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Harrison, John (1579-1656) (DNB00)


HARRISON, JOHN (1579–1656), philanthropist, only son of John Harrison, merchant, of Leeds, by Grace, daughter of William Kitchingman, esq., was born at Pawdmire House, Leeds, in 1579, and brought up in the house of his uncle, John Kitchingman of Chapel-Allerton. In his twenty-fourth year he married the daughter of Henry Marton, esq., merchant, of Leeds, but had no issue. He derived from his father a considerable fortune, most of which he applied to the purchase of land in Leeds. The annual rental, with some of the profits of his own commercial pursuits, he distributed in public charities, alienating large portions of the fee-simple for charitable purposes. The ancient free grammar school having stood in an inconvenient situation, he removed it to the existing building, which he erected in a ‘pleasant field’ of his own. The handsome cross in the market-place was erected solely at his expense. The New Street or New Kirkgate was built by him, and the rents were appropriated to pious and charitable purposes. This street is terminated by St. John's Church, the crowning monument of his beneficence. The edifice was raised entirely by himself at an immense cost; it was endowed by him with an annual revenue of 80l., and was completed in 1634, when it was consecrated by Archbishop Neile. Harrison also erected and endowed a hospital or almshouse near the church for the residence of forty decayed housekeepers.

When the town of Leeds was incorporated by Charles I in 1626, Harrison was elected the first chief magistrate, with the title of alderman; and he was again chosen to fill that office in 1634. He was also one of the eight principal persons of the town who jointly purchased the manor of Leeds from the crown in the same reign. In 1647, at the request of his friends, he printed, at Berwick, some miscellaneous pieces, among which Thoresby mentions a tract entitled ‘The Government of the Town of Leedes before it was made a Corporation’ and ‘A Letter to Baron Rigby.’ Harrison was a staunch episcopalian and royalist, and his estates were consequently sequestrated by the parliamentary commissioners at the close of the civil war. Sickness aggravated his troubles, and for more than twenty months before his death he was bedridden. He died on 29 Oct. 1656, and was interred on 8 Nov. in his own orchard, which occupied the site of the present Kirkgate market; but his remains were afterwards removed to St. John's Church, and buried under a monument of black marble, over which was placed his portrait at full length in his municipal robes. A fine engraving of the portrait, by W. Holl, from a drawing by Thomas Robinson, is in Whitaker's edition of Thoresby's ‘Ducatus Leodiensis.’ There are several other engraved portraits of Harrison.

[Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, Nos. 5016–18; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. iii. 98; Musæum Thoresbyanum, ed. Whitaker, pp. 94, 119; Parsons's Hist. of Leeds; Taylor's Biog. Leodiensis, pp. 91, 652; Thoresby's Ducatus Leodiensis, ed. Whitaker, pp. 13, 19, 27, 28, 30, 34, 55, 83, 105, 263, 265; Whitaker's Loidis and Elmete, pp. 34, 61, Appendix, pp. 1, 2, 10, 13, 15, 28.]

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