Sir William Hartley (23rd February 1946 to 25th October 1922)


Whenever I'm out for the day I make up sandwiches and a flask. My favourite sandwich filling is jam and cheese (together) and the jam is usually Harltey’s. I can remember Hartleys jams on the shelf in the shop my mum ran forty years ago. The company is still flexing its muscles. Here I am at a rural cemetery where the jam god Sir William Hartley is buried.


He’s buried just outside the small Lancashire village of Colne where he was born in 1846, an only child. Aged 14 he left school and worked for his mum and dad in the grocery business. Aged 20 he married Martha (the youngest of 13 children) and they’d go on to have six children. He was 25 when the business started due to a chance event: a supplier failed to deliver some jam so he made his own. It sold so well he started making marmalade and jelly, too - all supplied in distinctive earthenware pots. By the time he was 28 the business was doing well and, borrowing lots of money, took a risk by transferring the manufacturing to Bootle in Merseyside.


The Hartley’s liked the coast and by the time William was 34 the family had moved to Southport and became well known for helping local causes and, being religious, were members of the local Methodist Church. Aged 40 the business had made so much money they transferred manufacturing to Aintree as it was near to the railway network (they had their own siding.) Within five years another large warehouse was built and, eight years later another. Often six trains arrived per day and two hundred wagons were filled with jam and other conserves. William even chartered ships to get jam across the world. Soon the factories were making 1000 tons of jam per year.


Being a devoted Christian William devoted Sundays to the church. Like many religious businessmen he looked after his workers. Aged 42 he had a model village at Aintree built for them (the cottages had gardens, the streets were wide, there was a bowling green and playing fields for sports.) He started a profit-sharing scheme, free medical treatment and paid higher wages than those of his competitors. He made huge donations to hospitals, universities and theological college (the one in Manchester is called Hartley Victoria College.) At the jam factory he was known for being a generous friendly man asking that anyone can approach him with problems inside or outside the factory. He opened a benevolent fund to help those who were suffering hardship (but this excluded anyone spending their wages on alcohol or cigarettes.) When he learnt some workers lived too far away from home to nip back for their dinner he built a huge cafe/dining room built that could seat 750 at a time (meals were at cost.)


In his seventies William was rich - so rich that when World War One started the government was looking for financial contributions to the effort. He made generous contributions but the war greatly depleted staff that the jam factory was nearly lost. One profound personal loss was that a grandson who was killed in action.


For years William had suffered from angina pectoris but past resilience proved it wasn’t a grave worry. It was though and the grave I’m stood beside beckoned with a crooked finger. One night his angina was so bad his wife called into this bedroom three times but by the morning he felt well enough to think about going to factory. Suddenly that Wednesday morning he died of a heart attack aged 76. The jewel of the jam world was gone. The funeral service was held near the Hartley home (since demolished) but the funeral procession travelled 50 miles here to Trawden outside Colne where I’m stood.


I’d looked for William’s grave years ago at the main church in Colne. Slightly dejected I left and only recently learnt of this overflow graveyard in the countryside. There’s no church - just long-distance views across to Colne, fields dotted with sheep and one house. There are bigger headstones in the small graveyard but somehow I guessed which was William's. A few Hartley’s are buried here judging by the fading carvings. Even in death William was helping people: after his demise a Hartley Memorial Fund raised money to trained of medical missionaries and impoverished students.


I found only one war grave - also one fencing in a child hugely missed judging by the paraphernalia festooning it. I did salutes and left.










Looking back to Colne...




The Hartley home where William died...