George Laishley (1796-1864) was a prominent Wesleyan Methodist, one of the first nonconformist councillors, and mayor in 1848-9. He was baptised in St Michael’s 14 September 1776, the son of Richard and Elizabeth Laishley. His mother died in 1806, and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard 14 December that year. His father re-married twice, to Elizabeth King in 1808, and, following Elizabeth’s death in 1812, to Ann Drew. His younger half-brother (the son of Ann Drew) was Richard Laishley, who was baptised as a Wesleyan in 1815, probably in the Chapel in Union Terrace.

George married Elizabeth New 1 January 1821 at Holy Rood Church, by licence. Her father was George New, draper, and George Laishley was in the same trade. They would not have been able to marry in the Wesleyan Chapel at this period, but some of their children were baptised there. Many Wesleyan Methodists, like George and George’s father Richard, were “Church Methodists”, and could be as loyal to their local parish church as to the local chapel, as long as the local vicar was agreeable.

George New had died in 1819, but his widow Delicia was still alive, and took George into partnership in the family business at 124 High Street. The partnership was dissolved 24 December 1824 (London Gazette 18 May 1827) and George took over the responsibility for the business. His father-in-law had taken over the shop and Drapery business of Richard Daniell and Son in 1803-4, and the Daniells had been at 124 High Street since 1793.

At first he lived over the shop, but by 1839 he was living at Clarence Lodge in Shirley.

By 1845, George had expanded the business into 123 High Street. He also seems to have invested in other drapery businesses, perhaps those of former employees, withdrawing from the partnership when the business was established. He supported the early closing movement.

George obeyed John Wesley’s exhortation to “employ whatever God has intrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree, to the household of faith, to all men.” (Sermon: On the Use of Money) He was active, not just in the life of his church, but also in the life of his community.

George was a Local Preacher and office holder in the Wesleyan Circuit. He first appears as a trustee in 1813, for the manse in Union Terrace, Canal Walk. The Fawley Chapel Trust was formed in 1836, and renewed in 1846 and 1860, when George had moved to St John’s Wood. He was also a trustee for Shirley Church Street, and the new chapel in East Street.

In the early 1830s he was one of the Guardians of the Poor for Holy Rood, and a Commissioner of the Waterworks. Then he was elected councillor for St Mary’s Ward, alongside fellow Liberals William Goddard Lankester and John Traffles Tucker, in November 1836, and would serve twenty years in the Council, at first for St Mary’s Ward, then for All Saints.

He developed the Oxford Street area between 1842 and 1856. This was originally mudflats. Laishley leased the land from Queen's College, Oxford.

He was one of the founder members of the Chamber of Commerce (1850).

Laishley moved to London in 1856, where he became a director of the first joint-stock company, the London, Manchester and Foreign Warehouse Company.

George died 9 March 1864 in Scarborough, and is remembered on the Laishley family tomb at Owslebury. He left £70,000 in his will.

Newspaper clippings (available online or from the Local Studies Library):

Funeral of Miss E.C. Laishley - (Southern Daily Echo 18/02/1931)
"Why Land Suited Draper George" - (Southern Evening Echo 19/04/1985). Describes Laishley's business career and the arrangements for leasing the Oxford Street area from Queen's College. Discusses his time as mayor and various good works.


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