent to the time of his decease. His generosity was on a princely scale. His first great gift to Halifax consisted in the erection of twenty-one almshouses in 1855, with an endowment which gave six shillings a week to each person. On his return from America in 1855 he announced his intention of presenting the people of Halifax with a park, and on 15 Aug. 1857 this park was opened. It consists of more than twelve acres of ground, laid out from designs by Sir Joseph Paxton, and, with a sum of money invested for its maintenance in 1867, cost the donor 41,300l. About 1860, in conjunction with his brothers John and Joseph, he began the erection of an orphan home and school on Skircoat Moor. This was completed at their sole united cost, and endowed by them with a sum of 3,000l. a year; it is designed for the maintenance of children who have lost one or both parents, and has accommodation for four hundred. In 1870 he founded a loan fund of 10,000l. for the benefit of deserving tradesmen of Halifax, and in the same year presented to the London Missionary Society the sum of 20,000l., the noblest donation the society had ever received. About the same period he gave 10,000l. to the Congregational Pastors' Retiring Fund, and the like sum towards the formation of a fund for the relief of widows of congregational ministers. He was mayor of Halifax in 1849 and 1850, and was created a baronet 23 Jan. 1863. After a long illness he died at Belle Vue, Halifax, 5 Jan. 1872, and was buried in the general cemetery on 12 Jan., when an immense concourse of friends followed his remains to the grave. The will was proved 27 May 1872, when the personalty was sworn under 800,000l. He married, 11 Dec. 1845, Martha Eliza, daughter of Henry Brinton of Kidderminster, by whom he had an only son, Savile Brinton, second baronet, M.P. successively for Lowestoft and for Halifax. He was the author of ‘Canada and the United States,’ a lecture, 1856.

[Drawing-room Portrait Gallery (1859), with portrait; Statesmen of England (1862), with portrait; Sir F. Crossley, Bart., Religious Tract Society, Biog. Ser. No. 1028 (1873); Smiles's Thrift (1875), pp. 205–17; Illustr. News of the World, vol. iii. (1859), with portrait; Times, 6 Jan. 1872, p. 12; Illustr. London News, lx. 55, 57, 587 (1872), with portrait; Family Friend, 1 March 1870, pp. 39–43, with portrait.]

G. C. B.