From industrial Haltwhistle to prosperous Carlisle: John Jackson Saint’s early years.
John Jackson Saint was an ambitious and enterprising 23-year-old when he established a pioneering new business in Carlisle in the late 19th century.
His qualification as a chartered accountant in 1884 coincided with a series of wholesale changes to the bankruptcy laws, which inevitably led to a high demand for his expertise.
Within a few short years J.Jackson Saint & Co became one of the first chartered accountancy firms in Carlisle and it quickly established a formidable reputation.
Mr Saint’s entrepreneurial spirit would have come as no surprise to his family back in Haltwhistle, a small industrial town some 25 miles east of the Border City. It was in his blood. His ancestors were credited with establishing a woollen industry in the town in 1749, a trade they were involved in until the turn of the 20th century.
And in the boom years that followed the arrival of the railway line in Haltwhistle, John Jackson’s father, Joseph Saint, was among those who led the town’s industrial revolution. A well-known businessman, Joseph ran a local woollen mill with two of his elder sons, William Oliver Saint and Joseph Saint junior.
By 1861 – the year his youngest son was born – he employed 13 men, four girls and four boys at the mill and dye-house at Town Foot. It is likely to have been strenuous, tiring and dirty work, made worse by the conditions of the decaying mill.
In a letter to his landlord in 1837, Joseph Saint, who was then 43, appealed for help in restoring the structure. He wrote:
“…the building would not have been tenable this forty years or more had we not repaired it ourselves, the roof of the dyehouse has fallen in this spring and the Mill and Mill house is in a bad state almost dangerous for men to work in…”
Arsenic & Gossip
A leading member of the local Methodist church, Joseph was apparently a kind-hearted, God-fearing man but, in 1849, he became embroiled in a scandal which culminated in a notorious murder trial.
When a local woman, Christina Hornsby, 26, was accused of poisoning her husband, William, with arsenic, the jury at her trial was told of rumours of her affair with the churchman. Neighbours told how they spotted the 55-year-old devout Methodist leaving the married woman’s home late in the evening, while her husband worked away.
Their sightings sparked idle gossip, despite the fact that the Hornsbys lived with Joseph’s widowed sister-in-law, to whom he was a frequent visitor. Under oath, each of them swore they did nothing more risqué than pray together.
According to The Newcastle Guardian on August 4 1849, the defence solicitor said:
“…Those who got up this prosecution had searched in vain for a motive and because they couldn’t find one had endeavoured to cast suspicion on Joseph Saint…They sought to pull down a man who is an honour to the neighbourhood in which he lives, a member of a people which have done as much good, if not more than any other religionists – he meant the bold, intrepid, faithful, zealous body called the Wesleyan Methodists…”
Mrs Hornsby was found not guilty of murder.
John Jackson Saint was barely 10-years-old when his father died, aged 77, in 1871. In an early sign that wool trade profits were falling, he left just £20 to his widow, Ann.
Over the decade that followed, his elder brothers continued to produce wool in Haltwhistle but by the 1880s, there are further signals that the business was in trouble.
It must have become clear to John Jackson that there was no future in the family business for an ambitious young man like himself. Although he started his working life as a draughtsman in his hometown, he was part of an exodus from Haltwhistle in the late 19th century.
In the same year that he established his accountancy firm in Carlisle, his brothers formally dissolved their working partnership at the woollen mill.
While his siblings Joseph and James moved away from the area and apparently led comfortable lives, it appears that the only brother who stuck with the woollen mill died penniless.
William Saint and his son Joseph were still living and working at the mill in 1891, though it was advertised for sale in The Southern Reporter in the same year.
Within three years William was dead; his wife Isabella followed shortly afterwards, yet there is no record that either of them left a will. By 1901 their son was living many miles away in Blyth, Northumberland, where he boarded with another family. He died in 1906.
It may never be known whether it was luck or good judgement which took John Jackson Saint from the declining woollen mill industry in Haltwhistle to the relatively unchartered territory of accountancy. Either way, his background in this Northumberland market town stood him in good stead for the next chapter.