Lawrence Heyworth - the beginning of the South American Connection

The following text has been extracted from Thomas Newbigging's History of the Forest of Rossendale Published in 1893 by The Rossendale Free Press. Adam Haworth, the uncle of Henry Gibson's wife, Mary Haworth was in partnership with the Heyworths in Pernambuco.

Lawrence's history gives a good picture of the life of a British South America Merchant in the 19th century.


Lawrence Heyworth was born in 1786, at Greensnook, Bacup, and was the youngest of four sons of Peter Heyworth and his wife Elizabeth, who was daughter of Lawrence Ormerod of the same place. His father and grandfathers, paternal and maternal, were the principal woollen manufacturers at Bacup.

He received the first rudiments of learning at the old school, on whose site is now erected the Bacup Mechanics' Institution, of which latter he was President from its establishment in 1839, until his death.

At the age of thirteen he lost his father, a man highly respected, whose good sense and extensively-cultivated understanding enabled him to impress on the youthful mind of his youngest son the general outlines of, and love for the study of natural philosophy, geography, geology, astronomy, history; such politics as have in view equal privileges and the greatest good for the greatest number; the science of political economy, and commerce, which seeks not gain by others' losses, like gambling, but aims at self-enrichment by making others rich. So prepared, Lawrence became a pupil of the eminent Dr, John Fawcett, of Ewood Hall, near Halifax, and finished his education at the Grammar School of Hipperholrae, conducted by the Rev. T. Hudson, also near Halifax, which he left in 1802, being then sixteen years of; age, and went to assist his brothers, who had succeeded their father in the woollen business. Bacup and its vicinage had then a population of not more than fourteen or fifteen hundred; and the trade of the few manufacturers of the district was entirely with the Rochdale, Yorkshire and London houses. But, as the goods made by the firm of Peter Heyworth and Sons were for the Portuguese and Spanish markets, Lawrence, who was of an enterprising disposition, soon began to advise his brothers that they should themselves trade direct with Lisbon and Oporto, and so combine the profits of manufacturers and merchants; he also urged them to send him as their agent to those places. The brothers saw no objection to the plan, but very much doubted the probability of one so young, with (save a little Latin) no knowledge of any language but English, and scarcely any commercial experience, being able to push a trade as an entire stranger amongst foreigners. His mother, however, thought differently, "The idea was his own, he should be allowed the chance of working it out, and she had no doubt of his success," and used the words, " I have confidence in Lawrence." In the October, therefore, of 1805, being just nineteen years of age, Lawrence Heyworth set forth from Greensnook, Bacup, to Lisbon. His route for foreign parts lay through Birmingham and Bristol. The latter part of this portion of the journey was at night, and inside the coach was but one fellow-passenger. He and Heyworth sat at opposite corners, each with the window open all night. In the morning, the ground being covered with hoarfrost, both felt excessively cold, and each explained that he had kept his window open in the belief that his fellow- passenger wished it. The mutual politeness made them acquainted, and the acquaintance afterwards ripened into a friendship which led the way to Mr. Heyworth's commercial success. His companion was a young German of the name of Grunin, a traveller for a commercial house in Hamburgh, and himself on his way to Portugal; but he had first to visit London, and Mr. Heyworth parted from him with not even the hope of ever meeting him again. At Falmouth, however, there was a strong east wind blowing; the only packet outward-bound was about to take out the Russian ambassador and suite, and would on no condition, not even as a steerage passenger, (to which he would willingly have submitted in the prosecution of his object,) take Heyworth. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to wait the chances of wind and weather for the next packet.

