On 18th April 1844 Thomas, then aged 28, married Eliza Howard, the daughter of John Howard, a carpet manufacturer, in Oxford Place Wesleyan Chapel in Leeds. There had been a previous family connection with Leeds when Thomas' older sister Sarah married Joseph Thackeray, a wool merchant and a widower from that city, during the previous year. John Howard was a prosperous business man and both he and his wife had been prominent Methodists for many years1 .
Thomas and Eliza had four children in rapid succession; Mary was born in 1845, then Howard in 1846, Thomas Arthur in 1848 and George Steward in 1850. Eliza died on the morning of 30th January, 1851, which was her 28th birthday. George Steward was then aged only 11 months. The certified cause of Eliza's death was "phthisis" of 6 month's duration. The word phthisis strictly means "wasting" but in those days was usually applied to tuberculosis. This was a common cause of death in young adults in the 19th (and even in the first half of the 20th) century.
On the day of the 1851 census, two months after Eliza's death, Thomas was not present in Runcorn but was staying with his sister Sarah Thackeray in Leeds. Also with him there were his daughter Mary and his niece Mary Ann (daughter of William). His three sons, Howard, Thomas Alfred and George Steward were in the family house, Camden Cottage, which was attached to Camden House in High Street, and they were being cared for by a nurse, a cook and a housekeeper2 . A further tragedy was to hit the family shortly afterwards that year when Howard died on 21st May, before he had reached his 5th birthday. This was not the end of sadness for the Hazlehurst family that year because on 29th November Thomas' niece Mary Eliza, daughter of brother John, died before her 20th birthday.
After Eliza's death, Thomas was soon to marry again in September 1852. This marriage took place in York where he married a widow who had been born in York, Ann Wall (neé Rymer). She was 3 years older than Thomas (to the day) and had a son from her previous marriage, Peter Rymer Wall. Thomas and Ann were to produce two sons who both were to die very young. William Ebor was born in March 1854 but died in September of the same year. John Ernest was born in August 1855 and died in October 1856.
The father of Eliza, Thomas' first wife, had been a wealthy man and when he died in 1848 he left some of his fortune to his three children, Cooper, Mary and Eliza. Eliza's share of this legacy was inherited by Thomas. This has been said to amount to £60,0003 , an enormous sum of money which in the values of 2002 would be worth around £3½ million4 . This meant that Thomas, with this fortune in addition to his share in the family business, was a seriously rich man. In some respects, this might have been a problem for him. As a pious Methodist, strongly believing in the message of the Bible, he would understand the problems posed by being a rich man. The stage was set for what was to become his immense generosity to Christian, and especially Methodist, causes.
However Thomas had been a benefactor to Methodism even before Eliza's death, as mentioned above, with the gift of the chapel at Farnworth which was opened in 1848. It is recorded that Thomas had been approached by a local Methodist, Samuel Kelsell, Junior, for help with building a chapel. Thomas replied 'Well Sammy, you find the land and I'll find the money'. The land was found and Thomas paid for the chapel which cost £320. He also provided a pulpit for the chapel, buying the old medieval pulpit from Runcorn Parish Church which was being demolished and replaced by a new church5 .
Thomas Hazlehurst donated the organ to Brunswick chapel, replacing the orchestra which had been 'efficient so long as the leading players were not absent'6 .
Thomas undertook various duties on behalf of the circuit which are recorded, together with his gifts to the circuit from 1848, in the Quarterly Circuit Minutes7 . These duties included being treasurer of the Worn-out Preachers' Fund in 1851-52, joint secretary of the Wesleyan Relief and Extension Fund in 1853 and a circuit steward in 1856. He was frequently appointed to committees for various purposes, including the provision of a new chapel for Widnes in 1855, for appointing ministers and superintendent ministers and for providing houses for ministers.
In 1857 a chapel was built in the rapidly growing town of Widnes in an area called 'Newtown' in Suttons Lane (off Lugsdale Road) which cost £612. The greater part of this cost was met by Thomas Hazlehurst8 .
At the circuit meeting in June 1858 came an offer from Thomas Hazlehurst to build a chapel entirely at his own expense at Five Crosses, a small hamlet on the outskirts of Frodsham. In the terms of the minutes he presented the chapel 'to (the Methodist) Connexion free of debt'. This was Eden chapel in Bradley Lane, which has since been subsumed within the growing town of Frodsham9 . In 1858 a Sunday school was built in Gilbert Street in the Top Locks area of Runcorn.