Joseph Watson, 1st Baron Manton
He was chairman of Joseph Watson & Sons Ltd, soap manufacturers, of Leeds and a director of the London and North-Western Railway, in the late 19th century the largest joint stock company in the world. He became in later life pioneer of industrialised agriculture in England and successful racehorse owner.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Soap business
- 3 Pioneer of industrialised agriculture
- 4 Wartime munitions work
- 5 Racehorse owner
- 6 Philanthropy
- 7 Elevation to the peerage
- 8 Armorials
- 9 Marriage and progeny
- 10 Death and burial
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Watson was the only son of George Watson, soap manufacturer, of Donisthorpe House near Moor Allerton, Leeds, Yorkshire. He was educated at Repton School and Clare College, Cambridge. he was recalled to the family firm before completing his degree, becoming chairman at a young age.
Joseph Watson & Sons
Joseph went to work at his grandfather's company, Joseph Watson & Sons,[nb 2] turned the company from the medium-sized concern built up by his father and uncle Charles into one which ruled the soap market of North-East England, with national and international markets, becoming William Lever's biggest rival[nb 4]
Soap Trust monopoly
On 4 August 1906 Watson and William Lever, by then the largest manufacturer, met in the Grand Hotel in London to finalise a plan to set up a "Soap Trust" which would merge the major soap manufacturers into a monopoly, thereby gaining economies of scale in advertising and production costs. Watson favoured the use of a parent company whilst Lever preferred a scheme of exchange of shares between participating companies to bind them together. This occurred during a period of many corporate trusts in the United States.[nb 5] The scheme was strongly opposed by the Daily Mail newspaper which campaigned for a boycott by its readers of the trust brands. Profits at participating firms were thereby severely reduced. The Northcliffe Press in its expanding and highly popular campaign overstepped the mark by falsely asserting trust soaps to be made from scented fish oil. Although Watson and Lever won substantial libel damages from the press, losses in reputation and profits had been suffered all round. On the proposal of Watson and Crosfield, another large manufacturer, the scheme was abandoned in November 1906. By then Watson had already disposed of much of his shareholding, previously all held by himself and his uncle Charles, to William Lever, in exchange for Lever Brothers shares in order to set up the trust.
Lever Brothers and Jurgens
In 1912/13 Watson sold much of his remaining shareholding to Lever (Lever Brothers Ltd.), selling him the remainder in July 1917, but remaining as Chairman. He had sold his half share in the Planter's Margarine Co Ltd. to Lever in July 1915, a joint venture established in November 1914 at Godley in Cheshire with Levers, in response to Government anxiety at the wartime loss of Dutch supplies. He had supplied it from his Olympia Oil & Cake Co. Ltd. at Selby, Yorks which operated the largest linseed oil crushing and refining plant in Europe. It also processed hardening whale oil. Watson then suffered substantial losses in an unsuccessful speculation in linseed oil for his plant and Olympia Oil & Cake was sold to the Dutch firm Jurgens, which had outbid Levers.
Pioneer of industrialised agriculture
Spurred on by wartime food shortages, Watson began the pioneering of industrialised agriculture, and he funded the Agricultural Research Department at Leamington Spa. He founded the Olympia Agricultural Co Ltd. and invested much of his proceeds into agricultural estates totalling some 20,000 acres (81 km2) at Selby (Yorks), Kennett (Wilts), Sudbourne(Suffolk) and at Offchurch (Warks.). His Olympia Oil & Cake Co. had produced a cake by-product used to fatten livestock.
Wartime munitions work
At the start of the First World War Watson's industrial and organisational expertise was used to assist the government in the establishment and operation of national munitions factories, most notably at the First National Shell Filling Factory at Barnbow, Leeds.
Following the heavy consumption of munitions in the opening battles of WWI at the Somme, the Northcliffe Press (Daily Mail) brought to the public's attention what became known as "The Shell Crisis", signifying that the nation had given little thought to securing long-term munitions supplies needed to successfully wage an unprecedented protracted war. The Asquith government fell, to be replaced by that of Lloyd George, recently appointed Minister of Munitions to resolve the crisis. Watson as chairman of a six-man "Leeds Munitions Committee" made up from local industrialists, formed in August 1915, was charged by the government to immediately establish the first of 12 National Shell Filling Factories. A factory was promptly established on a 400-acre (1.6 km2) greenfield site at Barnbow, close to Leeds. It resembled a small town of detached houses and huts more than a traditional factory, in order to contain and localise any accidental explosions. It remained the largest such operation in the country, having despatched 566,000 tons of finished ammunition overseas by the Armistice. At its height it employed 16,000 workers, 93% of whom were women and girls.[nb 6] Its fire brigade responded to three accidental explosions, the most serious of which occurred in 1916, killing 35 women and injuring many more.[nb 7]
Watson hunted with the Bramham Moor Foxhounds in Yorkshire, near his home at Linton Spring, Wetherby. He was a prominent racehorse owner and in 1918 acquired the Manton training establishment near Marlborough, Wilts. from Alec Taylor, Jr.. In 1921 he won the Epsom Oaks with Love-in-Idleness, the Grand Prix de Paris with Lemonora which also had gained third place in the Derby that year. Lemonora - somewhat incongruously for a stallion - named after an apricot coloured azalea, was immortalised for the latter placement in the 1935 film The 39 Steps in which "Mr Memory" was challenged to recite the names of the first 3 horses in the 1921 Derby.
