Baldisaro Porri

1803 -1872  

Photograph album.   

Baldisaro was born in Appiano Gentile, near Lake Como, in Italy on 5th May 1803. He was the 2nd of 6 children of Innocento and Antonia (née Fontana) Porro. 

The family had a substantial property in Appiano (which bears the family name and their heraldic coat-of-arms apparently three leaks and situated over the gateway entrance) and several members of the family were doctors and lawyers or involved in the silk trade.   [Additional pictures are shown Photographs/Baldisaro Porri].

The family had the right of appointing a priest to the church, generally one of their sons was appointed.  They were also patrons of a chapel in St. Stephen's Church in Appiano. [Additional pictures are shown Photographs/Baldisaro Porri].  The Pooro family supplied the Roman Catholic Church with three Canons, Aurelio, Angelo and Massimiliano over the centuries.

The Blessed Angelo Porro is also believed to be a member of the family. "Porro" and "Porri" are interchangeable in Italy, "o" being the singular ending and "i" being the plural one.  More details are given under Biographies/Blessed Porro.




Baldisaro was sent to England in 1817, when he was only 14, to learn a trade with Mr Nava in London. He was badly treated and practically abandoned so he decided to return to Appiano by hitchhiking across Europe. Apparently his parents did not recognise him on his return, as he was so bedraggled.

A new apprenticeship was arranged with a Mr Alfieri in Halifax, at a cost of 250 lire, and Baldisaro returned to England in 1819. He was trained as a jeweller and silversmith. He also learnt to make barometers.  He would travel on business to various locations including Skipton.

Baldisaro was happy in Halifax, as confirmed in a letter written by his father Innocent.  After his apprenticeship expired he decided to move to Skipton and met a local girl called Mary Ovington, who was described in the "Pioneer" as an active, good looking women, the daughter of one of Skipton's oldest inhabitants.   She was born on the 23rd August 1806 to John Ovington and Ann, whose maiden name was Cork.  Baldisaro and Mary married on the 5th August 1828 at Broughton Hall Catholic Chapel.  However due to the law they were required to be married first in the local Church of England.




Baldisaro was an unusual name in England so he was often mistakenly given the name Benjamin, a biblical name favoured by Nonconformists and Jewish people at this time.  He is often listed in early trade directories under this name.  In the banns of his marriage Baldisaro crossed out Benjamin and replaced it with Baldisaro.

Baldisaro was a devout Catholic, but when he moved to Skipton there was no catholic church so the Catholics of Skipton would walk the 5 miles to Broughton Hall Catholic Chapel to celebrate Mass.  The Tempest family, who own Broughton Hall, were no longer allowed to be buried at Broughton parish church by an act of Parliament passed in 1824 (part of ongoing anti Catholic measures) so a new chapel was required which was to be called St. Stephen after Baldisaro's family church in Appiano.  A full page is available about St. Stephen's Church in Skipton Places/St. Stephens.


Catholics were often insulted and persecuted, so the Broughton and Skipton Catholics decided to set up a library on January 1, 1835 run by Baldisaro.   200 books were stored in his house together with leaflets to present the Catholic point of view, which he distributed to those wishing to read them.

Infant mortality was terrible in those days and of the 15 children Baldisaro and Mary had, 10 died in infancy. The children (listed in a signed document by Baldisaro) are buried in the graveyard at Holy Trinity Church in Skipton, as there was no catholic graveyard at the time. Five children survived to adulthood and of these: -
  • Monica was the only one not to marry.
  • Charles Porri (the only surviving son who continued to run the family business) married Santina Fattorini in 1870.
  • Angiolina married William Moorhouse (who founded William Moorhouse & sons) in 1873.
  • Mary Jane married Innocent Fattorini (who founded the Skipton branch of the jewellery business) in 1860.
  • Isabella married Innocent Arrigoni (a jeweller) in about 1865.

Baldisaro was very successful in his business [Businesses/Baldisaro Porri] and was well respected within the local community. He wrote neither Italian nor English well, in fact he often spelled phonetically and would therefore have important documents prepared by someone else for his signature. In 1844 he wrote a letter (in Italian) to his sisters and brothers in Appiano describing what a nice place Skipton was including a picture.  A translation is available. Baldisaro was very involved in the local community and served on the Board of Health and on the Board of Guardians who were in charge of the Poor House.

Baldisaro lived at various places in Skipton during his life. On the 1841 census he is listed at Birtwhistle Yard and then at Sheep Street in 1851. In 1861 his address is Caroline Square (a property he rebuilt in 1863) for his son-in-law Innocent Fattorini. In 1871 he is living at Coach Street (another property he built and from which he operated his business).

In 1864 the local paper, The Pioneer, printed an article "B.P. - 1863" about Baldisaro which shows what high regard he held in the local community.

Baldisaro wife died in 1869 of acute bronchitis. Baldisaro died 2nd May 1872, of capillary bronchitis, at Caroline Square the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Mary Jane and Innocent Fattorini. The funeral was a large affair as reported by the local paper. He is buried at Saint Stephen's church with his wife and others members of the family.  [See Places/St. Stephen's Church for more photos].



1871 The Baldisaro Porri Workhouse Scandal

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