Yeovil people

James Hooper Whitby

Wool Merchant


James Hooper Whitby was born in Yeovil on 23 March 1813. He was the son of Elias Whitby the elder (1783-1869) and Hannah (or Anna) née Hooper. James' siblings were Elias Jnr (b1810), John (b1811), Ebenezer (b1815), Joseph (b1817) and a daughter (b1819). The family were devout Baptists.

On 30 March 1838, at Martock, James married Jane Trenchard (1814-1890), the daughter of George Trenchard (d1832) and Susannah née Chaffey (1787-1823) of Grove House. James and Jane were to have five children; George Trenchard (1838-1843), Anna (1838-1843), Flora (1840-1843), James Ebenezer (1842-1916) and Harry (1851-1851). Note that the three eldest children all died in 1843 and all aged five or less.

Interestingly, in its edition of 31 January 1839, the Sherborne Journal published the following erroneous report "Death of James Hooper Whitby, glove manufacturer and woolstapler, injured in fall of horse." The story was mostly true, it's just that James didn't die (see Gallery).

In the 1841 census James, Jane and their eldest three children were recorded living at Green Quarry. James gave his occupation as a wool stapler (one who buys wool wholesale from a producer, grades it, and sells it to a manufacturer). In the 1841 Voter's List, James Hooper Whitby was listed as the owner of Hollands House although John Batten Snr was in residence.

James' father, Elias, also prospered, being a glove manufacturer and wool dealer and his glove factory was sited where the Glovers Walk shopping precinct now stands. He was later in partnership with his sons Elias Whitby the younger and James Hooper Whitby. This partnership was "dissolved by mutual consent" in February 1849 and the notice was published in the London Gazette. In fact, the partnership was declared bankrupt.

In 1851, James was noted as an investor in the South Western Railway Company.

The 1851 census recorded James and his family at Hollands. James gave his occupation as a wool merchant. He was also beginning to acquire ever more property in Yeovil and the 1854 to 1864 Burgess Rolls and Valuation List showed that he was the owner of the Old Workhouse and garden (a building formerly at the rear of the old liberal Club in Middle Street.

In November 1857, James was elected to serve on the Borough Council.

The 1861 census again listed James and Jane at Hollands, but with just a single servant. James gave his occupation as a wool merchant. By 1871 James had retired and the census listed him and Jane simply in Mudford Road with two servants; a domestic servant and a page boy. 58-year old James gave his occupation as a retired wool merchant.

The Burgess Rolls of 1867 to 1876 showed that James still owned Hollands House. From 1778 until 1887, James' son James Ebenezer lived in Hollands House.

James Hooper Whitby died at Hollands on 15 October 1875, aged 62. His will was proved the following January and his effects valued at 'under £25,000' (around £2.3 million at today's value). Jane moved to a house in Hendford after James' death, where she died on 1 July 1890.


For the Whitby family tree - click here.




The certificate of birth of James Hooper Whitby from the Baptist Register.


The notice of marriage of James Hooper Whitby and Jane Trenchard from the 7 April 1836 edition of the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette.


The report of James being thrown from his horse and dragged along the ground from the Somerset County Gazette's edition of 2 February 1839.


The Whitby partnership was dissolved by mutual consent in February 1849 and the notice was published in the London Gazette.


The notice of bankruptcy in the 17 February 1849 edition of Perry's Bankrupt Gazette.


Hollands House, east elevation, photographed in 2013. The house was owned by James Hooper Whitby but he didn't live here. The house was demolished in August 2019.


The headstone of James Hooper Whitby and his wife Jane.