Our building and park are steeped in Victorian industrial history. Lady Louisa Whitworth, wife of the industrialist Sir Joseph Whitworth, had a vision of creating a place where people could meet for leisure, recreational and educational purposes. The Whitworth Centre is unique in that it is the only surviving Whitworth foundation that continues to operate under the terms of its original endowment.
Lady Louisa Whitworth
Lady Louisa was Sir Joseph Whitworth’s second wife after his first wife, Frances, died in October 1870. Not long after they married Lady Louisa and Sir Joseph took up permanent residence in Stancliffe Hall, Darley Dale, where he lived the last 13 years of his life. After his death, it was left to Lady Louisa to implement plans for Darley Dale that her husband could never quite finalise.
Even before Sir Joseph’s death she had organised emergency relief in the form of tea, beef and butter which was distributed to all Stancliffe Estate workers during the severe winter of 1875, but it was after his death that she really came into her own. It was under her guidance that Sir Joseph’s estate was wisely disposed of to the benefit of Darley Dale, among others.
She maintained an annual payment of £10 to ChurchTownSchool and gave much more besides. The opening to the public of The Whitworth Institute in September 1890 marked the beginning of Lady Louisa’s second major project in Darley Dale. The Institute comprised an indoor swimming pool, an assembly hall, various reading and committee rooms and eventually a library, a billiard room, a museum of natural history, a convenient hotel and a landscaped park.
The Whitworth Institute was gifted to the people of Darley Dale and has recently undergone extensive renovations to ensure its continued use for future generations. Both Lady Louisa and Sir Joseph are buried in the grounds of St. Helen’s Church, Darley Dale.
Sir Joseph Whitworth
Sir Joseph Whitworth was born on the 21st December 1803 at Stockport, Cheshire and is perhaps an unsung hero of the industrial revolution. His contribution to the industrial development of this country was perhaps just as significant as that of Sir Richard Arkwright or James Watt. He had achieved international renown as a mechanical engineer and toolmaker at the Great Exhibition of 1851 where his 23 exhibits won more awards than those of any other single exhibitor.
Best known for the development of the Whitworth Screw Thread and the Whitworth Rifle, it was Sir Joseph Whitworth who was the first to introduce larger and more economical units of mass production in his machine-tool and armaments factories, and it was he who in 1880 persuaded the Board of Trade to adopt standard measures.
All wording taken from publications by Terence Kilburn… Available for sale from the Whitworth Centre office and Tea Shop.