This long lost histories focuses on the site of a former manufacturing works in Atherton, even though all traces of the buildings have long since disappeared, the legacy lives on through the items it produced.
The Stothert Family
Stothert’s and Sons was originally a firm of chemists founded by Richard Stothert (1832 – 1912) in Atherton. According to local historian John Lunn, the business was founded in 1852. However census data and other archival records, reveal the business was in fact founded in Bolton. Richard was born in the village of Goosnargh near Preston and by 1851 he was an apprentice to a chemist in Bolton. Around 1872 the Stothert family and their business moved to Atherton.
By 1881 the family were settled, although the business was small employing only “one man and one boy”. On the other hand, the Stothert family was far from small. Richard and his wife Priscilla (b.1835) had five daughters and four sons: Margaret, Amelia, Elizabeth, James, Priscilla, William, Richard Maxwell, Ethel Minnie and Herbert.
The family resided at Albion House, a large detached property which was then in the countryside near Atherton’s Bag Lane Station. The house was built in the 1840s and was originally lived in by John Norbury, a cotton mill owner. As their business developed the Stothert family quickly settled into their new middle class status. Richard Stothert was involved in local politics and his wife Priscilla was also involved in local society, organising charity bazaars etc, which was a typical activity for middle-class Victorian women. Although Richard Stothert was somewhat liberal in his own beliefs, he was a staunch supporter of the conservative party both locally and nationally. In 1888 The Blackburn Standard recorded the family as attendees of the Conservative Club ball at Blackburn town hall.
On 14 September 1899, Ethel Minnie Stothert married Arthur Henry Rostron at St. John the Baptist Church in Atherton. At the time of their marriage, Arthur Henry Rostron was a master mariner and the son of bleach works manufacturer from Astley Bridge, Bolton. In April 1912, Arthur Rostron was the captain of the Carpathia, and due to his bravery and dedication, the Carpathia rescued the survivors of the Titanic disaster. Unfortunately, Richard Stothert passed away just over a week after the disaster and Ethel Minnie was unable to contact her husband, who had left New York and was on his way to Gibraltar. Later Arthur would be commended for his active service during the Gallipoli Campaign. He was awarded an OBE in 1919 and thereafter he and Ethel Minnie were known as Sir and Lady Rostron. Arthur died in 1940 and Ethel passed away three years later in 1943.
Stothert’s & Sons Ltd
By the end of the nineteenth century the business was booming. The company had been producing medicines, pills, ointments and tonics in correspondence with Stothert’s background as a druggist. In a time before modern medicines and pre-dating the National Heath Service in Britain, these medicines proved very popular amongst the Victorians. Richard Stothert even had travellers who sold his good across the country.
Stothert’s appears to have embodied the traditional Victorian entrepreneurial spirit. By the beginning of the 20th century, the company has expanded to produce bottled beverages including ginger beer and mineral water. Richard Stothert and his sons had excellent minds for business and used Richard’s image on the bottles and tins as a marketing tool and thereby ensuring brand recognition. Perhaps this is why so many of Stothert’s and sons goods still survive today.
20th Century and Decline
The company was inherited by Richard’s son, Richard Maxwell Stothert (1871-1948). The company continued to prosper and this is shown in archival records relating to the Stothert family. In 1902 Richard Maxwell Stothert married Edith Florence Jane Harwood, who lived on the Hulton Park Estate. The marriage was a huge social occasion within Atherton and attracted a great deal of attention, especially in the local press. The Leigh Chronicle noted:
” [The Bride] wore a gown of ivory crepe de-chene, the bodice prettily made with a large collar and insertions of silk Malta lace, over a vest of accordion pleated chiffon, the skirt being trimmed with lace to match, and opening over a front of accordion pleated chiffon; belt of Venetienne stain with knot of orange blossom; tulle veil worn off the face and sprays of orange blossom in the hair.“
By 1911 Richard Maxwell Stothert took over the running of the business and was living at Albion House with his wife, two children and two domestic servants. The family certainly reflected their wealth in their domestic situation. It is interesting they chose to stay at Albion House which was now overshadowed by the manufacturing works. However, they made their situation more comfortable; in 1910 they had a ‘motor house’ (garage) constructed, followed by a billiard room in 1912 and from at least 1909 they had a telephone (No.196 Atherton). Even later during the relatively unstable economic conditions of the inter-war years the Stothert family were still enjoying a fortunate lifestyle. In 1928 Richard Maxwell, Edith and their daughter Joan returned from a cruise to the West Indies travelling first class and again in 1938 Richard and Edith were travelling first class on their return to England after a year in South Africa.
By the 1940s, Richard Maxwell Stothert’s son, Maxwell Hardwood Stothert was running the business, which was now producing soft drinks. As well as managing his business, Maxwell also had two bands “Max and his Merry Men and the Night owls” and the “Atherton Salon Orchestra”.
In the late 1960s the company was absorbed by the soft drinks company A.G.Barr Ltd and Albion House was subsequently demolished as the premises were expanded. The site continued to be used until its closure in 2006. The buildings were demolished and it lay derelict until 2015, when the photograph below was taken. The site is currently being redeveloped as a housing estate, known as ‘Cotton Fields’. Fortunately thanks to marketing and manufacturing technique of the Stothert family, their legacy and even the products they produced exist well into the 21st century.
Researched and Written by Thomas McGrath
-“Atherton: A Manorial, Social and Industrial History” by John Lunn (Atherton: Atherton Urban District Council, 1971)
– The Blackburn Standard, 26 January 1888, p.6
–Leigh Chronicle, 13 June 1902, p.5
– Leigh Chronicle, 26 April 1912
– Hull Daily Mail, 17 September 1920, p.6
– aerial Imagery :- http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw031114?name=ATHERTON&gazetteer=ATHERTON&POPULATED_PLACE=ATHERTON&ADMIN_AREA=Wigan&ref=4
– Photograph of the Stothert’s tin :- http://oldshopstuff.com/Shop/tabid/1248/ItemID/7959/Listing/Old-tin-Stotherts-of-Atherton-Medical-Chemist-Pills-String-Cutter-Counter-Tin/Default.aspx
– Photograph of Maxwell Stothert’s Band :- http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/northwest/10078941.Researching_grandad_s_dance_band/
– Census records/Telephone Directories/Passenger Lists :- http://www.ancestry.co.uk
– Photograph of Arthur and Ethel Rostron:-