RIDOUT, LIONEL AUGUSTUS CLARK, hardware merchant, land speculator, and militia officer; b. August 1817 in Bristol, England, son of George Charmbury Ridout and Mary Ann Wright; m. 17 Dec. 1846 Louisa Lawrason, eldest child of Lawrence Lawrason*, in London, Upper Canada, and they had one son and three daughters, one of whom died in infancy; d. there 10 Nov. 1859.
George Charmbury Ridout emigrated from Bristol to Philadelphia with his family in 1820, settling in York (Toronto), Upper Canada, the following year. When Upper Canada College opened its doors in 1830, Lionel Augustus Clark Ridout and his younger brother, Septimus Adolphus, were among the students admitted. Later, Lionel probably worked for his two eldest brothers, George Percival* and Joseph Davis*, of Ridout Brothers and Company, an iron and hardware firm formed in York in 1832, and for branches or agents in the United States of Joseph Tarratt and Sons, iron and hardware merchants of Wolverhampton, England. In November 1844 he was able to establish in London, near the court-house square, a hardware store as a branch of his brothers’ business, most likely with backing as well from Tarratt’s and with a $1,500 loan from another former employer, John Neilson of the Pioneer Iron Company, New York. Though Ridout would continue to buy in England through his brothers, he began operating on his own account about 1846. By early 1847 his business was well established on Dundas Street in a brick building in which he had a quarter interest.
As his business prospered, Ridout emulated his father-in-law, Lawrence Lawrason, by investing in real estate in London and in the counties of Middlesex, Elgin, Kent, and Oxford. Like Lawrason in London and Joseph Davis Ridout in Toronto, he played a leading role in local business organizations. He became one of the most substantial shareholders in the County of Middlesex Building Society, the City of London Building Society, the Proof Line Road Joint Stock Company, and the London and Port Stanley Railway Company. In 1856 he was a director of the road company and president of the Middlesex building society. In the same year he became a trustee of the London Savings’ Bank. His desire to promote the commercial interests of his community led him to assume a founding role in the London Board of Trade. He chaired its organizational meeting in April 1857 and was elected first vice-president; the following year he succeeded Adam Hope* as president. Ridout was very active in the London Mercantile Library Association and served as its president in 1853. A further mark of his local status during the 1850s was his captaincy in the 2nd Battalion of London militia.
In 1856–58 Ridout spent nearly $20,000 on the construction of his residence in Rough Park, his 14-acre estate in the northwestern part of the city. Before the house was completed, however, his business had begun to suffer from the commercial depression of the late 1850s and he had developed cancer of the tongue. By early 1859 the cancer had become so advanced and painful that he was compelled to entrust the management of his business to Hiram Chisholm, Lawrason’s partner, and to remove to Toronto in order to be under the care of Dr William Rawlins Beaumont*. Despite the hopelessness of recovery, Ridout was urged by his family to travel to Great Britain to consult the doctors of London and Edinburgh. This journey he and his wife undertook, along with a side trip to Paris, during the spring and summer of 1859. They returned to London, Upper Canada, several weeks prior to his death on 10 November. A conservative politically and a member of St Paul’s Church (Anglican), he was highly esteemed within the community, and the London Free Press regarded him as “one of its ablest and most promising merchants.”
Because of economic conditions and his state of health during the last two years of his life, however, Ridout had found it difficult to collect debts owed him and therefore to pay his creditors. These included the Tarratt company and the firm of Thomas Brown Anderson*, a Montreal hardware importer. Consequently, Ridout’s properties had become heavily mortgaged and he borrowed several thousands of dollars, much of it from Lawrence Lawrason. Ridout died with debts approaching $100,000, and even his household effects were sold in 1860, by his executors, George Percival Ridout, Henry Corry Rowley Becher*, and Lawrason. The latter personally underwrote a substantial amount of Ridout’s debt and took in his widow and children. Real-estate prices having fallen drastically during the depression, Rough Park sold in 1862 for a mere $12,130. It was to be another ten years before Ridout’s estate was completely settled. Meanwhile Rough Park became the site for Huron College, established by Bishop Benjamin Cronyn* in 1863.
BLHU, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 19: 25. UWOL, Regional Coll., Laurason–Ridout–Pennington families, papers and scrapbooks; Lionel Ridout, estate papers. London Free Press and Daily Western Advertiser (London, [Ont.]), 11, 14 Nov. 1859. Weekly Prototype and Farmers’ Newspaper (London), 12 Nov. 1859. Hist. of Middlesex, 222–23.
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