During the delay, which was three weeks, and in course of which came news of Trafalgar and Lord Nelson's death, down came the German to Falmouth, accidentally put up at the same lodging with Mr, Heyworth, and they were fellow passengers to Lisbon, During the voyage, which occupied nine days, the latter worked hard at Portuguese, his knowledge of Latin was of assistance to him, and within a month he could speak with sufficient fluency for all commercial purposes. Thus his first difficulty was overcome; but at Lisbon he met with little success, and therefore resolved to make trial of Oporto. Removed thither, he again found himself in the same lodging with Grunin, who introduced him to the leading merchants of the place, from whom he speedily received not only more orders for goods of their own make than his brothers could execute, but also such large orders for other articles, that be -at once proposed to undertake a general commission business, to which his brothers agreed. This, as well as their own direct business, rapidly increased in extent, and became largely profitable. Nor was this the sum of his good fortune. Lodging also in the same house with him was a young Frenchman, who took so much interest in his progress as to introduce him to the French Consul, who in his turn made him acquainted with several of the chief Spanish houses, with whom he was enabled to do extensive business. The Consul was afterwards still more truly a friend to Mr. Heyworth, for, on the approach of the French army in 1807, be gave him such confidential information of their progress, day by day, as enabled him to remain three weeks after all the other English residents had left; and having collected and remitted every farthing of debt due to him, (which otherwise would have been confiscated by Napoleon - a matter not accomplished by any other British commercial house at the place), to leave by an American vessel the very day before the French entered.

The success of the two years in Portugal had convinced his elder brothers that Lawrence had a gift for foreign commerce, and, after some persuasion, they agreed that he and his next brother, James, should establish a commission house at Rio-de-Janerio. A circular was accordingly issued stating their intention, and so high stood the name of the old firm of Heyworth Brothers & Co. that they at once received large consignments from the manufacturers of Lancashire and Yorkshire, Lawrence sailed from Liverpool in the Paris, in the March of 1808, without convoy, and James in the May of 1808 from Hull, with convoy, as supercargo, with a full freight, in the Lascelles. So successful were the brothers in this new field, that in the following year they found it necessary to establish a Liverpool shipping and commission agency; and at the recommendation of Lawrence, his brother Ormerod resigned the management of the manufactory to the eldest brother, and established at Liverpool the firm of Ormerod Heyworth & Co.

From Rio the firm soon extended itself, establishing branches at Bahia, Pemambuco, Buenos Ayres, Lima, Monte Video, Valparaiso, and Hamburgh. The plan adopted by the Heyworths was to raise to the position of junior partners such of their young men as showed distinguished ability, and to give them the management of branches; the several branches worked well together.

With the exception of a short visit to England, Lawrence Heyworth remained for seven years in South America. In 1812 he sailed again on his return to Rio-de-Janeiro, in the new ship Wellwood which was wrecked on the third day after setting sail from Liverpool on a sand-bank off Wexford on the Irish coast; and if Mr. Heyworth (as the Captain's energies were paralysed) had not taken in charge the management, and given directions to the sailors about getting the boat afloat at the critical moment when the vessel was breaking up, the passengers and crew would have all perished. Escaping from the broken masts and yards of the sinking ship in the open boat, with a terrible sea running, which every moment threatened to swamp them, they safely landed on the coast of Ireland; Mr Heyworth without any clothing except his shirt

