Glossop Heritage Trust
Mrs. Mary Alice Partington, M.B.E., J.P.
The Obituary of Mrs Partington below was taken from an article in the Glossop Chronicle of 24 November 1950.
||Mrs. Mary Alice Partington, M.B.E., J.P.
Freeman of the Borough of Glossop
Mrs. Mary Alice Partington, M.B.E., J.P., of Talbot House, Glossop, has left behind her many fragrant memories of her good public spirit, many who have been grateful for her kindly and unselfish assistance, many who have been thankful for her vital leadership in all good causes. She was a great public figure in Glossop and played her part in county affairs, but she was also cognisant of the fact that power carried with it public responsibilities. She never attempted to abuse her power, and those able to observe the extent of her influence will not contest that she was a powerful figure.
Years of endurance
The last 50 years of her life, during which she was fully occupied with a multitude of affairs, were at one and the same time of the most vital, fruitful, and deflating In the country's history. Many of them, in the words of Bryant, were “years of endurance”, famine, poverty, personal affliction, wars and it was in connection with the effort to raise funds for the devastating famine in India in the year 1900 that Mrs. Partington properly made entry into public life. By then, however, she had already begun to undertake other public duties, albeit not with such ties to her work as followed her later life, and she was indeed a social figure of some eminence.
Talents and opportunities
In 1894 she was one of the persons selected to open a great three-days bazaar at Shrewsbury Street Primitive Methodist Chapel. These large bazaars in those days were events patronised by the whole town and were affairs of considerable Importance. As Miss Harrison, she was in her early years attached to Howard-street Chapel—an interest she unofficially maintained—and she was described by the Rev. Mr. Bromage as “a young lady who had time, talents, opportunities, and willingness for the work she was doing.” The reverend minister's description of Mrs. Partington's personality would have held good to the end.
Belle of the ball
She was a figure of eminence in local social circles before her marriage, and at the exclusive ball of the local Philharmonic Society she was described by the local reporter as “the belle of the ball,” and with Mr. Herbert Partington, who she afterwards married led off the dancing as was the custom in those days when a dance was a much more serious affair than it is to-day. Mr Herbert Partington in the 1890's was a playing member of the Glossop rugby team.
In the year 1893 she sallied forth. Votes for women had not been conceded; the agitation had not really started. Women were not acceptable for the Town Council, but it was considered quite proper for them to be members of the Guardians of the Poor. There were women as well as men in the nation's workhouses, and when women were elected to the Board of Guardians they quickly discovered that the men members had not realised that women require handkerchiefs; men thought that their “pinnies” were quite sufficient to wipe their noses.
On the Board of Guardians
A staunch Liberal, wife of a Liberal husband, she faced the election and won handsomely as a Liberal member of the Board of Guardians. In 1901 she fought again; she wasn’t given a walk-over by the local Tories. She had a record poll. She was established in public esteem; from that time whatever she willed or espoused—won. This was the heyday.
The borough as part of the country was confronted with two major items of public policy: we were at war with the Boers and, although, acting under the county scheme, a relief fund had been opened for the dependants of the “time servers,” militia, and volunteers, it was administered in the main by men under the strict rules of the county committee under the chairmanship of the Lord Lieutenant. The second important latter was the establishment of a fund to counter the famine in India. In this, Mrs. Partington had large responsibility: she was treasurer of the Ladies committee appointed, the secretary being Mrs. Sam Wood, mother of Sir Samuel, then Mr. S. H. Wood Mayor of Glossop.
A famous fête
This committee had decided to recommend the town council to hold a fête in Howard Park. We have heard a good deal about the results of charitable works in Glossop during the last
century; but nothing that has been organised during that period has even approached the fête in Howard Park either in respect of organised mass entertainment or in the financial result. It was held on May 26th. 1900. It was daring venture; but it won! Over 7,000 people paid for admission to the park, and the net receipts after payment of expenses was £580 3, 11d. To this total Capt. Partington (later Lord Doverdale) added sixpence for every shilling. Abel Harrison (father of Mrs Partington) added 3d. for every shilling and the total receipts for one day's outside entertainment in aid of a charity was over £1,000. Nothing like it has ever been seen in Glossop. At the celebration ball over 550 people paid for admission, and the M.C. was Mr. Will Harrison, brother of Mrs. Partington. Afterwards Mr. and Mrs. Partington entertained all the workers to a private ball at the Victoria Hall.
In the front rank of politics
The early days of the century were rich in Incident for the Partingtons and the Liberals of the High Peak and Glossop. Mrs. Partington is best known to the present generation for her work for hospitals, but in those days she was in front rank of High Peak politics. They were the leaders of Liberal thought in both the borough and the constituency; they never fought under the indeterminate flag of the Independents; they were Liberals who never struck their flag. Her brother-in-law (Captain Oswald Partington) was persuaded to contest the High Peak; this was during the progress of the Boer war, with its constant ups and downs, and after the mob attack on Lloyd George in Birmingham. Political feeling ran high. for Glossop had sent its batch of volunteers as well as its regulars; nevertheless Oswald fought the seat and won! Wrested it at this crucial time from the age old allegiance to the Wood's and the Tories. He was promptly labelled “pro-Boer” by the Glossop Chronicle! There are people in Glossop to-day who will remember Mrs. Partington as one of Oswald's more prominent workers dressed literally from head to foot in red.
Entertained at Shirehill
The Partingtons and the Liberals reached the flood tide of their power from 1900 and the years that followed. It was said that Captain Partington (Lord Doverdale), although he had been a member of the council for over 26 years, would not accept the Mayoralty until his own party could confer on him the honour.
