The Neills

wantingcaution !! this is an initial draft ... these notes are on my server for safe keeping !!





The Neills

Robert Neill (1796-1853) was the old man who hailed from Musselburgh, Inveresk in East Lothian. He married Margaret Renton (-) in 1815. Their children were - Robert (1817-); James (1821-); George Watson (1822-); Helen (1824-); Archibald Young (1826-) and William Renton (1827-) ... all born in East Lothian..

 Robert Neill (1817-99) moved to Manchester and founded a large and successful building firm 'Robert Neill & Sons' in 1842. Their most notable work was Manchester Central Station, now the Gmex Centre, designed by Lewis Henry Moorsom with the structure up to platform level being undertaken by Robert Neill & Sons at a cost of £124,778. Work on the building commenced in 1875 and the glorious roof was built by Andrew Handyside & Co of Derby. This was the age of rail and another notable effort was the Great Northern Warehouse, designed by Richard Johnson, with Robert Neill & Sons the main contractors. And Robert Neil & Sons were the main contractors involved in the building of Todmorden Town Hall which was opened by the Postmaster General on April 3rd 1871. No wonder Robert was famously Mayor of Manchester in 1866/7.

In 1873 Robert Neill became a founding member of The National Federation of Associated Employers of Labour. The NFAEL was formed to defend the business of business, and the process of wealth creation and economic growth which powered the industrial revolution. Technological innovations and joint stock companies were victims of relentless interference from the envy & greed of rent seeking politicos & trade unions. From the start of the industrial revolution entrepreneurs in Lancashire & Yorkshire were threatened by the elites in London and the south east! It was a complex educational task ...

The Directory of Directors, 1883 - Mr Robert Neill JP of Robert Neill & Sons, builders & co, Sherbourne Street, Strangeways, Manchester. A director of the coal mining company Andrew Knowles & Sons, and the Manchester Carriage & Tramways Company.

A Lancashire & Yorkshire rail contract confirms the two sons Robert junior (1840-) and Joseph Skidmore (1842-) were active in the business in 1885 - 'RAIL 795/349 Contract between Robert Neill the Elder, Robert Neill the Younger & Joseph Skidmore Neill (contractors, Manchester) and L&Y for construction of new station at Blackburn 1885 June'. And a third son Alexander Renton was also involved in 1891 - 'An antique manuscript deed survives from from the reign of Queen Victoria in 1891. An indenture between The Manchester Shipping Offices & Packing Co Ltd of the first part, Robert Neill, Robert Neill the younger, Joseph Skidmore Neill and Alexander Renton Neill carrying on the business of contractors at Manchester under the firm of Robert Neill & Sons of the second part and the said Robert Neill (the mortgagee) of the third part. For all that plot of land having frontage to Lloyd Street formerly Back Queen Street and to Jackson Row in the City of Manchester'.

The Architect & Contract Reporter, a weekly illustrated journal, reported in Volume 13 - 'Messrs Robert Neill & Sons of Manchester have obtained a contract for the erection of new barracks at Warrington. The amount is stated to be £9,000 and commencement has been made with the works'.

As reported in the London 'Times' Robert Neill died in 1899.

Robert (1817-) married Maria Skidmore (1817-) in Sheffield in 1869. Their children were - Robert (1840-); Joseph Skidmore (1842-); Mary (1845-); Maria (1847-); Alexander R (1850-); Margaret (1852-); Ellen (1855-); Archibald (1859-) and William Henry (1851-) ...

Robert's second son was Joseph Skidmore Neill J.P. (1842-) of Claremont, Broughton Park, Manchester & The Cliff, Acton Bridge, Cheshire. This gentleman was Joseph Oswald's dad.

Joseph Skidmore Neill (1842-1912) married Maria B (1842-), from Manchester in 1865, and they had seven children, all born in Manchester; Maude C (1870-); Joseph Oswald (1871-1934); Sidney Bancroft (1873-); Edwin Bertram (1875-); Mabel (1876-); a younger brother 2nd Lieutenant Harry Skidmore (1878-) who married Mary (May) Pilling in 1915 ... and Charlotte M (1880-).

After starting & learning in his father's business Joseph Skidmore specialised in finance rather than building. He was a Director of -

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Accident Insurance Co Ltd - founded in 1877 and in 1906 the 'Lancashire & Yorkshire' merged into what is now Aviva. The Manchester Courier reported the election of Joseph Skidmore as a Director of L & Y in 1893.

