T. R. Ferens (part 2)
Ferens served the city as Liberal Member of Parliament for East Hull from 1906 to 1918. He first stood for election in 1900 but was defeated by Firbank by 836 votes. However, six years later, he won with a majority of 2,362 votes. He celebrated this landslide victory and also his thirty six years with the Reckitt company by giving a sovereign to each employee. He sent an accompanying letter expressing his appreciation of their work. The only request in the letter was that they didn't spend it on 'intoxicating liquor' as Ferens believed in abstinence from alcohol.
Ferens and his wife Esther lived at 'Holderness House', on Holderness Road. They were members of the nearby Brunswick Methodist Church and also taught at the Sunday School every weekend. This was very important to Ferens and he continued to teach to the end of his life, taking his last classes at his own home.
In 1924, to mark the anniversary of the Church and Sunday School, he was presented with a bound album as a gesture of gratitude for his involvement. It contained photographs of past ministers, an account of its history, along with the signatures of members of the congregation.
Recognition and Honours
In October, 1911, Ferens was presented with the honour of the Freedom of the City of Hull. At the ceremony, several speeches were made that expressed appreciation of both his charitable gifts and his religious and community work. The public gallery of the Council Chamber was crowded with people who had come to show their admiration.
In the following year he was made a member of the Privy Council by King George V and later in the year, he was also made High Steward of Hull.
Although Ferens was honoured in these ways, throughout his life he never sought recognition for his efforts. He was also offered a title on more than one occasion, but refused it, preferring to be known just as 'Mr Ferens'.
Death and Tributes
Following a few weeks of illness, Ferens died on Friday 9th May, 1930. Two funeral services were held at the same time in the city -one at Brunswick Church and the other at Holy Trinity Church. As his wife Esther had died eight years previously and they had no children, 'Holderness House' was left to be used as a 'home for poor gentlewomen'.
It is clear from sentiments expressed in Hull's newspaper obituaries that Ferens had been held in great respect and affection. The Hull Times had the headline 'Hull Loses a Lovable and Sterling Character'. The pages contained many tributes, one of them by the Principal of the Hull University College, who remarked that 'Hull will seem empty without him'.
Although Ferens was not born in Hull, it was his home for over sixty years and it became his 'adopted city'. It is said that when he first moved to Hull, he had only two shillings that his mother had given him. He amassed great wealth, not as a result of privilege, but through ability and hard work. He then used this fortune to help others. As a result, thousands of people in the city and the surrounding region have benefited over the years.
'The Place that Ferens Made', produced by the University of Hull.
'From Medieval to Regency', by Christopher Wright, published by Hull City Museums & Art Gallery, 2002.
'Colourful Characters', by John Markham, published by Highgate Publications (Beverley) Ltd, 1990.
'Hull Loses a Lovable and Sterling Character', from 'The Hull Times', pp13-14, dated 10th May 1930.