Sudell History


Woodfold Hall


The following extract is from 'Blackburn: The Evolution of a Cotton Town' by Geo.C.Miller:


Henry Sudell

For over four centuries the Sudell family have been associated with the development of the corporate borough of Blackburn, and shared in every phase of its multifarious activities.  John Sudell, who held Chantry lands at Oozebooth in 1548, is the earliest member of whom we have records, and a William Sudell, living in Blackburn during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (I), had a son baptised at the parish church on September 13th 1601.  Although originally of yeoman stock, they were early interested in trade, and John Sudell, described as "chapman", married Ann Ashe on January 5th, 1656.  His son William was elected Governor of Blackburn Grammar School in 1714, and must have died about 1725, when his executors paid into the school funds a legacy of 20.  He it was who, jointly with Henry Feilden and William Baldwin, purchased the manor of Blackburn, although his moiety was subsequently transferred to the Fieldens.  Henry Sudell, his brother, married Mrs. Alice Yates of Eccleshill, by whom he had many children.  Henry, his third son and namesake, married, on May 1st, 1763, Alice, daughter of James and Margaret Livesey, and died the same year, leaving his wife a widow in her 23rd year.  She survived her husband sixty years, during the whole of which time she resided in Sudell House, King Street.  Here only son, Henry, posthumous heir to his father, was born, being baptised in the parish church of St. Mary on May 4th, 1764.

On the death of his uncles John and William in 1785, Henry Sudell, who attained his majority the same year, became the most influential merchant and manufacturer in the town.  He was possessed of an extensive fortune and at the height of his fame was reputed to be a millionaire.  In 1796 he married Maria, daughter of Thomas Livesey, Esquire, and the house in Church Street, which later became the headquarters of the Union Club, was erected for him as a town-house in the same year.  The return of the young pair from their honeymoon is duly recorded in the Blackburn Mail:

Henry Sudell, (July 20, 1796)

Monday evening, about seven o'clock, Henry Sudell, Esq., and his lady, arrived at their house in this town in good health, being the first time since their marriage; in consequence of which the bells continued ringing till a very late hour.

Three years later he purchased and enclosed the Woodfold estate and erected Woodfold Hall in Mellor.  Here he maintained almost regal state, stocking the park with deer and wildfowl, and keeping a pack of hounds.  His entry into Blackburn came to be regarded as a state occasion.  He was equipped with a magnificent carriage drawn by four perfectly-matched horses, ridden by postilions in livery of crimson and gold, all caps being doffed at his approach.

During the period of the Napoleonic wars, many of the hand-loom weavers in the district were largely dependent upon his charity, while for many years it was his custom at Christmastide to roast an ox in the old market place, distributing the beef to a number of poor families, together with clothing and considerable sums of money.  In 1800 it was estimated that over 500 persons benefited in this way.  Indeed, it is not too much to say that for more that a quarter of a century, there was no public charity which did not regard Henry Sudell as its chief supporter, nor any subscription list that was not headed by his name.  Nor did he forget the community's spiritual needs.  When St. John's Church was erected by subscription in 1788, at a cost of 8,000, one half of that sum was contributed by Mr. Sudell.  He also gave the site of the Church of St. Mary at Mellor and was liberal benefactor to the endowment.

In his dealings with the hand-loom weavers who brought their finished pieces to his warehouses he was notoriously generous, being the last to reduce wages and the first to raise them again after a period of depression.  The importance of his influence may be gathered from the fact that during one such period, a crowd of 6,000 hand-loom weavers assembled on Blakeley Moor, and marched in procession to Woodfold, to hold a conference on the question of a rise in wages.  After some discussion, Mr. Sudell agreed to give them an advance of five per cent.

It is sad to recall that his later years were clouded with both domestic and financial losses.  His downfall was the result of losing speculations in the Continental and American markets, which in 1827 led to his suspension and bankruptcy.

Mr. Sudell's Affairs (August 15, 1827).

Within the last few days, two meetings of the creditors of H. Sudell, Esq., of Woodfold Park, near this town, have been held in Manchester.  At the first meeting the balance sheet was laid down before the creditors, and stated the debts at 131,793, and the assets available to the discharge of these claims at 60,434.

Prior to this announcement he left the town in secret during the night, and although he lived to the ripe old age of 92, he never returned to the scene of his misfortune.  He died at Ashley House, near Bath, in 1856, thus surviving to see the incorporation of the borough he had done so much to cultivate and bring to maturity.

A drawing by Charles Haworth of the Sudell residence in King Street shows that its distinctive features were a balustraded roof and ornate gateposts capped by urns.  The fabric still exists but has suffered a strange metamorphosis, being literally embedded in newer shop premises erected on its spacious lawns, so that all that remains to be seen is part of one gable with its chimney stack."