Obadiah Nussey, Esq., JP, Chairman of the Textile Industries and Dyeing Committees (1875-1902)
Born November 1812 in Leeds, Obadiah was the third son of woollen manufacturer George Nussey and his wife Sarah. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and then apprenticed to his uncle, Mr Willans who owned a woollen mill at Kirkstall.
In 1836, instead of joining his father’s firm, he and his brother Joseph founded the firm of Hargreaves and Nussey, Woollen Manufacturers and Merchants, West Bar, Leeds. They were later joined by their younger brother Thomas. The firm had two mills, Wortley Low Mills and Farnley Low Mills (the latter being the site of Ringways Garage today) and a warehouse in Wellington Street. That same year Obadiah married Ann Varley of Stanningley in Calverley Parish Church. They had seven children and lived at 55 Clarendon Road before moving in 1865 to Morley House, Headingley Hill.
From 1853, aged 41, Obadiah took an active role in public life: he was an alderman of the city for nine years and Mayor for the Civic year 1863/64 then in 1865 he was appointed a JP for Leeds. It was almost wholly due to his efforts whilst Mayor that Leeds and not Wakefield became an Assize town. This was a coup for Leeds – the visiting judges and their wives brought trade to Leeds – and it enabled public hangings to take place, no doubt seen as a tourist attraction then! He was also largely responsible for founding the Royal Exchange, Leeds which opened for all trades on 31 August 1875
One of Obadiah’s great interests and achievements was in technical education, a new subject for those times. He served as Chairman of the Clothworkers’ Advisory Committee and on 8th May 1873 when a conference of ‘Yorkshire Mayors and Chairmen of Commerce’ was held at Clothworkers’ Hall in the City of London, it was addressed by Obadiah who said that it was essential to establish schools like those in Europe for ‘practical trade instruction’ connected with the manufacture of textile fabrics in Britain.
As a result the Clothworkers’ Company sponsored the creation of a Department of Textile Industries at the Yorkshire College in Leeds, followed in 1885 by a Department of Dyeing and Tinctorial Chemistry.
Department of Textile Industries University of Leeds
The Yorkshire College became The University of Leeds in 1904 and the Company remains associated with its two “Clothworkers’ Departments”, now known as the School of Design and the Department of Colour and Polymer Chemistry. In total they have invested well over £10 million in Leeds and their financial support continues today.
Obadiah and his two brothers retired from Hargreaves and Nussey in 1882, the business being continued by his son George and Joseph’s sons James and Thomas Nussey.
Obadiah died March 14th 1902 and was buried in Lawnswood Cemetery beside his wife who had died six years earlier.
My family connection is through my grandmother who was adopted by her aunt and uncle, Obadiah’s nephew Thomas Henry Nussey, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Lander). My grandmother’s father Peter Jones Lander was killed at the age of 27 when he was hit by a train.