NORTHWICH historians hope Guardian readers can help them fill in the blanks behind the little-known story of one of the town’s captains of industry – Jabez Thompson.

While the town is famed for its salt and ship building industries, it seems less is known about its historical connection with terracotta.

Yet the ornate work of the Jabez Thompson Company adorns scores of old Cheshire buildings – from the former art college on London Road in Northwich, Middlewich Town Hall, and Knutsford Library, to further afield buildings such as Manchester’s Midland Hotel and Moseley Road Baths in Birmingham.

For the past four years the Friends of St Michael and All Angels Church group in Little Leigh has fitted together parts of the puzzle to complete the story of the man behind a stunning altarpiece at their village place of worship.

Former architect David North explained: “Within our church there is a little-known hidden gem in the form of a terracotta sculpture depicting the last supper which is an adaptation of the celebrated 15th century fresco in a Milan monastery by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Northwich Guardian:

“Last year we staged a joint exhibition with Lion Salt Works Museum showcasing this sculpture, known as a reredos, and its connection to Jabez Thompson. Considerable interest emerged from this and we hope to continue building on this in 2019.”

The Thompson family were owners and operators of Lion Salt Works from the 1850s well in to the 20th century, finally closing in 1958.

David said: “We know that between around 1850 and 1922 millions of high-quality bricks and other ceramic clay products such as tiles, gutters, pipes and gullies were manufactured in Northwich creating thousands of jobs. But the strange thing is that little seems to be known about this Northwich company since its closure in 1922.

“Sadly, few written records have survived so it has been difficult to reconstruct the true story of this remarkable Northwich business and while we now know more about the Jabez Thompson story there is still much we don’t know.”

Which is where David hopes that people living locally and perhaps with a family connection may be able to help.

Northwich Guardian:

He said: “The brickworks were located roughly where Tesco supermarket is now based. It was clearly quite a large enterprise with good transport links onto Manchester Road with access to the railway sidings and nearby waterways.

“Jabez is also buried in Davenham Church yard. We’re not sure if there is a family connection there, but he and his family were regular members of the congregation at St John’s in Sandiway and a brass plaque inside the church recognises his financial support.

“He lived in Cuddington in a house especially designed for him by the celebrated Cheshire architect John Douglas which still exists today. It was named Abbotsford, after the home of his favourite novelist Sir Walter Scott.

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“We also recently discovered he was the first Chairman of the Northwich Workhouse, so he was apparently a true pillar of society.”

David is keen from anyone locally who may be able add more detail to the story of Jabez Thompson.

If you have information to share, you can contact him at