Archibald BRIGGS


Archibald BRIGGS Archibald BRIGGS(5) was the youngest of three sons of Henry BRIGGS (7) (1797-1868) and Marianne MILNES (6) (1801-1886). He was born at his father's house in Overton, near Wakefield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on 16 Jan 1833 1, and was baptised at the Westgate End Presbyterian Chapel, in Wakefield, on 15 May 1834 by the Rev William TURNER.

Although the register of the Westgate End Presbyterian Chapel2 recorded his birth date as 16 Jan 1834 and his baptism as 15 May 1834, I assume that the birth date given by the family to Dr Williams' Library was correct, and that Archibald was baptised when he was one and a bit.

Westgate Chapel baptism register

His birth was registered at Dr William's Library on 12 Nov 1834, and a certificate was issued, the information supplied being confirmed by Margaret STANSFIELD, of Flockton, (Archibald's aunt on his mother's side) and Ann APPLEYARD, spinster of Wakefield.

Birth certificate issued by Dr William's Library

At the 1841 census 3, aged 9, he was with his parents in the township of Shitlington, presumably at Overton House, the household comprising just:

Neither of his older brothers was present, and in fact William had already died in 1836. It is not clear what kind of education Archibald received.

His parents had moved to Overton House in about 1825, not long after their marriage. Overton is just south of what is now the A642 between Wakefield and Huddersfield, about 9 km from Wakefield, and is only a couple of km or so from Flockton, where his maternal grandparents lived.

At the 1851 census4, aged 18, Archibald was still with his parents at Overton House, Shitlington, and the household then comprised:

The name Overton is a contraction of Over Shitlington, and was in the parish of Thornhill. Later that year Archie's parents moved, taking the tenancy of Outwood Hall, on the northern outskirts of Wakefield5 , which remained the parental home, and that of Archie's older brother Harry, until their father's death in 1868.

At some stage Archie moved to Liverpool, and expected to inherit from his uncle Christopher RAWDON, who had married his father's sister Charlotte in 1821 and had, so far as I know, no children. Possibly he was living with his uncle and aunt. Christopher RAWDON died, at Elm House, Anfield, on the outskirts of Liverpool, on 22 Oct 1858. Archibald was disappointed to receive only a very small legacy, and the management of a Brazilian business in Liverpool with a salary of 300 a year 6. At the time of his engagement to Alice STEWARD, he was living with his widowed aunt Charlotte RAWDON (née BRIGGS) at Elm House.

Archie had possibly met Alice at The Cottage, Greenbank, Liverpool, which was the home of Alice's older sister Jane who had married Philip Henry RATHBONE in 1853, and at whose marriage Alice had been a bridesmaid. Archie also knew Philip through the meetings of the Social Science Association (The National Association for the Promotion of Social Science), of which Archie was the local Treasurer, and Philip the local Secretary of the 5th Department, Social Economy7. In 1860 the local association became the Liverpool Society for the Promotion of Social Science, with Philip as Secretary and Archibald as Treasurer8. The Society was a British reformist group, founded in 1857, with interest in public health, industrial relations, penal reform and female education9.

Archibald BRIGGS married Alice Sophia STEWARD(6) in the parish Church of the Holy Trinity at Llandudno, Caernarvonshire, Wales, on 11 Sep 1860 10. The marriage was by licence, and the witnesses were their respective fathers Henry BRIGGS and James STEWARD, the latter described simply as "gentleman". The marriage was conducted by the Rev. John William SHERINGHAM, Vicar of Strood, Rochester, said to have been a cousin of Alice's11 , though the connection is not readily evident.

On the marriage certificate Archie is described as a merchant, of Anfield, Liverpool.

Archie and Alice honeymooned for six or seven weeks in Scotland, starting in Glasgow, and taking in the west highlands, Skye, Inverness, the necessary lochs and glens, and returning to Outwood via York. They rented a house in Mosley Hill, Wavertree, near Liverpool, where they were in 1861 at the time of the census12. Their household then comprised:

Mosley Hill was quite near the Rathbones at Greenbank Cottage. We know from Alice that Archie played the 'cello, but was intimidated by the very high standard of the music played at Elm House where he lived before his marriage, and also that he owned a "velocipede". Perhaps his export business was the South American business left to him by his uncle, Christopher RAWDON.

Archibald and Alice Sophia had six children.

From 1861 to 1864 Archibald's address was registered as Mosley Hill, Liverpool, and then from 1868 as Moor House, Wakefield13. The reason for the move was probably that, not having previously been much involved in the family coal interests, he was made a board member of the new limited liability company in 1869 and remained on the board until 1880.

