William Lidderdale was the second son of John of St. Petersburg. He married Mary Martha, daughter of Wadsworth Dawson Busk, also of St. Petersburg.
Until the age of fifteen he (with his brothers) went to school in Birkenhead, spending his holidays with his uncle, James of Lochbank. He then joined the Russia merchants Heath and Co., headed by one of his guardians, but nothing is known of his time with them. He eventually joined Rathbone Bros., the long established Liverpool merchant house, in whose New York agency he worked from 1857 to 1863. In 1864 he became a partner in Rathbones and was responsible for establishing their London House.
In 1870 he became a director at the Bank of England, of which he was made Deputy Governor in 1887 and was Governor from 1889 to 1892 (being the first Governor to have his period at office extended to a third year).
The crowning event of his life was his bold and effective handling of the Baring Crisis in 1890, following which (after refusing a baronetcy) he was appointed to Her Majesty's Privy Council and given the freedom of the City of London on May 6, 1891. A good account of this crisis is given by Sir John Clapham in his Official History of the Bank of England, Volume II beginning on page 326. Accounts of his career are to be found in the D.N.B. and, more informatively, in the Dictionary of Business Biography, published by the London School of Economics in 1985.
In the last ten years of his life he suffered severe financial losses, possibly connected with the affairs of Rathbones, of whom he remained a partner until 1897.
He was concerned with several philanthropic and patriotic societies, including the Patriotic Fund, of which he was made a Commissioner.
Several good photographs at him, at various ages, exist, and bear out his reputation of having been a person of striking presence (six foot two in height), as also was his wife.
They sent their sons to Winchester and then on to Oxford. All their children were tall, cultured and marked by a most pleasant manner.
• Lidderdale, Robert Halliday, An Account of the Lowland Scots Family of Lidderdale, 1950.
• Lidderdale, Halliday Adair, The Descendants of John Lidderdale 1783-1845, 1988, unpublished manuscript.
Excerpts from the Rathbone Papers, Special Collections and Archives, University of Liverpool Library.
In 1824 the firm that had been built up through four generations of the Rathbone family of Liverpool began trading under the name Rathbone Bros. and Co., under the partnership of William Rathbone V, Richard Rathbone, and James Powell, carrying on the business of commission merchants and shipping agents. At this time the most important commodity to the trading activities of the firm was American cotton.
In 1842 William Rathbone VI joined his father as partner in the firm, and in 1847 his brother Samuel Greg Rathbone also became a partner. The Rathbones trade with America was strengthened, involving the import of cotton and grains to Britain, the export of China tea and Brazilian coffee to America; and so an agency was established in New York by one of the partners, Henry Wainwright Gair, to promote this business further. In 1857 William Lidderdale succeeded Gair in the direction of this agency, during the Civil War in America he in turn was succeeded by J.R. Busk.
The trade with China was also stimulated during this period...with Rathbone Bros. becoming one of the largest tea importers in Britain, to such an extent that a London house was opened to provide the firm with a base at the center of the tea trade. William Lidderdale became the partner in charge of the London House.
William Gair Rathbone VII (1849-1919) was the eldest son of William Rathbone VI and Lucretia Rathbone. Following a short period of training with the Rathbone Bros. offices in Liverpool he travelled to New York to represent the firm in America. In 1879 he returned to England to operate with William Lidderdale the new London branch of the firm.
• "Business Records: Rathbone Bros. and Co. (RP XXIV)," Rathbone Papers, Special Collections and Archives, University of Liverpool Library.
• "Papers of William Gair Rathbone VII and descendants (RP XXV)," Rathbone Papers, Special Collections and Archives, University of Liverpool Library.
The Berkshire Burial Index (Berkshire Family History Society) reports that William Lidderdale was buried at Winkfield St. Mary, Berkshire, England, on June 30, 1902 at age 69. William's last address was 53 Montague Square, London.
William Lidderdale is included in Biography Index, a cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines (New York:H.W. Wilson Co., 1983) in Volume 12, September 1979 - August 1982.
William is also listed in the Dictionary of National Biography, 2nd supplement, edited by Sir Sidney Lee (New York: Macmillan Co.; London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1912).