Sir James Roberts (1848-1935) was a Yorkshire industrialist and businessman. He was born at Lane Ends, near Haworth, Yorkshire on 30 September 1848. He was one of eleven children of a weaver who became a tenant farmer.
== Early life and education ==
Roberts attended the local school at Haworth, where he learnt to read and write. As a boy he knew Charlotte Brontë and heard her father preach. He left school at eleven to become a part-time millworker in Oxenhope, and two years later was apprenticed at William Greenwood's mill there. At the age of eighteen he became manager of the mill, and in 1873 he started his own business as a top-maker.
== Personal life ==
On 14 May 1873 at All Saints' Church, Bingley, he married Elizabeth Foster (1852–1935).
His daughter Alice eloped with Norman Rutherford, a medical student, on 27 August 1902 marrying in Scotland. He became a war hero earning the DSO in 1917. On 13 January 1919 Rutherford shot and killed Major Miles Seton who was seeing Alice while he was away. At his trial Rutherford was found guilty but insane and sent to Broadmoor. While in Broadmoor he wrote An Outline History of the Great War anonymously.
== Business ==
In 1892 the well-known firm of Sir Titus Salt, Sons and Co went into voluntary liquidation and Roberts was one of a consortium of local businessmen who purchased the concern. Within eight years he was the sole owner. The business prospered markedly under his management.
As part of his business activities Roberts travelled extensively abroad. He went to Russia many times and learnt to speak Russian. But his business interests suffered badly as a result of the Revolution. This meant a visit to his bankers in London, where the bank official he met was TS Eliot. This is said to have given reference to the poet's reference in The Waste Land to "a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire". Nevertheless, when his family sold the business (which failed to prosper thereafter) in 1920, it was for the sum of £2,000,000, a remarkably large sum in those days.
The public life of Roberts was also distinguished. In 1897 he became a member of Shipley Urban District Council, eventually becoming chairman of that council. He was also a member of the West Riding County Council and a Justice of the Peace. In 1909 he was created a baronet in the King's Birthday Honours. He was a keen advocate of free trade and was the first chairman of the West Riding Free Trade Federation. He endowed a leaving scholarship at Bingley Grammar School and the chair of Russian at Leeds University. He also bought Haworth Parsonage, which was opened to visitors in 1928 as the Brontë Parsonage Museum. There is a Roberts Street in central Bradford and a Roberts Park in Saltaire.
== Later life ==
Roberts retired to the south of England, whilst also maintaining Strathallan Castle in Scotland. He died in 1935. He was buried in Fairlight in East Sussex.
== References ==