Henry Charles McCrea


The benefactor, politician and philanthropist, Henry Charles McCrea was an Irishman born in Dublin [17th May 1810].

He was the eldest of the 12 children of John McCrea, and brother of John Lane McCrea Jnr.

Henry attended the Dublin academy of Rev Thomas Huddart. He was then apprenticed to a Dublin merchant and ship-owner, where he worked for 4 years, before he moved to England.

He moved to Halifax in 1834.

He worked with John Holdsworth & Company Limited, producing damask curtains and tablecloths.

He became a partner with Henry Boord in McCrea & Boord, and then with Robert Selby Walsh.

In 1850, he built his steam-powered Lum Brook Mills at Coley, manufacturing upholstery fabrics, and completed his first large warehouse.

In 1851, he exhibited at the Great Exhibition.

He established H. C. McCrea & Company, Later, he built mills at Horley Green, establishing the family damask and worsted spinning business.

His manufacture of damasks, curtains, table covers and tapestries made him a very wealthy man.

By 1853, he built two new warehouses – in Harrison Road and in Trinity Road.

He employed over 500 workers.

He developed the use of patterns for manufacturing damask, particularly for the furnishing fabrics which were increasing in popularity.

In 1861, he brought a case against his former employer, John Holdsworth, for infringement of designs, particularly a pattern described as Persian Star. McCrea won, but Holdsworth was not prepared to concede, and took the case all the way to the House of Lords, where the final judgement was still in McCrea's favour.

In 1861, he built Albert Promenade. He gave West View Park and Albert Promenade to the town.

He was an early guarantor of the Yorkshire Penny Bank. He was a foundation Governor of the Yorkshire College which became the University of Leeds in 1904.

From 1861, he spent a part of his wealth on the development of Blackpool. He established the Blackpool Pier Company that erected the North Pier at Blackpool, and was chairman of the company [1864-1893]. He encouraged Blackpool to adopt electric trams, having been impressed by the work of the Halifax inventor Michael Holroyd Smith. From 1868 to 1877, he was a director of a company which brought pure water to Blackpool from across the Pennines. He invested in the railway to carry people to the seaside.

In 1866, he bought Warley House and lived there. He owned a fine art collection.

He was Mayor of Halifax [1869-1871].

He was President of the Halifax School of Art [1871-1881].

He was involved in many major developments, including Widdop Reservoir and the transfer of Halifax Piece Hall to the Corporation.

In February 1874, he was an unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the general election.

He was a founding father of St John the Evangelist, Warley [1878].

On 26th January 1841, he married Esther Jane Walsh.

Esther Jane was the daughter of his business partner Robert Selby Walsh


  1. Agnes
  2. Frederick Gower
  3. Charles Edward
  4. Herbert Henry
  5. Arthur Selby

The family lived at

He died at Warley House a few days after a serious fall. He & his wife were buried at St Paul's Church, King Cross

When he died, the estate was valued at nearly £300,000.

He was one of the people to whom J. R. Smith dedicated one of his prints.

See Albert Promenade, Halifax, Lumb Brook Mills, Coley, H. C. McCrea & Company Limited, Royal Halifax Infirmary, Saint John the Evangelist, Warley, Shay House, Halifax, Evan Charles Sutherland-Walker and White Lion Hotel & Posting House, Halifax

© Malcolm Bull 2019
Revised 15:47 /21st March 2019 / mmm43 / 9396

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