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British Industrial History

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Abraham Woodiwiss

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Abraham Woodiwiss (1828-1884) of Benton and Woodiwiss, contractor


Sir Abraham Woodiwiss died at Mentone on Sunday morning. He had been suffering for some months from rheumatic gout and other ailments, and on Tuesday last he set out for Mentone, where he arrived on Saturday night. He was Mayor of Derby in 1881 and 1882, during which years the Royal Agricultural Show and the Church Congress visited the town. His great munificence and public spirit induced her Majesty to confer the honour of knighthood on him in April last year.

For several weeks past the deceased gentleman had been suffering from complication of diseases, and had been under the medical care of Dr. Carter Wigg. His health had, however, improved, and his medical attendant advised his removal to Mentone, believing that the warm and genial breezes of the Mediterranean would re-establish his health and vigour. Accordingly Sir Abraham, with Lady Woodiwiss, several members of their family, and Dr. Carter Wigg, left Derby for Mentone on Tuesday last. They arrived at their destination on Saturday, and in the evening a telegram was received by Mr. Councillor Woodiwiss announcing the fact, and that the patient was as well as could be expected. Between one and two o'clock on Sunday afternoon, however, a telegram was received in Derby stating that Sir Abraham had been taken suddenly ill, and had expired at half-past seven on Sunday morning. The mournful event caused the deepest sympathy for the family, and very widespread grief throughout the town of Derby, where he was highly respected by all classes of the community.

The deceased gentleman was in the 56th year of his age, having been born in Shaw-lane, in the parish of Duffield, on the 2nd of October, 1828. His father rented a quarry at Holbrook Moor, near Belper, and at the age of 13 the deceased went to work in it. He afterwards became a stonemason, but by his natural ability and great energy he raised himself to a position of considerable wealth and affluence. He was first a sub-contractor, and then became a member of the firm of Benton and Woodiwiss, now one of the most eminent and best known firms of railway contractors in this country. This firm has been entrusted with great number of contracts by various railway companies. They made the line from Derby to Trent, the line between Carnforth and Wennington, the Duffield and Wirksworth line, the Hawes Branch Railway, and a part of the Settle and Carlisle line.

In 1866 Mr. Woodiwiss settled in Derby, and was a member of the Litchurch Local Board until the boundaries of the borough of Derby were extended, and Litchurch was incorporated in the municipal district of Derby. This occurred in 1877, and he was then elected as a representative of Litchurch Ward in the Derby Town Council. He became a member of the Derby School Board in 1877 ; guardian for St. Peter's parish in 1877 ; and also a director of the Derby Commercial Bank, All these appointments, and many others of a more private character, he retained until the time of his death.

In 1880 he was elected by the unanimous consent of the Town Council to the position of Mayor and chief magistrate. His year of office was signalised by events of great importance, and he displayed almost unlimited amount of munificence. The chief event of the year was the visit of the Royal Agricultural Society to Derby, on which occasion he entertained the Prince of Wales, and assisted in making the Royal Show one of the most successful in its annals. He decorated the town at his own expense, and besides entertaining a large number of visitors, also provided for the enjoyment of the general public.

At the close of his first term of office he was induced to comply with the general wish of the whole town, and undertook the duties of Mayor for a second term. The closing days of his office were marked by three most important events, viz., the opening of the Arboretum free to the public every day ; turning the first sod of a new recreation ground at Little Chester; and the opening of the Art Gallery, built by Mr. Bass upon the site in the Strand, given by Sir Abraham. In consideration of the valuable services he had rendered to the town, the Queen was graciously pleased to confer upon him the honour of knighthood 1882, a dignity upon which the whole town highly congratulated him. Sir Abraham was on the commission of the peace for the borough of Derby : he was upon most of the important committees of the Corporation ; and had done more than any other man to improve the thoroughfares and architectural appearance of the town. He leaves several sons and daughters to mourn their irreparable loss.

The body of the late Sir A. Woodiwiss is being brought from Mentone to Derby for interment.'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald - Wednesday 27 February 1884