In 1921 Watson donated £50,000 to the Leeds General Infirmary, of which he was a board member from 1906 to his death. The monies were used to replace some of its investments which had to be sold during WWI, presumably to meet running costs.[full citation needed] A half-length bronze bas-relief portrait of Watson in his baronial robes is displayed there in the George Street entrance hall, under which is inscribed A Wise Counsellor and Generous Benefactor. The bronze is in imitation of a Roman stela or tombstone, and depicts him with the hand gesture characteristic of a Roman orator or senator grabbing his toga at the chest.
Elevation to the peerage
On 25 January 1922 he was raised to the peerage for his war services  as Baron Manton of Compton Verney in the County of Warwick. He had purchased the Robert Adam neo-classical mansion Compton Verney and its 5,079-acre (20.55 km2) estate in 1921 from Lord Willoughby de Broke, intending to make his seat there, which intention was not realised due to his sudden death in March 1922, before having taken up residence.[nb 8] Whether his elevation, at the behest of Lloyd-George, was the result of a political donation, has not been proved but the title is not amongst those generally quoted by commentators as falling into this category.[nb 9] Certainly family papers in existence do evidence the Prime Minister's gratitude to Watson for his work in munitions supply.
Joseph Watson adopted, or was allocated by the heralds,[nb 10] a variation of the armorials of the Watson Earls of Rockingham, which earldom had become extinct in 1746 on the death of Thomas Watson, 3rd Earl of Rockingham. The arms of Baron Manton became :"Argent, on a chevron azure between 4 martlets 3 in-chief and 1 in-base sable a crescent between 2 roses of the field". For supporters he also adopted a variant of Rockingham: "On either side a gryphon per fesse azure and argent, charged on the shoulder with a rose also argent". The arms of the Earls of Rockingham were: "Argent, on a chevron azure between 3 martlets sable as many crescents or". The Rockingham supporters were: "2 griffins argent ducally gorged or". Manton adopted the Rockingham motto without alteration: "Mea Gloria Fides" (Trust is my Renown). For his crest, Manton adopted a variant of the oak tree arms of the 17th-century Watson family of Saughton, Edinburgh: crest of Baron Manton: "a gryphon passant sable in front of an oak tree proper". The armourials of Watson of Saughton were: "Argent, an oak tree growing out of a mount in base proper surmounted of a fess azure". The latter family was granted in 1818 the griffin supporters of the Earls of Rockingham, noted above.[nb 11]
Marriage and progeny
In 1898 Joseph Watson married (Frances) Claire Nickols (d.1944), 3rd daughter of Harold Nickols (1848-1925), of Sandford House, Kirkstall, Leeds, proprietor of "Joppa Tannery", 87 Kirkstall Road, Leeds. Joppa Tannery was built in 1828 by Harold's father Richard Nickols as an expansion from the small tannery he had established in Bramley in 1823. The Joppa Tannery employed 300-400 people at its height and produced "upper leather" for shoes. It closed briefly but was re-openrd by Harold Nickols in 1900 under the name "Harold Nickols Ltd". It continued to be run by Harold's son Richard III Nickols, and closed in 1955. Watson had four sons by Claire Nickols:
- (George) Miles Watson, 2nd Baron Manton (1899–1968)
- Robert Fraser Watson (1900–1975)
- Alastair Joseph Watson (1901–1955)
- Richard Mark Watson (1906–1979)
Death and burial
He died in March 1922, aged only 49, from a heart-attack, whilst out hunting beside two of his sons. They were with the Warwickshire Foxhounds, at Upper Quinton, close to his new mansion. He died having held his title for less than two months. He was buried at nearby Offchurch, in his hunting apparel. His estate was sworn for probate at exactly one million pounds. His widow continued to reside until her death in 1936 in the mansion house of Offchurch Bury. A portrait of Joseph Watson mounted on a hunter was painted by Lynwood Palmer.
- Additional land to the SE, comprising a handful of pastures, was on the Headingley estate of the Earl of Cardigan and was sold by the Earl, then in financial difficulties, following his return from the Crimea where he had ordered the Charge of the Light Brigade.
- The limited company Joseph Watson & Sons had been founded by Joseph his grandfather and had grown out of a hide tanning business established in about 1820 at Woodside, Horsforth, 5 miles (8.0 km) NW of central Leeds. The business was an adjacent diversification  from the small family farm, which covered the area between today's Outwood Lane and Broadway, with further rented ground to the SE.[full citation needed][nb 1] The former existence of the original business is today memorialized by the name of Tanhouse Hill Lane, to the east of which it stood, within a triangular site.
