Thomas H Mawson:
AN article in the Lancashire Life magazine at the turn of the 21st century described the work of the landscape architect Thomas H Mawson as “unpretentious but substantial”. It is a description that would appear to serve as an appropriate summary of the man.
Mawson appears to have been far more driven by a need to work than a need for formal recognition. Even when his third son James was killed on the Western Front in 1915, Mawson’s way of coping seems to have been to throw himself into an ambitious new scheme – one that would culminate in the publication of An Imperial Obligation, the book that would create the blueprint for Westfield War Memorial Village (see picture below from book).
Born at Scorton in 1861, six years’ later the family moved to Lancaster. At the age of 12 Thomas studied design and drawing and, two years later, entered the design department at local firm Gillows. However, his mother uprooted the family – three boys and a girl – to London following the sudden death of her husband. Thomas was sent in advance, with just 20 shillings and his train fair. He not only found a job for himself but within three months had also found employment for his siblings.
In 1884 Thomas married Anna Prentice and while on honeymoon in the Lake District he decided to uproot the whole family and set up a landscaping practice back in Lancaster. A mixture of hard work, talent and ambition, was to result in commissions for large garden and park landscaping projects as well as town planning schemes across Britain, Europe, Canada and America. Many of the crowned heads of Europe were among his clients.
Nevertheless, it was the death of his son James in the First World War that provided him with his most personal project – the idea of industrial and economically self-supporting villages for disabled ex-soldiers and their families. Mawson was to write in his autobiography: “I regard the organisation of disabled service men into self-supporting communities as the best piece of constructive policy I have promoted.”
Mawson’s summary of his life’s work was supported by the local press following his death in 1933 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease. The Lancaster Observer concluded: “His work in connection with the Westfield War Memorial Village will long abide as an example of his true genius.”
The Mawson link to Westfield did not end with the death of the founder. His eldest son, Prentice, was to take over the family business and was to prove a generous benefactor to Westfield. His son, also Thomas, was to take over the reigns after the Second World War and retained strong personal and professional links with the village until TH Mawson & Sons closed in the Seventies.
Herbert Lushington Storey:
THE head of a wealthy and highly influential Lancashire family, Herbert Lushington Storey’s patronage of Mawson’s “dream” of settlements for disabled war veterans was to prove crucial to both the creation and survival of Westfield.
Storey and his wider family not only provided land for Westfield to be built on, but also a financial, professional and personal commitment that would see them serving on the Westfield Council from its earliest incarnation in 1918 through to the present day. Members of the family contributed considerable funds from the outset, including money for the construction of four of the first 12 properties built, as well as the monies required for work on such unsung essentials as basic infrastructure.
The fact that the Storeys were to prove such generous benefactors was, perhaps, one of the less surprising – if by no means less impressive – elements of the Westfield story.
Herbert’s father was Sir Thomas Storey, who, along with his brothers, had generated wealth from a small oilcloth business that thrived during the industrial revolution and subsequent expansion of the British Empire.
Sir Thomas and his brothers were credited with being both good employers and good citizens. Thomas was a Mayor of Lancaster and sought to further the well-being of the town; from the improvement of its hospitals to the gift of the imposing Storey Institute as a centre for education and culture. At the time of his death in 1889 he was living in a substantial house, and associated grounds, called Westfield (pictured right). It was this property that his children would subsequently offer to Thomas Mawson.
Herbert’s personal support for the memorial village was perfectly in keeping for a man who had gone on to embrace both his father’s aptitude for business as well as his attitude to philanthropy. Under Herbert’s directorship the family business was employing 2,000 men by 1909 and large, but unrecorded, numbers of women and children. He had become a prominent figure in public institutions, serving on the town council and as High Sheriff, and was also highly supportive of all branches of study at the Storey Institute and instrumental in introducing University Extension Lectures into Lancaster.
When he died in 1933, at the age of 80, The Lancaster Guardian said that Herbert’s death had “cast a gloom over the Lancaster district”. Just two days before he had fittingly been re-elected as President of the Westfield War Memorial Village. His commitment to the village would be shared by surviving members of the family, who continue their involvement with the village to the present day: a descendant of the Storey family has been the President of the charity since its inception in 1918.