Although to me my great grandfather, Alfred John Liversedge, is the epitome of the Victorian engineer his career could easily have taken another turn. His first recorded employment was as a draper’s assistant and this would have been more in-line with the family tradition. When he was growing up his father, John Arthur Liversedge, was variously cloth merchant, tailor and woollen draper although eventually he divided his time between being a carrier of parcels or a commercial traveller and a Methodist local preacher. Meanwhile in Barnsley his uncle Edwin Liversedge was establishing his drapery business.
With the return to the Sunday night TV of The Paradise I wondered whether Edwin’s shop had been anything like that magical emporium. Edwin started out as a travelling draper and tailor and in the 1871 census he is lodging in Wesley Street, Barnsley. By 1881 he had risen to be a tailor and draper employing 40 workpeople.
Over the years he seems to have been partnership with a number of other businessmen at one time calling themselves Barnsley Drapery Company. The local papers illustrate, through the recruitment advertisements, some of the range of services supplied. In 1875 Edwin Liversedge and Co. Drapers of 13 Regent Street required “a young lady of experience to take the management of a dress and mantle department”. Later “tailoresses, especially trouser hands” and “coat hands” were in demand along with another “young lady to act in the capacity of milliner and shop saleswoman”.
Edwin rose to hold a certain position within west riding society, the local papers report a number of philanthropic gestures he made including donations to medical work in China and the relief of distress in Armenia as well as supporting the enlargement of the Methodist New Connexion schoolhouse in Hoyland.
However he and his brother’s seem to have been the last of the family to work in the clothing industry; none of their sons (or daughters) sought to follow them following careers as varied as Methodist minister, analytical chemist, farming and of course engineering.