Among these is the industry of sugar refining, a sweet and cheerful trade, which has,
unfortunately, left very few traces. It will be a fragmentary history, and its sequence may
perhaps be a little disjointed, but if we follow the line of investigation pursued by the writer,
we shall, in fact, find something of the romance of changing Warrington.
The first "clue" was the discovery of a fraction of a map of Warrington - a tracing of a central
portion of the town from Wallworth and Donhavand's map, made in 1772. It was a surveyor's map of
weirdly irregular buildings in the Horsemarket Street district, and at the foot of that street
were the inked-in outlines of two buildings labelled "Sugar Houses."
On the site, therefore (and also with the aid of a map made in 1826), we were able to trace out
and identify some of the property on the older map, a somewhat difficult job as the old town
surveyors were not as careful in their measurements as they might be.
The Actual Site
The block of property known as "The Farmers' Stores" provided the strongest evidence. It was
bounded by two streets - Riding Street and Sugar House Lane. Riding Street remains and the lane
has been widened and its identity lost in Bewsey Street. One sugar house (probably actual works
where the sugar was boiled) stood on that open spot of land in front of Councillor J T Cooper's
corn warehouse. The other, almost definitely the stables and storehouse for the boiling works,
stood on the other side of the road behind the row of lock-up shops now standing there, and
flanked by a row of cottages on Winwick Street side. The ruins of those cottages are, in all
probability, those ruins which are railed in at the junction of Winwick Street.
On the 1826 map, that salubrious little alley-way known as Golden Grove Street, is also marked
as Old Sugar House Lane.
These maps gave us a wonderful lead in our explorations, for they led to inquiries from
old-established firms in the vicinity which provided further pieces for our patch-work story.
It was learned, for instance, that many years ago, a lady, then past her 80th birthday, visited
friends in the vicinity of the premises occupied by Geo. Houghton, furnisher, and to them she
recounted how, as a little girl, she saw the raw sugar - the thick treacly molasses which has
to be refined into the white product we know - brought to the Sugar House.
In Tumber Alley
From her bedroom window in a little street known as Tumber Alley she watched the carters coming
in from the port of Liverpool with their loads.
With old-fashioned storm lamps or flares, they came in the gloom to the Sugar House yard,
sweating horses straining at the girths, whips cracking, oaths, laughter and joking, the banging
and rolling of barrels, cries of "Gee-up", "Gee-back" and "Whoa, there, steady", loads taken off,
"empties" taken on, and then, the transport over, by common consent an adjournment to the
nearest tavern, where a tired drover might "wet his whistle" to the tune of five pints for a
shilling, with a copper over for a whisp of twist and a clay pipe.
All this, of course, was after the year 1772, but the two earliest records we discovered of
sugar boiling in Warrington were culled, one from the "Annals of Warrington," where, in the
prefix, it relates that "a traveller who visited Warrington in 1769, tells that it had ...
a sugar house, a brewery of beer for exportation", &c., and, two, from Chamberlayne's "The
Present State of Great Britain" of 1755, in which he writes: "Warrington is much noted for a
large smelting house for copper, as also a sugar house".
In 1781, from records at Chester, we find the will proved of George Robinson, sugar "baker", of
Warrington, and in 1797 a further mention is made of a George Robinson, of Warrington, who was
a sugar "boiler".
Changes of Ownership
It is about 1780, in fact, when there appear to have been great changes in the sugar industry in
Warrington, and indeed, there is substantial proof of changes in ownership in the Horsemarket
In 1781 we find it recorded that sugar refiners in Warrington were Joseph Parr and Co. and
Thomas Lyon and Co., good old Warrington names that we still have associated with the town or
district in the persons of Mr. Roger C. Parr, of Grappenhall Heyes, and Lt.-Colonel C. Lyon,
formerly of Appleton Hall. It is fairly certain that our "Sugar Houses" of the map were those
where the Parrs carried on their business. They then lived at Appleton "in a cottage with a
In 1778 Joseph Parr gave his joint bond to "Thomas Patten of Bank" for £1,000 for the use of the
Sugar House Company, and the following day gave his joint bond to his mother, Hannah Parr, for
£1,250 for his sole use, in which bond he was joined, as security, by Robert Hesketh and Joseph
Jackson. In May the following year there is record of a further £1,000 for which he gave his
bond to Thomas Patten; in March the same year, for £1,000 from John Leigh, of Oughtrington, and
in 1781 a note of hand to Robert Hesketh of Chester, for £509 at five per cent per annum. All
these bonds were paid and cancelled.
An Important Document
The dates of these loans, and the record of an inventory of the Sugar House Utensils made in
1768 reveal something of the business arrangements of the company, but the definite working
arrangement is only made clear by an "Indenture Triparite", which formed the deed of dissolution
between the firm of Joseph Parr and Company.
