John Abbott who was 73 when he died in retirement was and enigmatic figure in 19th century Halifax society. He never married and had no relatives living in town. He grew up in the wool trade during the 1830s and the 1840s when family firms, whose names are now household words – Foster, Holden, Salt, Crossley – Were carving their empires. Abbott went into carpet manufacturing and Ling Roth, in “The Genesis of banking in Halifax”, describes him as a man “carful of his means and wealthy”. Among Abbott’s early business transactions were deals with the first John Crossley, founder of Dean Clough Mills. Later Abbott was to name Crossley’s eldest son Louis-John, as one of his executors and trustees.
In 1829 Abbott formed the Halifax Joint Stock Banking Company and was one of the original 12-member commit management. He was chairman of the board for many years. In 1830, John Crossley took over the only other carpet manufacturer in Halifax, a firm called Abbott and Ellerton. It seems a fair assumption this was John Abbott’s Concern. Abbott enjoyed a cordial relationship with the Crossleys and had a reputation for being a man of culture and reading. He travelled to Australia and the United States, no mean achievement in those days. It seems his wealth from property bought by his textile profits and banking income allowed him to retire comfortably and when he died he had not been in business form some years according to contemporary reports. Between foreign trips he played a significant role in Halifax life. A great churchgoer. He attended Halifax Parish Church regularly for 40 Years and was associated with the Sunday school. He lectured at meetings of the Literary and Philosophical Society and the Bible Society. His years on the Bench as a magistrate could not have failed to move him. Each day there paraded before Abbott a pitiful cross-section if broken men and women. In his will, he specified that his money, a fortune in those days, was to be employed for charitable purposes. It was a source of entertainment to those who were familiar with Abbott when the executors decided to provide a home for “ladies of gentlefolk” who had been widowed or suffered from business misadventures. Abbott himself, if not a misogynist “had no great love for women” as one of the present executors puts it.