Thomas Lunt (1770-1851), born in Tattenhall, was a Quaker, foundry owner and developer for Chester in the early 19th Century. Although the land between the south bank of the canal and the gardens to the north of Foregate Street was still fields in the 1770s, development started there before 1800. Queen Street was the first to be built up, by John Chamberlaine and Roger Rogerson after 1778, but the earliest planned development was Bold Square, built c. 1814 by Thomas Lunt, a foundry owner and builder, and comprising two terraces of small houses facing each other across a strip of garden. Lunt also erected Union Bridge across the canal at his own expense and on the north bank built much of Egerton Street (c. 1820), which included a terrace on the west side and five pairs of slightly larger semidetached houses on the east. South of the bridge, Seller Street was developed in 1818-19 by the brewery owner Alderman William Seller. Lunt build both the Commercial Hall and the Union Hall, trading premises on either side of Foregate Street.
Pigot describes the Commercial Hall as follows:
- THE COMMERCIAL HALL is situated on the north side of Foregate street immediately opposite the Union Hall. It has two entrances, one from Foregate street for the accommodation of foot people; the other from Cowlane, which is extremely spacious and convenient for the purpose of carts and carriages. The above Hall was erected the beginning of 1815, and was first opened for the sale of goods on the 5th of July, in the same year - It is a quadrangular brick building with a large area in its center and occupies a space of ground of 52 yards by 21; it contains 56 single and 20 double shops; has a commodious Right of steps at each angle leading to the upper and double tier of shops, which are traversed by two covered galleries, supported by strong handsome cast iron pillars. This Hall is frequented during the two fairs in July and October, by tradespeople from London, Manchester, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham and Sheffield, when goods of every description are exposed to sale by the wholesale and rétail manufacturers. This Hall was erected at the expense of two individuals as a matter of speculation built by Mr Lunt of St John's street in this city and was reared in the short space of five weeks. The two roads to this Hall give it a decided superiority to the Union Hall which having only one entrance the people frequenting it are much incommoded by carts and carriages - The public convenience has been materially improved by the erection of this as well, as the Union Hall the merchandise of the different tradesmen frequenting the fairs being formerly dispersed through various parts of the city.
Hemingway describes his development of Bold Square as follows:
- The site upon which these houses are built and the area in the centre stand immediately behind the mansion of Mrs Bold and was a large field formerly the property and in possession of the late Dr Haygarth (see: Infirmary). Mr Thomas Lunt purchased this house and ground ot the doctor in the year 1814 disposing of the former to its present occupier and converting the latter into the square just mentioned which is highly ornamental to this part of the city and affords a comfortable retreat to the man of slender independence as well as to the tradesman who is desirous of occasional absence from the bustle and turmoil of business. Seller street is connected with Egerton street which runs down to Brook Street by a light and elegant cast iron bridge thrown across the canal at an expence of five or six hundred pounds sustained alone by Mr Lunt himself Egerton street commences immediately after crossing the bridge and is 350 yards in length with a width sufficiently capacious for all the purposes of beauty and convenience. On the right a good road leads to the lead works of Messrs Walker and Co on the north bank of the canal and on the left is Foundry lane appropriately so called not only because Mr Lunt has an iron foundry at its top but because there is a similar establishment lower down carried on by Messrs Cole Whittle and Co. About twenty genteel houses have been built on both sides the street and on the eastern part of this plot of ground all the property of Mr Lunt a plan has been marked out for a range of villas standing a short distance apart to each of which is apportioned a convenient plot of garden ground while from the western line about the centre a new street is contemplated to connect itself with Milton street. When these projected improvements are completed this will be one of the most interesting parts of this city.
Of Lunt himself Hemingway adds:
- There are few individuals in the city who have contributed so much to the public improvements and convenience as Mr Lunt. To him we are wholly indebted for the commodious communication between Foregate Street and Flookersbrook by the erection of the Union bridge which before required a circuitous route by Frodsham Street on the one hand or round by Hoole lane on the other. I think it a subject of regret if not an instance of injustice that Mr Lunt should have been individually subject to the entire expence of the bridge while the public and especially those who had contiguous property and extensive manufactures were to enjoy its advantages. The plan was projected by Mr Lunt in conjunction with the late Alderman Seller the latter proposing to give a handsome sum and engaging to promote an extended subscription Before either of these objects however were realized the worthy alderman whose public spirit was never called in question and whose honourable intentions and sincerity are above suspicion sickened and died while those on whom reliance for assistance had been placed declined bearing any portion of the cost. Mr Lunt is still living amongst us but as a further developement of many instances in his proceedings which I think entitle him to public gratitude might savour of personal flattery. I shall desist from eulogy recording only one single fact illustrative of his disinterestedness and that a that he has made a voluntary relinquishment of his right of the bridge and road in Edgerton street the land for which he purchased at an exorbitant price to the police commissioners - or in other words to the public.
The very names of the streets echo the turbulent politics of the time. In the 1820 elections Belgrave announced his candidature directly the customary addresses of condolence and congratulation were adopted:
- 21 Feb. 1820. General Grosvenor’s was advertised,
- 28 Feb. The same day, a letter declining nomination and deploring the failure of Egerton’s petition was issued by his 1818 fourth man, the Whig barrister John Williams.
- "Egerton’s candidature was not announced until the eve of the election and took the Grosvenors by surprise. Hustings were erected outside the corn exchange, where on 8th March the mayor nominated and Alderman John Larden seconded Grosvenor and Belgrave was proposed by Alderman Sir John Cotgreve and the banker Thomas Dixon. The brewer alderman William Seller nominated and the former sheriff John Dodd seconded Egerton in absentia, and the builder Thomas Lunt and auctioneer George Bailey sponsored their 1812 fourth man Edward Venables Townshend of Wincham. The Independents succeeded in preventing clerks from the town clerk John Finchett’s office officiating as polling clerks and, as in 1818, they concentrated their attack on General Grosvenor, a notoriously poor attender in the House. They also exposed Belgrave’s failure to vote on the repressive measures introduced after the Peterloo Massacre."
Lunt also turns up with some practical suggestions in the "Mechanics Magazine" of 1835 (where he suggests the "firewall" for steam vessels):
- Steam boat Explosions - Mr Thomas Lunt of Chester suggests that the danger arising from explosions on board of steam vessels might be very materially diminished by the formation of a permanent iron partition between the engine house and the passengers cabins. The hint seems worthy of consideration - Liverpool Mercury August 21 1835
Prior to his death, such were his financial difficulties, that a number of his friends within the local business community offered him financial aid, all of which were politely refused by this extremely proud entrepreneur.