In 1815 Sir James Chamberlain went out to Rio as Consul General, with a patent from George IV., allowing him to levy a tax of half per cent upon all English goods imported to Rio, which would have brought him some six or seven thousand pounds a-year. This imposition Mr. Heyworth at once resisted, urging its injustice towards British Merchants, and the impossibility of their being legally compelled to pay it The resistance brought him some persecution from the Consul, but he was successful in preventing the impost; and the whole matter is remembered in Rio with scarcely less regard than Hampden's resistance of ship money is in this country. In 1816 Mr. Heyworth returned to England. Our restrictive Tariff upon sugar, coffee, and other produce of South America, made it necessary for his firm to have an establishment at Hamburgh; and he accordingly formed in 1817 an agency under the name of Jackson, Heyworth, and Co. In 1817 Mr. Heyworth visited their commercial agents at Trieste and Leghorn, extending their transactions with those ports, and saving at the former place a valuable cargo from a failing house. In 1819 he again visited Hamburgh, sold a large stock of coffee which the partner was holding over, and realised by that single transaction a profit of no less than 20,000; delayed sale of which would, by a sudden fall in the market, which shortly took place, have resulted in a loss almost to that amount. On his return in the same year, Mr. Heyworth purchased the estate of Yew Tree, near Liverpool; and in 1820 married Elizabeth, his second cousin, daughter of Mr. Aked. From this time he took no very active part in commercial affairs. He was one of the first to perceive the practicability and importance of railways; and was one of their earliest promoters, inducing his brothers to join him in withdrawing his capital from commerce, and investing it in the Ironways. This he did, not only on the ground of profit, but of national advantage, In 1836 the firm disposed of their several establishments at home and abroad to junior partners, who still continue to prosper in the several branches of business founded by the subject of this memoir. Mr, Heyworth first look an active part in politics upon the agitation of the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. He was the second chairman of the Liverpool Free Trades Association; was appointed in 1839 one of the three deputies to the first great conference at Manchester, when the deputies were charged to go only for a fixed duty, to which, however, he refused to consent, and produced a powerful impression upon the meeting, which afterwards influenced the entire agitation, by his assertion of the moral importance of Free Trade, and the right of the people to untaxed bread. From that time he was one of the most zealous members of the League,— was the first to offer a subscription of 1000, on the condition of fifty others giving a like amount; and was on all occasions by far the largest subscriber in Liverpool.

He was also from the first a zealous supporter of the Temperance cause, opening his house to its advocates from all parts of the world; and himself incurring no small amount of labour in its advocacy, In 1845 he refused a seat for Stafford, because it was to be gained only by bribing, and keeping open house for the electors, so encouraging corruption and drunkenness. Being a director of the Midland Railway, and a popularly known political reformer, led to his receiving an invitation to contest Derby, on the unseating on petition, after the general election in 1847, of Messrs, Strutt and Gower and in August 1848 was returned for that Borough, with Mr. M. T. Bass.

Notwithstanding the unprincipled contest, on the part of his two opponents, at his two elections for Derby, he persisted in maintaining inviolable his resolve made at Stafford, not to owe to bribery his seat in his country's honourable House of Commons; in which resolve he was nobly sustained by his constituents. Besides having an abhorrence of bribery, Mr. Heyworth denounced the payment of charges at elections of what are called legitimate expenses. He held these demands to be a most vicious usage, pregnant with political prostitution. He deemed it an outrage on the first principles of political economy, that an honest servant, be his engagements private or public, should be obliged, or even allowed to invest money in obtaining the onerous duty of serving in Parliament; and that there is but a step from this legalised obligation to an act of bribery and political dereliction. Mr. Heyworth spoke but seldom in the House. His chief speech was in support of one of Mr. Cobden's motions for Financial reform, wherein be urged the importance of direct over indirect taxation, and was heard with full attention He was in favour of Universal Suffrage, and Vote by Ballot; and opposed to Church rates. His age exempted him from serving on Committees, but he expressed his willingness to do so; and was in other respects a diligent Member of Parliament.

After sitting through two Parliaments, extending over a period of about nine years, as one of the representatives for the Borough of Derby, Mr. Heyworth experienced, at the age of threescore years and ten, something of the coming infirmities of advancing years, and especially that of a defective hearing. He, therefore, in 1857, relinquished his seat in the House of Commons; but in his retirement he never ceased to take an active pan in promoting the movements agitated for Political, Social, Commercial, and Moral Reform. Mr. Heyworth was the author of a multitude of pamphlets, and published letters on the above and kindred subjects; and his views are enunciated at length in his work entitled, " The Origin, Mission, and Destiny of Man." He died on the 19th April, 1872, at the ripe age of 86 years.


GIBSONS