Sir James Scott Bt. JP (1844-1913)

Written by Jean Warburton

Occupations: Businessman and Philanthropist

Life and family

James Scott (formerly Schott) was born in Manchester on 23 June 1844 and baptised on 14 March 1849 at the Unitarian Church there. He was the second of five siblings. His father was John George Schott (1816-1858), son of Johann Daniel Schott, a merchant who was born in Frankfurt but who became a naturalised British citizen. On 3 August 1840, in the Unitarian Church at Upper Brook Street, Chorlton upon Medlock he married Sarah Anne Kinder (1815-1895) daughter of James and Hannah Kinder of Salford. James Scott’s siblings were Samuel (1842-1868), Margaretha Christiana (1846-1926), George Frederick (1850-1917) and Edward Daniel (born 1853). His father, who had become bankrupt in 1845, died when he was fourteen years old and he became a commercial clerk and then a grey cloth salesman. He later joined the firm of W.D. Coddington & Sons, a large cotton spinning firm of Blackburn and, as a result of his shrewd business brain, became a partner.

On 16 April 1874 in Bolton, James Schott married Anne Jane Haslam (1849-1922) daughter of John Haslam (1818-1876), a cotton manufacturer and merchant of Gilnow House Bolton, and his wife Jane (1817-1899). They had two sons, Samuel Haslam (1875-1960; DCB) and Francis Clayton (1881-1979; DCB) and a daughter Jane Millicent (1879-1964). His sons followed him in leading the business he established and have their own biographical entries (qqv). Jane Millicent, married Edward Gwynne Eardley Wilmot (1877-1965), a barrister, and the son of Robert Eardley Wilmot MD of Petworth, Sussex. There was increasing anti-German sentiment after Prussia’s victory in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 and, in the later 1880s, James Scott changed his family name from Schott. He died on 4 August 1913 at home, Beech House, Bolton following a seizure. His wife, Anne, died on 30 April 1922 and both are commemorated by a memorial in Winster Churchyard near Windermere.


Anne Scott’s father, John Haslam, was the founder of John Haslam & Co, cotton spinners, who had a works at Lark Hill in Bolton. In 1880, James Scott joined his brothers-in-law, William (1844-1917), Joseph (1846-1919), John (1848-1926, Lewis (1856-1922) and Ralph (1956-1916) in the firm, John Haslam having died in 1876. The firm expanded and was very successful with extensive factories in Bolton and Manchester for both cotton spinning and weaving. A wide range of fabrics was produced with the firm’s cotton dress goods winning a gold medal at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880-81. The firm was incorporated in 1882 with James Scott and his five brothers-in-law as shareholders and directors. William Haslam was the managing director and James Scott the Chairman. By 1883, the company had offices in London, Belfast, New York and Paris and was very pro-active in using local newspapers to advertise its dress and household fabrics. James Scott did not restrict his business activities to John Haslam & Co, extensive as that was. He was also a director of three other cotton spinning companies and the Manchester and County Bank Limited.

In 1903, James Scott founded the Provincial Insurance Company Ltd providing the whole of the subscribed capital of £150,000.  He founded the company to give the opportunity of a career for his son Francis in the management of it and to provide a business that could remain in the family and become a valuable asset. James Scott was the Chairman of the company until his death in 1913. In fact, both sons became closely involved with the business as directors, Francis being the managing director, although they acted, in effect, as partners. Samuel became Chairman on the death of his father with Francis taking over that position when Samuel retired in 1946. The company expanded, becoming one of the leading and most reputable independent insurers in the British market with also a substantial international organisation.  The company’s office moved from Bolton to Kendal in 1919 where it was a major employer until the office closed in 2000. The company is now part of the AXA Group.


James Scott lived at Beech House, Bolton and it was Bolton that was the focus of his philanthropy and public service. He was one of the founders of The Bolton Guild of Help, not only providing funds but also being actively involved in the administration and supporting helpers. The Guild still supports the people of Bolton and is run from the original building in Silverwell Street, now called Scott House. The Bolton Infirmary and Queens Street Mission also benefitted from his generosity. He supported many other deserving cases and individual cases of persons in need and the Sir James and Lady Scott Trust established in 1909 is still active in the town.

