Sir William Coddington, Bart., M.P., was born at Salford, Manchester, in 1830, the eldest son of William Dudley Coddington, a prominent Manchester merchant, who in 1822 had married Elizabeth, second daughter of Robert Hopwood, cotton spinner, of Blackburn. In 1842 his father settled in Blackburn as a cotton spinner and manufacturer, in partnership with his father-in-law, first residing in a handsome Georgian house in Penny-street, subsequently occupied by William Boyle, of Jap nougat fame. The firm controlled Nova Scotia, Crossfield and the old Wellington Mills until Robert Hopwood's death in 1860, when Nova Scotia passed to Robert Hopwood Hutchinson, and Crossfield and Wellington Mills became the property of William Dudley Coddington. In 1857 he added to his interests by erecting Ordnance Mill, carrying on his extensive business under the title of W. D. Coddington and Sons. He was a J. P. and a member of the town council, dying in 1867 at the age of 68. He left the management of his mills to his eldest son, the future baronet. At the time of his death he was residing in St. George's-place, and was actually engaged in building Wycollar, the spacious mansion at the top of Yew Tree Brow, later completed and occupied by his eldest son.
Sir William was pre-eminently a business man, and under his astute supervision the firm flourished. He took full advantage of the trade boom which followed hard upon the heels of the cotton famine, erecting two mills, Ordnance and Wellington New Mills. In 1864 he married Sarah Catherine, daughter of William Thomas Hall, of Wakefield, residing first at Spring Mount (now the High School for Girls) and later at Wycollar, which was his home for forty years.
He had one daughter, Beatrice, who in 1894 married Mr. Arthur Cayley.
"Many distinguished gatherings have met at Wycollar (writes J. G. Shaw), and none more so than those of 1905, when Sir William and Lady Coddington entertained Princess Louise and the Duke of Argyle, and arranged two dinner parties, to give their intimate friends in Blackburn an opportunity of meeting royalty."
Sir William had musical tastes and in 1875, the year of his mayoralty, he presented an organ to the Parish Church at a cost of £3,000. In 1912 his services to the town were recognised in fitting manner by presenting him with the Freedom of the Borough.
He had a long and distinguished political career, being first elected as member for Blackburn in 1880, in place of Mr. Daniel Thwaites. In 1885 he was re-elected, in company with Sir Robert Peel, and in the following year he was returned unopposed with W. H. Hornby, the pair being again elected in 1892. They fought one more election together as commoners, that of 1895, Sir William being elevated to the Baronetcy in 1896, and Sir Harry in 1899. In 1900 they fought and won once again, but six years later Sir William retired, at the age of 76, and his place was taken by a Socialist, Mr. Philip Snowden.
In Parliament Sir William is best remembered for his work as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for widening the streets of London and removing various "bottle-necks," such as the historic Temple Bar, which formerly stood where the Strand embouches on Fleet-street. This ancient city gate, which only monarchs might enter by permission of the Lord Mayor, was removed in 1878, on the completion of the new Law Courts. Its site was marked by a griffin surmounting a narrow pedestal. Temple Bar has poignant memories for one Lancashire family, for it was here that the head of the unfortunate Francis Towneley was placed on a spike after his execution on Kennington Common, for the part he played in the "forty-five" rebellion. The original gate, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was dismantled by the Committee and re-erected by Sir Henry Meux at the entrance to Theobald's Park, Hertfordshire.
In committee he was both brief and pointed in his speeches, a virtue he did not always carry with him in more intimate circles. There is a good story of him on one occasion "treating" his friends to a historical lecture in the Central Conservative Club at Blackburn, when he held forth "for three mortal hours" without notes or references, to a somewhat bored, not to say thirsty, audience.
Sir William married again in his 83rd year, his second lady being Miss Aimee Josephine Barber-Starkie. He died at Wycollar on February 15th, 1918, in his 87th year.
George C. Miller
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