One of Southport’s greatest benefactors will be remembered at The Fernley - a brand new annual event in Southport.
The New Year’s Day event will celebrate the story of John Fernley, a devout Methodist and man of wealth whose generosity in the mid 1800's provided the Victorian town with significant buildings and historic features that are still enjoyed to this day.
Fernley was born in Stockport in 1796 and dedicated his life to spreading the principles of Wesleyan Methodism. He moved to Southport in 1859 with his wife Eliza where he built a house. A cotton manufacturer by trade, Fernley was also the founder and manager of the first Methodist newspaper – The Watchman from 1835-1884.
Besides his interest in the church, Fernley developed a strong interest in education and began making investments and building day schools including Trinity Hall Boarding School, one of the first secondary schools that was built for minister’s daughters. The Old-School House, and three other houses were built in 1864 for £400 with the adjoining Trinity Chapel that opened its doors for 777 people.
The chapel is the only building that still stands today, the property is now a private home owned by Jean Ireland, who regularly arranges conducted tours of the building.
Along with the Trinity Buildings, his unique approach to community also saw him build the meteorological Observatory in Hesketh Park in 1871 and donated the Drinking Fountain for fishermen in 1861 that still stands on the Promenade today. Fernley also donated the doomed lifeboat, Eliza Fernley, to the town, named in honour of his late wife in 1874.
His philanthropic bequests were many. Other notable gifts to the town from Fernley included land for St Paul’s Square and Southport Infirmary. Upon his death in 1873, his will of 12 pages provided an estate worth £122,000 to a long list of legatees.
As a lasting tribute, Reverend W. B. Pope wrote in memorial: Mr Fernley was as resolute and tenacious carrying out his plans as he was large minded in framing them. “Nothing ever turned him aside from a single project that he had well considered and finally determined on.