Public service was important to James Scott and he became a Justice of the Peace in 1890. He was a member of the Bolton Town Council from 1901 until 1907. An ardent Liberal, he served with the Bolton Liberal Association, being President for fourteen years. In 1912, he was asked to contest the Borough for the Liberals in the election but declined on account of his health. His contribution to the party was recognised when the Scott Baronetcy of Yews in the County of Westmorland was created on 27th July 1909. He was a Unitarian and as well as supporting the Chapel in Bolton was Treasurer of the National Conference of Unitarian and Kindred Chapels.


James Scott first came to Windermere to sail in 1891. He would have been fully aware of the possibilities of the area from Joseph Ridgway Bridson (1831-1901; DCB) a Bolton business man who was one of the founders of the Windermere Yacht Club. His fellow Lancashire Liberal, Sir William Crossley (1844-1911; DCB) had built a house at Pull Wyke on the west shore of Windermere in 1890. In 1896, he decided to join the increasing number of Lancashire business men with homes around Windermere, buying The Yews on the Storrs Estate. Running a business in Manchester and Bolton and keeping a second home on Windermere was by then perfectly possible as the through train from Manchester to Windermere had, at certain times, a saloon car reserved for business men.

The Yews originated as one of a number of properties in the vicinity of Storrs Hall, probably known as Storrs Tenements, which became part of the Storrs Hall Estate in the nineteenth century. In 1896, Joseph Pattinson (1860-1945) (qv) carried out extensive rebuilding for James Scott but kept the original seventeenth century farmhouse and made an adjacent cow byre into an open hall with a big fireplace. Another barn was modified to create a coach house and kitchen. In 1906, William Ledsham Dolman (1876-1939) made significant alterations to The Yews in Neo-Georgian style with double pilasters. The formal garden was by H Avray Tipping (1855-1935) and Thomas Mawson (1861-1933; DNB) landscaped the upper drive and planted an herbaceous border on the lower drive. James Scott added to his estate by further land purchases and became interested in agricultural matters. He gave the Windermere Agricultural Show a cup for sheep and won a prize himself for animals from his own Rough Fell flock. He also became a leading figure in the opposition to the attempts to develop the tourist potential of Windermere. After James Scott’s death in 1913, his widow, Anne, lived at The Yews and after 1916 it became the main home of their eldest son, Samuel Haslam.

James Scott’s main interest was yachting. He originally sailed a Una class yacht but in 1899 acquired the 22 foot yacht Toucan from John Mortimer Sladen (1868-1943; DCB) which had been designed by his brother Alfred Sladen (1866-1944) and changed the name to Cachalot. James Scott was a very competitive sailor and won 13 Challenge Cups with Cachalot and Cachalot 11 in twenty years sailing on Windermere. He won his Cups against more experienced sailors and was Commodore of the Royal Windermere Yacht Club in 1903. His sons shared his enthusiasm for sailing, with Francis following his father as Commodore in 1927.

Lasting legacy

James Scott’s early poverty led to a very strong determination to create an unassailable economic security for his family, a determination which provided Westmorland with a flourishing business and a major employer until the end of the twentieth century. The fruits of that business enabled his sons and later generations to make valuable contribution to the preservation of the landscape, the provision of charitable donations and the promotion of the cultural life of the county.


Primary sources

  • England and Wales Census 1841-1911
  • England and Wales Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975
  • Manchester Births and Baptisms 1813-1901
  • Manchester Non-Conformist Marriages 1758-1937
  • Civil Registration Marriage Index 1837-1915
  • National Probate Calendar Index of Wills and Administrations
  • Bolton Evening News 29th July 1882, 12th November 1890, 27th July 1901
  • Lloyds List 23rd January 1883
  • Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 12th August 1911
  • Evening Mail 6th August 1913
  • Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald 23rd November 1917
  • John Bull 7th December 1918

Secondary sources