Glossop Heritage Trust

Francis James Sumner and Wren Nest Mills.

This article is based on an excerpt from Robert Hamnett’s notes on Glossop written in the local paper before 1914.


Plan of Sumner's Mill The original mill was built by Thomas Ellison in 1815 on land called the Watercroft and The Hollow Meadow, occupied by John Shaw. It was bounded on the north by a field called Lower Kidd Lee, occupied by Martha Platt, and on the west by a plantation and a field called The Top, occupied by Joseph Cooper. Until quite recently the mill could be identified by the old pear tree growing in front, but now dead. On the 28th December, 1827, Mr. Francis James Sumner entered into possession; it was then assessed at £91, on 7,000 spindles. He soon began to make extensions. In the latter part of 1831 he began weaving with 57 looms; he had then 9,696 spindles.
When Mr. Sumner began business the mill was worked by a water wheel, which he soon did away with, and in 1829 erected his first engine house. The original lease was for 4,516 yards, but on 23rd December, 1829, he added 2,436 yards more. Other land was taken, 26th November, 1839, 3,930 yards; 11th December, 1847 10,876 yards; 12th February, 1848, 1,240 yards. This was for the reservoir known as the Ten Foot, where so many persons have drowned themselves, until it was railed round by unclimbable rails. 17th October, 1851, 3,067 yards; 27th September, 1856, 3,230 yards; 12th February, 1857, 994 yards. Most of this land was required for his farm; the old farm house which occupied the site of the present stables was the old Wren Nest Farm. In 1836 Mr. Sumner had 14,000 spindles and 380 looms working. Sumner's Mill
Wren Nest Mill Panorama Francis James Sumner, born 22nd December, 1807, was the youngest child of Robert and Ann Sumner. His mother died young, and his father married Barbara, a daughter of Mr. Matthew Ellison, estate agent to the Duke of Norfolk. His father died in 1817, and Mrs. Sumner came to reside with her father at Glossop Hall. She afterwards married John Hardman, of Handsworth, near Birmingham. Mr. Sumner had his first experience of mill life as a piecer at Benjamin Wilkinson's Mill, the Old Silk Mill, then called the Grove Mill, he then went to work for his uncle, Thomas Ellison, at Wren Nest Mill, and when 22 years old he purchased the mill from his uncle out of the proceeds of his father's estate which realised £10,000.
His private residence was in High Street West, now owned by Mr. Thomas Swire, J.P., as a boot and shoe shop. From thence he removed to Primrose House, where he lived until the house which he built in 1857, [it is on the 1857 Poor Law Union map] was finished; this house in Sunlaws Street, was known as High Street Cottage and lately as Wren Nest House; from thence he removed to East View (which he rebuilt) now Easton, the residence of Sir Edward Partington.
I well remember him living here. Every week day he would come down High Street East, and when opposite to the Pear Tree Inn would look at John Wood and Brothers' clock, and then look at his watch to compare the time. He was fond of sport, was one of the founders of the Glossop Cricket Club, gave prizes for coursing, and was no mean shot at grouse, and he was also fond of having a little on the favourite. He was made a county magistrate 30th June, 1857, and was elected the first Mayor of the Borough of Glossop, 26th December, 1866, which event he celebrated by giving all members of the Council a dinner, which was long remembered. On the 12th June, 1867, he was appointed a Borough Justice of the Peace.
In 1869, he bought the Park Hall Estate, where he spent his weekends. He was appointed High Sheriff for the County of Derby on the 2nd March, 1881. He had been the deputy Lieutenant of the County.
Wren Nest Mill from Sunlaws Street, 1978
Sumner Memorial in Cemetery It was Mr. Sumner's custom to attend Ascot Races, and in June 1884, he accompanied by Mr. Francis Hawke, went to London for that purpose and stayed at the Midland Grand Hotel, Euston Road. He was then taken ill and found dead on the 12th June. He was a bachelor, and died intestate, and had no brother or sister, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece. He was a reputed millionaire, and his fortune fell to his cousins, William Sumner, of Newcastle-under-Lyme; Thomas Sumner, of Redditch; Joseph Weetman, of Stafford; and others.
Dying intestate, his death placed the employees in a predicament, as no payments could be made to them for wages due. The mill was at once closed, but the difficulty was met by the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank advancing the money due to the workpeople. The wage account was over £1,100 weekly. There were over 1,300 people employed, 120,000 spindles and 2,700 looms to be looked after.
It was owing to Mr. Sumner's action in questioning the late Lord Howard's right to impound water that led to the incorporation of Glossop.
It had always been the intention of Mr. Sumner to erect a Roman Catholic place of worship in Glossop, and his heirs carried out his intentions by building St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, the foundation stone of which was laid 3rd July, 1886. Sumner's Place and Sumner Street perpetuate his name. His first cousin, John Sumner, came to live at Park Hall, but removed to Beckford, where he died, 1887, aged 80
The church was opened in August, 1887. It cost £12,000, and was endowed with £5,000; the land on which it was erected was given by Lord Howard of Glossop.
Since Mr. Sumner's death, many improvements and enlargements have taken place; the new offices at the mills were completed on the 29th October, 1890. A rather curious circumstance occurred in the mill on the 26th December, 1890; 13 of the workpeople in the New Shed were asphyxiated through a gas leakage, but all recovered.
The rearing supper on the completion of the new weaving shed, 500 feet long, was held at the Globe Inn on the 11th November, 1893.
On the 9th November, 1900, the Glossop Town Council accepted a photo of Mr. Sumner, which now hangs in the Council Chamber.
Wren Nest Shed noxt to Globe PH

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Page last updated: 25 September 2017.
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