Joseph Crosfield (5 October 1792 – 16 February 1844) was a
businessman who established a soap and chemical manufacturing business
in Warrington, which was in the historic county of
Lancashire and is
now in the ceremonial county of Cheshire. This business was to become
the firm of
Joseph Crosfield and Sons.
1 Early life
2 Soap and alkali manufacture
3 Other investments
4 Political, civic and religious life
5 Personal life
6 Crosfields after Joseph
7 See also
9 External links
Joseph Crosfield was born in Warrington, the fourth son of George
Crosfield and his wife Ann née Key. The Crosfield family had been
Quakers since the time of
George Fox and this tradition was maintained
by George and subsequently by Joseph. George Crosfield was a wholesale
Warrington who also had interests in a sugar-refining
business in Liverpool. The family moved to Lancaster in 1799 for
George to develop a sugar-refining business there, while still keeping
an interest in his grocery business in
Warrington under the care of
his assistant, Joseph Fell. Nothing is known of Joseph's early life
in Lancaster. From September 1807, a time close to his 15th birthday,
he was apprenticed for 6 years to Anthony Clapham, a druggist and
chemist in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. By 1811 Anthony Clapham was also a
Soap and alkali manufacture
In 1814, Joseph's apprenticeship having finished, at the age of 21 he
decided to establish his own soap making business in Warrington. At
this time soap manufacturing was growing rapidly in the Mersey valley.
This was largely because of the recently developed canals and river
navigations in the area which allowed for easier transport of the raw
materials into the factories and for the distribution of the finished
products. A number of new large soaperies had recently been
established in the nearby towns of St Helens,
Joseph Crosfield's soapery was established on the north bank of a loop
of the river Mersey in an area known as Bank Quay, near to urban
Warrington but at that time separated from it by a stretch of fields.
Other industrial premises were nearby. The premises occupied that of a
failed wire mill and the business started with a capital of £1,500.
It struggled at first, partly due to the trade depression at the time,
but by 1818 it was making a profit.
In 1820 Joseph was joined in the business by his younger brother
William (1805–1881). Later that year his father George died, leaving
a legacy of £1,500 to Joseph. Around this time Joseph Fell also
became a partner in the business. Also around this time Joseph
Crosfield bought the machinery from a nearby corn mill.
In addition to making soap, like many other soapmakers Joseph
Crosfield was involved in making candles. By the mid-1830s
Crosfield's was producing around 900 tons of soap annually. In 1832
they were the 25th largest business in the list of 296 soapmakers in
England and Scotland that year. Joseph carried out most of the
clerical work himself in the business, employing only one clerk.
Joseph Crosfield became engaged in a variety of other business
enterprises. One of these was the old grocery business of Crosfield
& Fell, where he replaced his father after the latter's death. He
continued to run the corn-mill from which he had bought the
machinery. By the 1830s most soap makers were manufacturing their
own alkali by the Leblanc process, rather than using alkali from
Joseph Crosfield was no exception. Rather than
manufacturing it in his Bank Quay site, he took over a bankrupt alum
St Helens, Merseyside
St Helens, Merseyside with his older brother James
(1787–1852) and Josias Christopher Gamble. Here he continued to make
alum and also manufactured alkali by the Leblanc process. Joseph's
younger brother Simon (1803–1864) later became a partner in this
During this time Joseph's soap-making business was making large
profits but, rather than investing them into this business, he put the
money into other enterprises, most of which lost money. He had an
interest in glass-making, buying shares in the Manchester &
Liverpool Plate Glass Company in 1836 and he took out a patent for an
improvement in the manufacture of plate glass; but the company failed.
He also lost a considerable amount of money in a partnership in the
Wharf Meadow cotton-mill. He did better with his investments into
joint-stock banks, his first investment being into the Manchester
Joint-Stock Banking Company. In 1831 a branch of the Manchester and
Liverpool District Banking Company opened in
Warrington and in time
Joseph became a large shareholder and local director of this bank.
In common with many other businessmen of the time, Joseph became
involved with the newly opening railways. His major interest was in
the St Helens and
Runcorn Gap Railway. After investing in this
enterprise in 1830 he became a director in 1836. He speculated in
other local railway lines, making gains with some and losses with
others. He also speculated in a number of foreign investments, usually
breaking even or suffering small losses.
Political, civic and religious life
Joseph Crosfield was also deeply involved in the political, civic and
religious life of Warrington. In addition to his continuing Quaker
activities, he was a Radical in politics, often campaigning on issues
relating to both of these movements. He was a life governor and
permanent committee member of the
Dispensary and Infirmary in the
town. He served on the
Board of Health which was set up in
1832 at the time of the cholera epidemic. He was involved with
education, not only in setting up Quaker schools in
Warrington, but also with the founding of the
Society in 1838 for educating the working classes. He took an interest
Warrington Mechanics' Institution and the Warrington
Joseph Crosfield married Elizabeth Goad from the village of
Baycliffe in the
Furness area of Lancashire. Joseph and his family
lived close to his works. After his marriage his first house was
Mersey Bank, a fairly large house standing in its own grounds to the
west of the factory. In 1826 he leased a plot of land nearby at White
Cross on which he built a new house and in which he lived for the rest
of his life. His wife produced for him 10 children, 5 boys and 5
girls. Joseph died in 1844 after a short illness when he was aged 51.
He was buried in the burial ground of the Friends' meeting house in
Buttermarket Street, Warrington.
Crosfields after Joseph
The firm of
Joseph Crosfield & Sons, Ltd. continued to thrive and
grow after his death, producing a variety of chemicals.
The business passed to Sir Arthur Henry Crosfield, who built
Witanhurst, a house in North London, on the proceeds of the sale of
the company, and was returned for Parliament as the Liberal MP for
In 1911 the company was purchased by Brunner, Mond & Company
and 1919 it was absorbed into Lever Brothers. From 1929 Crosfield was
a subsidiary of Unilever. In 1997 its
chemicals division that made ingredients for detergents and
toothpastes was acquired by ICI and in 2001,
purchased the company. The name Crosfield was finally lost as it was
Ineos Silicas. In 2008
Ineos Silicas was merged with PQ
Corporation, with the new company retaining the name of PQ
Warrington Transporter Bridge (Bank Quay Transporter Bridge)
^ Musson, pp. 4–9.
^ Musson, p. 10.
^ Musson, pp. 11–14.
^ Musson, pp. 13–17.
^ Musson, pp. 17–20.
^ Musson, p. 26.
^ Musson, p. 31.
^ Musson, p. 32.
^ Musson, p. 38.
^ Musson, pp. 39–40.
^ Musson, p. 23.
^ Musson, pp. 41–43.
^ Musson, pp. 44–46.
^ Musson, pp. 46–48.
^ Musson, pp. 50–53.
^ Musson, p. 17.
^ Musson, pp. 53–54.
^ Musson, p. 243.
^ Musson, p. 283.
^ The Times, 3 April 1998, p29
^ "INEOS Silicas". INEOS Group. Retrieved 16 April 2007.
^ "PQ Corporation, INEOS Silicas Merger Complete". Business Wire.
Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 2 July
Musson, A. E. (1965). Enterprise in Soap and Chemicals: Joseph
Crosfield & Sons, Limited 1815–1965. Manchester: Manchester
Claus Bernet (2009). "Crosfield, Joseph". In Bautz, Traugott.
Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 30.
Nordhausen: Bautz. cols. 218–220. ISBN 978-3-88309-