William CarnelleyWilliam Carnelley was a senior director and chairman of Rylands & Sons Ltd., one of the most important cotton manufacturers in Manchester during the 19th century. Described as one of the old school of textile men who helped to build up Lancashire's greatness(WCC/2/11), Carnelley was a man who contributed to Britain's prosperous industry and trade during the 19th and early 20th Century. Throughout his long and resourceful life he worked as a spinner, dyer, weaver, book-keeper, cashier, salesman, and buyer, eventually working up to the position of director and then chairman.
Born on the 7th of May 1823 in Barnsley Yorkshire, Carnelley began his working life under the tutelage of his uncle, who was a linen manufacturer with his own small business. It was here that he obtained valuable experience that would aid him in his future with Rylands & Sons. In July 1840, Carnelley set off from Barnsley towards Manchester. On arrival, he secured a position with the firm of Rylands and Sons, but had to return home to Barnsley shortly after this due to a family illness. On his return to Manchester, he discovered that his position had been filled by someone else, and was subsequently transferred to the Wigan branch of the firm. Here he was promoted to a higher position within the company, being placed in charge of the handloom. In addition to this, he was also made responsible for the company's material costs and expenses. His responsibilities were increased further when he became head of Manufacturing in Wigan.
In 1842, the managing partnership of Rylands and Sons was dissolved and John Rylands was left in sole control of the company. Choosing to work under the leadership of John Rylands and stay with the firm, Carnelley transferred to a mill at Ainsworth, then to a mill in Gorton. From Gorton, Carnelley eventually returned to the Manchester Warehouse. Here, in 1847, he was entrusted with the management of the Fustian Department. Carnelley's promotion came at a time when Rylands and Sons were rapidly expanding, acquiring numerous mills, offices, and warehouses, both in Britain and abroad.
1873 was an important year in the history of Rylands. On 25th October Rylands and Sons Ltd was incorporated as a joint stock company. Carnelley was nominated by John Rylands to be one of the nine Directors on the company board. After the death of John Rylands William Carnelley displayed his continued loyalty and devotion to his former employer and friend through his contribution towards the construction of the John Rylands Library, which was created by Enriqueta Rylands as a memorial to her late husband. Like John, Enriqueta held Carnelley in great esteem, both professionally and as a friend of the family. She describes him asfaithful, ever-ready, and truly invaluable (WCC/1/4).
In 1901 Carnelley was appointed chairman of Rylands & Sons Ltd, and he held this position until 1916 when he officially retired from the company. However, refusing to disappear from the professional scene in his retirement, he continued his affiliation with the firm and was given the title of Honorary Directorship in 1916. William Carnelley died on 8th October 1919, aged 96, at his residence in Fallowfield, Manchester. William Carnelley was married twice, but died a widower. He had at least 3 children, Thomas (1852-1890), Matthew, and Ellen Carnelly. Thomas Carnelley studied at Owens College and became professor of chemistry at Aberdeen University, but died suddenly at the age of 38. William Carnelley is buried in Southern Cemetery in Manchester, in a plot facing that of his employer and friend John Rylands.