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Treloar, Sir William Purdie, baronetfree

  • H. Gauvain
  • , revised by Vivienne Aldous

Sir William Purdie Treloar, baronet (1843–1923)

by Bassano, 1899

Treloar, Sir William Purdie, baronet (1843–1923), carpet manufacturer and philanthropist, was born on 13 January 1843 in a room over the gateway of the Patent Coconut Fibre Works in Holland Street, Southwark, London, the second son of Thomas Treloar (1818–1876), a coconut fibre mat manufacturer, formerly of Helston, Cornwall, and his first wife, Elizabeth (1816–1860), the daughter of John Robertson of Pitlochry, Perthshire. Initially brought up in Somerset, Treloar moved with his family to Blackheath, London, and in 1854 he was sent to King's College School, then in the Strand, to which he travelled each day (including Saturdays) by train. He left school at the age of fifteen and entered his father's business as a workman, and when he was sixteen became a foreman. He eventually succeeded to the post of manager, and on his father's death in 1876 inherited the business with its headquarters in Ludgate Circus.

On 20 March 1865, at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, Treloar married Annie (1842–1909), the daughter of George Blake of Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London. They had no children of their own, but adopted two relatives, Florence Kilner (d. 1953, aged eighty-four) and Royson Treloar (1886–1960), Treloar's nephew. Treloar was particularly fond of Florence.

Treloar's civic career began in 1881, when he was elected to the court of common council for the ward of Farringdon Without, and he took an active part in the municipal affairs of the City of London. He instigated action which led to the adoption of ballot elections to the court of common council in 1886 and the opening of the Guildhall Art Gallery on Sunday afternoons in 1894, thus encouraging the activities of the National Sunday League, of which he was president. In 1892 he was elected alderman of the ward of Farringdon Without. In 1899 he became sheriff and helped to raise the City Imperial Volunteers for service in South Africa during the South African War. He was knighted on 29 March 1900 following a visit to the City of London by Queen Victoria.

From 1893, for the rest of his life, Treloar administered the annual Guildhall children's Christmas banquet (instigated by Sir Stuart Knill in 1892), and continued the distribution, assisted by the Ragged School Union until 1908, of Christmas hampers to disabled children in London (commenced by the Daily Telegraph in 1892). The Ragged School Union withdrew from the enterprise in 1908 because of possible confusion in the public's mind between itself and Treloar's own charitable foundation, which hurt Treloar's feelings deeply.

In 1906 Treloar was elected lord mayor of London and began a brilliant year of office, during which Edward VII and Queen Alexandra opened the new central criminal court, Old Bailey, and he entertained the monarchs of Norway and Denmark as well as Prince Fushimi of Japan. Treloar himself, as lord mayor, paid an official visit to Berlin, on an occasion which called for unusually tactful exchanges. He wrote a book about his mayoral year, A Lord Mayor's Diary, in 1920, to add to his other books, Ludgate Hill: Past and Present (1881), Prince of Palms (1884), With the Kaiser in the East, 1898 (1915), and Wilkes and the City (1917). In July 1907 he became a baronet, but the title became extinct on his death.

Treloar's most enduring work as lord mayor, however, was the founding of the Lord Mayor's Little Cripples' Fund, launched on 22 November 1906. It received royal support, notably from Queen Alexandra, who opened the queen's fête in aid of the fund at the Mansion House on 13 June 1907, which raised £12,000, and out of which was born the Queen Alexandra League. Treloar collected £60,000 and obtained the Princess Louise Military Hospital, built at Alton, Hampshire, during the South African War, where he established the Lord Mayor Treloar Cripples' Hospital and College, later the Lord Mayor Treloar Orthopaedic Hospital and College. The hospital was transferred to the National Health Service in 1948, but the Lord Mayor Treloar Trust continues to administer the college and the Florence Treloar School (opened 1967) for disabled girls. Treloar devoted to his foundation the greater part of his remaining life, aided greatly by Dr Henry Gauvain, the medical superintendent at the hospital. The institution's pioneering objects were the combined treatment and education of physically disabled children—priority initially being given to children suffering from surgical tuberculosis—and the training of physically disabled young people in suitable trades. The hospital, which opened on 7 September 1908, met a very real need, and many thousands of physically disabled children were successfully treated, educated, and trained there. The college opened on 26 October 1908. In 1919 Treloar founded a seaside branch of the hospital at Hayling Island. As a result of this pioneer work, many other hospital schools were established.

Treloar was viewed by his contemporaries as a genial personality, if rather inclined to self-publicity, and he was a member of many clubs. He was considered a popular, candid, and humorous public speaker, although with a mordant wit, and a formidable opponent. He died at his home, Grange Mount, 13 Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood, on 6 September 1923, and was buried alongside his wife at Shirley churchyard, Surrey, on 11 September.


  • C. E. Lawrence, William Purdie Treloar: a monograph (1925)
  • A. B. Beaven, ed., The aldermen of the City of London, temp. Henry III–[1912], 2 vols. (1908–13)
  • W. P. Treloar, A lord mayor's diary, 1906–1907 (1920)
  • C. E. Lawrence, William Purdie Treloar: an eightieth birthday tribute (1923)
  • A. Lawrence, ‘Mr Alderman Treloar’, Cornish Magazine, 2 (1899), 83–93
  • ‘Biographical Notes on Sir William Purdie Treloar’, CLRO
  • O. L. Treloar, Treloar genealogy: tree of Treloar (1962)
  • T. L. Sayer, Gog and Magog and I: some recollections of 49 years at Guildhall (1931), 69–74
  • d. cert.


  • Bassano, photograph, 1899, NPG [see illus.]
  • P. T. Cole, oils, 1907, Guildhall Art Gallery, London
  • H. Furniss, caricature, pen-and-ink sketch, NPG
  • Spy [L. Ward], chromolithograph caricature, NPG; repro. in VF (8 March 1894)

Wealth at Death

£36,606 19s. 2d.: probate, 26 Oct 1923, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
Corporation of London Records Office
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]