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William Edward Baxter Esquire

A member of Dundee's prominent Baxter family, he was a partner in his father's merchant house, a Liberal MP and a well-travelled writer and lecturer. He also served briefly as chairman of the Albert Institute Ltd.

Subscription value in 1865:

£50

Relative to inflation up to 2018:

£5000

Relative to income compared to 2018:

£40000

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Personal details and history

Full name

William Edward Baxter

Date of birth

25-06-1825[1]

Place of birth

Dundee[1]

Gender

Male

Marital status

Married[2][3] - registered in both home parishes

Name of spouse

Janet[2][3] or Jessie[2] Scott - daughter of the late J H Scott[3] (John Home Scott, writer, Dundee)[4]

Children

Edward Armitstead, 1848; Mary Euphemia, 1850; Jessie Scott, 1852; George Washington, 1853; Alice Jane, 1855; Edith Eleanor, 1857; Rosa Elizabeth, 1860; David Montgomery, 1863; unnamed son, 1865 (died after 5 days)[5]

Home address

Grayfield House, Dundee, c.1850-1854[6]
Ashcliff, Perth Road, Dundee, c.1856-1879[7]
Kincaldrum House, Inverarity, Forfarshire, c.1874-1890[8]
44 Sussex Garden, Hyde Park, London W, c.1858-1859[9]
4 Suffolk Street, Pall Mall, London SW, c.1867-1868[10]
15 Queen's Gate Terrace, Kensington, London W, c.1869-1870[11]
4 Queensgate Gardens, London SW, c.1874-1875[12]
17 Queensgate Gardens, London SW c.1876-1877[13]
35 Queensgate Terrace, London SW, c.1878-1879[14]
Reform Club and 20 Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington London SW, c.1880-1881[15]

Age at death:

65 years[16]

Place of death:

Kincaldrum, Inverarity, Angus[16]

Date of death:

10-08-1890[16]

Buried:

Inverarity Churchyard

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Congregationalist,[17] although his funeral was conducted by the Church of Scotland minister of Inverarity parish.[18]

Political affiliation

Liberal[19]

Clubs / societies

Committee member, Watt Institution, Dundee, 1853-1854[20] Secretary, Religious Tract Society, 1853-1854[20] Vice-President, Young Men's Protestant Society, 1853-1854[20] Committee member, Dundee Auxiliary of the Scottish Reformation Association, 1853-1854[20] Secretary, 1853-1854; committee of management, 1856-1857; director, 1864-1868; Dundee Industrial Schools Society[21] Committee member, Dundee Model Lodging House Association, 1856-1859 and 1864-1868[22] Vice-President, Dundee Royal Orphan Institution, 1858-1870[23] Chairman, Albert Institute Ltd., 1867-1868[24]

Public offices

MP for the Montrose Burghs, 1855-1885[19] Justice of the Peace for the county of Forfar connected with the Dundee District, 1861-1890[25] Secretary to the Admiralty, 1868-1871[19] Joint Secretary of the Treasury, 1871-1873[19] Privy Councillor, 1873-1890[19]

Related subscribers

 

Career and worklife

Occupation

Merchant[26]

Employment

Partner[27]

Place of work

Merchant's office and House of Commons

Work address

1 King Street, Dundee, 1850-1857[28]
29 Baltic Street, Dundee, 1858-1877[29]
Baltic Buildings, Dundee, 1878-1890[30]

Career to date:

