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Sir William Brown (1784-1864)

Sir William Brown was born on the 30th May 1784 at Ballymena, County Antrim. He was the eldest son of a Belfast Linen merchant, Alexander. In 1796 young William spent 4 years in a boarding school in Yorkshire.  Completing what he called a "Good middle class education" he returned to the family home in Northern Ireland.   In 1801 he left Ireland to join his father in business in Baltimore USA.   Having learnt a great deal about business, both from his father and his American hosts, he returned home in 1808.

His connection with Liverpool began in the year 1810. Brown realised that Liverpool, as the port of entry for American Exports, was the 'place to be.'   Gradually he moved out of linen and in to cotton and eventually out of merchandising altogether and into merchant banking, where his fortune was to be made.   The hazards of the trans-Atlantic trade, especially during the war of 1812 with the U.S.A induced him to relinquish his ties with the Baltimore connection.

Sir William Brown, as he was to become, quickly became involved in the Liverpool Civic scene.   In 1846 he was elected M.P for South Lancashire and re-elected in 1847,1852 and 1857.   He was made a Freeman of the City of Liverpool in 1824, in 1825 he promoted reform of the Liverpool Docks Estate and in 1831 helped to establish the Bank of Liverpool.   His main tangible contribution to the city was the William Brown Library.   In 1852 Liverpool only had a temporary library, its popularity showed that something more permanent was needed.   The costs of this, £40,000, were entirely met by Brown.   The Library was opened on 18th October 1860 and was described as "a gift to the inhabitants of Liverpool."

In 1862, on the recommendation of Lord Palmerston he was made a Baronet in the New Years Honours List.   This was stated to be "in recognition of his eminent commercial position and generous conduct towards the public of Liverpool.”

He did not live very long to enjoy his honour. On the 3rd March 1864 he died at his home on Richmond Hill, Anfield, Liverpool aged almost 80.  His vault lies on the East Wall of St James Cemetery.

Source: © Mike Faulkner