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Interesting Roytonians

James Wolfenden - Mathematician

JAMES WOLFENDEN, the renowned mathematician, resided in Hollinwood, but was a native of Royton being born at Higginshaw in 1754. While carrying out his trade as a hand-loom weaver he taught himself mathematics, familiarising himself with the works of Newton, Emmerson and the famous Geometers.

Probably his greatest achievement was compiling ‘The Liverpool Tide Table’, for which he received the sum of £5 for the first Table. He carried out this duty until his death and, what made it such a remarkable feat, was that he did it without ever seeing the sea! Although he was offered a permanent appointment in Liverpool, with a salary of £300 per annum, he turned it down because he felt that his occupation as a weaver suited him better and gave him opportunities for study.

When he was in his 80s a few members of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, along with other individuals who were anxious to mark their achievements along with his, raised a sum of money sufficient to purchase an Annuity for his support. Unfortunately, shortly after the money was raised, Wolfenden died on March 29th, 1841 aged 87. It was decided to not only to bear the cost of his funeral but to place an inscribed stone over his grave to show the merits of such a talented individual.

Wolfenden’s remains were interred in Hollinwood Church yard and his stone reads:-
“Where rest the ashes of the honoured dead, But must we not say all honour to such a man.”

There is also a tablet inside Hollinwood Church, placed there as a token of appreciation by Mr William Lees who had been associated with Wolfenden both as a pupil and assistant teacher.

Doug Ashmore

Sources : Rev C E Shaw, Varley’s Royton Annual, J W Kershaw, Bruce Langridge Oldham Interest Centre