The Mackies and Philanthropy

Education, Religion and the Deserving Poor

John and Mary Mackie were wealthy and influential public figures in Victorian New Mills. As well as building St James the Less and the neighbouring almshouses, John and Mary were both supporters of many other churches and charitable causes, particularly education.

The Mackies’ attitude to charitable giving was typical of people in their social position. Philanthropy was considered to be a religious and moral duty for well-off Victorians. There was an emphasis on providing education as a means for working class people to improve their lot in life by their own effort.

Mary Mackie (1844-1922)
Mary was born in New Mills. Her parents, James and Martha Ingham, were also known for their philanthropic works. The neighbouring almshouses were named after them. James owned a calico printing factory, the Watford Bridge Printworks in New Mills.
New Mills Local History Society, Picture New Mills image n01226

John Mackie (1837-1891)
John’s interest in education led him to become chairman of the local school board and president of the Mechanics Institute. He later became the first County Councillor for New Mills, elected in 1889.
New Mills Local History Society

You can see the name Mackie on a number of buildings in New Mills, including the former Board School on Spring Bank.
New Mills Local History Society, Picture New Mills image n07665

Mary had this drinking fountain built in memorial to John. It supplied free, fresh water at a time when few people in New Mills had water piped to their homes.

Today the provision of services like clean water, sewage disposal and free schooling are taken for granted. During the Mackies’ lifetime these duties were only beginning to be taken over by public bodies. The industrial revolution brought huge changes to New Mills and public provision struggled to keep up. People like the Mackies helped to bring about much needed improvements to the growing town.