Merton College

Mary Ellen ‘Nellie’ Taylor (Suffragette) 1863 - 1937

For 10 years the Taylors (Thomas, Nellie and their three children) lived at Westerby House, Smeeton Westerby.

On March 5th 1910 Nellie Taylor organised a WSPU (The Women's Social and Political Union) meeting in the Kibworth Village Hall when an audience consisting mainly of women listened to speeches by two famous suffragettes, Alice Pemberton-Peake and Dorothy Pethwick. From 1910 to 1912 Dorothy Pethwick was the WSPU organiser in Leicester.

Published in Contemporary

This brief note is about Smeeton Westerby resident Captain Thomas Smithies Taylor (born 5 July 1863), who founded a company that was to dominate lens manufacturing in the inter-war period. Through his camera lenses, the world quite literally saw the twentieth century.

Sometime after 1901 Captain (Army Service Corps) Thomas Smithies Taylor and his wife Mary Ellen (née Bennett) moved first to Kibworth Harcourt, and subsequently to Westerby House in Smeeton Westerby. They remained at Westerby House for a decade until sometime after the Great War.

Thomas, originally from Willesden, London, where he spent part of his apprenticeship at 'R & J Beck’, a noted firm of optical instrument makers who had first established a reputation for fine, high-powered microscopes[1], was recorded in the 1911 census, in Westerby House as a ‘scientific instrument manufacturer’. Taylor was initially an optician and had, with his engineer brother William (1865-1937), started a lens manufacturing company, Taylor, Taylor and Hobson, in Leicester in 1886. In 1893 they began manufacturing the ‘Cooke Triplet’ lens, which reduced chromatic aberration to a minimum. The Cooke Triplet lens set the standard and was used by professional and amateur photographers a-like, including T.E. Lawrence and Ernest Shackleton. By 1911 the company had indeed expanded to be a scientific instrument manufacturer, specializing in photographic lenses and other optical goods; engraving machinery and other fine tools, golf ball moulds, and time-recording clocks. [2]

On the eve of the Great War, Taylor, Taylor and Hobson was one of the British manufacturing companies at the forefront of the second industrial revolution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was during this period that the British lost their economic preeminence as Germany and the USA emerged to challenge her.

Published in Contemporary
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