 Morison & Marshall Ltd, financiers of Winchester House, Old Broad Street. (BT31/7315/51785)

 l. & H. Pinto ltd - Mexican merchants, tobacco and cigar manufacturers, and tobacco growers, dating from 1885. They converted their business into a limited company in 1897. The company was wound up in 1906. (J13)

In 1888 James Bancroft died and Joseph Skidmore inherited some GWR shares.

In 1889 Joseph Skidmore appeared in the Cheshire Electoral Rolls in Acton Bridge.

In the 1891 census Joseph & Maria were at Claremont, New Hall Road, Broughton, Salford with five kids and a host of servants.

In the 1901 census Joseph Skidmore, 58, a retired building contractor, was at The Cliff, Acton Bridge with wife Maria, 59, son Harry Skidmore, 23, a horse trainer, daughter Charlotte M, 20, son Edwin B, 26, velvet manufacturer, daughter-in-law Annie, 28, grandson Edwin M, 2, all born in Manchester. Four servants were in the house.

In the 1911  census Joseph Skidmore was at The Cliff, Acton Bridge with the family; wife Maria Bancroft (1842-), son Harry Skidmore (1878-) & daughter Charlotte May (1881-) with servants.

According to the Manchester Municipal Code in 1899 Joseph Skidmore Neill of Claremont, Broughton Park, Manchester was a 'builder'. Robert Neill of Midfield, Higher Broughton, Esquire. Robert Neill (Junior) of Beech Mount, Higher Broughton, Manchester was a 'contractor'.

James Skidmore died in Northwich 21 June 1912 aged 69.

FuneralThe Northwich Guardian reported on the funeral and confirmatory family links to the Weaver Refining Company -

Death of Mr J S Neill, Acton Bridge ... Quite a gloom was cast over Acton Bridge and the whole countryside on Thursday last week when it became known that Mr Joseph Skidmore Neill of The Cliff had passed away suddenly in the early hours. The deceased who was in his seventieth year belonged to a well know Manchester family and was the son of the late Mr Robert Neill who was Mayer of Manchester during the years 1806-7-8 and was High Sheriff of Rutland in 1889. The deceased gentleman was born in Manchester in 1842 and was educated in that city. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Manchester in 1886 and for the county of Chester in 1903. He was formerly a partner in the firm of Messrs Robert Neill & Sons contractors of Manchester from where he retired in 1896. In that year Mr Neill took up residence at The Cliff, Acton Bridge. He married Maria, the daughter of the late Alderman Bancroft of Manchester who was deputy chairman of the London & North Western Railway for many years. He became highly esteemed in the neibourhood of Acton Bridge interesting himself in any object which he thought tended for the good of the district. The church claimed him as one of her most staunch adherents and he was a frequent worshipper at the Parish Church of Weaverham. As recently as Monday week he took his seat on the bench at the Eddisbury Petty Sessions. He was going about almost as usual on the Wednesday and retired to lead an apparently in his normal health but he had a sudden seizure which was quickly attended with fatal results.


There were many signs of sympathy not only at Acton Bridge and Weaverham but also at Manchester on Saturday when the remains of the decreased were laid to rest at St Paul's Churchyard, Kersal. The service was conducted by the vicar and the Rev Francis Long, vicar of Weaverham. The body had had been conveyed from Greenbank Station to Manchester and was there met and conveyed to the church. The following were the principle mourners. Messrs Oswald, Edwin and Harry Neill sons, Messrs Sharp Galloway (Altrincham) and Charles Bryant (Berwick) sons-in-law, Messrs Stuart and Eddie Neill grand sons, Mr & Mrs William Neill (Grange Wing) brother & sister-in-law, Mr Archibald Neil brother,  Mr James Holden JP (Southport) brother-in-law, Mr & Mrs H Lee (Broughton Park), Mrs & Mr Frederick Bancroft (Meer House, Broughton), Messrs Arthur, Walter and Noel Bancroft, Miss Rachel Bancroft, Mr James Bancroft JP (New House, Broughton), Messrs William & James Southern, Dr Smith and the Rev Francis Long (Weaverham), Mr Edward Hindley (The Poplars, Barnton), Mr James Evans Grimditch (London), Mr Cook jn (Messrs Trafford & Cooke, Northwich), Messrs James Holland, William Hough, John Gleave and Jos Nicholls (representing the Acton Parish Council), Mr Louis Galloway (Timperley), Mr Harry Pilling (Weaverham) and Messrs Jack & Harry Pilling jr (Weaverham), Mr A Holden (Southport), Mr I Frankenberg JP (Hefferston Grange, Weaverham), Mr R Dempster (Vale Royal), Mr George Howarth JP (Altrincham), Mr John Oliver JP (Altrincam), Mr John James Meakin (Moor House, Wilmslow), Mr Bertie Meakin (Kersal), Mr T Start (Broughton), Mr Tim Taylor (Sale), Mr H Rycroft (Kersal), Mr J Forsyth (Manchester), Mr Rob Elson (Oswestry) and Mr Ernest Jackson (Stretford).

