William Brooks Close

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William Brooks Close (6 May 1853 – 25 September 1923) was the founder of Close Brothers Group, one of the United Kingdom's oldest merchant banks.


Born in Naples and brought up on his father's yacht, William Brooks Close was educated at Wellington College and Trinity College, Cambridge[1] where he rowed in the Cambridge boat in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races of 1875, 1876 and 1877. Cambridge won in 1876 and the 1877 race was the only ever dead heat.[2] He was also runner up to Alfred Dicker in the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta in 1875.[3]

Close went to the United States and, with the assistance of his brothers, James and John, started buying up land in Iowa; their first purchase was a tract of 14,475 acres (58.58 km2) bought at just $2.40 per acre.[2] Soon the brothers were recruiting staff from British universities to farm the prairies of Iowa.[2] They used this wealth to offer farm mortgages to other land owners.[2] The land was subsequently sold to local tenants.[4]

In 1897 Close secured the rights to build a railway from Skagway into the Yukon. This enterprise was completed and operational by 1899.[2]

Close built a house, Huntercombe Manor, at Nettlebed. He died in 1923 on the Isle of Wight.[2]


In 1880 he married Mary Paullin and together they had one son.[2]

See also[edit]