Already in 1861, not long after the birth of their first child, Archie's wife Alice needed to be taken abroad during the winter, and their life of frequent moves began. They left their baby behind and took off to Gibraltar in January 1862. From there they had intended to go to Algiers, but that proving difficult they ended up in Malta instead. Still unable to get a ship to Algiers they went to Marseilles and thence, finally, to Algiers, where they stayed for about three months at the Europe hotel14. They returned via Marseilles, and got back to Outwood at the end of April.

In October 1862 they were again off to Algiers, this time with their baby in tow. They hired a house with a stable, and both Archie and Alice had their own horse. They again stayed until the end of April. Archie began to think of setting up some kind of business and they decided to buy a house in Algiers so that they could regularly overwinter there. At that stage they sold their house at Mosley Hill in Liverpool15. Thus next autumn they shipped off to Algiers with a load of furniture and baggage, including baby Louie and a nurse called Lois. In the spring of 1864 baby and Lois were sent back to England, and Archie and Alice stayed. On 22 July 1864 their second child, Charlotte Mary (May) was born in Algiers, weighing only 3 lbs. It must have been very hot by then.

Archie got involved in various business ventures, including olive oil and flax retting, though none made any money. As his wife noted on various occasions, he was not made to be a businessman and was too trusting. During this time, his father-in-law moved to Algiers, and his own parents also visited. Then in the spring of 1865, for reasons not explained but possibly in connection with the formation of the new limited liability company Henry Briggs Son & Company Limited in April that year, it was decided that Alice and the two children had to return to England16. The house in Algiers was sold, and with some difficulty old Mr Steward was persuaded to leave and return to England. Archie in fact became the Secretary of the new company, and his brother Harry was the first Managing Director.

On their return to England, the family took up temporary residence at Archie's parents' house at Outwood, where their third child, James, was born on 23 Feb 1867. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Moor House, in Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe, which is a township within the parish of Wakefield, Yorkshire. Moor House was described by Alice as "only a moderate-sized house, with the frontage two bow windows which carried up to the bedrooms above".

On 4 Oct 1868 Archie's father Henry died whilst on a visit to his elder son Harry, who at that time was living in Dundee. The following year, on 8 Oct 1869, Archibald and Alice's second son, grandfather Christopher Rawdon BRIGGS was born at Moor House.

They were there at the 187117 census, when the household comprised:

So by 1871 Archibald had returned to Yorkshire and was playing a part in the management of the family coal mines. During the 1860s the firm had been moving towards becoming a limited liability company, and was finally registered as Henry Briggs, Son & Co. Ltd. in April 186518. As part of the prospectus19, the intention for a profit sharing scheme had been foreshadowed. This was mainly at the instigation of Henry Currer BRIGGS, Archibald's older brother. The scheme was duly launched that year. It was an attempt to get away from the generally appalling industrial relations in the West Yorkshire coal fields. However, as with many such schemes, it eventually foundered on the twin issues of what to do when profits are too low to permit the payment of bonus, and Union opposition to a scheme which effectively undermined the position of union executives. The scheme, which ran until suspended in 1875, unequivocally put the demands of capital ahead of the payment of bonus to employees, and was generally top down. Archibald gave a lecture at the Temperance Hall, Sheffield, on 9 Mar 1870 entitled Relations between Capital and Labour20 and later wrote a paper on the scheme21, in which he acknowledged that Harry was the instigator of the idea to form a limited company, and wrote the prospectus for the profit sharing arrangements.

After 1871 Archibald does not appear in the UK census records, but from 1869, following his father's death in 1868, to 1880, he was a director in the company Henry Briggs, Son & Co. Ltd., of which his brother Harry was the managing director from 1865 to 1868 and again from 1876 to 1881. For a period Archibald was the managing director. His brother Harry was chairman from 1868, when their father died, to his own death in 1881.

In about June 1871 the family moved from Moor House to Stanley Hall, which they rented, Stanley being nearer to the firm's offices at Whitwood. Stanley Hall was just a couple of km north of Wakefield, and about 7 km from Whitwood along the Stanley Ferry Road across the River Calder and the Aire and Calder canal. It came furnished and with over six acres of grounds, and a lot of money was spent in making the house comfortable. It was there that their fifth child, Dorothy, was born on 29 Nov 1873.

