Adam Whitworth (1817-66)

Adam Whitworth was a typically (although slightly eccentric) community-minded middle-class person of the 19th-century. He was religious, teetotal and vegetarian, and established a 'circulating library' in Heywood, allowing the public to borrow books for a small fee. Such libraries declined in the 20th century as the price of new books fell and public libraries became common.

History: Scarborough Circulating Library, R. Ackermann Poetical Sketches, 1818
The Scarborough Circulating Library (from R. Ackermann's Poetical Sketches, 1818).

The following notes on Adam Whitworth were published by Heywood librarian J.A. Green in 1905.
'Adam Whitworth was well-known in Heywood as an unflinching disciple of temperance and vegetarianism. It is regrettable that full details of his life are wanting, but it is known that he died at Matlock on October 22nd, 1866, aged 49 years. The circulating library founded by Mr. Whitworth was a very good attempt to supply what was then a pressing need at Heywood. There was a catalogue published and advertised in some of the early issues of the "Advertiser," but no copy appears to have survived. The library itself was continued for some time by Mrs. Whitworth at No. 19, Manchester-street, Heywood.
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In 1851 I was a member of the discussion class which was held in David Taylor's schoolroom, near Wham Bar. On my return from this class I generally came across Adam Whitworth, who lived in a shop up some steps, near a public-house which was kept by Mr. Clegg, the father of Mr . Samuel Clegg, coal merchant. The spinners' society used to hold their meetings at this house, John Manock (afterwards manager for Kay's) being the secretary. I used to call in Whitworth's shop occasionally to look over his stock and buy a book now and then. During the day he worked in the mill, and at night looked after his shop. He was very active and most attentive to his customers. Finding his stock increased he removed to a shop in the Market Place, where he established a circulating library. This would be the first of the kind in the town, and it will no doubt be remembered by many now living . Some of the volumes were afterwards acquired for the Free Library, and the readers there will have noticed the black stamp with which Adam marked his books. It was in the Market Place shop that I was first introduced to Edwin Waugh, who then lived in Rochdale. All through Adam's life I was particularly acquainted with him and his family. He was greatly respected by those who knew him in social and religious life. The Rev. James Clark, pastor of the Bible Christian Church, Salford, preached his funeral sermon, and I, along with the widow and some of the family, was a listener thereto. The members of Mr. Clark's church are total abstainers and vegetarians. Mr. Clark had a high respect for Adam Whitworth, who held strong conscientious convictions on many subjects.
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I remember Adam Whitworth as a regular caller at, my father's shop in Brook-street. My father was a vegetarian like Adam, and his shop was the resort of quite a number of eccentric people from various Lancashire towns. I was only a little fellow then, but my remembrance of Adam is fairly clear. He was a man rather under the average height, studious looking, and not very talkative. I recollect on one occasion there was some talk among my seniors about the charms of female beauty, when Adam said he knew nothing about it, as such so-called charms had never had the slightest effect on him. What was there in a woman's ankles that they should be talked about, any more than in his own? One curious habit of his I call to mind which was that of carrying in his pocket a dried potato as a preventive or rheumatism. I saw it on one occasion, and it was as hard as a stone. He rarely came to the shop without buying one or more books. I can see him with my mind's eye as he stood at the counter, with his head inclining to one side, quietly reading a book before pricing it.
CHARLES W. SUTTON. Reference Library, Manchester'
Adam Whitworth is buried in the graveyard at St James' Church, Heywood.