Henry Loveridge and Co.
Colonel Henry Loveridge
Loveridge appears to have been a man of considerable charm and great energy, a jovial and clubbable man. Jones says of him: "Mr. Loveridge had a merry, jocular way and was always happy and cheerful; he could tell pleasant anecdotes better than most me and was a general favourite". His commercial career was very successful. He seems to have guided his company through the ups and down of the Victorian economy and to have made a very substantial living out of it. Jones also says of him: "Henry Loveridge was a gentleman of great tact and ability as a commercial traveller. ... He possessed courteous and gentlemanly manners, was quick to see the wants of customers, and by his tact could get orders where others failed. By his straightforward dealing he won the confidence and friendship of all with whom he came in contact".
His lifestyle certainly suggests great wealth. His obituary says that he lived in Claregate, Tettenhall, for many years, where he attended Tettenhall parish church, St Michael and All Angels, and "contributed very handsomely towards the restoration of the edifice". (Presumably this refers to the rebuilding of the south aisle in 1883. But Loveridge may, by then, already have moved away). The 1871 census finds him living at Stockwell End and describes his as "Japan manufacturer employing 420 persons". There is no mention of his wife and only three living-in servants are mentioned. The subscribers list to Veall's Old Houses in Wolverhampton (1889) includes "Henry Loveridge, Oulton, The Wergs, Wolverhampton" (and "S. Loveridge, Tettenhall"). These appear to be references to two different houses, one at Claregate, the other, presumably later, at The Wergs. (The address given in Veall may well be the address at which Loveridge resided at the time he subscribed to the book; but it is not that at which he lived when the book was published).
It is clear that he last lived at Elmsdale (also known as Elmsdale Hall) on Wightwick Bank, Tettenhall Road. That was a road full of the very large houses of the richest industrialists; and his friends, the Manders, would have been near neighbours. Whilst at Elmsdale he became a member of the congregation of Christ Church, Tettenhall Wood and his memorial is there.
The blue plaque on Elmsdale commemorates Sir John Morris, the Mayor who was knighted on Queen Victoria's visit to Wolverhampton in 1866. David Clare reports that Morris was recorded at Wightwick in the 1861 census, aged 39, with a wife and three children. In his living-in household he employed a governess, a cook, a housemaid and a nurse. He is described as an artificial manure manufacturer and farmer.
In the 1871 census he is still at Wightwick, with his wife and three children, and six servants including a housekeeper and groom. He was then described as a manufacturing chemist, artificial manure manufacturer, Knight and Justice of the Peace. But by the 1881 census he is in a smaller household in Bell Lane, Tettenhall. He may have downsized because the children are not living with him any longer. He is described as Alderman, Kt. JP and chemical manure manufacturer. The entry says that the number of his employees has been returned by other partners. David suggests this indicates he was not active in the business any more but was, perhaps, a sleeping partner.
Documents in the city archives' Nock and Joseland collection (call no. LO2) show that Loveridge bought the house from Sir John Morris in 1883, suggesting that it took Morris at least two years to sell the house. The documents refer to Nock's negotiation of a price for the fixtures in the house and include a letter from Henry Loveridge, written from the Newlyn Hotel, Bournemouth (where, one feels, he would have been more at the choice of his wife and niece than of himself) on the 21st October 1883. He mentions, among other things, the "awful mistake" of the gasoliers having been omitted from the valuation; and he also says that his offer to pay £25 was made "with a strong effort after some thought" since he considered that he had offered "a price for the place more than its intrinsic value". It is not impossible that he had given more than he thought the house was worth in order to help Sir John - Loveridge's near neighbour, Colonel Thorneycroft, was known to have done the same thing to help a friend. Loveridge also asks Nock to clear up the matter arising from the fact that Sir John "said something about a right of road in the corner of the field and which strikes me may if not settled now involve something like a law suit".
In 1914 Elmsdale was bought by Jesse Varley, from the proceeds of his embezzlement of the Borough Council. In 1919 it was acquired by a Miss Swift who changed the name to Viewlands. It kept that name when it became a residential home but went back to Elmsdale when it was converted into flats about 1990.
In these documents relating to the purchase of Elmsdale, Loveridge is referred to as Major Loveridge. Clearly his colonelcy in the Volunteers came later, perhaps upon his retirement.
The obituary refers to him as "an ardent Churchman" which does not necessarily mean that he did any more than attend services regularly and support the church's causes. What it mainly indicates is that he was a member of the Church of England and decidedly committed to that sect rather than to non-conformism. But that did not prevent many of his associates being non-conformists and it certainly did not mean that he was a Conservative. Indeed he was a committed Liberal. He was one of the founders of the North Street Liberal Club, a regular attender at their meetings, and a popular chairman of many of their functions; and he became its President. A few years before his death the club held a special dinner in his honour. A few months before his death they were going to hold another but by then he was too ill to attend. On his death the club held a special meeting, at which all of the leading Liberal figures of the town were present, to record their sense of loss. Their flag flew at half mast. But despite that party commitment he was never persuaded to stand for the town council or Parliament, though both seem to have been suggested. However he put a lot of energy into having a statue of C. P. Villiers erected in the town. Loveridge is said to have had a lifelong friendship with Villiers.