In 1781 the three parties to this agreement were Robert Hesketh of Chester; Joseph Parr of
Warrington; and Richard Astley of Warrington - all described as merchants. In 1778, the document
reveals, these three entered into partnership, and agreed to lease from Thomas Patten of Bank
(now fairly clearly of the Wilson Patten family of Bank House) and John Leigh, sugar houses,
warehouse buildings, &c., the said Patten and Leigh agreeing to lend certain monies (of which
record is given above). The property leased included "these two several sugar houses with
warehouse and accompanying house, stable, shippon and others outbuildings, situate near the
bottom of Horsemarket Street". In this dissolution of partnership, Hesketh retired from the
business and Joseph Parr took it over. Richard Astley's position is not made very clear until
we turn up the record of an indemnity made in I782, in which Richard Astley promised to
indemnify Joseph Parr and Co. from being called upon for any rent due upon the sugar houses and
utensils held by lease from the executors of the late Robert Patten.
The Patten Family
And here are queries we have not answered. Were the Patten ancestors ever engaged in the sugar
boiling industry in Warrington? Under what circumstances did they have possession of the sugar
houses and utensils?
However, to forsake the somewhat dry job of scrutinising legal documents, let us turn to what
was actually being done in the sugar works in the late 18th century. The inventory of the
utensils gives us a very good idea that the business must have been very extensive, for
Robert Hesketh actually paid to Thomas Marsden and Co. no less a sum than £938 18s 11d for
utensils alone, and most of these were second hand, and presumably cheap.
Lump, Piece and Loaf
There were lump, piece and loaf "drips", and lump and loaf "molds" by the score. A mill stone
for grinding cost £23, and for copper coolers £125 was paid. In those days there were many
tons of copper in the premises in the form of pans and moulds, ladles and casks. Apparently
the garret was the store-room for utensils, for there is a goodly quantity of apparatus not
to regular use.
On the fifth, fourth, third, second and first floors the inventory reveals that there were
several thousands of "drips" and "molds" for the preparation of sugar, in piece, lump or loaf,
while on the ground floor we have records of scum tubs, scum baskets, candy pots, candy mugs,
treacle funnels, spaddles, shovels and a host of other appurtenances to the trade.
A Sweet Business
It was a sweet business for the gamins of the neighbourhood, who would not be above dipping
a grimy hand in a treacle barrel, but one can imagine that in that old sugar house there would
be on each floor steaming cauldrons of the liquid sugar, being ladled out into the various
moulds and through the varying processes by men innured to working in a sticky damp atmosphere.
The entry "12 iron candlesticks", on the ground floor inventory, suggests that lighting was
primitive, and, in keeping with the period somewhat niggardly. Working hours would be long,
and on dark winter days one can imagine that the flickering candle light would only be
augmented by the occasional gleams from the boiler fires.
It was certainly Joseph Parr who was in occupation of the Sugar Houses, of Horsemarket Street,
and it is more than likely that he was the last to make sugar in Warrington. But for whatever
purpose the sugar was made, whether for local sale, whether it was sent throughout the country
or even abroad, whether or not the many alehouses in the town who had their own brewing cellars
obtained supplies from the firm, or whether they preferred to use the coarse untreated juice,
there is no clear record. But wherever the principal demand came from it eventually came to an
end, and with the end of that demand, the bottom dropped out of the sugar pan, and Warrington
lost another industry.
The Final Clue
And so, as we find on our investigations, that our resources for a full and precise history are
failing, we arrive at the final clue, from which we can make a really startling deduction.
As in all good detective stories, trail crosses trail, and interwoven threads have to be
unravelled, so we find, in pursuing an altogether different investigation, a clue that not only
may be the explanation of the disappearance of the sugar business, but the reason for the
foundation of the great Westminster Bank !
The grandmother of Lt.-Col. C Lyon, formerly of Appleton Hall, lived in a period when a
gentlewoman kept a diary, and recorded therein matters of real and lasting interest, and not
merely feminine frivolities.
We are indebted to Colonel Lyon for a note he made some years ago, in which he records the
discovery of a memorandum written by his mother about the year 1858.
"Warrington Old Bank"
In 1782 the late Mr. William Turner, of the firm of Turner and Kerfoot, solicitors in the town,
in conversation with the late Thomas Lyon, spoke of the want of a bank in Warrington, and said
to him; "You have the money, so has Walter Kerfoot, my partner. Now Joseph Parr (who was a
sugar boiler in the town) has a trade which is leaving him, and doing him no good. He has
business habits, and may manage the bank".
It was in consequence of this conversation that the present bank was established under the
firm first of Parr, Lyon and Kerfoot, which has now been in operation for 76 years with
Thus wrote Mrs. Lyon, and Colonel Lyon records that the Thomas Lyon referred to was his
grandfather's uncle, and owner of Appleton, and that Joseph Parr lived at Fir Grove, West
Derby, and was Thomas Lyon's brother-in-law, having married his sister Ellen.
And so, if the sugar trade has gone from Warrington - even only to Earlstown - Warrington may
congratulate itself on another historical business, which has left its mark on the country as
the forerunner of a great banking system.