John Pender: 29 Dale Street
Sir John Pender is one of the most influential people in global communications and is often referred to as the ‘Cable King’ in recognition of his contribution to the laying of undesea communications cables that wired and connected the world. He was born in Glasgow but made his fortune as a Cotton Merchant in Manchester. In January 1844, he set up his own business, John Pender & Co ‘Commission Agents’, with offices at 20 David Street, and took up residence at Grove House in Higher Broughton, then a small township to the north of the city. Over the next few years John Pender & Co flourished and he moved his offices to here, at 29 Dale Street. Clearly the building was stands at this site today is not the original one occupied by John Pender & Co. for this building dates from 1905 and was designed by W & G Higginbottom.
John Pender invested in the early attempts to lay an electric telegraph cable across te Atlantic in 1857/58 however, it was his personal intervention and guarantee for the sum of £250,000 that permitted the establishment of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company Ltd (Telcon) company that went on to lay the successful 1866 trans-Atantic cable. Thereafter, he established companies that laid cables to India, Australia, the Far East, Africa, and South America. These separate companies were ultimately merged to form the world’s largest telegraph company – The Eastern Telegraph Company – which eventually became Cable and Wireless.
Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887 and that same year was also the 50th anniversary of the original Wheatstone-Cooke electrical telegraph. To mark this anniversary the Postmaster-General presided over a banquet in London attended by many of the telegraph pioneers and influential figures. Lord Derby toasted John Pender and declared that he, “more than any other was the man to whom they owed the present development of the telegraphic system of the world”. John Pender was also recognised in the honours list of 1887 by being made a Knights Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) and again in 1892 when he became Knights Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG). At the time of his death, the Eastern Telegraph Company and its associates owned one third of the total telegraph mileage of the world, handled two million messages per year, employed 1,800 people and operated 10 cable repair ships, including ‘The John Pender’.
In addition to Cotton and global communications, John Pender also invested in the Isle of Man Steam Railway, becoming a director of the company. The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester is custondian of Locomotive no. 3 from the railway which was one of the first of a batch made by Beyer Peacock and Company. This one was named ‘Pender’ in honour of Sir John.