On this day … 21 March 1861

Edward Pedder, senior partner in the Preston Old Bank, then aged fifty, was found dead in bed at his home, Ashton Park. An examination of his affairs following his death revealed that he and his brother, Henry Newsham Pedder, had been borrowing heavily from the bank to fund their extravagant lifestyles.

For the family history completed so far: the Pedders of Preston

Shortly after Edward’s death, Henry issued a circular announcing the suspension of the bank’s operations and attempted to distance himself from the debacle, declaring that it was Edward ‘who had the entire management of the bank’, although he himself had been one of the principal beneficiaries of Edward’s ‘generosity’.

The Pedder family had been prominent in politics and business in Preston for well over a century, owning large estates around the town. Pedder’s Lane at Ashton and Pedder Street in Preston are named for the family.

Edward was a Tory alderman, a magistrate and a deputy lieutenant of the county. In fact, ‘his election to be mayor at the Guild of 1862 was spoken of as being likely’, according to the Preston Guardian in announcing his death.

The collapse of the bank forced Edward’s executors to sell off his entire estate, lock, stock and ‘butt of exceedingly fine Madeira’. The auctioneer’s announcements reveal life at Ashton Park in great detail, beginning with the ‘Horses, Carriages, Dogs, Stable Yard, and Gamekeepers’ Effects’, including three carriages and a dog cart, announced at the beginning of May.

At the same time the auction was announced of the ‘valuable collection’ of garden, greenhouse and conservatory plants. These included 250 miscellaneous orchids in the ‘hot house’.

The next auction was of the contents of the house. The auctioneer’s announcement reveals that Edward had been spending heavily on furnishing his home, for the ‘superb and costly furniture and appointments, were all very recently supplied …’, and the billiard room had not long been fitted with a new table. There were twelve bedrooms for the family, separate rooms for the servants, with the butler and housekeeper each having their own room. There was also wine cellar which contained ‘upwards of 500 dozens of Port, of the choicest vintages, a butt of exceedingly fine Madeira; several hundred dozens of the finest sherry; French and Rhenish wines; brandies and liquers’.

Ground plan of Ashton Park, the Preston home of Edward Pedder in the 19th century

And finally came the auction of Ashton Park, which had its own separate gas works, and the 115 acres of landscaped grounds, together with several other properties in the neighbourhood making up Edward’s estate.

The red rectangle in the plan of Ashton Park pictured is the footprint of a Preston terraced house of the same date, to give an idea of the size of Edward Pedder’s home.

A pointer to the extent of the family’s wealth is that Edward’s son, Arthur, who had just left Eton, was reckoned to be the wealthiest boy in his set at the school. At the time of the collapse, he was on a lengthy grand tour and had reached India.

He rushed home to discover he now had a mother and two sisters to support. He took a job as a bank clerk and eventually prospered, retiring to a country estate in Norfolk.

Several prominent figures in the town, including Joseph Livesey and the Preston MP and squire of Cuerden Robert Townley Parker, had set up a committee to wind up the bank and pay its creditors. Eventually, with the disposal of all the family assets, the creditors were paid in full.

What angered Edward’s family for years after was that they believed, probably correctly, that the bank could have been saved. They blamed their wealthy relative, Richard Newsham, whose father had been a partner in the bank. According to Edward’s grandson, the family appealed to Newsham, for funds to stave off a rush on the bank, but he turned them down.

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