W.Bro John Benjamin Goulburn PGD – Deputy Provincial Grand Master – 1909-1918
A PERSONAL HISTORY
Goulburn Lodge was named after J.B.Goulburn in his lifetime- a singular honour. This Lodge has since amalgamated with Menturia Lodge and now known as Goulburn Menturia Lodge No. 3478.
John Benjamin was born on 6 December 1856 son of a Clerk at an Iron Foundry in Halliwell and his rise in status was meteoric. He died on 18 November 1918 aged only 61 years and his funeral was held at St. Anne’s Church in Turton on 22 November and his life was celebrated with ceremony and honour. A press report suggests that about 1000 mourners attended the funeral – the report also mentioned that he had worked himself into an early grave.
A memorial funded by the Masons of East Lancashire was erected in the Chuchyard but is currently badly weathered and it has been found impossible to refurbish. The epitaph on the Memorial is “Faithful in his work- he was loved and respected by all his Brethren”. I found it intriguing that 100 years on, someone of who merited such status in life had such a simple grave marker. He had a Masonic Lodge named after him and yet little seems to be known about the man himself.
I wondered what was his work?
He was the Clerk to Turton Council and later was also appointed Clerk to the Little Lever Council. Initially he was the Assistant Registrar for Little Bolton and later became the Registrar – a fee was payable for every birth, marriage and death in the area and it would appear that he was well remunerated.
The 1911 Census shows that he lived at The Oaks, Bradshaw, Turton (now adjacent to the site of Canon Slade School). Also at The Oaks was his wife Hannah Alice (nee Pearce), a servant companion (born in Russia with a British Passport), an Irish cook/housekeeper and a general servant.
John and Hannah never had children and the servant companion was elevated to ladies maid spending time with her mistress during JBG’s absences. Three resident staff suggests a decent income but were hardly enough to run a house the size of The Oaks so it is likely that there were gardeners, stable staff and possibly a chauffeur. This gives an indication of the social status that JBG had acquired.
JBG appears to have rented The Oaks from the family of John Ashworth a pioneer of the Industrial Revolution who had built the New Eagley Mills in 1802 and who owned other residences in Lancashire. In the 1800s the Ashworths were known to run the most efficient mills in Lancashire. His son Henry Ashworth had a rail station built in the grounds to acknowledge that he was a Director of one of the local Railway Companies.
During his life JBG he had a keen interest in the Bolton Amateur Operatic Society, he was prominent member of Mawdsley Street Congregational Church and an active Member and Trustee of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society.
After the death of her husband his widow moved to to Hartington Road Bolton and lived for a further 21 years. She is buried at St Annne ‘s with JBG. She had inherited his estate which was valued at £5617 8s 11d it was administered by Alban Baldwin Clerk to the Council and sole executor. During that period she donated the portrait of JBG to Bolton Masonic Hall (the sister portrait is displayed in the “Goulburn Suite” at what was the East Lancashire Headquarters in Manchester).
I tried to discover what kind of family he was descended from. JBG was literate and numerate enough to be employed initially as an office boy and made rapid progress to accountant, overtaking his father who was described as a Clerk. JBG’s father was born in Blackrod, the son of a husbandman/labourer who in turn was the son of a labourer. William married Sabina Davenport from Horwich at Deane Church – William’s father was shown as illiterate. The family moved to Horwich where they lived in Lee Lane before moving to Little Bolton. The Davenport family originated from Birkacre near Chorley working in the cotton industry. They would have been there when Thomas Arkwright leased a Mill into which he installed a new piece of machinery – the water frame which was wrecked by Luddites in 1779.
The Census returns show JBG living at 186 Halliwell Road in 1861, 248 Waterloo Street in 1871- employed as an office boy in the ironworks. He married Hannah in 1879 and by the census in 1881 he was living at 153 Station Road Bradshaw and describes as an Accountant – he was living with his wife, widowed mother and one servant. By 1911 he is living at The Oaks in Bradshaw and is the Clerk to Turton Council and employed a cook, a companion for his wife and another servant. He was obviously very ambitious and well motivated and must have been in the right place at the right time on a number of occasions. The Censuses show, at different times, that the household hosted mother-in-law, a niece and a companion for his wife-philanthropic gestures in some instances, but also to combat loneliness.
It would appear that JGB was a self made man – no inherited wealth from his family or that of his wife. As Clerk to to two Councils and as Registrar he would have been well remunerated. His Masonic History shows that he was very much involved with Charitable works, perhaps as a result of what he saw in his capacity as Registrar.
His rise from humble origins was very unusual for those times. This points out that he was a special man in his business life, he became a prominent Boltonian in addition to becoming a high ranked and successful Mason. I have been unable to trace any known relatives of John or Hannah in the Bolton area.
Gillian Wilkinson – October 2018