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John Hopkinson (1824-1902)

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John Hopkinson (1824-1902) of Wren and Hopkinson and John Hopkinson and Son

1856 of Wren and Hopkinson

Father of five distinguished sons — Dr. John Hopkinson, F.R.S.; Dr. Alfred Hopkinson, Principal of Owens College; Mr. Charles Hopkinson, C.E.; Dr. Edward Hopkinson, and Mr. Albert Hopkinson, M.A., M.B.


1902 Obituary [1]

We regret to announce the death, which took yesterday morning at hie residence, Inglewood, St. Margaret's Road, Bowdon, of Alderman John Hopkinson, C.E., one of the oldest members of the Manchester City Council, his only surviving senior in that body being Alderman John King. Mr. Hopkinson had been in failing health for a long time, but he retained sufficient strength to read accounts of the Jubilee celebrations of the Owens College, of which his eldest surviving son is Principal.

The late alderman, we understand, was a native of Manchester, and was born in 1824.

He was educated at the Moravian School at Fairfield.

The Rev. James Griffin, the first pastor of Rusholme Road Independent Chapel, in his interesting "Memoirs of the Past," published in 1883, remarks 'My greatly valued friend Mr. Hopkinson, the writer of the foregoing interesting statement, is the present and much honoured Mayor of Manchester. He has been connected with the Rusholme Road school from his early youth, and is still one of its superintendents, and a revered deacon of the church. His sons are well known, as eminently distinguished by their scientific and literary attainments, and their high positions in the universities of which they are members. The four sisters of Mr. Hopkinson were also among the most beloved and devoted teachers in the school, and I cannot deny myself the gratification of alluding to them."

Judging by the foregoing, the Hopkinson family must have been settled in Manchester during the early part of Mr. Griffin's pastorate at Rusholme Road, and we believe it is no secret that the late alderman owed no ordinary part of his early education to the ever excellent Sunday school connected with that well-known chapel.

He was apprenticed to Mr. Henry Wren, a friend of the family, then a millwright in Port-street, Piccadilly, subsequently head of the firm, of Messrs. Wren and Bennett, millwrights, machine makers, and engineers, of Dale-street, and Newton-street, Piccadilly.

Alderman Hopkinson continued as an employe with this firm until about tho close of the forties, when he was admitted a partner, the style of the firm eventually becoming Messrs. Wren and Hopkinson, engineers and machine makers, of the Altrincham street works, London Road, and Lower Temple-street works, Chorlton-on-Medlock.

About 1880 Mr. Hopkinson withdrew from this firm, and commenced with his son (Mr. Charles Hopkinson, C.E.), as a consulting engineer, under the style of Messrs. John Hopkinson and Son.

The late alderman's public life in Manchester has been, from beginning to end, one of the most charmingly amiable and consistent we can call to mind, in the annals of the city. He was first elected a member cf the City Council for St. Luke's Ward, Chorlton-on-Medlock, on November 1st, 1861, taking tho place of the late Alderman Alfred Watkin, then retired. At all the succeeding elections — 1864, 1887, and 1870, he was returned for the same ward without any opposition — an experience bearing ample testimony to the genuine high regard in which he was held by "all sorts and conditions of men," in that part of the city. In fact looking back to all the representatives of that ward, we very much doubt whether it ever possessed a mere painstaking, conscientious, and highly valuable representative than the very worthy gentleman who has just passed away.

On September 1872, he was elected, by 31 votes, an alderman of the City Council, to fill up the vacancy caused by the death of Alderman Robert Rumney, being then assigned to St. Ann's Ward.

On November 9, 1877, he was re-elected unanimously alderman, and then assigned to All Saints' Ward, a ward of which he continued alderman until his death.

In 1882 he was unanimously elected Mayor of Manchester, in succession to the late Sir Thomas Baker. The duties of this office he discharged for twelve months with a grace and dignity never surpassed by any of his predecessors. Some interesting local events happened during his mayoralty: Sundry steps were taken in promoting the Manchester Ship Canal Bill; he entertained the Envoys from Madagascar, Lord Wolseley, and the late Lord Shaftesbury; the City Art Gallery was opened by Lord Carlingford; a Royal Charter was granted authorising the Victoria University to confer medical degrees; the restoration of Manchester Cathedral was commenced; and (on July 14 1883) he laid the foundation stone of the new Museum at Queen's Park. As Chairman of the Arts Gallery Committee he was perhaps one of the best * all round " men the city possessed for such a post. In this respect he took a great deal more interest in the cultivation of art tastes among "the masses" than, we think, either the public or the ratepayers ever gave him credit for.

As a member of the Rivers Committee and the Watch Committee the late alderman was, as in everything else he took in hand, always thoroughly up to his work, and at the same time the very beau ideal of a true English gentleman. At the meetings of the Council his speeches were clear, concise, and well delivered, and invariably commanded the attention of all present. In every way we should say that the late Alderman Hopkinson was one of the most acceptable and popular men ever known in the Manchester City Council. The late alderman was connected with various local institutions. He was one of the Court of Governors of the Owens College, representing the Manchester City Council. He had likewise been a city magistrate, chairman of the Southern Hospital, a Commissioner of Inland Revenue, and a director of the Carnforth Iron Company. In politics be had always been a pronounced Liberal. As far as we can remember, Alderman Hopkinson was one of the last of a once famous lot of men (including the late Mr. George Hadfield, M.P. for Sheffield) who worshipped in Rusholme Road Chapel. To that chapel, as may be inferred from the quotation we have given from its first pastor (Rev. James Griffin), he was deeply devoted.

Without the slightest exaggeration it may be said that Rusholme Road Chapel, its schools, its congregation, past and present, and its other many pleasant associations formed the "chief joy" of Alderman Hopkinson's life. The very worthy alderman had five distinguished sons — Mr. John Hopkinson, F.R.S., a former senior wrangler, whose sad death while mountaineering in Switzerland was a great loss to electrical science; Dr. Alfred Hopkinson, Principal of Owens College; Mr. Charles Hopkinson, C.E.; Mr. Edward Hopkinson head of the electrical engineering department at Messrs. Mather and Platt's, Salford, and Mr. Albert Hopkinson, M.A., M.B., late house physician to the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

In the city generally no man will be more missed than the kind-hearted, pleasant-spoken, and genial-looking alderman whose loss we now deplore.

The funeral of the late Mr. Alderman Hopkinson will take place on Monday, the 17th inst. A memorial service, conducted by the Rev. Dr. Mackennal and the Rev. Dr. M'Laren, will be held at the Bowdon Downs Congregational Church, Altrincham, at 2:30, and the interment will take place subsequently at the Southern Cemetery. A train will leave Oxford Road Station at 1:55 for the convenience of those desiring to attend the service, and trains will return from Altrincham at 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Reference to the death of Alderman Hopkinson was made at the City Police Court this morning. Dr. Woodcock, the presiding magistrate, said that before commencing the ordinary business of the court, it appeared to be one's melancholy duty to make some reference to tho death of Alderman Hopkinson, who for nearly twenty years occupied a seat on the bench, and whose death was announced in the papers this morning. It would be a very difficult matter in a few words to give expression to the loss to the city. Alderman Hopkinson had occupied the position of Mayor of the city and was connected with Owens College. He had also the distinction of being parent of five distinguished sons. The removal of such a man could not be heard without deep regret, and on behalf of his colleagues and himself, added Dr. Woodcock, he had to express their deep regret at his removal. Mr. T. W. Harris, on behalf of the legal profession, endorsed all that had been said by Dr. Woodcock as to the loss sustained by the city in the death of Alderman Hopkinson.


1902 Obituary [2]

. . . . in 1840 was bound apprentice to Wren and Bennett, millwrights and engineers, of Manchester. He soon obtained the confidence of his employers, and when only nineteen years of age was entrusted with the entire charge of the erection of the India Mills, Stockport, built to hold 70,000 spindles and 1,000 looms. He personally designed the buildings, set them out and supervised the making and erection of the ironwork and gearing.

After the completion of his indentures he remained in the employment of the firm until 1848, when he became a partner. He remained a partner, the firm becoming later Wren and Hopkinson, until the end of 1881.

He then retired to enter on consulting practice with his third son, Charles, who had been his assistant from 1873. The firm of Wren and Hopkinson and its predecessors had for many years acted as millwrights to Chance Brothers, and in 1856 was consulted by the late Sir James Chance as to machinery for grinding and polishing the lenses required for his dioptric lights.

Mr. Hopkinson designed a complete equipment of machinery for this purpose which attained the desired object with most satisfactory results.

In 1868 he was consulted by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company as to better means of handling wagons and goods in their goods stations. . . . . [more]


1902 Obituary [3]

JOHN HOPKINSON was born in Manchester on 24th February 1824.

At an early age he showed much inclination to mechanical pursuits and aptitude in constructive work. In 1840 he was apprenticed to the firm of Wren and Bennett, engineers and millwrights, of the London Road Iron Works, Manchester, and rapidly earning the complete confidence of his principals was even during his apprenticeship entrusted with much important executive work, including the erection of the India Mills, Stockport, built to hold 70,000 spindles and 1,000 looms, then one of the largest mills in the country. He designed the buildings and supervised the erection of the iron-work and the gearing.

