Links in a Chain - the Mayors of Bolton
Links in a Chain - The Mayors of Bolton
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John Glanville Seddon

Mayor of Farnworth: 1957-58 (Labour)

Born: Wigan, Lancashire 2 February 1896

Died: Harper Green Road, Farnworth 12 October 1972

Lived in Farnworth from the age of 14.

Post office employee for 46 years. His first post was as a telegraph boy in Wigan age 14. In 1913 he became a postman in Farnworth. He passed his Civil Service examinations and was transferred to Nottingham but then was a supervisor at Manchester Post Office from 1942 until his retirement in 1956 when he was presented with the Imperial Services Medal.

From 1915 to 1919 he served with the Royal Field Artillery in Gallipoli, Egypt and France and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal at Ypres. When he returned home to Farnworth he was one of a number of local servicemen who were presented with gold watches by the District Council to mark gallantry in the field of action.

He was first elected in 1948 and represented South ward for 22 years, retiring for health reasons.

It was during his Mayoral year that the Fylde Street subsidence disaster occurred, one of the most significant events in Farnworth's history.

On 12 September 1957 at 7.10am following heavy rain, a small hole appeared in Fylde Street. This spread rapidly along the street and by evening a crater 120 feet long, 18 feet wide and 20 feet deep had formed. Over 400 people from 121 homes were evacuated and 19 houses damaged beyond repair were subsequently demolished. Miraculously no-one was killed or injured but many people lost not only their homes but their livelihoods as well. As late as November 1960  a house which was evacuated during the disaster collapsed during high winds. The cause of the sewer collapse was ground water movement and the fact that the sewer built in 1867 was laid on silt, not clay. New main sewers for the town were constructed and work was completed on 10 July 1961.

The Mayor immediately launched a fund to relieve the distress caused by the subsidence with a personal donation of £10. Even though the full extent of the damage was not clear, a number of families lost their personal possessions, homes and furniture. Fylde Street became a familiar name on radio and the newest medium of television, the stories of falling houses and evacuated people made headline news all over the world. The Mayor was interviewed on television, cinema newsreels gave coverage of the disaster and there were special news broadcasts in this country and in America. The Farnworth Journal headline was "Disaster news echoes around the world". America asks "how is Fylde Street coping?"

Within a week money and offers of help poured in. Hylda Baker, the Farnworth-born comedienne, sent a telegram to the Mayor saying "Shocked to hear of my home town's disaster. Will do all I can to help". She appeared in a concert to raise funds at the Theatre Royal, Bolton on 20 October 1957. A collection was also held at the Bolton Wanderers game against Arsenal. Sheila Buxton and George Martin did a charity concert at the Ritz. A total of £20,950 was raised by the Mayor's Distress Fund. The Mayor took a leading part in the efforts to help the affected families and in the organization of the cleaning up operations.

He was an active member of Farnworth and Kearsley Labour Club and Dixon Green Labour Club.

Catholic - Manager of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School and Governor of St Gregory's Primary School.

The Reverend J Melvin, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes described him as "one of nature's gentlemen" and expressed thanks for the help and advice he had given to the Church and for his services to the town.



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