He was the eldest son of Richard Reynolds Rathbone and Frances Susannah (née Roberts).
In October 1888 he married Emily Evelyn Rathbone (1865–1953), his cousin, the daughter of William Rathbone VI and had four children:
- Hannah Mary ('Nancy', later Warr 1889-1995)
- Richard Reynolds (1891–1962)
- Edward Reynolds ('Teddy' 1892-1913)
- Hugo Ponsonby (1895–1969)
He was a grain merchant, becoming a partner of the Liverpool firm of Ross T. Smyth and Co. in 1889, until his retirement in 1924. He served as a member of the Royal Commission on Wheat Supplies during the First World War, involved in the purchase and distribrution of large supplies of grain for the use of Great Britain and the Allies. He represented the Liverpool Corn Trade Association on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, 1905-1933.
He was closely involved with the University of Liverpool. On the founding of the University in 1903 he became its first treasurer, was President of the Council from 1918–1924, and in 1920 was elected Pro-Chancellor. He made many gifts to the University, including parts of the family Liverpool estate, Greenbank, to provide student accommodation.
As an active Liberal, he elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Liverpool Wavertree at the 1923 general election, but was heavily defeated at the 1924 election. He stood again in 1929 general election, increasing his vote but repeating the third place which he had achieved in 1924. He and his wife Emily founded the Liberal Party Garmoyle Institute in Smithdown Road, Liverpool.
He died on 19 January 1940.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Hugh Rathbone
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir Harold Smith
|Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree
1923 – 1924
John Abraham Tinne