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The Warburtons of Bolton

This week, we uploaded burial records for Astley Bridge and Blackrod Cemeteries to the Deceased Online database. To mark the occasion, we look at Henry Warburton and discover what he owed to the humble loaf of bread.

Henry Warburton 1865-1936
(c) Bolton Museums & Archive Service

On 9  September 1936, 71 year old Henry Warburton was buried at Astley Bridge Cemetery in Bolton, Lancashire. A true son of Bolton, his pall bearers were playing staff from the local football team, Bolton Wanderers FC. When his probate was granted in London a few months later, on 25 January 1937, his estate was revealed to be worth a vast £29,875.

This was some way from Henry's origins, being born in 1865 as the son of a cotton waste dealer in Kestor Street. But his good fortune was to begin in 1876, when he was just 11 years old. It was then that Henry's uncle, Thomas Warburton (1837-1909) set up his eponymous bakery business. His plan was simple: "This is a family company selling traditionally baked bread with freshness and quality you can really taste," he said at the time.

Although he had been born in Bury, Thomas Warburton lived and worked in Bolton. In 1881, he and his 42 year old wife Ellen (d. 1920) were living, childless, in Blackburn Road, Little Bolton. A few doors away in the same street was Thomas's brother, George, and his family, including son Henry  - already a baker at the age of just 16.

In 1888, Thomas's nephew, Henry, married Rachel Smethurst in their Bolton home town. They went on to produce five children. When Thomas died in 1909, Henry's father, George, took over the bakery and grocery. On George's death, his eldest son inherited what was now known as Warburton's Bakery.  It is Henry who is credited with turning the business into a successful brand, overseeing its expansion in 1913.

Outside of the bakery, Henry developed his civic responsibilities and political ambitions, having been a member of North West Liberal Association from 1900. He became a magistrate in 1919, an Alderman in 1923, and Mayor of Bolton in 1930. Although he enjoyed business visits to Greece and the West Indies, Henry remained loyal to Bolton, showing his attachment to the town and its football team, Bolton Wanderers, by becoming its Director and then Chairman. The bakery sponsored the Warburton Cup for Bolton Cricket League.

Deceased Online's database shows that Henry was buried in the same grave as his wife, daughter, grandson, one daughter in law and two of his sons. The grave reference beginning with "Noncom" suggests his Methodist faith, and the map helps identify where in this section of the cemetery Henry now lies. The burial register describes Henry's occupation simply as "Master Baker". It was upon this that all his riches and political achievements were founded.

Astley Road Burial Register showing the entry for Henry Warburton, Master Baker (from the Deceased Online database)
Warburtons is now the biggest bakery brand and the second biggest grocery brand in the UK. It has stayed loyal to Bolton, basing its headquarters there and remains a family business.
Other Mayors of Bolton who are buried in Astley Bridge Cemetery include Benjamin Kirkman and Robert Demaine.

Do you have any ancestors buried in any of Astley Bridge or Blackrod cemeteries? We love to hear from you. Do let us know!


  1. Yes I have family buried in Astley Bridge cemeteries, members of my Fathers side Whenlock and maybe some of my Grand Mothers side Rothwell as both families lived in and around Astley Bridge and Halliwell. I would liketo go visit and find their graves.

    regards David Whenlock

    1. Thanks for letting us know, David. Both traditional Lancastrian names!

      Do take a look at the database - you may find some of your mother's family there. The map on the database is very detailed and should help you find the exact location of your relatives' graves when you do visit.


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