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Waterlow, Sir Sydney Hedley

Biography

Waterlow, Sir Sidney (1822-1906)

businessman, philanthropist and Lord Mayor began an incredible life on 1 November 1822 at Crown Street, Finsbury. His father, James Waterlow, was a member of the Stationers’ Company and Common Councillor for Cornhill ward. His grandmother in Mile End brought him up until the age of 7. Like his family arrangements more generally, his education was far from settled. Firstly, he went to Dame’s school in Worship Street, then to a boarding school in Southwark, and then to St. Saviour’s Grammar school in Southwark, at which time he lived with his father at Gloucester Terrace, Hoxton. Both father and son were members of the Unitarian congregations at South Place chapel, Finsbury under the influential ministry of William Johnson Fox. A network was also in evidence when, in 1836, he was apprenticed to his uncle Thomas Harrison, a member of the Stationers’ Company and government printer with whom he lived at Pimlico and later at Sloane Square. At the age of twenty-one, he went to Paris to extend his knowledge of printing under the charge of the publisher’s Messieurs. Galignani’s. The Waterlow family, of French descent, had started a stationers business in Birchin Lane in 1811, and on his return to London in 1844 the fourth son Sydney extended the concern to London Wall, employing at least two thousand people. The firm grew rapidly and specialising in the printing of confidential government papers, was made limited in 1876, reconstructed in 1879 and by 1897 it had become highly profitable. Indeed, his company was the first to print the Banker’s Magazine. He also took advantage of the emerging business in railways, as Vice-Chairman of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway from 1874-99 and in banking as a Director of the Union Bank of London. His influence in the financial City grew expeditiously. He was also to become a member of the London Chamber of Commerce.

He had been a Common Councillor in the ward of Bread Street from 1857 (he was particularly noted for the introduction of overhead telegraphic communications between police stations) when he was asked in 1863, in a requisition signed by nearly every banker in Lombard Street, to stand as an Alderman in the Langbourn ward. A member of the Stationers’ Company - he had joined the Livery in 1847 - he served as Master in 1872-73. He also became a Clothworker, in this his Lord Mayoral year. This honour gave him a unique opportunity to develop a burgeoning voluntarism. These endeavours included philanthropic housing in the shape of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd, inaugurated in 1863, the Metropolitan Hospital Sunday Fund founded in 1872, as Governor of the Irish Society from 1872 to 1882, as Chairman of the United Westminster’s Schools from 1873 to 1893, as treasurer of St. Bartholomew’s from 1874 to 1892, as a juror for Great Britain at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1867, for which he was knighted, and for the exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, following his work as one of the commissioners in the Great Exhibition of 1851. He was also Chairman of the City of London income tax commissioners, Treasurer of the City and Guilds Institute and a Freemason in the Drury Lane Lodge and a member of the City Glee Club. In 1872 he gave Lauderdale House at Highgate to St. Bartholomew’s as a convalescent home, and in 1889 he gave twenty-nine acres to the London County Council to be used as a public park.

His public works were particularly noted on the national stage. He was returned to parliament as a Liberal in Dumfriesshire but lost his seat because of controversy surrounding his government and business interests. Once again he was rejected in this seat in 1869 and in Southwark the following year. He was no more successful, however, in his bid for Maidstone in 1874 to 1880, when he was defeated. He then contested Gravesend for which he sat for the next five years at which point he tried to capture the Medway division of Kent. As a thoroughgoing Liberal he was a critic of the Corporation. However he was sought for his expertise on a number of issues, being a particular advocate for a Tribunal of Commerce. Three times he was called to sit on Royal Commissions: in 1870 in the enquiry regarding the Friendly and Benefit Societies, in 1871 on Royal Judicature and in 1885 on the Livery Companies. He was made a KCVO in 1902. He died after a brief illness at his country residence, Trosley Towers, Wrotham, Kent on 3 August 1906. He left an estimated £89,948 to his second wife Margaret Hamilton, an American whom he had married in 1882. His Baronetcy passed to Philip Hickson, one of the five sons and two daughters that were products of his first marriage in 1845 to Anna Maria Hickson. He was buried at Stanstead in Kent.

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© Dr Peter Claus, 2003 - 2012

22 October, 2012 23:39
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