By the community, for the community

Thomas Marling

Around 1870, The Leaze was sold to Thomas Marling, a member of the wealthy local cloth-making dynasty, long established in the Stroud area. Although perhaps not as well known as some of his relatives, Thomas had spent much of his life in the trade and had been appointed a juror for the ‘purpose of awarding medals to articles of merit’ at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The Marling family (descended from William Marling of Stroud who died in 1859) were one of the most prominent in the cloth trade, at various times, operating a succession of important mills in and around the Stroud valleys. These included Avening, Brimscombe Upper and Lower, Brimscombe Port, Bourne, Upper Doreys, Vatch, Slad, Lightpill, Hawkers, Pitts, Ham, Fromehall, Freames, Salmons and Steanbridge. Crucially, it also included Ebley  and Stanley Mills, two of the biggest and most important mills in the region.

In 1825, William Marling, Thomas’s father, was running Ham Mills near Stroud and in that year, Thomas entered into a partnership with his father. Thomas’s brother, Samuel Stephens Marling, joined the partnership a little later. Between 1825 and 1832, Thomas’s share in the business rose from nothing to £9000. Like other family members of the period, he apparently took little cash out of the business for his own use.

At this time, the partnership was also running Fromehall Mills, also near Stroud. In 1836, the brothers installed power looms at both mills, some of the first in the region. By 1840, they had moved to Ebley Mill although in the following year, Thomas may have reverted to Ham Mills and is thought to have retired from the business soon after. However, it was decided that he would receive half of the profits from Ebley Mill for 1841 and 1842, in compensation for earlier heavy outgoings. After this, Samuel carried on alone. As a result of the family’s business success, the Marling family achieved considerable local importance, particularly throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Thomas’s brother later became Sir Samuel Stephens Marling, 1st Baronet (1810–1883), a noted cloth manufacturer and Liberal Party politician. In 1850, he bought what became for a century the Marling family estate at Stanley Park, Selsley. Samuel was also one of those responsible for the founding of Marling School, Stroud, in 1887, contributing £10,000 to the cause. He was succeeded in 1883 by his eldest son Sir William Henry Marling who by 1888, was Sheriff of Gloucestershire. His son, the 3rd baronet, Sir Percival Scrope Marling, had a distinguished military career in Egypt, the Sudan and South Africa. Stanley Park remained the main family residence until the estate was broken up in the early 1950s. However, Ebley Mill remained in Marling family ownership until its closure in the 1970s.

Little is known of Thomas’s life after his retirement around 1841 until his purchase of The Leaze c1870. His stay there was to be relatively brief, as before the end of the decade, the Marlings had been replaced by members of yet another local dynasty, the Stantons.

Stephen Mills

Published in ECN 117  Sep/Oct 2009

The History of Eastington Park ( ‘The Leaze’)

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