James S Higginbotham, calico printer, and Mary Higginbotham, nursing pioneer

James Samuel Higginbotham was involved in his family’s successful calico printing business and his wife Mary set up a nursing organisation to care for poor residents of Glasgow.

He was one of the original members of the Committee of Management of the Arlington Swimming Club in 1870.

Early life and family

James Samuel Higginbotham was born in 1839. In the 1851 census, when he was 12 years old, he and his family were living at Springfield House in Glasgow. His father Samuel, 52, was a cotton spinner and merchant, and his mother was called Mary Ann (50). They had seven children:

  • Edwin, 25
  • John Edwards, 21
  • Sarah Sophia, 19 (died in 1856)
  • Charles Titus, 17
  • Margaret Helen, 14
  • Jas Samuel, 12
  • Matilda Paterson, 10

Also present is Samuel’s sister, Sarah, aged 45. And they are obviously very well off, as there are 10 servants living in the house.

According to a Higginbotham family history website the family came to Glasgow from Manchester in about 1830. They seem to have been non-conformists: John Edward was baptised in an Independent chapel in Manchester’s Mosley Street in 1829.

Cotton merchants and calico printers

In Glasgow Samuel went into partnership with Charles Todd, as the firm Charles Todd & Higginbotham which opened a large cotton mill at Springfield in 1832. The Glasgow Story website has a painting which shows a night view of Todd, Higginbotham & Co.’s print and dye works in Ballater Street in the Gorbals.

Samuel later set up another company called S Higginbotham Sons & Co, which was also a calico printing business. All his sons – Edwin, John Edwards, Charles Titus, and James Samuel – were involved.

Killermont House in The old country houses of the old Glasgow gentry by John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, 1878

In 1861 the family was living at Killermont House in New Kilpatrick, a very impressive big house, which in 1903 became the club house for the Glasgow Golf Club. James was now 22 and his occupation was cotton spinner, weaver and merchant.

In 1871 Samuel was still living at Killermont House with his daughter Margaret, his sister Sarah and a cousin called Mary Joynson. Samuel retired from business in 1872. At the same time his son James, also gave up his partnership in the family business, though his brothers continued as partners in the firm. James would have been about 34 at the time.

Edinburgh Gazette, 23 May 1873

Samuel died in 1881 at The Glade, Hampstead, London, aged 83. He left £17,500 in his will. Two of his executors were his sons, Glasgow merchants Charles Titus Higginbotham of Springfield Court, Queen Street,  and James Samuel Higginbotham, of 104 West George Street.

Biographic and descriptive sketches of Glasgow Necropolis by George Blair, 1857

This description of the Higginbotham mausoleum in the Glasgow Necropolis was written in 1857, which indicates that the family had continued to be non-conformists, funding the construction of a chapel in Bath Street.

Samuel’s name also continued in the city in business after his death, for in 1890 a new firm called S Higginbotham was set up.

“The firm of S Higginbotham & Co Ltd was established in 1890 with a share capital of £120,000 shares divided into 3,600 preference shares of £10 each and 8,400 ordinary shares of £10 each. The new company took over the property and assets of Charles Todd & Higginbotham, calico printers, and S Higginbotham Sons & Co, merchants and calico printers. These two firms appear to have been closely related prior to this merger, although S Higginbotham (died 1881) is known to have retired from the partnership of Charles Todd & Higginbotham in 1872. The new company continued as merchants and calico printers until around 1899, when they entered voluntary liquidation. The business was acquired by the Calico Printers’ Association Ltd.”

Glasgow University Archives Service

The Glasgow Sick and Poor and Private Nursing Association

In the 1881 census James (42) is recorded at 220 Sauchiehall St with his wife Mary (32). His occupation is described as merchant.

His wife was called Mary Orrell Higginbotham. In 1875 she founded a nursing service for the poor, based on the idea of district nurses started in Liverpool in 1859.

“Throughout the 1860s, other English cities began to build on the model established in Liverpool, with Glasgow becoming the pioneer location of district nursing in Scotland in 1875 with Mary Higginbotham creating the Glasgow Sick Poor and Private Nursing Association at 218 Bath Street (which later affiliated to the Institute and became the Glasgow training centre for Queen’s Nurses).”

The Queen’s Nursing Institute in Scotland

In 1877 The Englishwoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions published a copy of the first report from the Glasgow Sick and Poor and Private Nursing Association, explaining that the purpose was to provide provide trained and experienced nurses to attend the sick poor in their own homes. It was a charity but also funded by providing a service to other citizens who could afford to pay for private nursing.

The report includes a case study of the type of case assisted by the Association, a labourer man who after 10 weeks in hospital following an accident who is still requires care and cannot work. If he had not received support and care from the Association he might not have recovered and his family could have become homeless.

Reprint of The Englishwoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions: 1877, edited by Janet Horowitz Murray and Myra Stark

Mary died on 12 December 1889 at the age of 41 and was buried in Derbyshire.

But her organisation carried on – a copy of the Memorandum and articles of association of the Glasgow Sick Poor and Private Nursing Association published in 1890 is available in the Internet Archive – and among the Directors are Charles Higginbotham and his wife Agnes.

And the 1890 Post Office Directory has description of the organisation, and a long list of eminent patrons including members of the aristocracy and eminent Glasgow citizens such as Sir Archibald Orr Ewing, who was very successful businessman and politician, and Sir James King, Baronet, who was Lord Provost of the city.

It seems that James and Mary did not have any children. It is not known when James died.

Researcher: Lucy Janes

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