James Sidebottom was born into humble stock around 1805 in Manchester. He was an example of the Victorian self made man. His first job was as an errand boy in the Kershaw Leese and Callender warehouse at India Mills on Heaton Lane in Heaton Norris.
He was a hard worker and worked long hours rapidly climbing up the corporate ladder, by his own admission his working day was from 6am until 8pm. His ambition coupled with his autodidacticism gave him the skills to become an office clerk then a sales representative and he rose to become the best cotton buyer at the Manchester Exchange. On 21 December 1842, on the retirement of Nathaniel Barr (the father of James Roby Barr – see below), he entered into the partnership of Leese, Kershaw and Sidebottom and in 1852 they were able to commission new premises on Portland Street in Manchester.
At the same time, in keeping with his status he moved into Mersey Bank after Sir Ralph Pendlebury with his wife Mary Ann. She may have been one of James Kershaw’s sisters¹, however sources are confused on this, and her name may have been Slater or Bennett, alternatively she may have been widowed.
James Kershaw (1796-1864) was certainly a good business partner and contact. A Saddleworth man and being the principal in the cotton firm, he became Mayor of Manchester in 1842, and was sat as the liberal MP for Stockport between 1847 and 1864. He died in the Manor House, Streatham, Surrey and is buried at West Norwood Cemetery in Lambeth, in a tomb designed by Alfred Waterhouse.
After James Kershaw’s death James Sidebottom was seriously considered as his replacement at Westminster. However, this did not come to pass.
James Sidebottam was an enthusiastic Congregationalist, and close friends with the Watts family in Heaton Mersey, he opened many such churches across the country, including on 28 October 1869, laying the foundation stone for St Peter’s Hill Congregational Church in Grantham, where later a young Margaret Roberts was to worshop, before she married Denis Thatcher. He was so prolific at laying such stones that he kept an unrivalled collection of presentation trowels on display in his house which he enjoyed showing to visitors.
By 1861 he was firmly established at Mersey Bank along with his wife and children and he lived there until his death on 17 November 1873, he was buried at Harpurhey Cemetery in Manchester. He left £12,000 in his will (£1.4m in 2020).
James and Mary Ann had seven children, the eldest, Mary Ann Sidebottom (1832-1878) married John Job Howell, a Liverpool cotton broker, and they lived on Lance Lane in Wavertree.
James Sidebottom Jr (1840 -c 1870) married Samuel Watts’ daughter Elizabeth (1836-1873) and he ran Spring Bank Mill in Stockport. Elizabeth and James lived at Southcliffe in Reddish , Stockport (which is now the home of Reddish Vale Golf Club). They had two children, Eliza Watts Sidebottom and James Alfred Watts Sidebottom. Of this family, all but Eliza Watts Sidebottom were dead by 1873. Eliza Watts Sidebottom lived to a ripe old age, dying on 12 November 1955 at Oakleigh in Burnage. Because of her family connections she became something of an authority on the history of Burnage and delivered lectures on the subject.
Their third child, William Roby Sidebottom (1842-1908) married Jane Buckley, another Saddleworth girl, and the daughter of John Smith Buckley of West Bank, and he was clearly named for William Roby Barr, of Heaton Lodge. William was also a cotton spinner and they lived on Wilmslow Park in Cheshire.
George Isaac Sidebottom was born in 1844 and further cemented the ties with the Buckley family by marrying Eliza Ann Buckley (1840-1915). He continued in the family firm of Kershaw Leese and Company, they initially went to live at 67 Albert Road in Meols, but in the mid 1880s his mental health appears to have declined and he is found on the 1891 census at Bilton Garth in Knaresborough under the care of a doctor, and in 1901 at the Retreat in York, which specialised in the treatment of mental health patients. He died there in 1912.
In 1920 the case of Sidebottom V Kershaw Leese and Co was heard. Obstensibly this was to remove the threat of competition from GI Sidebottom & Co which had broken ties to it in 1900 but still held a minority shareholding interest. The case is an important precedent that a company may change its articles of association in order to defend itself against competition, but given the health of George, I wonder if there were more to it.
Elizabeth died in 1915 at the Willows, Poulton Le Fylde, she left £6,955, three years after George’s death an inheritance of £16,347 had been severely depleted.
Robert Sidebottom, born 1847 appears to have died around 1878 and Alfred Sidebottom only lived between 1850 and 1862.
Henry Sidebottom (1851-1932) was the only family member to have a long and healthy life. He apprenticed with his father and in 1876 married Fanny Elizabeth Booth (1853-1943) the daughter of a Rochdale cotton spinner. The couple moved to Davenport and then Syddal Park in Bramhall, Stockport. He initially enjoyed the fruits of his father’s labour and in 1881 was describing himself as retired, he was still indolent in 1911 and living on his own means in Southport.
However, by 1911, he appears to have taken up the reins again, after the death and incapacity of his brothers he is described as the chairman of a cotton spinning company. Both Henry and Fanny died at Sherwood, Sydall Park, in Bramhall.
¹ Per The Grantham Journal 22 November 1873
© Allan Russell 2020