Abraham Laverton
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Abraham Laverton

Abraham Laverton
Member of Parliament
for Westbury

February 1874 - April 1880
Charles Paul Phipps
Charles Nicholas Paul Phipps
Personal details
Political partyLiberal
OccupationCloth mill owner

Abraham Laverton (1819-1886), of Westbury, Wiltshire, England, was a cloth mill owner, philanthropist, and Liberal member of parliament for the parliamentary borough of Westbury from 1874 to 1880.

Mill owner and philanthropist

In 1849, Laverton leased the Angel Mill, Westbury, from the trustees of William Matravers and converted it to produce cloth. In 1852 he bought the mill, while in the same year James Wilson, the Whig Member of Parliament for Westbury, and his brother William bought Bitham Mill in the same town. In 1856, the Wilson brothers sold their mill to Laverton. For part of the middle of the 19th century he also owned Boyer's Mill, Westbury. As well as being a manufacturer, Laverton was a speculative buyer of cloth and wool.[1]

In 1869, he built Prospect Square, Westbury, a development of thirty-nine houses, of which thirty-two were homes for his mill workers and seven were almshouses, around three sides of a large open space which was originally used as allotments.[2][3][4]

In 1873, he founded and built the Laverton Institute in Bratton Road, Westbury, as a recreational centre;[5][4] the building continues in use as a community facility, managed by the Town Council.[6] The Institute included a room for a school which already existed, the Westbury Boys' British School, which moved in 1874 and remained at the Laverton Institute until 1925, when it was merged into what is now Matravers School, having changed its name to the Westbury Laverton Institute School in 1907.[7]

In 1884, Laverton also built a new school in Bratton Road, near his Institute, and presented it to the town. This opened its doors in 1885 and was known as the Laverton Infants' School, then the Laverton County Infants' School, after being adopted by Wiltshire County Council. In 1958 it moved into premises in the churchyard, the former Church of England Junior School, and in 1968 moved to Eden Vale, becoming the Westbury Infants' School. The original building in Bratton Road is now a private house.[8]

The great west window of Westbury's All Saints parish church was donated by Abraham Laverton.[9]

Laverton is sometimes stated as the founder of the public baths in Church Street, Westbury. While these were his conception, they were completed and given to the town in 1887, shortly after his death, by his nephew William Henry Laverton (1845-1935).

The firm Laverton founded, called A. Laverton & Co. Ltd., was still making cloth in Westbury in his Angel and Bitham Mills in the 1960s.[1]


Laverton became a Westbury Justice of the Peace, and in 1864 a dispute arose between him and Charles Paul Phipps as to their seniority as magistrates.[10]

In 1866, he was named as an additional Commissioner "for executing the Acts for granting a Land Tax and other Rates and Taxes", when he was described as "Abraham Laverton Esquire, Westbury House, Westbury".[11]

From 1868, Laverton stood unsuccessfully for parliament in Westbury as a Liberal, first against the Conservative John Lewis Phipps, when he lost by only twenty-seven votes. Although Phipps was elected, the result was declared void as a result of an election petition brought by Laverton. Mr Justice Willes found that, although Phipps himself was personally innocent of any corrupt practice, his agent, Harrop, had carried out acts of intimidation on voters.[12] The Judge found that Harrop, who was an agent of Phipps and a manufacturer in Westbury, "had told his workmen that no man should remain in his employment who voted for the Petitioner, who was his rival in trade, and that these men or some of them were obliged to leave his employment in consequence of their refusing to abstain from so voting".[13] A by-election was thus held in 1869, at which Laverton lost by only eleven votes, defeated by his rival's brother, Charles Paul Phipps, standing for the Conservatives. At the 1874 election he was finally elected as the borough's Member of Parliament, but he was defeated at the 1880 election by Charles Phipps' son, Charles N. P. Phipps.[14]

In 1874, a poem called Warblings from Westbury was published, poking fun at Laverton in his new role as Member of Parliament.[15] In the same year, he printed a circular to the shareholders of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway offering himself to them as a director.[16]

Following his defeat in 1880, Laverton filed a petition to have the result of the election annulled on the grounds of bribery, treating and undue influence on the part of his Conservative opponent, but this failed, being rejected by Sir Robert Lush and Sir Henry Manisty, Judges of the High Court of Justice.[17]


Laverton died on 31 October 1886 at Farleigh Castle, Farleigh Hungerford, leaving a personal estate of £647,416.[18]


  1. ^ a b 'Westbury: Mills', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8: Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds (1965), pp. 172-175, online text at british-history.ac.uk
  2. ^ Historic England. "Nos 1, 2, 38 and 39, Prospect Square (1364422)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ Prospect Square, Westbury at geograph.org.uk
  4. ^ a b Timeline at wiltshire.gov.uk
  5. ^ Historic England. "The Laverton Institute (1180367)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ Thomas, Helen (8 September 2006). "£350k revamp plan to bring Laverton to life". Wiltshire Times. Retrieved 2016.
  7. ^ "Westbury: Schools", in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds (Victoria County History, London, 1965), pp 188-191
  8. ^ "Laverton County Infants School, Westbury". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ Westbury, Wiltshire Archived 19 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine at web.ukonline.co.uk
  10. ^ Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, ref. no. 540/297 Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine at history.wiltshire.gov.uk
  11. ^ An Act to appoint additional Commissioners for executing the Acts for granting a Land Tax and other Rates and Taxes at londonancestor.com
  12. ^ Law Times Reports relating to Magistrates, Municipal, Parichial, Ecclesiastical and Election Law, vol.5, 1870
  13. ^ Reports of the Decisions of the Judges for the Trial of Election Petitions, full text online at archive.org
  14. ^ Mr Abraham Laverton at hansard.millbanksystems.com
  15. ^ Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, ref no. 540/302 Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine at history.wiltshire.gov.uk
  16. ^ Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, ref no. 540/323 Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine at history.wiltshire.gov.uk
  17. ^ Westbury Election (House of Commons Debate 22 June 1880, vol. 253, cc. 534-5) at hansard.millbanksystems.com
  18. ^ Probate Index for 1886 at probatesearch.service.gov.uk, accessed 3 August 2016
  • B. Little, A history of the firm of A. Laverton & Co. Ltd. (unpublished)

External links

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