According to V. B. Beaumont, (The Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce 1856 - 1956, Wolverhampton, 1956), the Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce was set up as a result of a meeting called by Edward Perry, then the Mayor, and Henry Loveridge was among those present at the first meeting. When the chamber was established in 1856 Perry became the President and Loveridge was on the committee. Perry continued in office until 1864 after which the post became more or less annual. In 1865 the President was John Morton and in 1866 it was Henry Loveridge. He was also President of the Iron, Hardware and Metal Trades Pension Society and his obituary refers to him as "identified in every way with numerous commercial enterprises", though what these interests were, it does not say.
Jones says that "perhaps the department of public service he took the greatest delight in was the Volunteer movement. When this came into operation in 1860, Mr. Loveridge at once entered into the heart and soul of it, and infused life and energy into this patriotic movement. He remained connected with the force until he retired with the rank of colonel. He was known in his later years as Colonel Loveridge". Whilst the Volunteers may have had some sort of serious background, it seems to have been largely a social organisation, enabling the other ranks to have occasional camping holidays and the better off, such as Loveridge, Colonel Thorneycroft and Otto Reijlander, to get military titles, ride around on horses, get some shooting in and generally have a jolly good time. Of this aspect of Loveridge's life, his obituary adds: "It was he, we believe, who established the Working Men's Company, as it was called in the old days, and it was composed for the most part of artisans from the Merridale Works".
His public service also extended to his being a magistrate, where he sat on the Bilston bench. He also gave generously to many local institutions, including the hospital.
Loveridge was also interested, at least in his early days, in the theatre. His obituary records that "he prominently encouraged the dramatic art and on the occasion of Mr. Henry Irving's visit to Wolverhampton in 1890, the great actor presented him with a life ticket of admission to the performances at the Lyceum". (As Loveridge died in 1891, he probably made no use of this facility. Irving came to the Grand in 1903 and again in 1905 as part of his farewell tour. A welcoming ceremony was put on for him at the Town Hall but he collapsed in his room in the Star and Garter and the celebrations had to be abandoned. Irving died shortly afterwards).
But perhaps one of the most important things about Loveridge was his interest in art and design. Jones observed: "Mr. Henry Loveridge had a great love for the fine arts, especially in connection with design. For many years he was chairman of the School of Art and Design in Darlington Street. He saw the importance of drawing and designing, and took great personal interest in the young students and encouraged them by his kindly advice and practical help".
At the meeting of the North Street Liberal Club to mark Loveridge's death, Henry Hartley Fowler MP (later Sir Henry and afterwards Lord Wolverhampton) said that they were "indebted to him for the self-sacrifice and public spirit which he showed with reference to the Art Gallery. ... Although they were now justly proud of their Art Gallery and the Art School attached to it in close proximity, and of the admirable way in which the two institutions were working, they must not forget that it was an uphill fight and that two men alone - Col. Loveridge and the late Mr. C. Mander - bore the heat and burden of the day."
One of the mysteries of Wolverhampton's industrial history is how the important matter of design was handled. The School of Art and Design was certainly intended to be a place at which new designers would be trained. But it does not appear to have been notably successful in enrolling many students or establishing a wide reputation. Yet someone designed - whether well or badly - all the products which emanated from Wolverhampton. But so far we have come across almost no mention of designers. However there are extant six volumes (one in the City Archives, five at Bantock House) which are said to be Loveridge's design books. These books need further examination to determine exactly what their function was and whether or not they really were Loveridge's. It seems possible that Loveridge was his own designer.
Loveridge was clearly interested in design. "The Resources, Products, and Industrial History of Birmingham and the Midland Hardware District: a series of reports, collected by the Local Industries Committee of the British Association at Birmingham, in 1865" [ed. Samuel Timmins, pub. Robert Hardwicke, London, 1866] says much about Birmingham and little about the rest of the hardware area. But the report on Wolverhampton industry was contributed by Henry Loveridge. He concentrates almost exclusively on his own trade: tin plate working and japanning. The aspects of this report which are relevant here are his frequent references to design, references which no other reporter in this volume seems to make. He refers, for example, to the expansion of this trade caused, in part by "the great variety of novelties for household purposes, which have been introduced by the tin-plate worker - the name of these things is legion - and is daily increasing and will, of course, continue as long as the inventive faculty lasts. So long as one man fancies he can contrive and improvement in coffee pots, or a new way in which to get the greatest quantity of pudding out of the smallest-sized pan, so long it must go on." He then continues by pointing out that the "efforts to improve the forms and style of some of our domestic wares" were hampered by the faulty nature of the iron available; but now that better iron is available "the stamper is now enabled to produce those beautiful forms" which he could not produce before.
