Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Waterlow, Sydney Hedley

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WATERLOW, Sir SYDNEY HEDLEY, first baronet (1822–1906), lord mayor of London and philanthropist, born in Crown Street, Finsbury, on 1 Nov. 1822, was fourth of the five sons of James Waterlow (b. 19 April 1790, d. 11 July 1876) of Huntington Lodge, Peckham Road, Surrey, by his wife Mary, daughter of William Crakell. The family was of French Walloon descent, and the father, who was a member of the Stationers' Company and a common councilman for Cornhill ward, started in 1811 a small stationer's business in Birchin Lane, where in 1836 he was joined by his eldest son, Alfred James, and between 1840 and 1844 by other sons.

Brought up by his grandmother at Mile End till the age of seven, Sydney went first to a dame's school in Worship Street, then to a boarding school at Brighton, and lastly to St. Saviour's grammar school in Southwark, living at that time with his father in Gloucester Terrace, Hoxton. His father was a member of the unitarian congregation at South Place chapel, Finsbury, under the ministry of William Johnson Fox [q. v.], whose teaching greatly influenced young Waterlow. In Nov. 1836 he was apprenticed through the Stationers' Company to his uncle, Thomas Harrison, the government printer, with whom he lived at Pimlico and afterwards at Sloane Square, His diligence procured him in the fourth year of his apprenticeship the sole charge of the foreign office printing, with full responsibility for its secrecy. On the expiration of his indentures in Nov. 1843 he went to Paris, and was employed during the winter in printing for the publisher Galignani a catalogue of his library.

In Easter 1844 he joined his brothers Alfred, Walter, and Albert in adding a printing branch to the stationery business in Birchin Lane, the modest capital of 120l. being furnished by their father. They began by printing the 'Bankers' Magazine,' of which the first number appeared in April. Success at once followed, largely through the great share which the firm secured in railway printing and stationery. Additional premises were taken at 49 Parliament Street (1846), London Wall (1851), Carpenters' Hall (1854), Great Winchester Street (1866), Castle Street, Finsbury (1872), Little Chart Mills, Ashford, Kent (1875), and Paris in 1883 [London Directories). The firm was converted into a limited company in February 1876, under the style of Waterlow and Sons, Limited, and in February 1877 the company sold the Birchin Lane portion of their business to Waterlow Brothers and Layton. From this date until 1895, when he retired, Sydney was managing director of the company. The company was reconstructed in 1879, and again in 1897; its present capital is 1,350,000l.

Waterlow joined the city corporation in 1857, when he was elected a common councilman for the ward of Broad Street, and on 3 April 1862 received a special vote of thanks from the corporation for devising and establishing a system of over-house telegraphs for the City police stations (Minutes of the Common Council, 3 April 1862). He was elected alderman of Langbourn ward on 30 Jan. 1863, and served the office of sheriff in 1866-7. The year was notable for a banquet given to the Viceroy of Egypt at the Mansion House and the costly reception of the Sultan Abdul Aziz by the corporation at Guildhall. Waterlow and his brother sheriff were knighted on 3 Aug. 1867. On Michaelmas Day 1872 he was elected lord mayor. Among the more important events of his mayoralty were the establishment of the Hospital Sunday Fund (21 Nov.); the opening to the public of the newly built Guildhall Library (10 March 1873); and the entertainment of the Shah of Persia at Guildhall (20 June). On 29 July 1873 he was made a baronet. He was for ten years (from 29 May 1873) governor of the Irish Society, was treasurer of St. Bartholomew's Hospital from 1874 to 20 June 1892, and was chairman of the United Westminster Schools from 1873 to 1893. He resigned his alderman's gown on 18 Sept. 1883.

Waterlow had long been known in the metropolis for his practical philanthropy. He long laboured to secure for the poor of London [decent housing and pure water. In 1862 he built at his own expense in Mark Street, Finsbury, a block of working-class dwellings, with accommodation for eighty families; these tenements, though built for comfort and let at moderate rents, produced a good return for the outlay. In 1863 he originated the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, Limited, of which he was chairman till his death, when the company possessed 6000 tenements, which housed 30,000 persons. The company now has a capital of 1,000,000l.

Waterlow was returned as Liberal member for Dumfriesshire in 1868, but was unseated in 1869 on technical grounds, his firm having taken a government contract of which he had no personal knowledge. After an unsuccessful contest for the same seat in 1869 and for Southwark in 1870, he was returned for Maidstone in 1874, and sat for that borough until 1880, when he was defeated. He was shortly afterwards elected for Gravesend, and retained that seat until 1885, when he unsuccessfully fought the Medway division of Kent. A stalwart liberal, he spoke in parliament in favour of a reform of the London Corporation. In 1870 he was appointed on the royal commission for inquiry into friendly and benefit societies (report presented 1874), in September 1877 on the royal judicature commission (which reported in 1881), and in July 1880 on the Livery Companies Commission (report presented 1884).

In 1872, a few months before his mayoralty, he presented Lauderdale House at Highgate, with its grounds, to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, for use as a convalescent home. The building was adapted and furnished at his expense, and was opened on 8 July 1872 by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, then Prince and Princess of Wales, but it was disused for hospital purposes in 1880. In 1889 Waterlow presented the house with a surrounding estate of twenty-nine acres to the London County Council. The fine grounds have since been known as Waterlow Park, where a statue of Waterlow was erected by public subscription in 1900.

Waterlow joined the livery of the Stationers' Company in 1847, serving as Master in 1872-3, the year of his mayoralty. He also became by redemption a freeman and liveryman of the Cloth workers' Company on 30 July 1873, and the same day passed (by election and fine) through the offices of assistant, warden, and master. He was a juror for Great Britain at the International Exhibitions of Paris (1867) and Philadelphia (1876), one of the royal commissioners of the 1851 exhibition, chairman of the city of London income tax commissioners, and treasurer of the City and Guilds of London Institute from 1879 (the year after its inception) to 1891. He was also a director of the Union Bank of London, vice-chairman of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, and vice-president and chairman of the distribution committee of the Hospital Sunday Fund. In 1902 he was made a K.C.V.O.

Waterlow died, after a brief illness, on 3 August 1906, at his country residence, Trosley Towers, Wrotham, Kent, and was buried at Stansted, Kent. His estate was sworn for probate at 89,948l. 19s. 8d. gross; the residue after payment of various legacies was left to his wife, the testator having made in his lifetime what he considered an adequate provision for each member of his family.

He was twice married: (1) on 7 May 1845 to Anna Maria (d. 1880), youngest daughter of Wilham Hickson of Fairseat, Wrotham, Kent, by whom he had five sons and three daughters; (2) in 1882 to Margaret, daughter of William Hamilton of Napa, California, U.S.A., who survived him. His eldest son, Philip Hickson, succeeded to the baronetcy. A subscription portrait by (Sir) Hubert von Herkomer (1892) is in the hall of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. A cartoon portrait appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1872.

[Authorities above cited; Life (with portrait) by George Smalley, 1909; Under Six Reigns; the house of Waterlows of Birchin Lane from 1811 to 1911 (portrait of James Waterlow); London Directories, 1822-44; Pratt, People of the Period; Whitaker, Red Book of Commerce, 1910, p. 925; Printers' Register, 6 Sept. 1906; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage; City, Press, 11 Aug. 1906; The Times, 4 Aug., 29 Nov. 1906; Men of the Time, 1899; Ritchie, Famous City Men, p. 71; private information.]

C. W.