William H.A. Gaddum (1856-1945)

Written by Jean Warburton

Occupation: Cotton Merchant

Life and family

The Gaddum family has its origins in Langenberg in Germany. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, a branch of the family was established in Trieste which included two brothers, Johann Heinrich Wilhelm (Heinrich) (1798-1830) and Frederick Edward (Edward) (1805-1866). Heinrich married Henriette Usslaub (1803-1878) in 1826 and had a son George Henry (1827-1908). Edward left Trieste in 1826 to live in Manchester and entered into a business partnership there. In 1833, he married Sophie Biedermann (1811-1893) daughter of Heinrich Biedermann in Winterthur, Zurich and, returning to Manchester, had a daughter, Sophie Susannah (1834-1889). George Henry was only three years old when his father, Heinrich, died in 1830 and he remained in Trieste for his education. In 1848, he accepted an invitation from his uncle Edward of a position in his firm and left Trieste for Manchester to become a cotton goods merchant. On 5th October 1854 in Chorlton upon Medlock he married his cousin Sophie Susannah. George was then still an Austrian subject but he became naturalised in 1859.

Their first child William Henry Adolphus was born on 15th September 1856. His four siblings were Edith Sophia Henriette (1858-1930), Frederick Du Cange (1860-1900), Henry Biedermann (1867-1867) and Arthur Louis Roger (1868-1907). William Gaddum was educated at Uppingham and then joined the firm of Gaddum & Co. On 3rd February 1886, in Chorlton upon Medlock he married Edith Elizabeth Potter (1863-1937) the daughter of Walter Potter (1834-1871), a calico printer, and his wife, Elizabeth Leech (1837-1865). They had two children, Walter Frederick (1888-1956), known as Jim, and Elizabeth Margery (1892-1973), known as Molly. After Edith died on 7th August 1937, William Gaddum married his neighbour, Emily Agnes Vey (1868-1945), in the third quarter of 1938. Agnes was the widow of Samuel Hamilton Vey (1849-1935), a tea merchant of Great Crosby, Liverpool. William Gaddum died on 19th January 1945 at his house Brockhole, Windermere and Agnes died less than six months later on 13th June 1945.


Jim and Molly were double cousins of Beatrix Potter (1866-1943; DNB); their mother’s sister was Beatrix’s mother Helen Leech (1839-1931) and their father’s brother was Beatrix’s father, Rupert Potter (1833-1914). Walter and Rupert Potter were the sons of Edmund Potter (1822-1883; ODNB), a wealthy calico printer and Liberal MP for Carlisle. When young, they both received picture letters including drawings of animals from Beatrix Potter. Jim was educated at Eton and Cambridge where he was a member of the University Contingent of the Officers Training Corps. Whilst at Brockhole, he indulged his interest in sailing and in 1910 was a prime mover in getting up a regatta for boats of all sizes under handicaps for which he gave a prize. He sailed his own yacht, Ibis, in the race.

In 1914, Jim joined the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry and served throughout the war in France with the Border Regiment gaining the rank of Captain. On 7th September 1918, in St Mary’s Church Windermere he married Benita Violet Fisher (1894-1980) elder daughter of Charles Fisher (1827-1883), an iron ore master, of Windermere, late of Distington Hall, Whitehaven. They did not have any children. After their marriage, Jim and Benita lived in Burneside, Kendal. Keen on hunting, in 1923, Jim revived the Windermere Harriers which became his major interest being sole master with the hounds kennelled at his home. He became very knowledgeable and discerning about the wildlife of the county. During the second world war he served in the Home Guard and was a Special Constable. He became High Sheriff in 1943 and was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant in 1946. Jim died on 9th October 1956 and Benita died on 29th May 1980.

Molly married John Jasper Payne (1877-1951), also a cotton merchant, son of Sir Salusbury Gillies Payne (1831-1893) on 11th December 1912. Whilst her husband was serving with the Royal West Kent Regiment during the war Molly lived at Brockhole but after the war they settled at Elm Lodge in Ludlow. Molly and John had one son, John Walter Payne (1919-1968) who worked as an agricultural contractor. Molly died on 6th January 1973.


The business of Gaddum & Co which William Gaddum joined on leaving Uppingham had its origins in a firm established in Manchester by his uncle Edward in 1826, originally in partnership with Jean Diethelm and then, after 1847, on his own as F.E. Gaddum. The firm traded in a number of commodities but principally raw cotton and cotton goods as Manchester was the trading centre for the English cotton industry. This was the flourishing firm which William Gaddum’s father, George Henry, joined in 1848. A branch was established in Bombay as Gaddum Bythell & Co to expand the cotton business but the firm also dealt in silk acquiring a silk filature in Torre Pelice in Piedmont. By the 1860s, Edward’s sons Henry Theodore (1835-1905), Edward Charles (1837-1893), Charles Adolphus (1841-1877) and Theodore Hermann (1845-1907) had joined the business and were running it with William’s father. There were thus five partners after Edward died in 1866. In 1876, the partnership was dissolved with Henry Theodore taking the silk side of the business as H T Gaddum & Co and the cotton side remaining with the other partners as Gaddum & Co.

Gaddum & Co designated themselves as ‘East India Merchants’ and the firm which William Gaddum joined had a large import and export business with India. The firm had a diverse range of activities including acting as agent for fire insurance and life assurance businesses in Bombay and importing French wine into India. The core of the business, however, was cotton, Gaddum & Co being regarded as one of the most important cotton exporters in India. William Gaddum consistently described himself as ‘Cotton Merchant’ on census returns.

