Thomas Wright (philanthropist)

Last updated

Thomas Wright (1789–1875) was a prison philanthropist.



He received his education at a Wesleyan Sunday school, and when fifteen years old was apprenticed to an ironfounder, ultimately becoming foreman of the foundry at £3.10s. a week. In 1817, after a few years of indifference to religion, he joined the congregationalists, and was deacon of the chapel in Grosvenor Street, Piccadilly, Manchester, from 1825 to the end of his life. Among the labourers in the same workshop with him was a discharged convict, whom he saved from dismissal by depositing £20 for the man's good behaviour. This circumstance directed his attention to the reclamation of discharged prisoners, and about 1838 he obtained permission to visit the Salford prison. As he was at work at the foundry from five in the morning until six in the evening, he could spend only his evenings and his Sunday afternoons at the prison, where he became the trusted friend of the inmates, for large numbers of whom on their release he obtained honest employment, his personal guarantee being given in many cases. The value of his labours was made public by the reports of the prison inspectors and chaplains, and he was offered the post of government travelling inspector of prisons at a salary of 800l. This he declined, on the ground that if he were an official his influence would be lessened; but in 1852 he accepted a public testimonial of £3,248., including £100 from the Royal Bounty Fund. With this sum an annuity equal to the amount of his wages was purchased, and he was enabled to give up his situation at the foundry and devote all his time to the ministration of criminals. For some years he attended nearly every unfortunate wretch that was executed in England.

Congregational church religious denomination

Congregational churches are Protestant churches in the Reformed tradition practicing congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs.

The Royal Bounty Fund was a special UK government fund originally set up in 1782 by Edmund Burke. The operation of the fund was always shrouded in secrecy. Gifts, grants and pensions were paid out from the fund under the patronage of the prime minister and no accounts were ever published. From as early as 1802 Treasury official expressed concerns about the operation of the fund but it was not until 2002 that it was eventually wound down by Tony Blair.

G. F. Watts presented his picture of the 'Good Samaritan' to the Corporation of Manchester in May 1852, 'as a testimony of his high esteem for the exemplary and praiseworthy character' of Wright. Another picture, 'The Condemned Cell,' containing Wright's portrait, was painted by Charles Mercier, and presented by subscribers to the corporation of London in July 1869. Another portrait by Mercier was given to the Salford Museum. A full-length portrait by J. D. Watson, painted in 1853, was presented to Wright, and left by him to the visiting justices of Salford prison. Since the demolition of that building it has been placed in the committee-room of Strangeways prison, Manchester.

Salford Museum and Art Gallery Salford, Greater Manchester, M5

Salford Museum and Art Gallery, in Peel Park, Salford, Greater Manchester, opened to the public in November 1850 as the Royal Museum and Public Library. The gallery and museum are devoted to the history of Salford and Victorian art and architecture.

HM Prison Manchester grade II listed prison in Manchester, United kingdom

HM Prison Manchester is a high-security men's prison in Manchester, England, operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service. It is still commonly referred to as Strangeways, which was its former official name derived from the area in which it is located, until it was rebuilt following a major riot in 1990.

Wright gave evidence before select committees of the House of Commons in 1852 on criminal and destitute juveniles, and in 1854 on public-houses. He was a promoter of the reformatory at Blackley, and worked on behalf of the Boys' Refuge, the Shoeblack Brigade, and the ragged schools of Manchester and Salford. He was strongly in favour of compulsory education.

House of Commons of the United Kingdom Lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons, officially the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.


Wright was born at Haddington near Edinbugh, in 1789, [1] his father being a Scotsman and his mother a Manchester woman. Wright died at Manchester on 14 April 1875, and was buried in the churchyard of Birch-in-Rusholme. He was twice married, and had nineteen children.

Haddington, East Lothian town in East Lothian, Scotland

The Royal Burgh of Haddington is a town in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the main administrative, cultural and geographical centre for East Lothian, which as a result of late-nineteenth century Scottish local government reforms took the form of the county of Haddingtonshire for the period from 1889-1921. It lies about 17 miles (27 km) east of Edinburgh. The name Haddington is Anglo-Saxon, dating from the sixth or seventh century AD when the area was incorporated into the kingdom of Bernicia. The town, like the rest of the Lothian region, was ceded by King Edgar of England and became part of Scotland in the tenth century. Haddington received burghal status, one of the earliest to do so, during the reign of David I (1124–1153), giving it trading rights which encouraged its growth into a market town.


