ANDREW Lamberton sent me this portrait and told
me: "I recently had the opportunity to go into the Sir John Crewe almshouses in
Beam Street and was surprised to see a large oil portrait of a gentleman in the
"In his hand was a £10 pound bank note clearly headed Nantwich Bank.
So, who was he and what was his portrait doing in the almshouses?
"Some research via James Hall's
"History of Nantwich"
pointed me to William Sprout who, it appears, was a Wright's Trustee,
elected in 1817.
"Apparently, he was a generous benefactor to Sir Edmund
Wright's charities, namely the almshouses, hence the presence of his
portrait in the Beam Street almshouses, although technically it is incorrect
as it is hanging in the Sir John Crewe part of the combined centre.
"What interested me was that in
1803 he was listed as Captain, and his brother, Peter, as Lieutenant in the
Company of Nantwich Volunteers, formed in 1797 during the Napoleonic Wars.
The 400 men used to meet for drill after church service on Volunteer Fields
(which of course is just opposite the almshouses, so in a way it's like
William Sprout has come to a familiar area!). I would have thought you would
need a hard surface for drill, but I could be wrong.
"It was William Sprout's name that was signed at the bottom of the note.
Hall says that William Sprout was a co-owner of the Nantwich Bank in High
Street, founded in 1808.
William Sprout, in a painting hanging in the Sir
John Crewe almshouses. In close-up is a £10 Nantwich bank note.
"He was a co-founder with Charles Delves
Broughton and John Garnett.
"In 1826, Messrs Broughton and
Garnett, bankers, became bankrupt in the general economic depression. It may be that William Sprout had withdrawn from the
partnership some time before, because in 1829 he could afford to give a
sizeable sum - £6,000 - to several charities (including St Mary's
Church,) which then came under the umbrella of the Wright's Trustees. He
may well at this time still have been a Wright's Trustee.
"According to Hall, the
Wright's pensioners were very poor, and some even left the almshouses
for the workhouse, but with the donation their
annual pay was increased by £10 per year, helping to improve their lot.
"There are some of the tokens
issued by the bank in Nantwich
Museum and you can even purchase them on line."