Forgotten plaque donated by injured mill owner's wife in 1909 is reunited with his descendants after being found at Leeds General Infirmary

It was an accident which had a profound effect on the family running one of Yorkshire's oldest mills.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 12:18 pm
Updated Friday, 9th July 2021, 12:21 pm
A W Hainsworth & Sons is still trading in Stanningley today
A W Hainsworth & Sons is still trading in Stanningley today

In 1900, Abimelech Hainsworth - the grandson of his namesake and founder of A W Hainsworth textile manufacturers - suffered a serious head injury in an accident.

The mill owner and third generation to run the family clothiers business was treated at Leeds General Infirmary where he spent 12 weeks recovering - though the 'eccentricities' he later developed as a result of the injury meant he was never the same man, and by 1913 his sons had persuaded him to retire.

His wife showed her gratitude to the hospital by making a donation nine years later equivalent to around £60,000 in modern money, and her generosity was commemorated by a brass bed plaque.

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Ronnie Walsh, right, meets Abimelech Hainsworth's descendant Adam

In pre-NHS days, behests from wealthy benefactors such as the Hainsworth family, whose first mill began producing cloth in 1783 in Farsley, were vital for the funding of hospitals and other medical services.

Yet the plaque and several others like it ended up abandoned and forgotten in a storage room in the Gilbert Scott Building, where they were not rediscovered until 2017, when hospital receptionist and keen archivist Ronnie Walsh found them.

Four years later, Mr Walsh has completed his research into the origins of the plaque and reunited it with Abimelech's descendants at the mill he bought in Stanningley which remains operational today.

The plaque will now go on display at A W Hainsworth & Sons, which holds a Royal Warrant to supply the Queen and her family with household fabrics and clothing.

Mr Walsh, who is also indexing the hospital's surgical ledgers covering the period 1880-1918, said: “I decided to research the plaque dedicated to Abimelech Hainsworth in an attempt to find out more about the gentleman, and whether any of his family were still alive and living in the local area. What this research managed to uncover proved to be quite extraordinary."

When originally commissioned, the Hainsworth plaque would have hung above either a cot or the entrance to a ward. Mr Walsh discovered the amount donated by Abimelech's wife was recorded in an annual report for 1909 as being £500.

He has since met Adam Hainsworth at the mill to gift him the plaque on behalf of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

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