  1. "Thomas Wright, the Prisoners' Friend", The ragged school union magazine, Publisher Partridge & Oakey, 1852, page 173

Related Research Articles

Charles Arbuthnot British politician

Charles Arbuthnot was a British diplomat and Tory politician. He was Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1804 and 1807 and held a number of political offices. He was a good friend of the Duke of Wellington. His second wife, Harriet, became a hostess at Wellington's society dinners, and wrote an important diary cataloging contemporary political intrigues.

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater British noble

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, known as Lord Francis Egerton until 1748, was a British nobleman from the Egerton family. He was the youngest son of the 1st Duke. He did not marry, and the dukedom expired with him, although the earldom was inherited by a cousin, Lieutenant-General John Egerton.

Thomas Wright may refer to:

William Beechey British artist

Sir William Beechey was a leading English portraitist of the golden age of British painting.

HM Prison Forest Bank is a Category B men's private prison, in the Agecroft area of Pendlebury in Salford near Manchester, England. The prison is operated by Sodexo Justice Services.

Mark Philips was an English Liberal Party politician, and one of the first pair of Members of Parliament for Manchester after the Great Reform Act.

HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs grade II listed prison in the United kingdom

HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs is a Category B men's prison located in the Wormwood Scrubs area of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, in West London, England. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.

Louis Gallait Belgian painter

Louis Gallait was a Belgian painter. He lay at the basis of a revival of history painting in Belgium. He earned his reputation especially with the large painting of Charles V's abdication. Gallait's works were esteemed because of their realism, faithfulness of the costumes and color composition of his paintings. He was also a distinguished portrait painter.

Portraits of Shakespeare Wikimedia list article

Within four decades of its foundation in 1856, upwards of 60 portraits were offered for sale to the National Portrait Gallery purporting to be of William Shakespeare, but there are only two definitively accepted as portraying him, both of which are posthumous. One is the engraving that appears on the title-page of the First Folio (1623) and the other is the sculpture that adorns his memorial in Stratford upon Avon, which dates from before 1623. However, several paintings from the period have also been argued to represent him.

Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder Austrian-Italian painter

Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder was an Austrian-Italian historical and portrait painter. He settled in the Russian Empire after the third and final partition of Poland, enticed by an extremely generous offer from the Tsar.

Thomas Oldham Barlow English mezzotint engraver

Thomas Oldham Barlow was an English mezzotint engraver. His prints helped to popularise the works of painters like John Phillip and Sir John Everett Millais.

Mather & Platt is the name of several large engineering firms in Europe, South Africa and Asia that are subsidiaries of Wilo SE, Germany or were founded by former employees. The original company was founded in the Newton Heath area of Manchester, England, where it was a major employer. That firm continues as a food processing and packaging business, trading as M & P Engineering in Trafford Park, Manchester.

James Smith (murderer) sixth-to-last criminal to be executed in a British prison

James Smith was the sixth-to-last criminal to be executed in a British prison. He was hanged for the murder of Mrs. Sarah Isabella Cross in her sweetshop at the corner of Hulme Hall Lane and Iron Street, Miles Platting, Manchester.

<i>Tiger in the Smoke</i> 1956 film by Roy Ward Baker

Tiger in the Smoke is a 1956 British crime film directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Donald Sinden, Muriel Pavlow, Tony Wright, Bernard Miles and Christopher Rhodes. It is based on the 1952 novel The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham, although the film omits the principal character of Albert Campion. The film is set in a noirish smog-shrouded London and Brittany, France and combines the genres of mystery, thriller, crime and drama. The cinematography was by Geoffrey Unsworth.

Joseph Aston was an English journalist, dramatist, and miscellaneous writer.

Joseph Adshead (1800–1861) was an English merchant, reformer and pamphleteer from Manchester.

James Charles (painter) British impressionist artist

James Henry Charles was a British impressionist artist.

Events from the year 1789 in Scotland.

Samuel Ellis and Company Defunct British engineering company

Samuel Ellis and Company was a British engineering company, based in Salford, Manchester. It operated, in various form, from 1832 to 1887.


The public domain consists of all the creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable.

Sidney Lee 19th/20th-century English biographer and critic

Sir Sidney Lee was an English biographer, writer and critic.

<i>Dictionary of National Biography</i> Multi-volume reference work

The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published since 1885. The updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes and online, with 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives.