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Thomas Dugdale (1816-1872)


Thomas Dugdale was a member of the Dugdale family of Lowerhouse who were responsible for building one of the largest and most prosperous mills in the area. By the 1840’s their business had become one of the largest and most prosperous cotton manufacturing firms in Lancashire.


Thomas became a prominent Methodist, becoming the principal supporter of Methodism in the Cheapside area. He was brought up in the Church of England, worshipping at Padiham. He became a remarkable Sunday school teacher, a role he was requested to fulfil by the Bishop of Burnley, as a young man and within 2 years had increased attendance at his classes from 30 to 300. He was keen to establish some religious services in Cheapside and so preached in the schoolroom and a cottage. His congregations loved these services, but the incumbent of Habergham Eaves found them to be a breach of the order of the Anglican Church and had them discontinued.


Thomas felt the need for Christian fellowship so joined the Methodists in Lowerhouse where he proved to be a strong supporter of the class system, quickly becoming an effective class leader and being formally appointed as a local preacher, a position he retained for over 33 years. He built the chapel, school and chapel keepers house at Park Hill at his own expense and presented them to the Methodist Conference. The chapel was opened in November 1843 by Mr Dugdale who preached the first sermon there. Thomas was also superintendent of the Sunday School for many years, defraying all the cost of its maintenance.  He lived nearby at Park Hill House.  His chief desire was to make Park Hill the centre for his philanthropic and evangelistic labours (Burnley Express 1871)



After Thomas’s death, members of the family built a new day school near Lowerhouse Fold which was used by the Wesleyans as a chapel until a purpose-built place of worship, Lowerhouse Methodist Chapel (now Greenbrook), was opened in 1898 on a site donated by the Dugdale family.


Thomas’s brother, Mr Adam Dugdale was also a prominent Methodist, playing the organ (which he gave) and being in charge of the choir at Parkhill. He was a supporter of the mission chapel at Rosehill which was situated in a converted cottage at the gates of his residence, Rosehill House. He subsequently joined Wesley chapel, Burnley, playing a part in its renovation in 1877.


Thomas was the eldest son of William Dugdale, one of several brothers and the youngest of the three original partners, who, along with their father Nathaniel first came to Lowerhouse in 1813 when Nathaniel purchased a factory from Peel Yates and Company for £7000 to set up his own textile business. Nathaniel died in 1816, still owing much of the original cost of the mill and his sons struggled to pay this off. However, they extended the factory in 1818 and the following year began to print, as well as manufacture, calicoes. The mortgage was eventually cleared in 1827 and the firm prospered, building a new factory in 1826 and becoming one of the most prosperous cotton manufacturing firms in Lancashire by the mid 1840s, eventually employing workers from most of the houses in Lowerhouse. It appears that although there were 3 brothers as partners in the firm, William played little part. In 1851 William’s share in the firm was purchased from his heirs by his brothers, John and James, for a total of £14554 2s 10d! John and James became very wealthy and it is said that the eldest brother, John, left over a million pounds when he died in 1855. (The great grandson of James was Sir Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne and MP for Richmond, Yorks)


Besides our prominent Methodists, other members of the Dugdale family were connected with the Church of England and, together with the Shuttleworths of Gawthorpe, paid for the building of All Saint’s Church, Habergham, consecrated in 1849. The Dugdales also paid for the silver communion service which they kept at their family home, Ivy Bank, during the week, for safety! Both families then had disagreements with the first vicar and eventually the Dugdales stopped attending. They also supported Methodism building a new day school in Lowerhouse in 1876 that was also used as a Wesleyan chapel until a purpose

 built chapel, now Greenbrook, was opened in 1898 on a site donated by the Dugdale family.


The family home, Ivy Bank, off Kiddrow Lane, was built in 1836 and is recorded as the home of William Dugdale on his gravestone (died 1839). It is therefore possible that Thomas lived there before his marriage in 1843 by which time he is living at Park Hill. I(t was at Ivy Bank that Captain Sherston entertained Winston Churchill, when he came to speak at Burnley.) Ivy Bank sadly went into decline and was later demolished but it’s site in the orchard will be well remembered by students at Burnley Grammar and High schools.


Park Hill chapel closed in 1952 following the discovery of dry rot and was later demolished. The site is currently used as a car wash.


Ref : Photo

Media Ref: BH0005-Park-Hill-Chapel  The Brian hall Collection



Further reading:

Lowerhouse and the Dugdales by Brian Hall

History of Wesleyan Methodism in Burnley and East Lancashire by B Moore

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