William Edward Baxter was the eldest son of Edward Baxter and his first wife, Euphemia Wilson, daughter of Dundee merchant, William Wilson. His mother, Euphemia, died when William was eight and his father remarried in 1835 and again in 1844 after being widowed for a second time. William's father, Edward, had originally worked with his own father in setting up linen works at the Dens area of Dundee, but about the time of the formation of the firm of Baxter Brothers & Co he had withdrawn to set up in business on his own, leaving his younger brothers to develop that major concern. William Edward Baxter was educated at Dundee High School and Edinburgh University, joining his father's counting house after graduating. He still found time to travel widely and published lectures and several travel books.[31] He was also interested in politics and with the encouragement of his father agreed to stand as the Liberal Party candidate for Montrose Burghs in 1855.[32] He was successful and held the seat for the next thirty years. On the day of the official declaration of his election he was made a freeman of Montrose.[33] About the same time as his political career was taking off he became a partner in his father's firm of Edward Baxter & Son, merchants, Dundee.[34] Along with his father and uncle by marriage, George Armitstead, he was a shareholder in at least one vessel, the London, in 1853.[35] His father had built a successful business and was seen as very shrewd.[36] William shared in this success and was able to have a house, Ashcliff, designed by Charles Wilson built on Perth Road, Dundee in 1854.[37] William also took an interest in charitable bodies in Dundee, following in his father's footsteps by being involved in the Dundee Industrial Schools Society and the Dundee Model Lodging House Association. Along with others of the wider Baxter family he contributed to the subscription to the Albert Institute. His father and his Uncle, Sir David Baxter, were two of the most significant financial contributors. William was the chairman of the limited company the year that the Albert Institute opened. William was a member of the Ward Chapel Congregational Church like his parents. In 1863 he instigated the installation of an organ in the chapel.[38]

More information

After his subscription to the Albert Institute, William Edward Baxter continued to combine his work as a merchant and partner in the firm of Edward Baxter & Son with his political career. Having previously refused office he finally accepted the post of secretary to the Admiralty in December 1868 and distinguished himself by introducing reforms to make it more efficient. In 1871 he became joint secretary of the Treasury, but resigned in August 1873 over a disagreement with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Robert Lowe.[39]

In about 1867 the firm also commenced the Baltic Street Calender.[40] In April 1871 Edward Baxter retired from business and the work of merchants and commission agents was carried on by the new firm of W.E. Baxter & Co. with William Edward Baxter as sole partner.[41] Edward died a few weeks later at Kincaldrum House,[41] which William then inherited.[42]

By the early 1870s the marriage of his sister, Jane Elizabeth Armitstead, was in difficulties against the background of alleged adultery by her husband, George Armitstead. William became involved in a confrontation between Jane and George, the end result of which was that she initially went to live with her brother and the marriage broke down irretrievably.[43] This must have caused great difficulty within the family, particularly as William and his brother-in-law were both Liberal MPs at the time. They also shared a lot of business and philanthropic interests which would have necessitated some interaction.

In the meantime, William had become chairman of the Dundee Savings Bank,[44] one of the patrons of the Mars Training Ship[45] and Dundee Horticultural Society.[46] He also returned to the Dundee Industrial Schools Society, a favourite cause of his late father,[47] as one of its vice-presidents in 1876.[48] In the early days of University College, Dundee, he became one of its trustees and a representative governor.[49] Another position he accepted was that of honorary director of the Dundee Sabbath School Teachers’ Union.[50]

By 1876 his son, Edward Armitstead Baxter had joined the firm of W.E. Baxter & Co.[51] and shortly afterwards the firm’s offices are located in Baltic Buildings with the calender works carrying on in Baltic Street.[52]

Before the general election of 1885 William indicated that he would not be standing as a candidate, having been successfully re-elected on seven occasions. As it happened after he left parliament and Mr Gladstone introduced the Irish Home Rule Bill he sided with the Unionist cause.[53]

In his later years, William accepted a position on the Forfarshire Lunacy Board[54] and also became a trustee of Dundee’s Technical Institute.[55] His health had been affected by an accident while travelling in Norway and he never fully recovered, dying at Kincaldrum on 10 August 1890.[56]

He was described as a “staunch Scotch nonconformist”[57] and as a “dissenter and Congregationalist” who “strongly advocated disestablishment and religious equality.”[58]