In 1848 he became a partner in the firm, together with the late Mr. Henry Wren, the style of the firm becoming Wren, Wren and Hopkinson, and subsequently Wren and Hopkinson; and he so continued instil the end of 1881, when he retired, but continued his engineering work as a consulting engineer in partnership with his son Charles who had been his assistant for some years.

During the thirty-three years that he was the active head of the firm of Wren and Hopkinson in all technical matters, they were engaged upon many important engineering developments. They designed and constructed the machinery for grinding and polishing the lenses for the dioptric lanterns of lighthouses for the late Sir James Chance, with whom Mr. Hopkinson had for many years most cordial business relations, which ultimately led to his eldest son, the late Dr. John Hopkinson, becoming manager and scientific adviser of Messrs. Chance Brothers, lighthouse and optical glass departments.

During this period the firm devoted much attention to the construction of Cord Power Cranes on Ramsbottom's principle, hydraulic presses for baling raw cotton and piece goods, and slate working machinery, and particularly to the compounding of mill-engines under Crossland's patents, by the addition of an oscillating high-pressure cylinder to the low-pressure engines then usually in vogue.

Mr. Hopkinson, together with Mr. Henry Wren the elder, were recognised in Lancashire and elsewhere as the leading authorities on all questions of mill gearing, before rope driving had become usual, and there were few privately owned mills in the North of England, which had not at one time or another the benefit of his practical experience and knowledge, amongst which may be specially mentioned the spinning and cotton thread mills of John Dewhurst and Sons of Skipton, and the factory of the York Street Flax Spinning Company at Belfast, for both of which he designed the buildings.

Perhaps the most important engineering work to which he devoted his attention was the design and equipment of railway goods stations and sorting yards. He was constantly consulted by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company with regard to their goods stations, and re-arranged and equipped with revolving capstans and power cranes their stations at Howard Street, Liverpool, Oldham Road and New Bailey Street, Manchester.

His scientific knowledge and engineering ability were applied in many other directions outside the limits of his own business. For many years he was chairman of the Chatterley Iron Co., and under his supervision many improvements were introduced in the mechanical arrangements at their various collieries. For thirty-sir years he was connected with the Carnforth Hematite Iron Co., at first as vice-chairman and subsequently as chairman. He was also for a time a director of the Union Plate Glass Co.

Though the great developments in electrical engineering were subsequent to the most active period of his career, he always took the keenest interest in them. One of his first essays in practical work during his apprentice days was the construction of a cylinder frictional electrical machine, and one of the latest designs of his old age was an electrical locomotive.

Three of his sons have been closely associated with electrical engineering, and several of his apprentices, which was always a matter of gratification to him. He will long be remembered amongst the most progressive of engineering employers in Manchester for his generous and farseeing views in regard to the relations of employers and employed, and the part he took in establishing the fifty-four-hour week. The interests of his own employ6s and those of the companies with which he was associated were always promoted by him with characteristic generosity and disinterestedness.

Though occupied with private business affairs demanding close attention, he devoted no small portion of his life to the public service of his native city, and freely gave of his ripe experience and knowledge for the public welfare.

In 1861 he was elected unopposed as Councillor, and continued to be re-elected, always without opposition, until 1872 when be became Alderman, which office he held until his death. Thus for over forty years he was continuously engaged in municipal affairs, and in the year 1882-3 he was Mayor.

As member of the Free Libraries, the Watch, Fire Brigade, Finance, Ship Canal Committees and of the Art Gallery Committee, of which he was the first chairman, he did manifold service to the good government of Manchester; but probably the most permanent record of his public work is to be found in the improvements in the course of the River Medlock, which he initiated and supervised, and which entirely obviated the disastrous floods which were previously of frequent occurrence, in the construction of the large gas works at Bradford Road, and in the laying out and widening of the streets in the township of Chorlton-upon-Medlock in which he long resided.

His death took place at his residence at Bowdon, near Manchester, on 14th March 1902, at the age of seventy-eight.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1856; and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.


1902 Obituary [4]

JOHN HOPKINSON died at Bowden on March 14, 1902, aged eighty years. He was an engineer of wide experience. For over twenty years he was a director, and for some time chairman, of the Carnforth Hematite Iron Company, Limited.

For many years he was a member of the Manchester Corporation, and in 1882 he held the office of Mayor.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1873.


1902 Obituary.[5]




See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Evening News - Saturday 15 March 1902
  2. 1902 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  3. 1902 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  4. 1902 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  5. The Engineer 1902 Jan-Jun: Index: Miscellaneous