Brass plaque donated 112 years ago to Leeds hospital is reunited with family descendants

A brass bed plaque discovered in storage at Leeds General Infirmary has been reunited with the family whose ancestors donated it to the hospital 112 years ago.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 4:45 am

The historic plaque was originally donated to the hospital in 1909 by the wife of Abimelech Hainsworth and after it was found in storage with a number of other brass plaques, hospital receptionist and keen historian Ronnie Walsh set about researching its history.

He tracked Abimelech’s relatives down to be the family who run Hainsworth Textiles in Pudsey - the well-known city firm dating back to 1783 which received a Royal Warrant in 2004 for providing fabrics to the Queen.

Abimelech Hainsworth, or 'Young Bim' as he was known, was the third-generation owner of Hainsworth Textiles.

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Adam Hainsworth, left, director of Hainsworth, pictured receiving the brass plaque for safe-keeping from Ronie Walsh, receptionist and keen historian at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Adam Hainsworth, left, director of Hainsworth, pictured receiving the brass plaque for safe-keeping from Ronie Walsh, receptionist and keen historian at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

In May 1900, he was involved in an accident and spent 12 weeks as a patient at The Infirmary.

In 1909, his wife made a donation in recognition of the care her husband had received. .

By researching the hospital’s 1909 Annual Report, Ronnie identified the amount donated to have been £500, which equates to £60,863 in today's money.

After making contact with the Hainsworth family, Ronnie was invited by Adam Hainsworth, the company’s director and a direct descendant of Abimelech’s, to hand over the plaque and have a tour of the mill.

Ronnie said: “After finding out the fascinating history behind the plaque, it was a real privilege to meet Adam and hand it back to the family.”

Dame Linda Pollard, chairwoman at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Our Trust board are incredibly grateful to Ronnie for the dedication and time he has spent researching our history and finding the families who donated the bed plaques.

“It is wonderful to hear of the connection our hospitals have to Hainsworth Textiles and the difference our medical teams made so many years ago.”

*Prior to the formation of the NHS, hospitals received funding from various sources.

These donations were often from local fundraising events – which could include the proceeds of an estate or in recognition of a loved one's care while a patient, as was the case with Abimelech Hainsworth.

Plaques were subsequently displayed either above a bed or at the entrance to a particular ward in recognition of the donation.

*A notable part of Hainsworth Textiles’ history includes the uniform worn during The Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Napoleon's Imperial Guard advance came up against what went down in military history as 'The Thin Red Line' - this term referred to the soldiers of the British Army, whose red uniform fabric was manufactured by Hainsworth Textiles.

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