In the autumn of 1876 Archibald gave up his post as Managing Director of Henry Briggs, Son & Co, though not his seat on the board, and the whole family left England and travelled to Egypt. Archie will have been photographing like mad, but where are they all? By the end of the following April, Egypt was getting too hot, and they shipped off to Italy touring around and ending up in Switzerland. The family swanned around Switzerland and France, with Archibald toing and froing to Brazil, Algiers and Yorkshire, trying to maintain some kind of a business life through what were hard and unprofitable times, not helped by his wife's inability to rein in her spending. They decided to move back to Italy, and chose Massa in Tuscany, initially renting a house at Ischigano in the hills above the town, and then the Villa della Grazie, into which they moved towards the end of 1879.

Also around this time Archibald became ill, with an abscess in his side22, elsewhere reported as an abscess on his liver23. The doctors in Florence, where he had been sent, gave up on him, and expected him to die. However, he recovered, though it took about a year. By the autumn of 1881 he was more or less on his feet again when his brother Harry died unexpectedly in Norway. Archibald was no longer on the board of the family firm, having resigned his seat on the board in 1880, and the only family member left on the board was Harry's oldest son Arthur Currer BRIGGS, who was then 26 and who had only just been appointed. Neither of Archibald's two sons ever had anything to do with the management of the firm. Richard TONGE was made Chairman, Walter Geoffrey JACKSON was appointed to the board, and Arthur Currer BRIGGS, despite his youth, was made Managing Director24. Walter JACKSON was the brother-in-law of Arthur Currer BRIGGS, having married the latter's sister Marian Helen in 1877. Thereafter, other than receiving dividends from his shareholding, Archie had little to do with the family firm, and was looking for independent business. The history of the firm is described in various publications and privately printed pamphlets25, and not further discussed here.

In Feb 1883 the family left the Massa house in the care of their maid and her husband and went off to Stuttgart to be with Christie and James, taking furnished rooms in Cannstatt. And it was there that their sixth and last child, Alice Olga, was born on 27 Jul 1883, two days after the death of their first child Alice Louisa from TB at the age of 22. Later that year they moved into Stuttgart, presumably into a rented house, but not for long as they returned to Massa in November, leaving Christie as a boarder.

Probably the following year Archie was asked to go to Brescia, at the foot of the alps in Lombardy, to look into what turned out to be a disastrous investment in what was supposed to be a silver mine in the Val Sabbia immediately to the west of Lake Garda. However, the disaster took a while to play out. The proposed investment was the occasion of a big disagreement between Archie and his wife, who did not like the person who wanted Archie as a partner in the venture. It was agreed to ask Alice's nephew Edgar RATHBONE, who was a mining engineer, to look at the mine and give his opinion. Unfortunately his opinion was favourable, and so the project went ahead. In order for Archie to be able to work at the mine, another move was required, and Salò on the western shore of Lake Garda was chosen. This time they decided to buy a house and so La Rochetta came into the family.

In May 1886 news came that Archie's mother was dying, but he did not get back to Leeds in time, arriving the day after her death. He was still trying to raise money for the mine, as his partners contributed nothing in this line. However, he had to return in July as his partners said there was no money in the bank. He again gave in to his partners and was unable to break off from the venture. Early in the morning of Monday 19 Jul 1886, at 4:30 a.m. he dressed went out on the lake in a rowing boat and was never seen again. His hat was found, and the boat with a broken oar, but his body was never found.

When probate was granted on his will in March the following year, he having, unusually, made his wife co-executor with his brother thus leaving her sole executrix, his effects were valued at only £4,691 2s 11d. Contrast this with his brother Harry, whose effects were £47,337 10s 5d. The entry in the National Probate Calendar for 1886 reads26:

probate register

According to his daughter Dorothy, Archie was a tall man, as had been his father. She wrote father was over 6 ft. tall and broad in proportion27. Part of an article announcing his death said28:

Mr Archibald Briggs made a large circle of friends. He was kind and amiable, and the news of his death has been received with deep regret. In religion Mr. Briggs was a Unitarian, like his parents, and for some time he was a great supporter of Westgate Chapel, Wakefield, and at the reunions held there annually there was no one whose presence had a more cheerful influence.


