Born in Hull, he became a solicitor and went on to become president of the Law Society. He later became a shipowner. He was Mayor of Hull from 1883-1885. In 1886, he was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament for the South Islington constituency. In 1892 he put forward a private member's bill in favour of women's suffrage, which failed narrowly. Having opposed Chamberlain's Tariff Reform proposals, he was defeated in the 1906 general election, and failed to get elected as a Liberal in Epsom in 1910. As a businessman he was well known on the Continent of Europe and acted as consul-general for Romania from 1911 until his death. He was also a magistrate in Berkshire, where he resided at Sutherland Grange at Dedworth, adjoining Windsor, with his second wife.
He received the honorary degree Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) from the Victoria University of Manchester in February 1902, in connection with the 50th jubilee celebrations of the establishment of the university. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1902.
In 1902, Rollin received the decoration Officer of the Legion d'honeur from the French Republic in recognition of his services towards the development of commercial relations between the United Kingdom and France, and especially for his services in connection with the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
Rollit married twice. His second wife was Mary, dowager Duchess of Sutherland. He was her third husband. In 1898 her jewellery, then valued at £30,000, was stolen by international jewel-thief William Johnson, known as 'Harry the Valet'. Johnson stole the jewellery while she was travelling by train from Paris to London with her husband, (Rollit), her brother, his wife and the Duchess's footman and maid. The case was investigated by Inspectors Walter Dew, Walter Dinnie and Frank Froest.
The Rollit steam pumping engine, built in 1883, and which formerly pumped sewage at Hull, was named in his honour. It is now preserved at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, and carries a brass plaque bearing the name.
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- "University intelligence". The Times (36704). London. 1 March 1902. p. 12.
- "Court Circular". The Times (36773). London. 21 May 1902. p. 9.
- "No. 27475". The London Gazette. 19 September 1902. p. 6020.
- Duncan Hamilton (2011). The Unreliable Life of Harry the Valet. Century. pp. 181–183. ISBN 978-1-84-605813-4.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
- The Times, 14 August 1922
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Islington South
|Party political offices|
|Chairman of the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations
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