The Gentlemen of the Leek Hunt

 By A.W.Bednall

 The  Bednall Archive   

Part 1


In the early 1990s the dispersal of a large portion of the archives of Leek’s oldest firm of solicitors -Challinor & Shaw- enabled the author to purchase a bundle of late 18th century bills relating to the household of Richard Badnall of Leek in Staffordshire.  Amongst these were a number headed “To the Gentlemen of the Leek Hunt” dealing with expenses incurred by the hunt and paid by Richard Badnall.  A review of literature on the history of the area indicated that there was very little information about the hunt, apart from a statement by Miller implying that there was a Leek Hunt sometime prior to 1837 [1].  The most interesting (although not very informative) reference[2] found stated that a “Moorland Pack” had hunted two days a week in the neighbourhood of Leek, Biddulph and Draycott in or about 1820 but that its existence had been ephemeral.  This brief article has, therefore, been written in an attempt to provide answers to some of the questions concerning the Leek Hunt (who the Gentlemen of the  Leek Hunt were; what and where were they hunting, for example) and to draw the attention of others interested in this subject to the existence of these bills.


Richard Badnall of Highfield

Richard Badnall of Highfield, was the younger son of Joseph Badnall of Leek in Staffordshire, a very successful silk dyer.  He was born in 1770 and in or about 1791 he became a partner of John Fynney and Thomas Knight, trading as Knight, Fynney and Badnall, silk ribbon and button manufacturers. Three years later he married Harriet daughter of the Reverend William Hopkins, M.A. Rector of Upminster, Essex and St. Mary Strand, London.  The young couple set up their first home in a house on Clerk’s Bank in Leek which they rented from local surgeon Peter Walthall Davenport.


Figure 1   Clerks Bank, Leek (Badnall’s house is on the far left)

 Following the deaths of his father in 1803, and his brother William in 1806.[3], Richard Badnall inherited not only the estates which his father had acquired but virtually the whole of family business founded by his grandfather [4].  During the next twenty years Badnall’s wealth increased considerably and sometime between 1805 and 1811 he built a mansion appropriate to his status, at Highfield near the entrance to Leek from Macclesfield [5].  He was a leading figures in the Leek silk industry and in Leek society, a JP and from 1825, one of the Commissioners for the improvement of the town.


 Figure 2 Richard Badnall of Highfield

 In 1824 he decided to retire from active involvement in the silk trade and transferred his interest in the family business to his son Richard (of Ashenhurst) who had formed a partnership with Henry Cruso of Leek and Francis Gybbon Spilsbury of Walsall to exploit silk machinery, tanning and other patents which they had recently taken out.  Despite his wish not to be actively involved in business, Richard Badnall, senior, was persuaded to join his son Richard, Henry Cruso and Captain Ellis in forming a local commercial bank.  Unfortunately a period of considerable trading difficulty occurred within a year or so of the creation of the Badnall, Spilsbury and Cruso partnership, which caused many country banks to fail.  This created problems for the Badnall bank and led to Richard Badnall senior, becoming more deeply involved in the business affairs of Badnall, Spilsbury & Cruso.  When the firm first ran into difficulties, he used his own credit worthiness to raise a loan of £20000 from the Bank of England in an attempt to prevent the firm’s collapse.  He was unsuccessful and in 1826 the Badnall, Spilsbury & Cruso partnership was declared bankrupt.  In the aftermath of these events a Richard Badnall of Highfield was declared bankrupt, arrested on the streets of London and thrown into Newgate Gaol.  Although subsequently released from Newgate, his estates were sold to pay his creditors and virtually penniless, he and his family left Leek in 1828 and went to live in Liverpool. There Richard senior, now 58 years old, tried to restore the family fortunes by becoming a silk broker.  He was unsuccessful, however, and died there, in very reduced circumstances, in 1838.


Richard Badnall’s Household Bills

 he household bills of Richard Badnall of Highfield cover the period 1791 to 1796 and relate to the early years of Badnall’s first marriage when the young couple were living in one of the houses on Clerk’s Bank, Leek, leased (with other property including a shade) by Badnall and his partners from the trustees of John Davenport and the executors of Thomas Walthall [6].  Richard Badnall seems to have been fairly systematic when dealing with domestic bills -annotating them on the reverse with brief details such as the date, tradesman’s name and amount.  In some cases he added additional notes in a different coloured ink indicating into which account book.[7] the item should be entered.  Sometimes the annotations appear to have been made by Richard Badnall’s wife.  Although all the bills are discoloured and some have faded, all are legible.

 10 of the 65 household bills are for items or services purchased by Richard Badnall on behalf of the Gentlemen of the Leek Hunt[8] between the April 1794 and December 1795.  These “Hunt” bills are scraps of paper, generally less than A4 in size, which give the items purchased or the services provided, the date of purchase (or supply) and the date on which the bill was paid. 

 Fig 3.jpg (110347 bytes)

Figure 3 William Howard's bill for a hat (Bed Coll 801/1)

 Most of the tradesmen who submitted bills to “The Gentlemen of the Leek Hunt” seem to have lived in Leek and it has been possible to identify almost all of them in trade directories of the time.  They were Joseph Tharme a Sadler whose shop was in the Leek Market Place;  William Howard a Hatter; William Moore a Taylor[9] whose shop appears to have been in the Sheep Market; John Buxton, a linen draper of Custard street, Leek; and John Stringer who, although listed under “Gentry” in the Directory of 1793, appears to have been a mercer or draper.  Badnall also received two bills from Margaret Melville who is not listed in Leek Trade Directories for this period and could not be found in either the Land Tax returns or the Leek Easter Book for 1805.  She may have lived elsewhere -in Macclesfield for example.

The few bills on which this article is based may represent only a small fraction of all the bills actually incurred by the Leek Hunt during the period in question and this fact should be born in mind when considering the following sections

©awbednall,macclesfield, 1999