Wednesday 29 June 2022

An Appreciation of James C. Scholes


Bolton Journal and Guardian

18 June 1935

Bolton has been the birthplace of many men and women who have at least some pretensions to fame, but it is a sad truism that in the words of an old proverb 'a prophet is not without honour save in his own country'. This applies very pertinently to the case of J.C. Scholes the 45th anniversary of whose death occurs today. His claim to fame lie in the fact that he established the history of Bolton on a firm basis for all time. Yet, and this is very strange, there seem to be very few records extant of him, excepting of course, his own works. From these however, and from the few scraps of information it is possible to find, one can form some impressions of him.

James Christopher Scholes was born in Bolton on the 27 March 1854 and received his education at Holy Trinity School. After leaving school he spent an number of years in the printing profession but he soon threw up this and became a reporter on the staff of the Bolton Evening News.

Later, however, we find him established as a draper and milliner at the Round House, Newport Street. Fortunately for posterity he did not give up entirely his old love of writing. In 1887 he was elected a member of the Board of Guardians, Bolton Union, and the following year saw his appointment to the Bolton School Board and he continued to serve very energetically on these two public bodies till his death in 1890.

But it is not for his duties as a public citizen that we remember Scholes, admirable though he was in that capacity, but as an antiquary and author, he had a passionate interest in all things historical and it was probably this together with his early training as a reporter that he won success as a historian.

His most important work is undoubtedly the 'History of Bolton'.  He never lived to see it published. For years he had been collecting material for the book which was his chief ambition. He desired above all things to write a history of Bolton worthy of the name and also worthy of his home town. As he lay dying knowing his task to be unfinished he begged the Vicar of Bolton the Rev. Canon Atkinson, to see that his work was published. The Vicar true to his promise did so, and in 1892 the History of Bolton was issued. William Pimblett another old friend of Scholes was the editor and he it was who handled the vast amount of data left by Scholes and moulded it into the shape in which we now see it. The history itself is a notable piece of work and it is unlikely it will be superseded for many years. In size it is large octavo, its pages number 555 and it is a very handsomely produced book.

History of Bolton (1892)
James C. Scholes & W. Pimblett

One would almost imagine that the ‘history’ alone would occupy a man's lifetime, especially such a short life as Scholes, taking into account that he was a man with many other calls upon his time. But the number of his works is amazing.

Next in importance to his history comes the Bolton Bibliography and Jottings of Book Lore with notes on local authors and printers. The title is self-explanatory and the book makes a splendid companion volume to the History. The first part is taken up with the literary history of the town, while following this we find a complete bibliography of local authors and their works, a list of books printed in Bolton, local catalogues and lastly local newspapers.

It is interesting to note that in 1885 he had read a paper to the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian and Archaeological Society entitled 'Bolton Bibliography of a Century’, and this formed the outline or plan of the larger work. When we consider that in addition to this work we have the excellent 'Bibliographia Boltoniensis’ by Mr. Archibald Sparke, we may truthfully assert that Bolton is as well represented in the sphere of bibliography as any other town in the kingdom.

In 1883 Scholes was elected a member of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian and Archaeological Society and on the occasion of the Society's visit to Bolton in 1886 he read a paper on the history of the Parish Church, drawing attention to the interesting pre-Norman stones in the belfry and especially to the fragment of stone cross. He suggested that the latter should be restored and re-erected and after his death Canon Atkinson caused this to be done. In 1890 a month before his death, Scholes again contributed papers this time on Turton Tower and Church.

Scholes has to his credit many other works on a variety of subjects. His biographical sketch of James Brandwood and old Edgworth Quaker and of William Thompson, grandson of the inventor, Hargreaves are admirable studies, while his 'Rambles in and about the city of Dublin' and again in Derbyshire show his keen grasp of his subject and his powers of observation and appreciation.

Another branch of his work, although perhaps it lacks the appeal to the general public that many of his other works have is nevertheless very useful. This is the transcription and editing of various locals documents and manuscripts. Among these mention might be made of 'Lists of Local Wills and Inventories' the 'Genealogy of the Knowles Family' and 'Memorials of the Bolton Parish Church Organs'. This last among other items of use and information includes lists of vicars, lecturers, sidesmen etc connected with the Parish Church.

We have to thank Scholes too for a short but succinct history of Turton Tower and its owners. This was issued in 1880 and was illustrated by William Moss and the following year a supplement was issued and together the two books form a worthy addition to Lancashire history.

Scholes continued to pursue his antiquarian researches until his death on 18 June 1890. He had become a member of the recently formed Bolton Press Club of which B.T. Barton another local antiquary was the chairman and he attended their first meeting at the Railway Hotel, Bromley Cross. In passing it is interesting to note that by courtesy of the Midland Railway Company the Scottish express was stopped at Bromley Cross to pick up the members of the club and their friends.

The editor of the history, William Pimblett pays tribute to Scholes in his preface and the Rev. Canon Atkinson who was to have written the introduction but was prevented from doing so owing to ill health, also speaks warmly of him. When one considers however that Scholes died at the early age of thirty six one cannot but marvel at the vast amount of work he accomplished and one feels also that if he had lived, his contribution to local history would indeed have been still more worthy of his native town.


Links to Scholes' works available online: