Wigan and Leigh Archives Online

1877-1881, Abraham Burrows JP, Chair of Atherton Local Board

1877-1881, Abraham Burrows JP, Chairman of Atherton Local Board

A successful businessman and philanthropist, Abraham Burrows was an adopted Athertonian who had a major influence in shaping the industrial landscape of the town.

One of Atherton’s foremost figures, he was known as a man with a mastermind and an indomitable energy. He was also a persuasive character and, as a major player in the coal and cotton spinning industries, was instrumental in persuading the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company to take a proposed express route to Liverpool through Atherton in the face of competition from the neighbouring Leigh authority, who pushed for an alternative route through their town. The line through Atherton greatly improved transport links for the distribution of coal from his successful colliery and gave Atherton people an alternative route to Manchester, Wigan, Liverpool and Southport.

Born in Great Yarmouth in 1827, Abraham Burrows came to the North West and started his working life in Liverpool in 1848. Two years later, he took up an agency for the Atherton Collieries, which were then in the hands of John, Ralph and Thomas Fletcher and Major Langshaw. His connection with that firm continued up until his death in 1901.

As a salesman, he played such an important role in the growth of the company that he was eventually made a partner and the company was re-named Fletcher, Burrows and Co, Atherton Collieries. With the practical knowledge he brought to bear in the firm’s operations and his exceptional aptitude, he did more than anyone else to bring about its success in becoming one of the best managed concerns in the South Lancashire coalfield. Fletcher, Burrows and Co employed 2,000 people above and below ground and had a reputation for paying the best wages and sparing no cost in creating a safe working environment.

Famous for his punctuality, it was said that the people of Atherton could set their watches by his carriage passing their homes on his way to his offices.

Occupying a leading position in the coal trade, Abraham Burrows was long associated with the Lancashire and Cheshire Mining Association and the Mining Association of Great Britain and in both organisations he had a reputation for speaking often and speaking wisely. He was also a member of the Executive Committee of Wigan Mining School.

His firm established the Atherton Collieries Village Club on the main road between Atherton and Leigh, near Howe Bridge station, and he remained vice-president of the club until his death.

Although an exceptionally busy man in the mining industry, he found time to interest himself in cotton spinning and was promoter of the Howe Bridge Spinning Company, which owned four large mills. He was chairman from its formation and maintained a very keen interest in its operations.

On the adoption of the Local Government Act in 1863, Abraham Burrows was elected one of the first members of the Atherton Local Board and sat for three years. He returned to the authority in 1874 and in 1877 was appointed chairman – a position he held until 1881 – and continued to sit as a member of the authority until he resigned in 1894. He was also elected as an Atherton representative on Lancashire County Council and was appointed an alderman. He was made a JP in 1881 and was a regular on the Leigh bench.

A staunch supporter of the Liberal cause, he was a big supporter of the temperance movement and was passionately involved in the Baptist church, to which he was a generous and often anonymous benefactor over many years. One of his more notable projects was the building of the Infants School in Lee Street, which he paid for in memory of his late wife. He also made a significant contribution to the building of the new chapel in Dan Lane.

For much of his life he lived in Green Hall at Atherton.

When he died suddenly in August, 1901, at the age of 74, he left four sons. His funeral service and burial took place at Atherton Cemetery.

Written by Gordon Sharrock


Biographical cuttings – Abraham Burrows, available at Leigh Local Studies.





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