Later in this report Loveridge refers to some of the great artists who started out life as decorators of japanware. But he continues: "Notwithstanding these glorious exceptions, however, we doubt if any great progress has been made in the trade in the artistic direction; the men lack education in drawing and colour to such extent as to prevent great progress. It is true that ...the general spread of education ..has operated to eradicate some of the monstrosities which were produced, and which found favour, to some extent, with purchasers. We no longer see - to quote from one of our distinguished men of the day - "Abraham in red sacrificing Isaac in blue upon a green altar with a black ground". All has been changed with the customers for superior goods, and a demand has of late existed for goods of an opposite character. Colour, nature, or any imitation of her, however good, has for some time past been ignored, and superseded by a taste for the most colourless things, "gold colour" excepted. The hue of the metal which subdues the world has been the only popular one in the ornamentation of tea trays and waiters. However, we have just been told by one whose name in matters of art is just now much before the public, that "colours are coming in again", that the flat and insipid will soon give place to Tyrian dyes, and hues that emulate the rose, so that we shall again have a chance of encouraging our ornamenters who can paint flower and use colours judiciously."
He then refers to a general improvement in standards of sobriety and education. But: "Amongst the japanners a little more special education is desirable; for a man to excel in his art, he should know something of perspective, and more of colour. The great and invaluable benefits to be obtained from a School of Practical Arts are not yet thoroughly understood in this locality, or we should most certainly see more of the artisan children there".
Arguably we see here Loveridge the man interested in education for its own sake and for its commercial value; Loveridge the industrialist aware of the relationship between design and technology; and Loveridge the salesman, knowing that good design sells, but that what the design has to be good at is appealing to the current fashions.
Loveridge's reference to "one whose name in matters of art is just now much before the public" is an interesting one. It shows that he kept up with the great debate of Victorian times on the subject of decoration, ornamentation and industrial design. The person to whom he refers is probably one of the well known art critics; it is not very likely to have been the Wolverhampton man, George Wallis. But there can be no doubt that Loveridge must have been well acquainted with Wallis, not least in connection with the foundation of the art school. Art schools were dear to Wallis's heart and he was a great advocate of them. He certainly participated in the foundation of Wolverhampton's school and a printed circular, seeking support, still exists in which Wallis urges upon the people of Wolverhampton the importance of establishing such a school. Wolverhampton's art school may have been the first school of art which was not a government school.
When the Education Act 1870 came into force Loveridge was elected a member of the first School Board and was re-elected several times. He "always felt the greatest sympathy with this important means of elevating people by giving them a sound education".
The 1891 census records Henry Loveridge as being a "Colonel of Volunters and Manufacturer" and residing at a boarding house in Cockington, Devon. It is very likely that he was then for his health as he died at his home, Elmsdale, on the 11th February 1892, having been ill and confined to his house for some months. The funeral cortege went all the way from Tettenhall to the cemetery in Jeffcock Road. The officiating priest was the Reverend Danks of Christ Church, Tettenhall Wood, which Loveridge had usually attended. The internment was attended by a number of his workmen as well as by the Mayor and Alderman Mander and a wide selection of the industrial greats of the town. It is interesting to note that those listed as the chief mourners included "Messrs. Samuel Loveridge, H. Loveridge, ... S. Loveridge jun., C. Loveridge". These must have been his nephews and great-nephews. His wife, Sophia, is not listed as attending nor is his niece, Miss Mackenzie. The registers of births, deaths and marriages seem to show that Loveridge was married in 1868 and in 1889, suggesting that his first wife died and that he remarried very late in life. These registers need further investigation. Perhaps Sophia was ill and so did not attend but it was not uncommon for Victorian funerals to be all male affairs. Sophia was not to die until 15th May 1900, at the age of 85. The bronze memorial plaque to Henry Loveridge in Christ Church was erected by "his loving wife" but the plaque to Sophia was erected by "her loving niece", Miss Mackenzie. At the time of Henry Loveridge's death, the Liberal Club's resolution was to express their symapthy to Mrs Loveridge and Miss Mackenzie. Presumably Miss Mackenzie was Sophia's niece and lived with the Loveridge's, they having no children of their own. But it was the Loveridge side of the family which inherited the firm.
Jones said of Henry Loveridge: "His kindness of heart was proverbial; he lived to a good age and earned the respect of his fellow-townsmen. His motto might well be: 'Do noble things, not dream them all day long'".
The quotations on this page are taken, except where otherwise noted, from W. H. Jones "Story of the Tin Plate Workings etc.", Alexander and Shepheard Ltd, London, 1900.