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James Heald (1796-1873)

James Heald was born at Portwood near Stockport in Cheshire, the son of a wealthy Methodist calico-printer of the same name. He was educated in Rochdale and was converted as a young man.

Heald wound up his father's business shortly after James senior's death in 1816 and moved to Manchester with a vague intention of entering the Anglican ministry. Instead, he became a banker and over the course of his life added considerably to the fortune that his father had left.

Heald moved back to Stockport in the early 1820s and swiftly reached a prominent position in local Methodist affairs. He was a preacher of considerable ability and occupied all the other major lay appointments. He was also generous in his financial support of such causes as chapel building.

At a Connexional level, Heald was closely involved in the organisation of the Methodist Centenary celebrations in 1839 and had a particular interest in overseas missions and ministerial training. He was one of the first subscribers to the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society and served ten years as a General Treasurer. He was also closely involved with the founding of the Wesleyan Theological Institution and had a particular interest in the affairs of Didsbury College, often worshipping in the college chapel.

Heald played a very active part in public life, serving as treasurer of what became Stockport Infirmary from 1828 until his death, being one of the prime movers behind the erection of the hospital building. He served as a Member of Parliament for Stockport from 1847 to 1852 and later stood unsuccessfully for the Oldham constituency. Heald purchased Parr's Wood Hall as his residence shortly after moving back from Manchester. He remained there for the rest of his life, never marrying and sharing his house with two sisters.

Heald suffered from bronchial problems for several years before his death, which took place on 1st October 1873.

Source: Methodist Magazine 1874, 769ff and 865ff.

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