HistoryStone Life

Richard Vernon’s legacy lives on in Stone

St Michael & St Wulfad's Church in StoneThe mayor of Stone is to unveil a seat in his memory, on Thursday afternoon at 3.00 p.m. in the churchyard of St Michael and St Wulfad, Stone.  The bench depicts soldiers and poppies and commemorates the men from Stone killed in the Great War.

Local historian Philip Leason told A little Bit of Stone some of the history about the legacy:

I imagine few people have heard of Richard Vernon, though there are at least two other seats bearing his name, opposite his memorial in the churchyard of Christ Church, and in the amphitheatre on Crown Meadows. But….he left a legacy of £1000 to Stone in 1901. Why the delay in spending it? A highly unusual story!

Richard Vernon was a self- made, very successful shoe manufacturer in 19thc Stone. His name is eclipsed by that of the Bostock family ( later to become Lotus) whose family success and wealth had begun in Stafford. He was the son of shoemaker in Church Street, Stone. Nothing surprising there. as domestic shoemaking  was  very common in Stone at that time. By 1851, the 39 year old Richard described himself as a’ Shoe manufacturer’,  with premises in Oultion Road.  In 1863 he was listed as a ‘Wholesale Boot and Shoe Manufacturer’ and it was shortly afterwards that he built a large factory in Mill Street Stone ( about where the entrance to Morrison’s car park is) He bought land in Newcastle Road, and built Holly House . Also about this time, in 1868 his wife of 35 years died, and he had remarried.  to  Harriet Birtles of The Grange, Darlaston. In 1888 she too died , having enjoyed the fruits of his great success as a local businessman Within six months  in April 1889 he married again. Ann Yates was a shoemaker’s daughter from Leicestershire  BUT She was  only 26 and Richard Vernon was 76, which was  perhaps why the marriage took place in Lichfield, to avoid a Stone ‘scandal’?

In his will made a few months later, amongst other legacies he willed “…a sum sufficient but not exceeding £1000 for the purpose of erecting in the town of Stone…a drinking fountain with  a trough attached thereto for the use of Horses Cattle and Dogs”. His young wife outlived him by over fifty years! What a problem for the Stone Urban District Council . A Drinking Fountain? A Horse Trough? It was only resolved by a change in the terms of the will in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice in 1957.The Charity Commissioner now  defines The Richard Vernon Trust as “ to Administer the Charity Fund for the Benefit of the Urban Area”.

We humans will have now another bench on which sit and rest our weary legs.

Thank you Richard Vernon.

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