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Hartley 246William Hartley

From a biography by Arthur Peake

Founder of Hartley's Jams, William Hartley was born at Colne Lancashire, on February 23, 1846. He left school at the age of fourteen to help his mother in the grocery shop which she kept. Starting at the age of sixteen in business for himself, he combined a dry saltery with his grocery business at Colne and started a wholesale department in grocers' sundries in the villages and towns round Colne.

He was a Primitive Methodist of the third generation, and became a member as soon as the rules of the Church allowed. His father and grandfather were both local preachers, and when he was a small boy, he often accompanied his father to his country appointments and also into his pulpit. He could never remember a time in his life when he had not a real genuine desire to serve the Lord.

At the age of twenty, he married Miss Martha Horsfield of Colne on Whit-Monday, May 21, 1866. On that afternoon they spent their honeymoon in processioning the town of Colne with the Sunday School scholars and singing the special Whitsuntide hymns in the principal streets of their native town. Next morning, he was at the business as usual.

It was through an accident that William became a manufacturer of jam. He entered into a contract with a local grocer to make jam for him. The grocer did not fulfil his contract; and the case was submitted to friendly arbitration, which went in William's favour. He decided, however, to terminate the arrangement and to manufacture jam on his own account. He felt this to be the more necessary that he was already gaining a reputation for this class of goods and he was determined not to disappoint his customers.

He resolved from the first that the quality should be the best he could produce, no matter what the price he would be compelled to charge. People thought this principle was much too optimistic and that he would not hold out long enough for the public to discover the excellence of his wares. But he was resolute in his fidelity to this ideal and adhered to it throughout his business career. The materials he used were of the best, he watched every detail of manufacture and insisted that the whole process should be conducted with the utmost care to secure perfect cleanliness. The people were quick to recognize the excellence of the product; and as it was sold at a reasonable price the business rapidly developed.

In order to lessen the cost of the carriage of fruit and sugar, he finally decided to leave Colne and build a jam factory at Bootle. He sank the whole of his capital in the new building and nothing was left for fruit or sugar. For this he was relying on money which had been lent to him. At this juncture the lender threatened to withdraw the money unless Mr. Hartley would make him his partner. His wife wisely warned him that he could not do with a partner; and the condition on which the loan was to be continued was refused. It was necessary for him to borrow money and he had to make a hard bargain with necessity. The money was advanced to him on very onerous terms. Confronted by grave difficulties, hampered by insufficiency of capital, carrying the burden of his heavy indebtedness, he found his energies taxed to the uttermost. Long hours, during which his great powers of work and his magnificent organizing abilities were strained almost beyond endurance, and the inevitable financial worry told upon his health.

However, it was in those days of strain, struggle and anxiety that the foundations of his vast business were well and truly laid. The quality of his manufactures became more and more widely known and the works he had built at Bootle proved too small. Extension became necessary. In due course a second enlargement was required, and once more the volume of business outgrew the capacity of the building. Since the limit of expansion had been reached he decided to build new works at Aintree and this project was carried into effect in 1886.

The most distinctive feature of William's career was his stewardship of wealth. On January 1, 1877, he and his wife made a vow, which they committed to writing, that they would set aside a specific portion of their income for religious and philanthropic purposes. It would be a first charge - not giving to the Lord something when we had finished with everything else. Thirty-three years later, he said that since that date they had often increased the proportion, so that the original percentage is now left far behind. As their income increased, they felt that religious and humanitarian work had a greater claim upon them.

He observed with distress that the tendency in people with wealth was frequently in the other direction. If a man gave £40 out of an income of £400 he was often inclined to feel that to give £400 out of £4,000 would be very extravagant generosity. Beginning with 10%, he went forward by gradual stages till a third of his gross income was set aside as "the Lord's money". He stated, "This has not been done without many a struggle with the devil and my lower self; and my daily prayer is that God will show me what He wishes me to do. I only want to see clearly His guiding hand, and I am daily asking Him to lead me. I see my responsibility more and more; and I often picture what account we shall give at the last if the Judge shall say that He was aware we had gone to Church, to the class, to the prayer-meeting; but when it came to sacrificing our money to His cause we let our lower self prove the master."

In addition, he looked after his workers as follows:

  • He provided a dining room and meals.
  • He paid from 20%-40% more to women than competitors or others in Liverpool and neighbourhood.
  • He continually voluntarily increased the wages of all workers - both male and female. (He stated to crush his own selfishness).
  • He practised profit-sharing for all workers.
  • He provided a doctor to attend workers free of charge.
  • He provided a large number of superior houses in a model village with exceedingly low rents including rates, taxes and water.
  • He started a Benevolent Fund for workers to help those who had unexpected difficulties.
  • He started and primed a Pension Fund for his workers.

He admitted his conduct was controlled by the golden rule. Speaking to an interviewer in 1898, he said: "I have always had the happiest relations with my people. If you ask me how it is to be accounted for, I can only say that it has been my aim from the first to do to them as I would wish to be done by." He was constantly on the alert to devise schemes for their welfare and to make the conditions of their work easier. One of his favourite maxims was that the work should be made attractive to the worker.

The golden rule also applied to suppliers. His usual principle was to determine the price himself after the fruit had been delivered. One grower who felt that this was "not business" insisted on the price being fixed beforehand. Mr. Hartley acquiesced; but the price was much less than he would have actually given had the matter been left to his discretion. A Herefordshire fruit grower who supplied Mr. Hartley with strawberries said that he had such confidence in William that he left the fixing of the price entirely to him and found it altogether satisfactory. Another said that, on one occasion, William had engaged to purchase blackcurrants at a fixed price. It turned out that there was a great scarcity that season, but this man fortunately had a very good crop. William paid him the market price, which was far higher than that which had been agreed upon.

Six years after his 70th birthday and Golden Wedding anniversary, William died at home from a heart attack on October 25,1922. A suitable last word would be from a speech as President of the Primitive Methodist Conference, he said, "My last word must be that we followers of Jesus Christ, must carry into our life His spirit and teaching, and that whatever we think Jesus Christ would have done had He been in our place, whether we are employers or employed, whether we are in business or out of business, that we are compelled to do. This is the secret of all true success; the consecration of ourselves and our substance to Him who loved us and laid down His life for us."

Read the biography here.

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From a biography by Arthur Peake, 06/11/2019

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