Sir William Treloar, Lord Mayor of London

E. J. IN THE YOUNG MAN December 1 1906

Sir William Treloar, Lord Mayor of London

E. J. IN THE YOUNG MAN December 1 1906

Sir William Treloar, Lord Mayor of London


The Lord Mayor-elect of Loudon is head of a great business house, located on Ludgate Hill, wh eh was established by his father before him. He is thus one of the merchant princes of the British metropolis. His early attention to the needs of the children of the great city, while he was an alderman, won for him the title of “ the children’s Alderman.”

LONDON’S Mansion House has never had a more generally popular occupant than Sir William Treloar, Lord Mayor-elect of London, will be. It is sometimes the case that people whose interests are not very closely identified with the City of London are obliged to admit, “We never heard of him,” when the name of the new Lord Mayor is told to them. That will rarely be said of Sir William Treloar, for he has found time to concern himself with movements and to take active interest in affairs which cover an area far beyond that over which his business and his municipal work extend; and for a variety of reasons, of which any man might be justly proud, his name is known far and near.

The country cousin who walks up Ludgate Hill may be too much interested in the great dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral before him to notice the name of Treloar, prominently displayed as it is. He will probably have time to see it, however, on his return, near the railway bridge at the foot of the hill, and on either side of the road . Although by no means of patriachal age, and even young as Lord Mayors go, Sir William Treloar can claim to be one of the “oldest inhabitants, ” of the City of London, and probably the oldest inhabitant of the Ludgate Hill part of it. For he was born sixty-three years ago in a house at the bottom of the Hill, which was afterwards demolished for the building of the railway bridge, and his life and interests

have centered chiefly within a few yards of that spot ever since. He was the younger son of Thomas Treloar, a Cornishman, as his name suggests, a native of Helston. That was in the old days, when the merchant lived with his business, and in this case the business was concerned with carpets and mats. And it is over windows containing carpet squares and linoleum and other .floor-covering materials that the passer along Ludgate Hill sees the name Treloar; for after a schooling at Greenwich and King’s College, ending at the early age of fifteen, and not without distinction and reward, the boy came to work in his father’s warehouse, and has continued to work there until to-day.

Sir William Treloar, who until 1886 was associated with his brother Robert in the business on Ludgate Hill, and since that time has been alone in its control, has not only kept it up to the standard at which it was when he took charge, hut has made it a constantly-growing success. That speaks something, it may reasonably be claimed, for the business ability and strength of character of the Lord Mayor-elect; for whatever views one may hold on the subject of the possession and use of wealth, it would surely be difficult to find anyone ready to deny that the qualities which go to the making of a commercial success by straight dealing and fair treatment are admirable. “It’s dogged as does it” is Sir William’s prescription for business sue-

cess, speaking from his own experience in fact, it is a precept which he applies to whatever he takes in hand, and without which nowadays, he believes, little good work is accomplished.

Sir William Treloar’s connection with Ludgate Hill is made by other ties than birth and business. The thoroughfare as it now exists is a monument to the man to whose energy and “dogged” personality was due the overcoming of hesitation and prejudice on the part of the Corporation of London a quarter of a century ago, resulting in the widening from 47 feet to 60 feet of the short but ancient highway into the City of London from the west. It was principally with this reform in view that Sir William stood for elec• tion as a Common Councillor for the ward of Farrington Without in 1881, and that the electors were with him in his wishes for a wider Ludgate Hill is pretty evident from .the fact that he received 1,232 votes, the record poll in a city election up to that time. Sir William is the type of man who wTould prefer a good street improvement as his monument to a marble effigy of himself at a meeting of thoroughfares. There is this to be said for it; the widened street is by a great deal the more useful, and people appreciate it most, whilst the only use to them of the statute in the middle of the road is as a temporary refuge from the passing traffic. The one is a boon to the Londoner, who has no eye for statuary the other is a curiosity inspected only by a tiny minority of strangers to London.

I have referred to Sir William’s election to the Common Council and to the reform whose urgency took him there. Some word should be

added concerning his other work at the Guildhall, apart from the routine duties which - conscientious Corporator and an Alderman find to be done from week to week. He it was who in 1886 introduced the reform of voting by ballot in place of the system of open voting then in vogue. His “dogged” qualities were here again brought into play, for one can introduce many things into city government more easily than new methods. In 1891 he was elected to the important position of Chairman of the Commissioners of Sewers, a body with which he had had much to do in his fight for the addition of those 13 feet to the width of Ludgate Hill —for the Commissioners of Sewers control not only practically all the streets of the city, but the complicated arrangement of pipes and wires beneath them. During his chairmanship the Committee earned a reputation for work which astonished all who knew its previous record of leition being unopposed; and with his derman of his ward in 1892, his election being unapposed; and with his election as Sheriff in 1899 the Lord Mayoralty became only a matter of waiting. A knighthood was conferred upon him in 1900, a recognition of his shrieval office and of his activity with Sir Alfred Newton, the Lord Mayor of that year, and his brother Sheriff, Sir Alfred Bevan, in organizing the C.I.Y. regiment.

Indeed, Sir William Treloar has himself had the experience which he commends in writing many years ago to another Lord Mayor (Mr. David Evans), to whom he dedicated the second edition of his book on Ludgate Hall: “Instead of contriving to secure the high office of Lord Mayor of London by relying only on wealth and influence to enter at once upon

the preliminary dignities of Sheriff and Alderman, without the education and experience acquired by the humbler work of an ordinary member of the Common Council, you honourably ‘won your spurs’ on the ‘floor of the Court’ by undertaking, at the solicitation of your neighbors, to represent your ward, and by heartily devoting your efforts to the work of adequately accomplishing the duties of the successive offices which in the course of time devolved upon you. Permit me to say, Lord Mayor, that the course which you have followed has gained for you the regard and esteem of all those who place the claims of public duty before the advantages of public office.”