1 Thornhill, Yorkshire; Dr. William's Library; Nonconformist Registers; No.5038, registered on 3 Dec 1834. National Archives RG5/134 through The increased requirement to provide evidence of birth led the Dissenting Deputies (representing Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians) to establish a births register of their children in 1743 at the Dissenters Library. Originally for parents living within 12 miles of London, it subsequently became open to anyone, for payment of a fee. The register ran from 6 Apr 1743 to 30 Dec 1837, by which time national registration of births, deaths and marriages in England and Wales had been introduced. There is also an Alphabetical Register of Births registered at Dr. Williams's Library, pp23,24 gives the dates of birth of all three Briggs sons: Henry Currer - 2 Mar 1829, certificate 5036; William - 9 Apr 1831, certificate 5037; Archibald - 16 Jan 1833 certificate 5038. All were registered at the same time, 3 Dec 1834. National Archives, RG4/4674: Register of Births originally kept at Dr Williams' Library in Red Cross Street, Cripplegate, London, registered between 1828 and 1837, through
2 National Archives, RG4/3704, Register of births and baptisms at West Gate End Presbyterian Chapel in Wakefield, Yorkshire, from 1761 to 1837, through This register gives his date of birth as 16 Jan 1834, which was incorrect, as he was born the previous year.
3 1841 England census, HO107, piece 1270, book 6, folio 9, p.12, through
4 1851 England census, HO107, piece 2326, folio 63, p.8, through
5Adventures in Coal: The beginnings of the coal mining firm of Henry Briggs Son & Co. in Yorkshire c1826 to 1890 , by John Goodchild. British Mining No.66, Northern Mining Research Society, 2000, p.15.
6 Relatively Rathbone, by Joy Robinson, published by Trotman and Co. Ltd., 1992. page 28.
7 The Daily News, London, 25 Aug 1858, online.
8 Report in The Standard, London, 21 Sep 1860, online.
9 Wikipedia. 10 Marriage certificate. The marriage was registered in Conway, Caernarvonshire, Wales, in the Sep quarter of 1860, vol.11b, p.653.
11 Marriages; Cheshire Observer and General Advertiser, 22 Sep 1860. The named celebrant was John William SHERINGHAM, M.A. who was Vicar of Strood, Kent, from 1848-1864 and from 1865 Vicar of Standish, Glos., Hon canon of Gloucester 1873-1889, Canon of Gloucester from 1889; Archdeacon of Gloucester from 1881. He was the eldest son of John Tempest SHERINGHAM, and was born on 20 Feb 1820. His mother was Eliza GAMAGE. The family connection with Alice Sophia STEWARD is not evident.
12 1861 England census, Wavertree, Lancashire, RG9, piece 2737, folio 111, p.7, through, accessed 19 Oct 2014.
13 West Yorkshire Electoral Registers, through, accessed 15 Jul 2014.
14 Leaves from the Diary of A.S.B. - For her family. Privately printed, 1917, pp.51,52.
15 Leaves from the Diary of A.S.B. - For her family. Privately printed, 1917, p.68.
16 Leaves from the Diary of A.S.B. - For her family. Privately printed, 1917, p.80.
17 1871 England census, RG10, piece 4619, folio 34, p.38, through, accessed 19 Oct 2014.
18 Adventures in Coal: The beginnings of the coal mining firm of Henry Briggs Son & Co. in Yorkshire c1826 to 1890, by John Goodchild. British Mining No.66, Northern Mine Research Society, August 2000, p.49.
19 Memorandum on the Industrial Partnership at the Whitwood Collieries, Normanton, Yorkshire (1865-1874) by Archibald Briggs and the late Henry Currer Briggs, in Profit-Sharing between Capital and Labour: Six Essays, by Sedley Taylor; London, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co, 1884. Facsimile by BiblioBazaar Reproductions.
20 The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 10 Mar 1870, online.
21 Memorandum on the Industrial Partnership at the Whitwood Collieries, Normanton, Yorkshire (1865-1874), see note 19 above.
22 This is reported in the typescript by his daughter Dorothy, My Autobiography, which was written in about 1957.
23 Adventures in Coal: The beginnings of the coal mining firm of Henry Briggs Son & Co in Yorkshire c1826 to 1890, by John Goodchild. Northern Mine Research Society, British Mining No.66, Aug 2000, p.66.
24 A Merchant, A Banker, and the Coal Trade, 1693-1971, by Donald Henry Currer Briggs. A privately printed pamphlet.
25 Adventures in Coal, see note 23 above; A Merchant, a Banker and the Coal Trade, by Donald Henry Currer Briggs, 1971; A History 75 Years (1860-1935) Henry Briggs Son & Co. Ltd, Whitwood Collieries, Normanton, by Miss K. M. Briggs, a great grand-daughter of the founder, Leeds University Library, Special Collections MS 1309, K M Briggs collection, document 1309/20, photocopy provided by the University Library.
26 England and Wales National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966, Calendar for 1886, p.232, through, accessed 19 Oct 2014.
27 Autobiography of D.L.B, by Dorothy Lacell BRIGGS, unpublished typescript with four photographs, kindly copied to me in 2012 by Nicola Wilkins, a great-great-grand-daughter of Archie, p.25.
28 The Leeds Mercury, 25 Jul 1886, online.

© John Stowell 2015             This file last edited on 8 Aug 2015.

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