- Lever started as a grocer who bought in soap from several suppliers, including Watson's, and branded them "Sunlight". Lever soon set up his own manufacturing plants, but by then Watson's had founded its own brands and independent marketing abilities.
- Watson was amongst the first of the established manufacturers to follow Lever's heavy advertising and revolutionary marketing techniques,[nb 3] offering prizes such as day trips to Brighton and visits to Paris to view the Grecian sculpture Venus de Milo, in exchange for soap wrapper returns. In 1885 production had been 100 tons per week, which rose fivefold by 1906. One of the by-products was glycerine, sold for the manufacture of explosives. The company, known locally as "Soapy Joe's" was based after 1861 at the Whitehall Road Soapworks, Leeds, strategically placed between the River Aire, from which palm oil shipped in from around the world was unloaded, and the former railway terminal, from which the finished product was dispatched. It became one of the largest employers in the city, producing brands such as "Matchless Cleanser", "Venus" and "Nubolic".
- The scheme was in imitation of hundreds of similar trusts which had been established in the USA following John D. Rockefeller's pioneering organisation of the Standard Oil Co. in 1882 as a virtual monopoly combination of many small independent oil companies. The manufacturers in their idealism foresaw benefits from trusts to both consumer and producer from economies of scale, yet abuses occurred. A sugar trust evaded $4M of customs duty, and the creation of a beef trust seemed a threat to cheap food supplies. The dangers to the consumer were soon understood by the politicians and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was the response. The Act was not totally successful and Theodore Roosevelt in his second presidency launched a new "trust-busting" policy at about the same time the British soap trust was being established.
- Two members of the directing board were on duty at Barnbow every day, and the board met at least once a month to receive reports. The factory was largely self-contained for reasons of national security, operating under great secrecy. It operated its own farm including dairy and slaughterhouse. Kitchens and accounting department were equipped with the latest electric machinery. Nursing facilities and dentists were provided.
- Due to wartime censorship, no public account of the accidents was made. The memorials to these unfortunate victims are almost the only trace which remains of the operation on the site today.
- Conveyance 30/11/1921 DR 951/6/1 Warks. Archives.
- The title was created in the New Year's Honours List, not the "notorious" Birthday Honours List of June.
- Seemingly the practice for most 20th-century Watson baronets also
- There is no evidence of any genealogical link between the family of Joseph Watson and either of the two families from which he adopted his armorials. Burke' Armorials, 1884 does however list 4 Watson families in Yorkshire all bearing variants of the Rockingham arms, therefore possibly lineal descendants. The heir of the 3rd and last Earl of Rockingham in the more ancient title of Baron Rockingham was Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham, who built the palatial mansion Wentworth Woodhouse near Rotherham, Yorkshire. This house would come to have a connection with the 3rd Baron Manton, whose maternal aunt Joyce Langdale of Houghton Hall, Sancton York, resided there following her 1956 marriage to the 10th Earl FitzWilliam, which family was heir to the Rockinghams.
- "Watson, Joseph". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Charles Wilson. (1954). The History of Unilever. London: Cassell. 1. p. 13
- Tithe Map 1838.
- Charles Wilson. (1954). The History of Unilever. London: Cassell. 1. pp. 13, 123.
- Charles Wilson. (1954). The History of Unilever. London: Cassell. 1. Chapter 6, The Crisis of 1906, pp. 72–88.
- W.G. Rimmer. (1961). "Men Who Made Leeds." Leeds Journal. 32: pp. 143–6.
- Tony Cox. "Barnbow Munitions Factory 1915-18." The Barwicker No. 47. Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society.
- Eric Jackson. (2007). The Barnbow Lasses. Pontefractus Local History.
- History of Manton. Brian Meehan at Manton. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
- British Medical Journal. 2/7/1921, p. 24
- The London Gazette: . 30 December 1921.
- The London Gazette: . 3 February 1922.
- Michael De-la-Noy. The Honours System. London 1985. pp. 100–118.
- P. W. Montague-Smith (editor). (1968). Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage. Kelly's Directories. p. 739 "Manton"
- Sir Bernard Burke. (1884). The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; comprising a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the present time . London: Harrison and Sons. p. 1083.
- Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.740
- Leodis - A Photographic Archive of Leeds 
- Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.739
- David J. Jeremy (editor). (1984). Dictionary of Business Biography. Butterworths. 5: part 2. pp. 690–2.
- Charles Kidd, David Williamson (editors). (1990).Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage. New York: St Martin's Press.[page needed]
- "Obituary: Joseph Wason," The Times, 14 March 1922.
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Lord Manton
- Information on Lord Manton
- Daily Telegraph Obituary of 3rd Baron Manton
- Compton Verney House website
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|New creation||Baron Manton
George Miles Watson