At the height of the cotton trade the Bullough family of Accrington was one of the wealthiest and most eccentric in the country. Reporter Kate Watkins looks at a new book exploring a fascinating story ...
It may seem hard to believe but an alligator was taken to a castle in Scotland thanks to an Accrington cotton manufacturer.
Scottish author Alastair Scott has written ‘Eccentric Wealth: The Bulloughs of Rum’ which follows the history of the Bullough family, once the wealthiest family in Accrington.
After his grandfather established one of the country’s largest cotton factories at Globe Works, Accrington during the 1870s, George Bullough decided to transform the family’s hunting lodge on an island in the Scottish Hebrideans into a playground.
He hired architects whose other works included the Admiralty in London and the Municipal Buildings in Edinburgh to create his castle – which essentially served as a museum to house the items he brought back from his world travels.
The building was christened Kinloch Castle.
Alastair said: "There was an alligator on the island which must have been incredible for visitors to see when they visited Sir George. He kept all of these animals - exotic birds and lizards, from his travels which would never happen today.
"He lived this incredibly luxurious life thanks to the work of his grandfather and father. I visited the island as a child and this castle was full of history and amazing things and it has stuck with me ever since."
While researching his book, Alastair uncovered gossip and secrets that would have shocked the island’s visitors.
He said: "There were all kinds of stories of adultery and all of these things that were very taboo by Edwardian standards.
"There were several divorces and George had a long-standing affair with a married woman.
"All of it makes for a very interesting read, especially if you think the Edwardians were very prim and proper."
Alastair stumbled across the Bullough links to Accrington when he began research for his book.
He said: "The family wasfull of contrasts. The father and son were extremely hard working and the grandson spent and spent and spent, and let his people deal with the business side of things while he enjoyed his life."
Throughout his life, James Bullough, born in 1799, designed and created mechanisms to improve the ways mills operated.
A Lancashire man all his life, James was only seven when he became an apprentice to a hand-loom weaver in Westhoughton.
It was here he became acquainted with the machinery used in the cotton trade and his young mind began imagining ways of improving manufacturing.
With James’s invention and patent of a machine that could simultaneously size and starch cotton, he was able to open his own factory in Accrington with partners John Howard and James Bleakley in 1855. The Howard and Bullough factory, based at the Globe Works, in the centre of Accrington, grew from strength to strength.
James’s son John continued with his entrepreneurial ways, inventing and patenting devices, and helped with the running of Howard and Bullough. The business became one of the country’s largest manufacturers.
At its height during the 1920s, the Globe Works employed almost 6,000 workers and covered a site of 52 acres.
Alastair said: "The family was absolutely dedicated to the business and improving the technology associated with it. They made vast amounts of money and helped to keep Accrington at the centre of the trade for many years to come."
The family also attempted to improve the lives of its workers by giving James Bullough Park to the town of Accrington in 1913, and the Globe Tennis club grounds in 1926.
The factory created by the Bulloughs closed in 1993 but the castle where George displayed his eccentric wealth can still be visited today although much of it has fallen into disrepair.
Alastair visited Accrington Library earlier this month for a talk about his book and the Bullough family.
‘Eccentric Wealth: The Bulloughs of Rum’ is published by Birlinn Publishing and can be purchased at www.amazon.co.uk.