LADY OLIVIA SPARROW AND REV RIDLEY HERSCHELL
Lady Olivia Sparrow was the Irish born eldest daughter of the Earl of Gosford. Her inheritance of the estate of Leigh came through her father-in-law Robert Sparrow of Worlingham in Suffolk. With her husband, Brigadier General Robert Bernard Sparrow, she had three children, one of whom, Millicent, married George Montagu, 6th Duke of Manchester and so in Leigh we had Duke of Manchester Drive, now Manchester Drive. Millicent and George's eldest daughter married Lord Tankerville and hence we have Tankerville Drive in Leigh.
Olivia's husband died on active service leaving Olivia his estate of Leigh. Although it is not thought that Olivia lived in Leigh at any time she was a compassionate person and had great concern for the welfare of the Town.
She had special day schools built and opened in December 1834 even though some people thought education for all was a dangerous thing.
She introduced the Rev Ridley Haim Herschell, a Jewish believer in Christ from Poland to Leigh, as a teacher. We now have Herschell House and Herschell Road as a reminder of his stay in Leigh which, surprisingly, was only about eighteen months, although he made a tremendous impact on the little isolated community.
Lady Olivia gave Leigh two new water supplies in wells on the Strand and near Bell Wharf. She died in 1863 and her heirs sold the estate.
Rev Ridley Herschell*
Although brought to Leigh as a teacher at the schools in the Town where illiteracy was rife amongst children and adults alike, he took on an ever growing role in the church. The Rector at the time was the Rev Robert Eden - not a particularly popular man with the fishing fraternity.
At first Herschell's congregation was small but his fame spread and he attracted more and more people until it swelled to over 700, including Michael Tomlin who was converted by him and became a lay preacher.
Rev Herschell and his Scottish wife, Helen, and their two children were well loved by the townsfolk of Leigh and when he eventually left in 1836 to work in Brampton, again under the auspices of Lady Olivia, a subscription was taken up in Leigh of a penny per person and he left with a new Bible and prayer book. The names of all the donors were inscribed inside.
Eventually he and his family returned to the streets of London to minister to the Jewish community.
The Rev Herschell's son, Farrer, became Lord Chancellor in two of Gladstone's cabinets and was created the first Lord Herschell.
*reproduced by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery
If you are interesting in learning more about Rev Herschell there is a biography of him entitled 'All Love' written by Geoffrey Henderson