Wilton on the Carpet

on Wednesday, 06 February 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

When researching some of our properties some unusual stories can come to light. One such is the interesting tale of Pardoe Yates, a businessman of Wilton at the end of the C19 and how this seemingly upstanding gent was exposed to be yet another typical example of Victorian double standards…

In 1895, Kelly’s directory lists Pardoe Yates, J.P., as an alderman on Wilton Town Corporation and a director of the Royal Carpet Works, manufacturers of Axminster and Wilton carpets. His father, Samuel Pardoe Yates, had originally manufactured carpets in Bridgnorth, before buying the Axminster looms and later moving the business to Wilton where he took over the existing carpet factory run by Henry Blackmore, in the 1860s. Yates was initially in partnership with Wills (of the cigarette manufacturing family), as ‘Yates & Co. Ltd.’ Samuel Pardoe was short-lived. His later obituary in the Wiltshire Times reported after his sudden and unexpected death that ‘he paid a visit of several months to the States for business purposes last autumn.’

It appears that, during his lifetime, Pardoe Yates was highly respected in Wilton, for on his demise on September 27th 1898, at the early age of 39, a whole page special supplement of the Wiltshire Times was devoted to eulogies and an account of his funeral. He had been elected to the town council in 1885 and become an Alderman in 1893; he also served as mayor of the borough.

Both he and his father seem to have displayed liberal inclinations. His father was described as being ‘an ardent supporter of reform’ and ‘one of the Chartists, once addressing a meeting of 20,000 in Birmingham.’ Pardoe junior was said (in his obituary) to have been ‘an unflagging supporter of Liberalism….Before his marriage he had always attended with his parents the Primitive Methodist Chapel at Wilton, but after his marriage (to Agnes Rutter, daughter of Mr. J.F. Rutter of Mere) he joined the Society of Friends, of whom his wife was one. He was also closely connected with the Temperance Movement, and with Mr. John Moore and others instituted the Temperance tent at Wilton Fair….a man of deep character, conviction, and principle, whose loss must everywhere be felt.’

The report continued: ‘The carpet factory was closed for the funeral on Friday. On Wednesday, during the dinner hour, the employees were given the opportunity of taking a last look at the deceased gentleman as he lay at his residence, ‘Glencairn’. The coffin was taken from ‘Glencairn’ to the cemetery on a wheel bier.’ The ‘Order of Procession’ included the Mayor and Corporation, the carpet manufactory managers and workers and servants at ‘Glencairn’. A service was held at the Congregational Church, the Quaker Meeting House being too small to accommodate so large a congregation, and after the interment there followed an assembly at the Town Hall, including the mayor, Mr. John White and his wife the mayoress.

However, all was not as it seemed. After the death of Pardoe Yates’s father, further mortgages had been taken out on the business, and in 1889 it had been sold to J.F.Rutter for the sum of £53,000, and capital was raised to the amount of £140,000.

By 1904, the business was bankrupt and but for the intervention of Lord Pembroke, who bought it for £8,000, resold it to a new company for the same figure, and raised £20,000 to recapitalise it, the carpet industry, the town’s main employer, would have been lost to Wilton.

In ‘The Book of Wilton’, Chris Rousell relates a fascinating story concerning Pardoe Yates and his death in 1898. He is said to have been very well-liked and respected in Wilton ‘appearing to be a perfect gentleman with a pious nature and liked by everyone he met. On his sudden death in September 1898, attitudes towards him changed when it was discovered he had been leading a double life and that his business trips had been a front for a life of riotous living, especially on his visits to Chicago’. Both there and in this country, it appears he had squandered the company money and that of the shareholders, which eventually led to the factory going bankrupt. Russell’s source appears to be the autobiographical book ‘Without Knowing Mr. Walkley’, written by Edith Olivier, the daughter of a former rector of the town and herself later to become its mayor. In it, she gives an account of events following Pardoe Yates’s death:

‘He died very suddenly, and his death was a great shock to the town, for no one had even heard that he was ill. He was now laid in state upon his bed, while the factory employees filed through the room in long lines, to see his face for the last time. As she went by, one of the factory girls was bold enough to lay her finger upon the dead man’s cheek, and then she sprang back, exclaiming:

‘Ain’t he warm!’

After this no further visitors were admitted to the room.’

The funeral procession was two miles long and ‘the orations delivered over the grave by ministers of various denominations were if anything even longer.

Then followed an unexpected sequel. It transpired that this seemingly righteous man had been living a double life. He was no teetotaller in London or in the States, but had there spent his evenings entertaining chorus girls, and drinking in restaurants. He had made away with a large amount of money belonging to the company which owned the factory. Its shareholders were ruined, and half the population of Wilton was out of work till a new company could be formed. The world marvelled at the fortunate appropriateness of his death; but those who lived nearby reported that, on the night after the funeral, a mysterious, veiled widow, in height and proportions curiously resembling the dead man, had been seen to leave his house, and to drive away in a cab to an unknown destination.’

As a postscript to this story, some notes in the Record Office (WSHC 2583/109/2) by S.H.R.Clarke contain a memorandum written after meeting Reginald, the son of Pardoe Yates, at the Carpet Factory on June 13th 1963:

‘He remembers the death of his father in 1898 when he was ten. His father died at ‘Glencairn’, No.3, Silver Street, Wilton, and the lying-in state took place there in the dining-room and he remembers it well. The employees did, in fact, file past…but he has no recollection of the incident told by Edith Olivier and thinks it highly improbable, and felt sure his mother knew nothing of it. Mr. Yates senior died of Bright’s Disease.’ His mother, Rachel, outlived him by sixteen years, dying on January 4th 1914, aged 83.



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