How John became prominent figure

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Readers may recall I have produced a presentation about the old Lightcliffe cemetery and some of the people who are interred there.

One of the interesting people I included in the presentation is John Shillito, who was born in Upper Brear Northowram on the 19th January 1832.

For someone who was educated at the local mechanics institute, he was to become a very important figure in the cooperative movement.

His working life started at the age of ten working at the Halifax Industrial Society. By 1883 he was a company director of the CWS and between 1895 and 1915 was the CWS chairman.

He became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and even entertained Captain Scott at the Balloon Street headquarters of the CWS in Manchester.

This meeting was shortly before the famous explorer’s tragic expedition to the South Pole.

By 1913 the CWS had become one of the largest businesses in the country with more than £31 million in annual sales, £9 million in capital and approximately three million members.

On September 13, 1913 special evening celebrations for the CWS Golden Jubilee were held in Manchester, London, Newcastle, Carlisle, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff. The following week more than 950 dignitaries sat down to dinner in the CWS dining hall at Balloon Street and were entertained by employee musical groups.

In October more than 2,500 CWS employees filled the Free Trade Hall in Manchester for a special Jubilee evening and sizeable gatherings were also held at other CWS branches.

Special bronze medallions, named for CWS President John Shillito, were cast for the occasion.

Many of these medallions are still around with three having been sold on eBay recently for an average price of £65. John Shillito was 83 when he died on February 12, 1915 and lived at 4 Park View, Hopwood Lane, Halifax when the CWS medal was struck.

The headstone in Lightcliffe cemetery lists: John Shillito, father of Mary Jane Shillito; Frances Shillito b1830-d1875, mother of Mary Jane Shillito; Nancy Shillito b1841-d1878, step mother of Mary Jane Shillito who died b1863-d1864 aged one year.

John Shillito was married four times and had six children. In the Lightcliffe grave with John is his second and fourth wife and he divorced his third wife. I have no information about his first wife.

This is a grave that whilst not hidden away it is not particularly prominent in the cemetery. The head of this family would have been, in his days at the CWS, particularly as a director and then chairman, a very important person.

Pictured above is one of the medals that has since been sold for £65 and a photograph of John Shillito at the time of the medals being struck in his name.