In All Saints Church, Orton is a stained glass window paid for by Sir James Whitehead in dedication to his parents. We know from this window that he was the Lord Mayor of London but what else do we know about him?
He was the fifth son of James and Agnes Whitehead and born on the 2nd March 1834 at Bramhaw, a farm just outside Sedbergh, but his father was born at Raisbeck. He was baptised on March 10th 1834 by E Carus Wilson. Educated at Appleby Grammar school and he worked as a draper in Kendal and in Bradford in the wool industry before migrating to London and setting up business in Gresham Street as a merchant.
In 1860 he married Mercy Mildred Hinds who was the fourth daughter of Mr Thomas Hinds, of Bank House St. Neots and by 1881 he retired on medical grounds having made his fortune and took a trip round the world
Sir James Whitehead was a Gladstonian Liberal and devoted himself to municipal services. In 1882 he became an Alderman in Cheap and started the Rowland Hill Benevolent Fund. In that year he was Sheriff and in 1884 Under-Sheriff of London and Middlesex. Amongst his many charitable works he was Chairman of Visiting Justices of Holloway Prison, Visitor of the City of London Asylum of Stone, committee member of Christ's Hospital, Emmanuel Schools, St Bart's and Bethlehem, Governor of the Queen Anne's Bounty, H.M. Lieutenant for the City, Deputy and JP for Westmorland and JP for Kent. He was also on the Board of Management of the Commercial Traveler's Schools, Trustee of the Roland Hill Benevolent Fund for Aged and Distressed Post Office Workers and a council member of the committee for the Distribution of the Hospital Sunday Fund. He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and the International Peace Association and the Reform Club.
His financial interests included J & P Coats, The Campos Syndicate, the National Bank Pawsons and Leafs, Pawsons and Co. and the General Phosphate Co.
Having failed to get elected as an M.P. in Appleby-in-Westmorland in 1885 and 1886 he succeeded in Leicester in 1892. here he supported registration reform, shorter parliaments, reform of the House of Lords, reform of district and parish councils. He accepted the Chiltern Hundreds two years later in 1894.
During his life of service he was honoured by Fellowships from a number of learned societies, becoming Knight Commander of the Services Order of Takovo, Knight Officer of the Belgium Order of Leopold, and in 1889 he was created a Baronet.
He became Lord Mayor of London in 1888-89 having been Master of the Fan Makers and Sheriff of the City of London in 1884. later to become the High Sheriff. Whilst he was Lord Mayor of London his objectives included education and helping the poor. He started the Penny-a-Week scheme for London hospitals, where there were 2,500 empty beds. By addressing meetings in shops and factories he collected £50,000 a year for the appeal. He started a national scheme to raise enough money to provide equipment and uniforms for the 43 volunteer regiments in London, which the Government has refused to do.
He is also remembered as an arbitrator in the dock strike and the man who replaced the 'circus element' of the Lord Mayor's Show, with a State Procession.
Having made his fortune in London he retired at the age of 47 and went to live in Wilmington, Kent. He purchased Wilmington Hall and Heathside. He changed the name of Heathside to Wilmington Manor and assumed the tile 'Lord of the Manor'. Boys had to touch their caps to him and girls had to curtsey.