Transcribed from a Wigan Observer article dated 2 January 1935
Two Old Wigan Business Families
The name of Mr. J. Heron Eccles, a well known business man of Liverpool, whose death was announced in last Saturday’s Wigan Observer, may be little known to this generation of Wiganer’s, yet in the early part of last century the families of Eccles and Heron, to which he belonged played a very important part in the industrial development of Wigan for more than a generation, a correspondent writes.
Mr. Anthony Eccles resided in King St., Wigan, in the building which is now occupied as offices and shops, next to the County Playhouse, and extends as far as Leaders Buildings. The house was a very large one, in those days, particularly so for a town the size of Wigan.
(The buildings are now part of the town's night club scene. In relation to the photograph below the County Playhouse is now the Ibiza Bar, the Leaders Buildings is Jaks Nightcub, and the Reef Bar is at 29-33 King St, where the residence of Mr. Eccles once stood.)
Gardens and Toll Bar in King St.
In addition to the house there was a large stabling accommodation and coach house behind, whilst at the front on the opposite side of the street, were beautiful gardens on which now stand the United Methodist Church and Victoria Buildings.
The house and gardens the writer goes on to say, were purchased about 1862 by the late Mr. Councillor William Melling JP of Birkett Bank House, the father of Mr. Samuel Melling JP, and later a portion of this land was sold to the trustees for the erection of the present church and schools.
In the early days when Mr. Eccles resided at the house, the toll bar was next to it, opposite where the church stands; and on the other end of the house was the entrance to Faggy Fields, which covered the whole of the ground now occupied by the railway company.
Warehouse for Cotton Goods
Mr. Eccles was a large cotton spinner in the town, his warehouse standing on the land where Leaders Buildings are, and he brought his cotton goods from the mills to be ready for sale. The warehouse was situated on the other side of the toll bar, which could be approached from Chapel lane and Rodney street, without passing through the bar.
There were four of the Eccles family living in Wigan at that time, all of whom resided in King St.- Anthony Eccles, William Roper Eccles, Richard Eccles, and Thomas Hodson Eccles. The two last-named gentlemen represented the old Scholes Ward and All Saints Ward in the Wigan Town Council for many years. Mr. Anthony Eccles in later years removed to Walthew House, Pemberton, and died there in 1889, aged 65 years.
Owner of Old Sovereign Mills
Mr. John Spear Heron was also a cotton spinner in Wigan, and at one time was the owner of the Old Sovereign Mills in Warrington Lane, the correspondent adds. Mr. Heron, at one time resided in a commodious house in the mill yard. There was a custom among many business men in those days, to live as near as possible to their works.
On the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act in 1835, the Borough of Wigan was included in what was known as “Schedule A” – Boroughs with a Commission of the Peace. The style of the corporate body was “Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Wigan.”
Mr. Heron was elected the first Mayor of Wigan under this act on 1st January 1836, and held the office until 9th November of that year. Mr. Heron’s son, Mr. Arthur Heron, resided in one of the two houses which stood at the top of Standishgate. These two houses, it will be remembered were used for the Girls’ High School until new buildings were erected.
The Sovereign Mills in later years were purchased by the late Mr. Thomas Knowles, who was one of the Members of Parliament for Wigan from 1874 to 1883. These mills were unfortunately burned down in 1884.
Graham Taylor 2023
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