William’s business activities were not restricted to Gaddum & Co. He was concerned with the moves to establish a cotton market in Manchester to rival that of Liverpool and with the project to consider a ship canal from Liverpool to Manchester. In 1898, he became a director of the Kendal Bicycle Co and in 1909 he succeeded his father as a director of the Thames & Mersey Marine Insurance Co Ltd.

Other members of the family joined Gaddum & Co but with the death of his brother Frederick in 1900, his uncle Theodore in 1907 and his father, George Henry, in 1908, William found himself the only Gaddum left in the firm save Theodore’s young son, Sydney (1880-1916). This caused William considerable stress and he converted the firm into a limited company which allowed the re-introduction of capital including some from his wife’s family. The First World War affected the company badly and it was wound up in 1917. It was said by the family that William Gaddum’s interests lay elsewhere other than in the firm. He had also contacted fever when travelling on the firm’s business which continued to affect his health. From 1917, William Gaddum lived solely at Brockhole and developed his various interests. Despite the vicissitudes of trade, Gaddum & Co provided him with sufficient profits to build Brockhole and to pursue those interests; he left £39,437 when he died in 1945.


William Gaddum spent childhood holidays with his parents at a house called Croft at the head of Windermere and later, when married, rented a house, Sawrey Knotts, on the western shore of the lake. He decided to build a summer residence in the Lake District and, in 1896, purchased 30 acres of farmland slopping down to the shore of Windermere north of Troutbeck Bridge. In 1897, Dan Gibson (1866-1907), architect, was engaged to design the house and Thomas Mawson (1861-1933; DNB) to lay out the gardens. The house, called Brockhole, was built between 1897 and 1902 in the Arts and Crafts style with the main rooms overlooking the lake. The stone was quarried locally and the builder was Arthur Jackson of Ambleside. Both William and Edith were interested in gardening and were actively involved with Thomas Mawson in designing the gardens and later helped with their upkeep. Edith sent plants to her cousin Beatrix Potter at Hill Top, Sawrey.

Although Brockhole was built as a holiday home, the family made it their permanent home. William spent time in Manchester using the train from Windermere to attend to the affairs of Gaddum & Co until the company was wound up in 1917. William and Edith celebrated their golden wedding anniversary at the house on 3rd February 1936 with a party which Beatrix Potter attended. The house remained the family home until William died in 1945. All the contents of the house were sold in May that year. The house was then acquired by the Merseyside Hospitals Council (Inc). In November 1946, Jim Gaddum presided over the opening of Brockhole as a convalescent home for patients from the Liverpool area. Brockhole is now used by the Lake District National Park Authority as a Visitor Centre.


William Gaddum did not seek public office after he retired from business but he did become involved with the Ethel Hedley Hospital for Crippled Children. Ethel Withers (1873-1916) was a family friend before she married Oswald Hedley (1884-1945; DCB) in 1910. Oswald funded the Hospital in memory of his wife at Calgarth Park, Windermere at the end of the First World War. William Gaddum became Chairman of the Trustees and Executive Committee of the voluntary hospital in 1930.

When William Gaddum visited Windermere with his parents he had been introduced to yachting. It remained a passion throughout his life. He regularly sailed on Windermere and was a member of the Royal Windermere Yacht Club (RWYC) by 1887. In 1895, he owned the yacht Regina and in 1907 he was taking house guests sailing in his yacht, Iona. Sailing was a family affair with his son Jim a keen sailor and Edith’s brother, Edmund Potter (1847-1933) also a member of the RWYC. William Gaddum’s interest in photography allowed him to record the yachts on the lake. More importantly, his photographs, now in the care of the Lake District National Park Authority, provide an interesting record of the progress of building Brockhole and the development of the garden.

William Gaddum was most happy in the technique of lathe-work and became an accomplished ornamental wood turner making boxes, brooches, buttons and other items some of which were sold at local craft markets. He was a recognised authority having made a comprehensive study of fine line patterns with a number of his patterns having been published. Fifty years after his death, a complicated box that he had made was immediately recognised as his work at a meeting of the Worshipful Company of Turners.


  • England and Wales Census 1941-1911
  • England and Wales Civil Registration Birth Index 1837-1915
  • England Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975
  • Manchester Non-Conformist Marriages 1758-1937
  • England and Wales Civil Marriage Index 1837-1915, 1916-2005
  • England and Wales Civil Registration Death Index 1837-1915, 1916-2007
  • National Probate Calendar Index of Wills and Administration
  • 1939 England and Wales Register
  • UK Naturalisation Certificates and Declarations 1870-1916
  • Slaters Manchester and Salford Directory 1895
  • Bombay Gazette 17th June 1868
  • Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore) 3rd July 1912
  • Field 26th August 1911
  • Gentlewoman 21st September 1918
  • Lakes Herald 26th August 1910
  • Lancashire Evening Post 7th October 1939; 30th November 1946
  • Lloyds List 27th January 1909
  • Manchester Daily Examiner 23rd October 1889, 2nd January 1894
  • Newcastle Daily Chronicle 3rd June 1898
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  • www.brockhole.co.uk/house-and-garden
  • https://ornamentalturning.net/machine_age_turner_gaddum.html