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Cockermouth Post Article June 2011

Our exhibition for 2011 focuses on one of the oldest parts of town, Market Place and some of the surrounding areas. We’ll be taking a look at the history of the Town Hall, which was the hub of the war effort during the years of World War II. Prior to its being brought into service as a Town Hall in 1932, it was the Methodist Church, with seating for 850 people. In those days it had a gallery around the four sides, and the front portion of the building contained the choir and organ. Bernard Bradbury tells us that the gallery was removed and an upper floor installed when it became the Town Hall. There was also a schoolroom beneath the church.

Just around the corner by the river was the site of a large hat manufactury belonging to Thomas Wilson, an employer greatly respected by his workforce. He was a Cockermouth man, born in 1791, and greatly expanded a business started by his father before him. He brought a large number of workers from the Lancashire hat trade to Cockermouth, and at one point nearly 4,000 hats were being manufactured in the town. Many people in Cockermouth were employed in the hat-making trade. Sadly, it has been impossible to track down even one of these hats from the early to mid 19th century (unless anyone out there knows otherwise). It was Thomas Wilson who had Grecian Villa built as his home (now the Manor Court Hotel). He was also closely involved in the rebuilding of All Saints’ Church after the fire in 1850. A plaque in the church commemorates him:

“In memory of Thomas Wilson, hat manufacturer, of this town, who, left to his own resources in early life, by a steady course of diligence, integrity and enterprise, largely extended the trade and industrial employment of the town, and raised himself to an affluent and honourable position in society. Died January 28th 1857, aged 65 years…”

Gloria Edwards

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