Robert Neill (1817-99)'s younger brother Archibald also started a building business when the family moved down to Northern England.

Archibald Neill (1826-1874) was born in Musselburgh and came to Bradford as a young man to work with his brother Robert, a contractor of Manchester. Neill remained in Bradford and rose to become the head of the most important building firm in the mid-19th century City. He employed 1000 men and had his own quarries (Oak Bank, Wrose Hill ashlar quarry) and sawmills. He finally concentrated most of his efforts at Field Head, Listershills, Bradford which was a very large site indeed. Archibald's brick-mark survives. It is possible that Neill's brickworks was not at Field Head since a press report describes the death by burning of an employee at 'Neill's brickworks' at Batley Carr (between Batley and Dewsbury). Neill was was universally respected but died young of a chronic stomach ailment and was buried at Bradford's famous Undercliffe Cemetery. Thanks to Derek Barker for the photo and information and David Sallery's excellent Penmorfa website.

Archibald Neill's investment in new stone dressing machinery was important evidence brought before the Earl Litchfield's Royal Commission into Trades Unions in 1867. Luddite restrictive practices of the Unions prevented the use of machine dressed stone in Arichibald's Bradford building business. Gladstone chose to appease the Unions and the 1871 Trade Union Act refused to accept the majority report of the Commission. The Act bestowed legal privileges on the Unions which protected restrictive practices and absolved Unions from liability under the Common Law doctrine of 'restraint of trade'. Thus a millstone was placed round the neck of entrepreneurs like Archibald which impeded wealth creating innovation & investment until the Thatcher reforms of the 1980s. It seems politics of the time was concerned about the threat that socialism posed to the industrial revolution and Gladstone's Liberal Party were fierce tree traders and tax cutters but they chose not to confront the Unions and not to uphold the Common Law. Thus the 1871 Trades Union Act opened up the anti business politics which built the Labour Party and lasted for 100 years, severely restricting the goose that laid the golden egg ... the competitive business enterprise. 

Despite this setback Archibald continued to actively innovate up to his death in 1874.

Clearly Joseph Oswald came from a successful business family, builders & bankers of repute, who offered him good opportunities for betterment.

Joseph was born in 1871 in Manchester but the 1871 census found him with the family at Church Road, Lytham. His dad was still a builder and his mum, Maria was then 29 with Maud Constance and Joseph just born.

By 1881 Joseph Skidmore still described himself as a Master Builder but they had moved to Conway; The Sycamores, Pwllcrochan Road, Llandrillo-Yn-Rhos, Denbigh. And the family had now grown, Maude C (1870-), Joseph O (1871-), Sidney B (1873-), Edwin B (1874-), Mable (1876-), Harry S (1878-) & Charlotte (1881-) plus the inevitable governess Louisa Slibbard ...

By 1891 Joseph Oswald was on his own with servants at Near Chapel, Acton Bridge, apparently farming.

On the 15th of February 1896 Joseph married Ada Chris Sara Hodgson a girl from Dunham Massey who was born in Bootle, Liverpool in 1872. Joseph obtained his marriage licence on the 27th of January 1896 ... describing himself as a Gentleman to impress young Chris? ...

In 1898 a London Contracting partnership between James Oswald Neill and William Henry Booth was dissolved ... ? It appeared James Oswald had married a local Cheshire girl and abandoned his foray into building and was now looking for a new investment in Acton Bridge ...?

In 1898 Joseph Oswald's younger brother Sidney B (1873-) was manufacturing KONTELO at Acton Bridge Mills ... wot was going on?

In the 1901 census Joseph Oswald was now at Willow Green, Little Leigh and still described as a 'Contractor & Barge Owner' with Chris and 3 children Annette V (1897-), Harold S (1899-) & Sidney M (1901-).

In 1911 Joseph was confirmed as a Chemical Manufacturer at Willow Green with Chris but without children.

Ada Chris Sara died in 1919 and Joseph remarried to Florence M Evans in Conway in 1923.

'The Times' of London reported that Joseph Oswald Neill died in Llandudno on November 19th 1934, just five months before the death of his old partner Edward Hindley ...


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