Sources

  1. Old Parish Records, Dundee, Births, 1825, 282/ 150 283, ScotlandsPeople website
  2. Old Parish Records, Liff, Benvie and Invergowrie, Marriages, 1847, 301/ 40 285, ScotlandsPeople website
  3. Old Parish Records, Dundee, Marriages, 1847, 282/ 230 232, ScotlandsPeople website
  4. Carlyle, E.I., revised by Matthew, H.C.G. (2004) Baxter, William Edward (1825-1890). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website.
  5. Baxter Genealogy submitted by Normile Edward Alexander George Wyndham Elliot Baxter to Burke's Landed Gentry (2000). Lamb Collection 469(2). Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  6. Dundee Directories, 1850-1854. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  7. Dundee Directories, 1856-1879. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  8. Dundee Directories, 1874-1890. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  9. Dundee Directory, 1858-59. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  10. Dundee Directory, 1867-68. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  11. Dundee Directory, 1869-70. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  12. Dundee Directory, 1874-75. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  13. Dundee Directory, 1876-77. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  14. Dundee Directory, 1878-79. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  15. Dundee Directory, 1880-81. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee
  16. Statutory Registers, Inverarity, Deaths, 1890, 292/ 5, ScotlandsPeople website
  17. Dundee Courier, 11 August 1890. British Newspaper Archive website.
  18. Dundee Courier, 15 August 1890. British Newspaper Archive website.
  19. Carlyle, E.I., revised by Matthew, H.C.G. (2004) Baxter, William Edward (1825-1890). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website.
  20. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  21. Dundee Directories, 1853-1868. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  22. Dundee Directories, 1856-1868. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  23. Dundee Directories, 1858-1870. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  24. Dundee Directory, 1867-68. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  25. Dundee Directories, 1861-1890. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  26. Dundee Directories, 1850-1890. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  27. Dundee Directory, 1856-57. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  28. Dundee Directories, 1850-1857. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  29. Dundee Directories, 1858-1877. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  30. Dundee Directories, 1878-1890. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  31. Carlyle, E.I., revised by Matthew, H.C.G. (2004) Baxter, William Edward (1825-1890). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website.
  32. Dundee Obituary Book No. 1, 1869-1894. The Late Mr Edward Baxter, p.18. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  33. Leng, John & Co. (1891) Dundee Year Book, 1890. Dundee: John Leng & Co. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  34. Carlyle, E.I., revised by Matthew, H.C.G. (2004) Baxter, William Edward (1825-1890). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website and Dundee Directory, 1856-57. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee..
  35. Register of Shipping, Dundee. 1853. CE70-11-9. Dundee City Archives.
  36. Dundee Obituary Book No. 1, 1869-1894. The Late Mr Edward Baxter, p.18. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  37. Canmore - National Record of the Historic Environment. Ashcliff, Perth Road, Dundee. Canmore ID184285. Canmore.org.uk.
  38. Falconer, C.M. and Low, J.C. (1934) The Story of the Ward Chapel. Dundee: printed privately.
  39. Carlyle, E.I., revised by Matthew, H.C.G. (2004) Baxter, William Edward (1825-1890). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website.
  40. Dundee Directories, 1867-1884. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  41. Dundee Advertiser, 7 April 1871. British Newspaper Archive website.
  42. Dundee Directory, 1874-75. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  43. Flett, Iain (2004) 'Baron George Armitstead of Castlehill, Dundee - Merchant, Politician and Philanthropist'. Scottish Local History. Volume 61. [p.41].
  44. Dundee Directories, 1869-1886. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  45. Dundee Directories, 1871-1890. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  46. Dundee Directories, 1876-1890. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  47. Dundee Courier, 27 July 1871. British Newspaper Archive website.
  48. Dundee Directories, 1876-1886. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  49. Dundee Directories, 1884-1886. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  50. Dundee Directories, 1884-1888. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  51. Dundee Directory, 1876-77. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  52. Dundee Directory, 1878-79. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  53. Leng, John & Co. (1891) Dundee Year Book, 1890. Dundee: John Leng & Co. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  54. Dundee Directories, 1886-1889. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  55. Dundee Directory, 1890-91. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  56. Leng, John & Co. (1891) Dundee Year Book, 1890. Dundee: John Leng & Co. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  57. Dundee Advertiser, 11 August 1890. British Newspaper Archive website.
  58. Dundee Courier, 11 August 1890. British Newspaper Archive website.

Credits

Thanks to the Staff of Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.

The information above about William Edward Baxter has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.