The American Civil War and the Lancashire cotton famine

Bust of John Bright

Made by Robinson and Leadbetter, Stoke-on-Trent, after Edward William Wyon, 1867
Parian porcelain

Object number 7095
Bequeathed by David Austick, MP

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Bust of John Bright

John Bright was born in Rochdale in 1811. He and his brothers took over the family cotton spinning mill at Cronkeyshaw in 1839. It later became one of the biggest mills in Rochdale. The Bright family were Quakers, a religious movement that believed in pacifism and equality for all. Bright was active in politics all his life, becoming MP for Durham in 1843. He also held seats in Manchester and Birmingham, losing his seat in Manchester due to his unpopular stand against the Crimean War.

Bright was so strongly opposed to slavery, however, that he supported the American Civil War as a necessary means to end the institution of slavery. He and Rochdale MP Richard Cobden regularly wrote letters of support to Charles Sumner, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who in turn read them aloud to President Abraham Lincoln and the US Cabinet. Bright received from Lincoln, in his own handwriting, a draft resolution containing ideas he wished to see adopted at public meetings in England. Bright was hugely influential locally and found strong support amongst the working people of Rochdale for his outspoken denouncements of slavery.

This bust was made of Parian porcelain by Robinson and Leadbetter of Stoke-on-Trent, from an original by Edward William Wyon. Parian porcelain resembles marble in its matt white finish and Parian figures of historical and classical figures were very popular in middle class Victorian homes.

You can listen to an audio extract from one of John Bright's speeches in parliament, recorded at Touchstones Rochdale. 

This information was provided by curators from Touchstones Rochdale.