In the early summer of 1902 came the festivities connected with the Coronation of King Edward VII; but the Mayor was Captain S. H. Wood (Sir Samuel Hill-Wood. Bart). Nevertheless the Partingtons entertained lavishly. Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Partington entertained all at Shirehill to a substantial spread and Captain Partington entertained all the members of all friendly societies and their wives (over 6,000 of them) to a knife and fork tea. and gave each of the guests sixpence towards liquid refreshments! Later In the year victory at the polls at the Municipal elections, placed the Liberals in power in the council for the first time for thirty years and they proceeded to use it. Captain Partington was elected Mayor; although his son, Mr Herbert Partington had not been Mayor, the Captain proceeded to appoint him Deputy Mayor, and then, to round off the feast the Liberals immediately removed from the bench of Aldermen, three Tories and replaced them by three Liberals. It was a first rate political thrill in which Mrs. Partington had been an active partner. As a result of this manoeuvre she became Deputy Mayoress in 1902.
One of her major Interests
The Liberals quickly lost power, but the Partington interest in Glossop did not diminish. Lord Doverdale in 1906 erected and presented to the town a convalescent home, and endowed it with the sum of £23,463; as a convalescent home it was not a success, but the change-over in use was to provide Mrs. Partington with one of her major interests as the years passed. On the outbreak of war in 1914 Mr. Herbert Partington was Mayor. It was generally agreed that there was no better selection in the town; a man of acute business acumen, who conducted meetings in business fashion, a man of wide sympathies tolerant and broad, and with a charming and capable wife as Mayoress. But tragedy awaited her.
Took on the Mayoralty
In May, 1916 the Mayor. (Mr. Herbert Partington) was taken ill and suddenly died, leaving Mrs. Partington faced with conduct of the town's affairs in time of war, with two young children, and her personal grief. The town council with great good sense, asked her to take up the duties at the Mayoralty, and with astonishing courage she agreed. How she worked, organising events to collect monies for the servicemen and their wives, and dependents is best known to every local man who served in the Forces In the 1914-15 war. The town council found her not only charming, but very capable and it is no exaggeration to say that she had the complete confidence of the whole town. Whatever “Mrs. Herbert” did was right and good.
Funds for hospitals
After the war had ended, moved by her own need for hospital treatment, and by memories of her husband's sufferings she initiated the movement that her late husband had decided to tackle had he lived; the centralised collection of funds for hospitals. She called a meeting for June 30th, 1919, of interested people, enlisted their support and established the Hospitals Collections Committee. By the end of its first year it had collected nearly £500; in the year of its dissolution, owing to the coming into operation of the National Health Services Act, 1946, the collection for the year was £5,500 and during the course of its career It had collected and disbursed nearly £80,000. Of this total, close upon £45,000 had been paid to Wood's Hospital, and £7,500 to Partington Home.
Mrs. Partington was one of those who took an active part in changing the use of the Convalescent Home into a maternity hospital; this took place in 1920 and from that time until about three years ago she was its unsparing chairman, having gathered round her an enthusiastic band of women workers who worked under her leadership, unceasingly to raise funds, their headquarters being Mrs. Partington's own house. Notwithstanding the naturalisation of hospitals, this work continues; many Glossop young men and women first saw the light in the pleasant surroundings of Partington Home, because of zeal and leadership of Mrs. Partington. Such of the tale as can be is nearly told; but it should not be forgotten that when Dr. Milligan conceived the idea of changing the use of Wood's Hospital from the cottage to the surgical unit, it was Mrs. Partington who was asked to examine the proposal and make an inventory and report on the proposal. How well she did the job is known to all who have had to use Wood's.
Freeman of the borough
The height of recognition of her valuable services was reached on March 4th, 1926, she was admitted Freeman of the Borough. This honour carries with it no privileges as in the days of old, but it is the highest compliment that can be paid to a prominent citizen by a local authority, and the resolution authorising the admission is made unanimously. The two previous Freemen were Lord Doverdale (1906), and Mrs. Anne Kershaw Wood (1910); when Mrs. Partington was admitted she was the only Freeman of the Borough.
Presentation on her 70th birthday
Probably the most remarkable manifestation of goodwill and regard that was ever spontaneously paid to a citizen of Glossop was the presentation made to Mrs. Partington with the dual intent of celebrating her seventieth birthday, and of making public recognition of her long and sustained efforts on behalf of hospitals. Subscriptions were accepted from individuals, but principally they were sought and gladly paid, from organisations such as the Red Cross, British Legion, Medical, legal, and banking (local branches), Co-operative and Friendly societies, police etc., and the occasion of the presentation was the Mayor's Ball. In March, 1939, during the Mayoralty of Alderman Sellers, he taking up the office after the untimely death of the then Mayor Councillor John May. A handsome piece of silver plate, with the unusual Inscription showing its source was prevented by the late Mr. Percy Ireland (Magistrates Clerk) a long time a co-worker and faithful assistant in her hospital work. A likeable man and himself a first rate public servant, he made the presentation in such terms that Mrs. Partington was herself very much moved, but nevertheless, very proud of the signal honour done to her. Not previously nor since has there been such a presentation in Glossop
But for the tragedy of her husband's death she would have succeeded to the Barony and would, since the death of the first Baron have had the style of Lady Doverdale. She was, however, known to the people of the town generally by the affectionate title of “Mrs. Herbert” and all who have known her will long remember her gracious, generous and genuinely sympathetic personality. She gave not only of her means, she gave of herself, and exemplified the Christian doctrine of service before self.
Mary Alice Partington was buried, alongside her husband, in grave number 1901 at Glossop Cemetery on 21st November 1950.
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