A well-known fact is that national policies do not affect the work of the City of London, and the division lobbies at the Guildhall invariably contain men rubbing shoulders whom one could hardly imagine under any circumstances meeting in either lobby at the House of Commons. In stating that Sir William Treloar’s sympathies are definitely on the Conservative side in politics, therefore, it is hardly necessary to give any assurance that the Mansion House during the new Lord Mayoral year will not become a centre of Primrose League or Tariff Reform or any other kind of activity associated with the Conservative view of politics. Indeed, in his work on the Common Council Sir William Treloar has been particularly successful in keeping his Conservatism out of reckoning. His energies have been devoted rather to reforms to which the word radical may be applied in fair description.

I will venture the opinion that those privileged guests who see Sir William Treloar presiding at the E

Lord Mayor’s Banquet in the Guildhall on November 9, will not see him really at his best. Interesting and important as that occasion will be, there will take place in the same Guildhall during the first week of next January a feast for which he who would see the new Lord Mayor at his best should set his wits to work in order to obtain an invitation. Sir William has won the enviable title of “the Children’s Alderman.” It has been well earned by his very lively sympathy with the poor children of London, especially the six or seven thousand of them who are crippled. Every New Year the courtyard of the Guildhall presents a busy spectacle of the loading of carrier’s vans with hampers, which are despatched, full of good things, to the homes of London’s cripple children, whose addresses have been collected through the organization of the Ragged School Union. In the evening of the day on which these hampers are despatched a great feast is given in the Guildhall to 1,500 of London’s poorest children. It is on this day of the year that Sir William Treloar is at his best and enjoys himself the most; and the children will soon be looking forward to the day when ‘the Children’s Lord Mayor” will act once more as host.

When I asked Sir William Treloar, a few days ago how he hoped to make his year at the Mansion House a notable one, I was in no way surprised when the answer came quickly that he meant to set on foot some scheme for. the permanent benefit of London’s crippled children. For some time he has been making inquiries in every direction from which useful information can be obtained, upon which to base his scheme, and by the ninth of this month he hopes to

be ready to announce the details of his plans.

While Sir William Treloar has been aptly titled “the Children’s Alderman,” he well deserves the further name of a man’s Alderman, for he is a man’s man if ever there was one. Among city men, in Fleet Street (he is a member of the Press Club and the Whitefriars Club), with his colleagues at the Guildhall, with the lawyers at the Old Bailey, where his duties take him frequently, and at any dinner-table gathering (he has a fame as a witty and entertaining after-dinner speaker) he is one of the most popular of men. He was trained in a school where “side” was knot allowed. In fact, while he has a good opinion of the young man of to-day, believing him to be smart and capable and to take greater care of himself than young men used to do, drinking less and exercising himself more (though he probably smokes too much), lie is inclined to think that he has a good deal more side than the young man of his own time. Sir William’s father took care that his son did not assume airs unbefitting his station. As a youth, Sir William Treloar was bent on soldiering, and even went so far as to go with a friend to enlist among the English supporters of Garibaldi. One day he invited his father to buy him a commission in a crack regiment. His father’s reply was crushing, and sufficed to keep his son at business: “No, I will not buy you a commission; but you may enlist in the ranks, if you like, and I will promise not to buy you out!” It was a knockdown blow to a young man’s tendency to swagger, and Sir William Treloar has never been accused of swagger from that time forward. He is one of the most approachable of men, and a-

mong the offices of city merchants his is probably the easiest of access when business is the subject.

The Lord Mayor-elect has not much belief in the young man who seeks a place in municipal life or in Parliament, especially one who still has his own way to make in the business or professional world. There is a suspicion that the leading motive may be the “advantages of public office” rather than “the claims of public duty ’ ’ ; and his opinioni is that, even if a struggling young business or professional man should enter on public life with the highest of motives, there is a very vital danger of his discovering that personal gain and advancement are facilitated by the position in which he has been placed for the performance of public duty. That is a danger which affects both the man and the people whose interests are entrusted to him, and few are strong enough to resist it. To the older man, with more leisure and a wider experience of life, the peril is not so great; and Sir William Treloar followed his own opinion regarding public life by waiting until he was approaching forty years of age before taking municipal duties upon himself. The Lord Mayoralty was not an ambition of his youth, unless the age off forty comes within that period—and, indeed, Sir William’s youthful bearing at sixty-three years leads one to wonder whether in his case even twoscore years may not come under that description.

Sir William’s recreation of yachting has taken him much abroad, especially into the near East. He has travelled considerably in Turkey, Palestine, and Asia Minor, and knows as much as any man of the life and habits of the picturesque peoples of

those romantic lands. His house at Norwood is full of curios and valuable art treasures gathered in his journeyings, and his warehouse on Ludgate Hill contains an amount of the merchandise of the East in valuable rugs and carpets. As a didector of Messrs. T. Cook & Son (Egypt), Ltd., it was Sir William

Treloar’s interesting duty to accompany the tour of the Emperor of Germany in Palestine a few years ago, to control the arrangements made for the comfort and happiness of one of the most distinguished of u Cook ’s tourists” whom the great firm of travel organizers have taken under their 1 personal conduct.”