Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rylands, Peter

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RYLANDS, PETER (1820–1887), politician, born in Bewsey House, Warrington, on 18 Jan. 1820, was the youngest son of John Rylands, a manufacturer, by his wife, a daughter of the Rev. James Glazebrook, vicar of Belton, Leicestershire. He was educated at the Boteler grammar school in his native town. As a boy he had a passion for politics, and in 1835 presided at a whig banquet of two hundred sons of Warrington electors, who had taken part in a mock election. Up to the age of twenty-one his time was chiefly passed in studying and writing papers on natural history and phrenology. He then found, however, that his father's means had shrunk, owing to the diversion of the manufacture of sail-cloth from Warrington, and that the manufacture of steel and iron wire, another business conducted by his father, had ceased to pay. In concert with his brothers, Peter reconstituted the latter business, which in the course of a few years increased so largely as to contribute to the prosperity of Warrington.

Rylands interested himself in religious topics. Originally a nonconformist, he joined the church of England. In 1845 he published a little pamphlet on ‘The Mission of the Church.’ A larger work, on ‘The Pulpit and the People,’ appeared in 1847. He also took an active part in politics, and became a working member of the Anti-Cornlaw League. He was elected mayor of Warrington in 1852, and in 1859 he was invited to become a liberal candidate in opposition to Mr. Greenall; but he declined on the ground of business engagements. In concert with Mr. McMinnies and the Rev. R. A. Mould, he contributed a series of letters to the ‘Warrington Guardian,’ signed Oliver West. They attracted wide attention, and stirred to energy the liberal sentiment of the district. The authorship was not disclosed until after Rylands's death (Life, p. 26). Rylands entered parliament as member for Warrington in 1868. He was a candidate in 1874, first for Warrington, and next for south-east Lancashire, but failed in each case. In 1876 he returned to the House of Commons as member for Burnley, and represented it till his death.

In parliament, Rylands proved himself an earnest and hard-working, but independent radical. He frequently criticised the foreign policy of both parties, and in 1886 joined the party of liberal unionists which was formed when Mr. Gladstone adopted the policy of home rule for Ireland. He died on 8 Feb. 1887 at his house, Massey Hall, Thelwall, Cheshire. He married twice and left issue.

[Correspondence and Speeches of Mr. Peter Rylands, by L. Gordon Rylands, 2 vols.]

F. R.